Muhammad Ali: Made In Miami

This one-hour PBS doc shows how a young boxer named Cassius Clay blossomed into world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali under Angelo Dundee’s training in Miami. It was 1960 and a cocky yet focused Clay had just captured the gold for America at the Rome Olympics but couldn’t shop for clothes in his homeland because he was black. The film scores points by reminding us that the public used to perceive Clay as a loudmouth clown who wasn’t taken seriously until he beat heavyweight champ Sonny Liston in 1964. Meanwhile, the upheavals of the Civil Rights Movement, with its marches, police beatings and urban riots, inflamed Clay, whom blacks around the world regarded not merely as a champion athlete but as a hero. His status rose further when Clay found Islam and became Ali, then refused to fight in the Vietnam War. The story has been told before, particularly Ali’s conversion to Islam and his 1964 upset of brute Sonny Liston, but fresh interviews with biographer Thomas Hauser, photographer Harry Benson and especially trainer Dundee inject passion and fresh detail. It’s amusing to learn that John Lennon wanted the Beatles to be photographed with the heavily favoured Liston and not the underdog Clay. And it’s poignant to learn that long after Malcolm X’s 1965 assassination, Ali carried a photograph of his old mentor, even after Ali publicly turned his back on him. Made In Miami is a misleading title since the film extends far beyond those critical years, but it does illustrate the transformation of Clay into Ali. The disc’s extra feature, a conversation with the producers, is a good idea but doesn’t entirely deliver since they spend more time gushing over Ali’s career than providing filmmaking insight. (PBS/Paramount)