Ali: The Greatest Quote of All

MURRAY GREIG, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:17 AM ET

Apart from Wayne Gretzky's weepy "I promised Mess I wouldn't do this" when he was traded to the L.A. Kings, can you recall another memorable or profound quote from the Great One?

Ditto Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer or any other ultra-dominant athlete of the 20th century.

There's one exception, of course: Muhammad Ali.

That's what makes Image Entertainment's Ali: The Lost Interviews such a treat for anyone looking for insights beyond the "I gave it 110%" cliches in the 45-second clips that clutter up sports television these days.

The 142-minute DVD, released last month to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the ground-breaking Champions Forever, includes the entire original documentary that brought together Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes and Ken Norton. But it's the half-hour of "lost" interviews with Ali and a raucous, unscripted round-table luncheon with the five champs -- hosted by baseball great Reggie Jackson -- that elevates this compilation head and shoulders above the usual sports-doc fare.

Producer Craig Glazer shot the interviews at Ali's home in Los Angeles, his Michigan farm and Johnny Tocco's gym in Las Vegas immediately following the production of Champions Forever, but the film was stored away, forgotten, until earlier this year.

Over the past two decades, as the debilitating effects of Parkinson's Syndrome have robbed "The Greatest" of his mesmerizing ability to communicate, these interviews, in which he speaks thoughtfully about his fights in and out of the ring, the purpose of his life and how he wants to be remembered, are both poignant and historic.

Among the highlights are Ali's recollection of seeing rassler George Wagner (a.k.a. Gorgeous George) perform in Louisville, Ky., and deciding, at age14, that Wagner's combination of braggadocio and outrageous posturing would become the foundation of his own professional persona.

Ali's revelation that his national Golden Gloves championship in 1959 was the greatest thrill of his career, and a new spin on the oft-told story of him throwing his Olympic gold medal into the Ohio River after being refused service in a Louisville restaurant are equally enthralling.

From a historical standpoint, Champions Forever is perhaps the definitive insider's snapshot of the heavyweight title's greatest era -- but the inclusion of the lost interviews takes it to another level. As Ali himself once observed: "A rooster crows only when it sees the light. Put him in the dark and he'll never crow. I have seen the light, and I'm crowin'!"

Canadian content

Another terrific recent DVD release is Boxing: What a fight! from Montreal-based Imavision.

For Canadian fans of the sweet science, this four-disc set is a gold mine. It includes obscure National Film Board documentaries on Yvon Durelle and Gaetan Hart, as well as a 75-minute profile of Montreal's Hilton family and the award-winning 2003 documentary The Last Round, which chronicles the 1966 world championship bout between Ali and Toronto's George Chuvalo.

A total of eight documentaries comprise the bulk of the footage, but there are also in-depth interviews with the likes of Chuvalo, Angelo Dundee, Don King, Yvon Michel, Eric Lucas and Hector (Macho) Camacho.

At a time when Canadian fighters have all but fallen off the international radar, this set offers a nostalgic look back at some of the best punchers The Great White North ever produced.

MURRAY.GREIG@SUNMEDIA.CA


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