Movie Review: Facing Ali (2009) Documentary

Posted: November 17, 2012 in Documentary

Most people know all about Muhammad Ali, but how many people know about his opponents?   Sure most people know the famous ones like Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier and George Foreman.  But how many people know the likes of Henry Cooper, George Chuvalo, and Ernie Terrell.  If anyone wants to know what it’s like to go up against probably the best heavyweight fighter in history, then he or she should listen to the insights of these fighters.  It’s a rare glimpse inside the worlds of those who beat Ali, those who almost beat Ali, and those who gave Ali their best shots only to see him still standing at the end of the fight.  Most of his opponents (except Frazier) liked Ali, respected his skills, some even respected his political and religious beliefs, and most knew that a fight with Ali could make them rich and famous.

This is an insightful and enjoyable documentary.  I was amazed to find out that British champion Henry Cooper knocked Ali down.  He looks like someone’s grandfather now.  Most of the stories are heartbreaking.  Chuvalo, the Canadian champ, tells of losing his wife and three kids to drug addiction.  Ron Lyle served 7 ½ years in prison and almost died in a knife fight, all before he ever stepped into the ring. Ernie Shavers dad got chased out of Alabama by the Klan, all the way to Ohio, where Shavers grew up.  Frazier is still shaken recalling Ali’s taunts, he never got his due as a fighter, he felt the black community should have liked him more, but they loved the lighter skinned, more articulate Ali. Larry Holmes recalls not wanting to hit Ali in the body, because he saw Ali urinating blood when he was Ali’s sparring partner. Even the happy stories have some pathos to them.  George Foreman recounts almost dying after a fight, literally being brought back from the dead, and giving his life to Jesus Christ.  This is powerful stuff.  Only a sport where the combatants can actually lose their lives can evoke such powerful memories.

Facing Ali:  Pulls no punches.

  1. Rest in Peace Muhammad, you were the Greatest for many reasons, outside of your boxing career!

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