As the first anniversary of Muhammad Ali’s passing approaches, the tributes to the “Greatest of All-Times” continue to roll on with no end in sight. The volume and variety of these tributes clearly demonstrate the impact and affect Ali’s life had on humanity. And with the current and upcoming contributions planned by filmmakers, the memory of Ali will remain in the spotlight not only now but for years to come. In January, Michael Mann released a new version of his 2001 Ali film, starring Will Smith, on DVD. The new version added footage to existing scenes and cut others to keep the film at comparable length. The added footage mainly strengthened political elements of the film. Mann had previously released a director’s cut several years ago. The original version was also re-released in theaters the weekend following Ali’s passing. A new film covering a less publicized part of Ali’s career was also debuted earlier this year. “The Last Punch” made its debut at the Richmond Film Festival. It was the latest project of film director and Virginia State University administrator Jesse Vaughn. The 28-time Emmy award winner was an Ali fan growing up and jumped at the chance to tell this lesser known story on Ali’s final fight versus Trevor Berbick in the Bahamas. The movie is based on the book of the same title written by James Cornelius who also served as a producer on the film. Cornelius, a self-described “Ali groupie” and hustler, had become part of the Ali entourage during that time. Not wanting to go out on the memory of his loss to Larry Holmes, Ali wanted one more fight. None of the top promoters would touch the fight. They wanted Ali to stay retired. Cornelius, with no previous experience, convinced Ali to let him promote the “Drama in the Bahamas” against Berbick. The story revolves around Cornelius’ promotional efforts while he was also on the run from the FBI for embezzlement charges from his previous job. At least two other major production efforts are in the works to join the treasure trove of existing Ali film tributes. HBO announced a multi-part Ali documentary from director Antoine Fuqua of “Training Day” and “The Magnificent Seven” fame. Fuqua is partnering up with Lebron James on the currently untitled project. Both James and Fuqua have noted the impact Ali had on their lives. The film has already begun production and will premiere on HBO though no air date has been announced as of yet. The Ali story will also be getting the Ken Burns’ treatment as Burns, his daughter Sarah Burns, and David McMahon are producing and directing a documentary for PBS on Ali. Production on the 2 part, 4 hour project began in early 2016. The anticipated date for premiering the documentary is in 2021. In a statement Sarah Burns stated in part, “We’re eager to get beyond the archetypes and examine who and what influenced his choices, and how he maintained the courage of his convictions when those choices seemed to go against the tide.” The three previously collaborated on the 2013 documentary “The Central Park Five” and the more recent 2 part, 4 hour, documentary on baseball’s Jackie Robinson. This wide variety of film projects give all of us Ali fans plenty to check out now and look forward to over the next several years. I look forward to seeing them all.
I have recently entered in to an agreement with Earthshine Media Group to market my book ODES ON ALI : A Tribute to the Greatest at the BOOKEXPO & BOOKCON 2017 in New York City Thur. June 1 – June 4 at the Javits Center. With over 100,000 international visitors -professionals and fans – attending during the four day event it should generate great exposure that will hopefully increase interest and book sales. In addition, I have been asked by my self-publishing company, BookFuel, to create a short video to talk about my self-publishing experience which would provide additional exposure over their social media sites. The first quarter of 2017 was a little slow due to continued recovery from my accident and a couple of potentially promising marketing opportunities never panning out. But with these new avenues of exposure and my continuing efforts on social media I look forward to getting ODES ON ALI into the hands of more readers. As always, onward and upward.
Never has the phrase “gone but not forgotten” been more fitting than when describing the late, great Muhammad Ali. The outpouring of love and admiration for the GOAT Muhammad Ali since his passing through tributes and exhibitions continues with no end in sight.Many of them are unique and one of a kind just like the champ himself. Such as the one I discussed in my last “More On Ali” post that is being done in June by his hometown minor league baseball team. One that took place more recently was unique in that it paid homage to Ali’s work as an artist, with his boxing and activist exploits in more of a supporting role. GOAT (GREATEST OF ALL TIME): A Tribute to Muhammad Ali was held at the Joshua Liner Gallery in New York from January 5th to February 4 of this year. Unlike most other tributes to Ali, this group exhibition was centered around Ali’s artistic side rather than his better known athletic and activist accomplishments. Ali’s lesser known highly creative side included written and spoken word poetry, stage and screen acting, and drawing. The centerpiece of this group exhibition was a series of rare ink on paper works by Ali in his final years.Exhibited alongside the Ali pieces were works by Andy Warhol and numerous other contemporary artists including Aaron Johnson, Alfred Steiner, Dapper Bruce Lafitte, Hilary Pecis, Kris Kuksi, Libby Black, Mark Mulroney, Michael Kagan, Tony Curanaj, Wayne White, and a wallpaper installation from Brooklyn based Flavor Paper. A series of five ink drawings of boxing rings by Ali were exhibited accompanied by the works from the supporting artists, many of which were produced specifically for this exhibition. Many of the contributing artists created their works for this exhibit based on iconic photos from Ali fights (like an action exchange from the “Thrilla In Manila” and Ali towering over Liston after knocking him out in their second fight) or through adaptation of memorable Ali quotes like “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” and “I shook up the world!” Some expressed themselves through paint and some through sculpture. Flavor Paper’s new designed wallpaper featured Andy Warhol’s Muhammad Ali. It was on displayed along with an unpublished print of Ali’s fist from Warhol’s Muhammad Ali portfolio. A great tribute to “The Greatest” by some great artists.
