What would you get if you put the greatest athlete of all-time and one of the leading filmmakers of the current era...

What would you get if you put the greatest athlete of all-time and one of the leading filmmakers of the current era together? You get a documentary that will not just make you proud but also shed a tear or two, for the greatest sportsman had the greatest career one could imagine. In What’s My Name – Muhammad Ali, director Antoine Fuqua compiles available audio and video interviews of Muhammad Ali and presents them in such a way that you would feel honored of belonging to the same community and living in the same era as Muhammad Ali.

What’s My Name – Muhammad Ali begins with the very first interview that Muhammad Ali ever gave in 1960. At that time when he was known as Cassius Clay and was an amateur boxer, who had done nothing and not even knew where his ancestors came from. How that boy of unknown origins went onto become the biggest boxer the world had ever seen, why he switched to Islam from Christianity, who were the boxers he had to defeat to become the greatest, everything is documented visually in this well-prepared biography.

There have been a lot of documentaries on the greatest athlete of all time but What’s My Name – Muhammad Ali surpasses most of them. The best thing about it is the fact that the whole team behind it worked hard to prepare something that wasn’t shown to the audience before. Usually, Muhammad Ali documentaries target his rise and classic encounters with big names of the era including Joe Frazier (all three fights), George Foreman and Ken Norton (all three fights). However, this one also documents his fall from being the greatest to someone who hung his gloves after it was too late. His last few fights including his finale one with his once-sparring partner Larry Holmes is also mentioned with interviews of both the pugilists before and after the match. One would be surprised to see Larry Holmes crying after the match because he said that he loved Muhammad Ali and couldn’t see him losing, even to himself.

And then there was the other side of Muhammad Ali that gets mentioned here as well, the life outside the boxing ring. His relationship with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. was shown as something special before they were assassinated for speaking their mind; why he was called the big mouth was established through his interviews where he declared that he was so pretty that no one could beat him. The documentary doesn’t do much except including an interview of prominent Black Muslim Malcolm X regarding Cassius Clay’s conversion to Muhammad Ali (Malcolm X had no clue that he had converted!) but how it affected his career was shown in detail. First, he fought harder with those who refused to acknowledge his identity as a Muslim and second, he was stripped off his titles when he refused to draft for the US Army and fight in Vietnam, which he said was against his religious beliefs.

And in a typical Muhammad Ali way, the champion came back harder when his license was reinstated and became active when the Supreme Court declared that his suspension was illegal. He was at his best in the 1970s and his interviews show that he had become cool and calm, which was different from his earlier self. Why did he decide to design a camp in the middle of nowhere after losing to Joe Frazier for the first time is something only he could answer and he does, in What’s My Name – Muhammad Ali. His life after retirement was also discussed prominently, from the very first interview where he sat with his face not visible so people can’t take pity on him to the visuals of Atlanta 1996 where he was selected to light the flame at the Olympic Games despite suffering from Parkinson’s disease will bring you close to tears.

On the whole, What’s My Name – Muhammad Ali is one of the best ways to remember the great Muhammad Ali who was born in the month of January. As a Pakistani we should be proud of him because he visited the country on multiple occasions and even mentions it twice during his interviews, stating that he is loved in the then newly-created country. It would have been great had his well-covered visit to Pakistan in the 80s been included in the film but then, that’s just wishful thinking for us Pakistanis. He was loved all over the world, something that is visible from his first visit to Africa, his final visit for a fight to England and his decision to retire after losing his fifth fight. He was never knocked out in the ring, and would be remembered as the greatest boxer of all time, one who inspired many to play within the rules, stay clean and live a retired life gracefully.

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Comments (1) Closed

jawwad asghar bilgrami Jan 31, 2020 10:07am
Awesome, complete and informative