Mar 25, 2010, 12:55 PM
Author: Thomas Hauser Publisher and Date of Publication: Robson Books; 2004 Paperback; 515 pages
This book has been hailed as "an authoritative biography against which all other biographies of the great man are measured". And it is not difficult to see why it is outstanding. Aside from the detailed research that has gone into the work, its style of presentation is unique. The author got almost everybody who played a part in Muhammad Ali' s to describe him in their own words.
These include Ali' s family members, associates, opponents, mends and enemies. Each of these descriptions is interspersed with the author's commentary that provides insight into the milieu - social, politica1, religious - that shaped the life of Muhammad Ali, the man who described him as "I am the Greatest". The result is that the book offers a composite portrait of the greatest athlete of all times. He was truly the greatest in the sense that he successively rose out of the ashes of his defeat to reclaim the heavyweight championship.
The reader's attention is gripped right from the opening chapter and held right until the end. As person tells what they know about Muhammad Ali, or how his life affects them, the reader feels being transported through time and space to the place and time where the events took place.
The narrative is so vivid and clear that you see the events as though they were being shown on television right before you. It is even more fascinating when Muhammad Ali talks about himself - his successes and failures, his passion and his dreams. As he talks, he comes across as very transparent, almost naive, person who despite his amazing strength, abhors violence. This partly explains his objection to the Vietnam War. And when he had to go to jail because of his stance on Vietnam, he showed himself to be a man with the courage of his conviction. Surprisingly, he is not bitter against his tormentors; to those who took advantage of his generous nature, he showed them even more kindness.
He lives by the principle that evil should be repaid by good. He also seems to be guided by the principle that when evil men plot, good men must plan. To understand Ali's deep humanity, it is important to reproduce his last statement in the book. "People say I had a full life, but I ain't dead yet.
I'm just getting started. All of my boxing, all of my running around, all of my publicity was just the start of my life. Now my life is really starting. Fighting injustice, fighting racism, fighting crime, fighting illiteracy, fighting poverty, using this face the world knows so well, and going out and fighting for truth and different causes. "Talking about boxing bores me now. Boxing was just to introduce me to the world. People today, they want me to talk like I used to.
'I'm the greatest! I'm the prettiest! I'm this, I'm that! But I don't want to do that no more. There's bigger work I got to do. The world is in trouble. Crime is on the rise; the environment is deteriorating; you've got people fighting and the threat of nuclear war; no long-term mendships; corruption in government; evangelist preachers doing things they shouldn't do; no respect for elders; prejudice and injustice; people hijacking planes; Jews and Muslims in the Middle East and Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland fighting each other. What's the reason? What's the cause? There's peace and tranquility among animals. There's peace and
tranquility among the birds. Everything in nature is in perfect order except man. Man is suffering because he has adopted a way of life that is against nature and the laws of God. "All this hating in the world is wrong. Forget about nations. Forget about color. Forget about different religions. People are people; God created us all. The only thing that makes one man better than another is the goodness of his deed in the eyes of God. And only God can judge good deeds. It's not for another man to judge.
Here in this country, we've been making progress on how people get along. But there's still hatred, and hating someone because of his color is wrong. It's wrong both ways; it doesn't matter which color does the hating.
All people, all colors, got to work to get along. "There's hunger in the world, and that bothers me. Hunger isn't just being hungry. It means you feel sick. It means you can't work. It means you can't do well in school, because you're too weak to concentrate. And right in this country, there's millions of people homeless. People shouldn't sleep on the streets.
They should have homes to go to. Struggling each day, not knowing where you're gonna sleep at night; this country is so rich, it's wrong we got people living that way. People talk about how I give my money away. But how can you be walking down the street and see an old lady so hungry and poor and she's going through a garbage can for food; how can you see that old lady and not give her some money from your pocket? I'll go someplace like Sudan, and when I come back, I get asked political questions about what I saw.
I saw children starving to death. That's what I saw. "I'm sitting here with the most recognizable face in the history of the world. I'm the only man in history to become famous under two different names. And Ii feel Ii should be doing more with what I've got to help people. My main goal now is helping people and preparing for the hereafter. I'm working harder now than I ever worked in boxing. When Ii was boxing, I used to get up at six o'clock in the morning to run.
Now I'm up at five o'clock, praying, signing pamphlets, and reading the Qu'ran. I'm not looking to be idolized. Maybe I was great in the ring, but outside of boxing, I'm just a brother like other people. I want to live a good life, serve God, [and] help everybody I can. And one more thing: I' still gonna find who stole my bike when I was twelve years old in Louisville, and I'm still gonna whup him. That was a good bike." (pp.514-515)
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