As I watched U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz dominate the 1976 Olympics with his perfect seven for seven gold medal winning performance, I was positive I was watching the greatest male swimmer of all-times. That previously unimaginable achievement was a once in a lifetime perfect alignment of the stars that simply couldn’t be topped. No way, no how. And I’m sure Spitz himself walked away from the sport after that performance feeling that way as well. And when young teen Michael Phelps came away from his first Olympic performance in 2000 with no medals in hand, no one perceived him to be a threat to dethrone Spitz. But just like another Mr. Phelps, he gladly accepted the challenge of this “mission impossible” and in the end not only exceeded but far surpassed Mr. Spitz in single and total Olympic performances. After that initial no medal performance in 2000, Phelps returned to the Olympic pool four years later in ’04 to almost surpass Spitz by winning 6 gold and 2 bronze medals. This followed his 4 gold and 2 silver medals, along with 5 world record times, performance in the 2003 World Aquatic Championships. It was an outstanding effort which put Phelps firmly in the conversation along with Spitz as to the greatest of all-times. He could have easily walked away from the pool as Spitz did after this incredible performance. But this Mr. Phelps was just getting warmed up. Returning again four years later in ’08 at Beijing, Phelps accomplished the goal of the best ever Olympic performance by exceeding Spitz’ 7 gold medal performance by doing the impossible in winning 8 gold medals. In addition, between ’04 and ’08 he added an additional 17 World Aquatic Championship gold medals to his total. This feat made him easily the greatest male swimmer of all-time having surpassed all swimmers in both the single and total Olympic accomplishments. But Mr. Phelps wasn’t done with the record books just yet. In ’12, he returned to the Olympics once again and ran his medal total up to 18 gold and 22 medals total making him the most decorated Olympian of all-time by surpassing Soviet Olympian gymnast Larisa Latynina who previously held the record with 18 total Olympic medals. Many believed that surely at that point, with all the records in hand, Mr. Phelps would ride off into the sunset. But not so fast. Mr. Phelps wasn’t quite through yet. He decided to return one more time for his fifth consecutive Olympics in 2016 in Rio. And he did not disappoint. In winning 5 more gold medals and 1 silver, Mr. Phelps ran his incredible record total to 28 medals, 23 gold, before announcing his retirement from the pool at age 31. For all the above and more, Michael Phelps is without a doubt the greatest, and most decorated, male swimmer of all-times. He is also the most decorated, and arguably the greatest, Olympic performer of all-time. Well done Mr. Phelps!
While “The Greatest” may be gone, he has most definitely not been forgotten. The tributes to Muhammad Ali since his passing continue across the globe but especially in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. The Louisville Bats, the city’s minor league baseball team recently announced a tribute planned for June. On June 3, the one year anniversary of Ali’s death, the Cincinnati Reds’ Triple-a affiliate will on honor Ali by hosting Muhammad Ali Appreciation Night at Louisville Slugger Field. The Bats’ players will wear specially designed Ali-themed jerseys. The stunning jerseys have an Ali head-shot across the entire front with ALI written on one sleeve and The Greatest written on the other. A butterfly image with ALI printed in the center is on the back of the jersey above the player’s number. The June 3rd special event will be the first of six weekends of community events focusing on spreading Muhammad Ali’s six core principals (Confidence, Conviction, Dedication, Respect, Giving, and Spirituality) according to Louisville Bats Senior Vice President Greg Galiette. Following the June 3rd game, the Ali tribute jerseys will be auctioned off with proceeds going to the Muhammad Ali Center. The first two thousand fans in attendance will receive a free Bats logo cap commemorating Muhammad Ali. The jerseys are a thing of beauty truly befitting of the self-proclaimed “greatest, prettiest heavyweight champ of all-times.”