TV Tribute to Muhammad Ali – Media

That the boxer Muhammad Ali was more than a boxer, more than a champion even, everyone knows. But what was he then? First of all, he was the best actor of himself. A man who understood early on what it meant to be a myth and who acted accordingly. There has seldom been such a charismatic athlete figure as Ali, compared to him, many idols of the present day, such as Djokovic, are just idols. This is one of the reasons why film teams have repeatedly documented the being and work of this boxer. And, conversely, Ali recorded exactly what image others had of him. In David Remnick’s biography “King of the World”, old Ali, who is watching young Ali on television, appears several times. Remnick writes: “When the documentary about his triumph in Zaire, ‘When We Were Kings’, came out, Ali looked at the tape several times. “

On Monday, Muhammad Ali, real name Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., would have turned 80, which the SWR takes as an occasion for a homage that can be seen in the ARD media library, but also in a long Muhammad Ali from Sunday to Monday -Nacht im Erste – a charming homage to a man who used to gather his many fans at night in front of the television in Germany like only the moon men usually do. The telephone wake-up service was booked before Ali’s fights. Memory of an amazing number of children in the sixties and seventies: being allowed to get up at night to watch Ali, the Lord of the Rings, the Lord of the Screens.

Three films show Ali as someone who always wanted to be in touch with others

Three documentaries will be shown, first the film that Ali, according to Remnick, has watched several times. In 1996 director Leon Gast condensed hundreds of hours of material about the “Rumble in the Jungle” against George Foreman into a psychogram. Bigmouth Ali was never that flat-mouthed, in fact, as a person and as a boxer, he was always dependent on the connection to the audience. This film shows that, it’s not a sports film, but a story about someone who, out of respect for his opponent, joins forces with the crowd. Who, also out of fear of Foreman, who is considered unbeatable, swears the fans to himself before the duel and hammers into them the battle cry, Ali, boma ye – Ali, kill him. Whose hubris is controlled hubris before this fight. Who finally wins because he doesn’t rely on himself, but on everyone.

At the end of this film, the author George Plimpton, one of the notable Ali interpreters, tells how he was not only present at Ali’s fight, but also at Ali’s lecture at Harvard University. In front of 2000 students he had given a speech about motivation, the stimulation of internal forces, all of this, and at the end someone shouted: “Give us a verse!” Perhaps Ali had thought of the words, perhaps they had occurred to him spontaneously, he was standing in front of the students, and then he recited the shortest poem in the world, it is about each individual’s connection with the world: “Me – We.” A counter-image to the present with its isolation.

Anyone who got into the ring with Ali had several opponents: the myth, the athlete, the role model

In the second film, Pete McCormack’s “Facing Ali” (2009), Ali is described through the eyes of his opponents. The boxer made everyone who had anything to do with him grow, because the fight against Ali was always the fight of their lives, none of the old rivals left any doubt about that. And McCormack visited them all and they all hit the bag again for him: Ken Norton, Earnie Shavers, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Leon Spinks, George Chuvalo, Sir Henry Cooper, Larry Holmes. They talk about Ali, who revolutionized his sport, and Ali, the charismatic. Anyone who got into the ring with him didn’t have one opponent, but always several: the myth, the athlete, the character, the role model and finally the legend, who already has a few fights too many. A boxer who gradually destroys himself, on the one hand. And thereby makes himself a hero, on the other hand. Who gradually retreats into Parkinson’s silence, but still hears what the others are saying about him.

Larry Holmes, the old opponent, tells in “Facing Ali” about his fight against an old, broken, defenseless Ali who had repressed his age of 38. He, Holmes, could have killed him, but he took steam out of the punches, “and after the fight I went to his dressing room and told him how much I adored him”. Ken Norton, the old opponent, tells of a reunion with the sick Ali – and of the illusion that everything could be like yesterday again, a real fight goes on and on: “The last time I saw him was sitting He was at a table drawing pictures. I walked over to him and said, Ali, we’ll do it again. First he just sat there, and then he slowly turned to me. His eyes got really big and he said, “Norton.”

The last film is “Soul Power” by Jeff Levy-Hinte, about the “Zaïre 74” festival, because the Rumble in the Jungle supporting program was already a world event. Zaire’s ruler Mobutu Sese Seko had brought the fight to Kinshasa, his dictatorship should come across as a free country abroad, the masquerade didn’t last long, but the fight has become a fight for eternity and the festival a festival for eternity. Bell-bottoms, collar corners and everything else at its best: James Brown, Bill Withers, for example, came from America, Miriam Makeba, Tabu Ley Rochereau and Franco Luambo from Africa.

A boxing night in the first, to look and marvel at, and in honor of the greatest of all, Muhammad Ali, who was always fascinated by his own image. In Remnick’s biography, the late Ali watches the early Ali box and then asks his guest Remnick the question of anyone who wants to make sure he’s still alive: “See that? See me?”

“When We Were Kings”, “Facing Ali” and “Soul Power”: Monday, January 17, 12:05 a.m. on ARD and in the ARD media library

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