Special documentary about the boxing icon: There is only one Ali

DIt’s a once again, that most incredible moment in world sport of the 1970s, spread out under the magnifying glass of a slow-motion sequence. We see George Foreman, the huge favorite, almost unbeatable, sink to the ground in the ring of the Kinshasa football stadium, dazed around four o’clock in the morning local time. And his 32-year-old trainer Muhammad Ali, as he doesn’t strike one last time, but accompanies the process, so to speak.

That was the moment, says a relaxed foreman almost 35 years later in front of the TV camera, in which his conqueror became for him the “greatest boxer I have ever fought” – because of a hit that was deliberately omitted .

Center piece of a three-part ARD night

For passages like this in particular, it is worthwhile not to lose sight of the 2009 documentary “Facing Ali” by director Pete McCormack for a second in a hundred minutes. It forms the centerpiece of the three-part “long Muhammad Ali night” on ARD’s 80th birthday on the night of January 16-17 (available from 0.05 a.m. and from January 15 in the ARD media library).

And in contrast to Leon Gasts, it is the Oscar-winning documentary about the “Rumble in the Jungle” in Zaire (“When We Were Kings”) as well as the concluding contribution about the Black Culture Festival around it (“Soul Power”) has never been shown by a German broadcaster. Now, with its simple and clear concept, it should also convince those who believe that everything has already been said about the boxing icon from Louisville, Kentucky.

Like the book of the same name by the Canadian author Steven Brunt, which appeared seven years earlier with manageable success, the author, musician and director McCormack calls on those who have come closest to Ali: his opponents. Over the years almost all of them have gone from adversaries to good acquaintances, if not friends, of the three-time world champion – whether their name is Foreman or Frazier, Spinks or Holmes.

And each of them brings just enough personal memories that the different facets almost automatically create an impressive overall picture. Impressive because the appreciation of this opponent, who once mocked them so loudly and usually defeated them, goes far beyond respect for the exceptional boxer.

“He can’t speak for himself,” Ken Norton sums up at one point, “but we can speak for him.” That’s the way it is in these years, when the pictures of the visibly ailing man going to the games in Atlanta (1996) lit the Olympic flame are long gone. So Henry Cooper praised the “pretty good chin” with brittle, typically British understatement, which stands for so much more, while Larry Holmes, the former sparring partner and later dominator, took him to his heart “like a brother”.

Earnie Shavers, on the other hand, is still wondering how the exhausted-looking opponent was able to get started again at the end of their summit in New York (1977) “as if it were the first round”. Nevertheless, he immediately finds a good explanation: “He knew many ways to set one.”

The spiritual cross sum is drawn with Ron Lyle, of all people, a former delinquent who only started boxing while in custody. “Ali was all about love,” says the refined man from Colorado, who prepared hell for the 1975 champion in Las Vegas for ten and a half rounds. That seems all the more precious today because Lyle, like five other of the ten opponents questioned, has since passed away.

Knowledge has never been more valuable

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With the German dubbed theatrical version of “Facing Ali”, the SWR opened up an almost unknown contemporary document in this country. It is the secret pearl in the nightly fistfight triptych in honor of the fighter against war, heteronomy and racism who died in June 2016. All contributions remain available for three months in the ARD media library. But setting yourself (or staying up) the alarm clock has always been a worthwhile option in this particular case. As says Leon Spinks, who won and lost against him in 1978: “There is only one Ali.”

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