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Ali The Movie

July 17, 2009 By Mike V in


Above: Muhammad Ali Underwater, Miami, August, 1961

The Miami Beach Convention Center (MBCC) which opened in 1957 is an important landmark here in our town, a venue that has hosted prominent events in the history of the US.  For example, in 1968, the Miami Beach Convention Center hosted the Republican National Convention and more than 20,000 delegates; while in 1972, more than 45,000 delegates visited the facility during both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.

Most importantly in 1964, a highlight in the world of sports, MBCC was the venue where Muhammad Ali, known at the time as Cassius Marcellus Clay, won his first heavyweight title against Sonny Liston.  A new star, which many dispute as being the greatest heavyweight fighter of all times, was born and began his road to stardom in our beloved city of Miami Beach.

In addition, many people might not be aware that Mohammad Ali actually first came to Miami as a young Olympic champion back in 1960.  His training ground was our own Fifth Street Gym in South Beach.

Ali the story

Ali the movie begins when Cassius Marcellus Clay (aka Muhammad Ali) prepares to fight the heavyweight champion of the world, Sonny Liston.  This fight triumphed by Cassius, marked the beginning of an era in boxing, by the only man who has won three times the heavyweight linear championship. 


Clay’s charismatic personality, talents as a lyrical poet, pretty boy looks and superb fighting skills made him very popular and consequently made him the revered people’s champ.  Being such a character made Clay exciting inside and out of the ring.  Till this day, we can all remember some of his memorable quotes, such as “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” , describing his fighting skills.  And one of my favorites; “I wish people would love everybody else the way they love me. It would be a better world.”
Michael Mann, the movie’s director, takes us into the life of Ali, not just as a phenomenal boxer but also as a man, who used his gift as a fighter and worldwide fame to inspire a nation and became a well known social activist also fighting for black equality in times of segregation. 

After winning the title Clay joined the Nation of Islam, and became spiritually reborn and renamed Muhammad Ali.  While in the Nation, Ali became very close to one of their preacher, the well-known Malcom X.  Later in time, Malcolm’s views diverged away from the beliefs of the Nation of Islam who banned him for these beliefs.  Muhammad Ali who was still a member of the Nation was then forced to keep his distances from Malcom. 

Malcolm’s travels around the world, visiting the different Muslim capitals and cultures further strengthened his views for human equality.  Malcom X pursued his fight against black segregation and became a historical figure for his work and influence in the struggle.  However his mission was abruptly interrupted by his horrific murder during one of his speech in 1965.

Mohammad Ali dominated the boxing ring from 1964 to 1968 but then was expulsed from boxing and was stripped of his belt for refusing to be inducted into the US army, stating his opposition in fighting in the Vietnam War.  For years he struggled with legal problems that kept him from fighting and keeping the boxing world unfulfilled with the verity of who was the best boxer in the world since Ali did not lose his belt in the ring. 

In 1970, Ali was finally allowed back into the ring.  He then worked his way back and reclaimed the championship belt in the 1974 world renowned fight against George Foreman, the Rumble in the Jungle.  This fantastic brawl, which took place in Africa, was promoted by Don King and was the first black promoted heavyweight championship fight. 


Will Smith as Ali

Will Smith did a great job depicting Ali in this movie. He truly captured his essence, his greater than life demeanor, his great sense of humor and charisma.  Ali was not only one of the greatest fighter of all times but he also made sure the world knew it. 

Additionally, Will Smith truly looked like a professional boxer.  He also brought along his charisma and talent as a comic,  which effectively transferred into the screen and making him the perfect actor in my opinion to portray Muhammad Ali.

I give Will Smith 2 thumbs up on his job in Ali, and it is no surprise that he won an Oscar for this role. 


All in all, Ali might not have become the icon that he is today if it wasn’t for Miami.  As mentioned earlier, he trained in Miami Beach, often running the distance between his home and the Fifth Street Gym in South Beach.  Miami was Ali’s home—first in Overtown, once known as “Harlem South”, and later in a nearby, black middle-class enclave. Furthermore it was in Miami that he first became acquainted with the teachings of the Nation of Islam and developed a friendship with Malcolm X.  And, of course, it was in Miami that he met the Beatles, fought Liston for the heavyweight title, and famously declared that he had “nothing against them Viet Cong.”

Related Categories: Movie Reviews

Mike Vietz

See more articles by Mike V.

See more articles by Mike V

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