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Customer Review

on February 16, 2005
This is a fascinating book - looking at Ali in a historical, social and political context.
It is not a typical sporting biography - there is very little focus on boxing. This is not even a typical biography - Ali is the central character but there are many digressions - Malcolm X (and Elijah Mohammed), Martin Luther King, Paul Robeson, Jackie Robinson, Bob Dylan and Don King feature heavily. The real focus is on the social & political upheaval of the sixties.
This is also a reclamation project. The Ali who is now an almost universal hero is not the Ali that inspires Mike Marqusee. Marqusee loves the Ali who said "I will not be what you want me to be", the fascinating, flawed man - one of the most controversial, divisive but important men of the 1960s. The man who transcended his nationality and embraced the world, which in turn embraced him back. He wants to remind us what an extraordinary man he was. I think that he succeeds admirably.
This is not a hagiography - it is prepared to look Ali's flaws and contradictions directly in the eye. However, the book is fundamentally very sympathetic to Ali and the whole black power movement of the 1960s, particularly Malcolm X. This is not a problem, as Marqusee's politics never get in the way of the book.
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4.7 out of 5 stars