ESPN SportsCentury: Muhammad Ali (2000)

SportsCentury: Muhammad Ali - ESPN Documentary Film

Released in 2000, this documentary film is a part of ESPN SportsCentury’s biography series of sports programs; this particular episode was aired on Muhammad Ali’s birthday and serves to honor him. It was directed by Mike Strom and consists of interviews from many close friends, biographers, and family members of Muhammad Ali.

The ESPN SportsCentury biography documentary film starts with a brief introduction to the early stages of Muhammad Ali’s life, we learn about the young black boy who emerged from a humble background and went to become one of the most iconic boxers and athletes the world has ever known. Muhammad Ali was born in a Christian family and was name Cassius Clay Jr. He displayed an interest in athletics, but it was an unexpected incident in his life that really put him on the track of boxing.

The ESPN SportsCentury biography documentary film make heavy references from video archives, and shows clips of Muhammad Ali’s early career, we also get a glimpse of the racial segregation that existed in America in the sixties and seventies. Black people were not allowed to eat in the same restaurants as white people, they weren’t even allowed to shop in the same department stores as the whites. Cassius Clay had to deal with this attitude even after he had become an amateur boxer. Even when Cassius Clay became a professional boxer he was denied basic rights, and the white community suppressed him. It was at this time that Cassius Clay began considering the conversion to Islam.

The latter half of this ESPN SportsCentury biography documentary film is dedicated to Muhammad Ali’s professional life, and centers on his famous matches. We see comments from his former opponent George Foreman who lost his to Ali in 1974. After twenty years worth of wins, we can see that Muhammad is starting to lose his competitive edge. He starts to lose his agility and towards the end of his career he is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

This is a great biography documentary film from ESPN SportsCentury and ends with Muhammad Ali (now much older) in his home; he can be seen shaking uncontrollably due to his condition. But the world will always remember him as the greatest boxer in modern times.

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