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on 25 March 2000
If you don't read any other sports book this year, you have to read this one. This is sports writing at its best - powerful, colourful, informative and entertaining. They don't come any better. The book centres on the Clay/Liston fight but draws much more into it. It's not a straight biog, it's much more than that. It's a social history of boxing and American society, written by one of America's finest wordsmiths who is on apar with Mailer.
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on 25 April 1999
Head and shoulders the best and most balanced of the numerous Ali biographies I have read, this book - like the man himself - transcends sport. Remnick is a master communicator in print who delves deeply into the culture and times of the early sixties to present a unique tale of the man who defied the establishment - both white and black - and ultimately indeed became "King of the World". This book is really three biographies in one, with the stories of Charles "Sonny" Liston and Floyd Patterson, although as in life overshadowed by Ali, still fascinating in their own way. This book manages to both entertain and educate in a most enjoyable manner. What more can you ask?
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on 18 January 1999
At a time when the phrase, "You the man" seems to be applied to every "wannabe" during every sporting event on TV, this book tells the tale about the person who really is THE MAN! The mystique that is Ali comes to life as a truly special person . . a man who, though basically illiterate (he was initially given an 87 IQ (sub-intelligent) by his draft board), who never learned to read, and who has lived a large part of his adult life without being able to express himself. I found it fascinating to learn about his exposure to religion and his endorsement of a philosophy that was interpreted incorrectly by most of the newspaper reporters who covered his rise to the Championship during the 60's. This book, which follows Ali for a short period of his career . . . the 1st Liston bout up to the Patterson fight . . . casts a giant floodlight and illuminates many of the shadows that have confused many of us about this legend. I now know why . . . (I really never was able to understand my instincts before this read) I have come to regard this guy as "the Greatest" ! David Remnick should receive another Pulitzer Prize for this one.
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on 4 April 1999
This book significantly broadened my understanding of Ali's critical role in helping Black America face White America on eye-to-eye, if not equal, terms. Ali is the rarest of characters, and Remnick does a remarkable job of presenting a story of considerable, although presently underrated, historical significance in a lucid, educational and always entertaining manner.
A great read!
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on 4 November 2002
A truly magnificent set of prose which is written with an excellent insight into, not only Ali's early sporting life, but also insightful writing about his relationship with the nation of Islam and of Malcolm X. Although it contains a lot of information not especially related to Ali - it is information which is essential to showing the impact of a young Cassius Clay on the boxing world.
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on 8 November 1998
Like Lenin's and Resurrection, Remnick's new book on "the greatest" not the smartest, is well-written and interesting. It places Ali in his historical context by first introducing us to Floyd Patterson and Sonny Liston. His book reminds us that Ali was a very controversial figure in the first half of his career. The book is really about race and politics interwoven with an excellent overview of boxing. I only wish Remnick would have focused a little more on what Ali did when he was banned from boxing from 1967-71 while fighting the draft and why he was banned from boxing during these years. I think he should have explained the basis for the Supreme Court's 1971 ruling in Ali's favor. I highly recommend the book. Amazon gives a great discount.
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on 9 February 1999
this is a powerful and poignant portrayal of Ali and the astonishing impact he had on the world of the 60s and on those around him -- the brutish and ultimately fearful Liston, the chronically insecure Patterson, the hoods, Black Muslims and braying boxing journalists. It contains the unforgettable image of the angry young Ali towering over the prone Liston in their second fight. And near the end it contains one of the most eloquent denunciations of the noble art of boxing -- "There is beauty in it -- there is terrible beauty in battle too, particularly for the non combatant -- but if you meet enough former boxers, if you try to decipher their punch drunk talk, you begin to wonder. What beauty is worth this? What is worth Floyd Paterson's confusion? What is worth Jerry Quarry left so damaged after all the pounding or Wilfred Benitez left raging at his ghosts? And these were the top fighters, the men who meted out more punishment than they got. What of the would-bes, the professional opponents with records of 47-44, their ears cauliflowered and their minds forever rattled? What of them?"
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on 7 March 2010
Parts are good but parts drag a little - although to be fair reading it over six weeks and on three flights is not giving it its best chance. Boxing lends itself to good writing and this is well written - perhaps a wider time span would have made it more interesting?
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on 16 February 2000
With Muhammad Ali still grasping the media's attention a biography of his whole life would soon become obsolete. Remnick's triumph is to exemplify Ali's achievements not through eulogy, but by elucidating the society that made his actions so powerful. Conceding how ambiguous a character Ali is, Remnick defers the most insightful perspectives on the boxer to those in his ringside camp: his trainer Angelo Dundee, his jester-like companion Bundini and doctor Ferdie Pacheco. The majority of the biography reveals Ali through what he defiantly was not: the prescribed role-model of the boxing fraternity or the civil rights movement. Remnick flaunts his Pulitzer Prize-winning style to effortlessly skip back and forth through a century of boxing to demonstrate continuity and repetition of history; stereotypes which Ali refused to adhere to. The confusion caused by the young, bombastic, fighter amongst a white sporting press which expected reverence from its subjects is comically recreated by Remnick. This excellent biography is accessible to people who follow or dislike boxing.
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on 27 December 1998
David Remnick does a masterful job in placing the reader alongside Ali - from Ali's days as a youth in Jim Crow Louisville, to his success in the Olympics, to his "shocking the world" with his annihilation of an unbeatable Sonny Liston, to his controversial spritual growth obtained via the Nation of Islam. The beginning scene is exceptional with Remnick at Ali's farm in Michigan and is only continued throughout the book and finally when Ali walks Remnick to his car to leave Ali's home. The reader's respect and amazement over Ali's life (and this is only from youth to denouncing the draft)will further be stregnthened. Remnick does a great job of supplying the reader with "Ali-isms", quotes and memories from the Champ. Those who feel sadness of Ali's current state will be a bit relieved that Ali himself is most at peace with himself and condition. Through Remnick's work we are all reminded that Ali was and is, for all eternity, truly The Greatest.
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