Muhammad Ali has had more media attention (books, documentaries, a hit feature film) than any other athlete in history--a fresh take on him seems impossible. But acclaimed sports journalist and author Stephen Brunt has found one: he profiles the oft-ignored supporting cast in Ali's illustrious yet controversial life and career. The result is Facing Ali
, a must-read for all fans of boxing and Ali. Brunt zeroes in on Ali's opponents, those that came face to face with the lightning-fast jab and the yapping mouth of the Louisville Lip. He explores the lives of these fighters pre- and post-Ali, has them reflect on how those bouts changed their lives, and collects their impressions of Ali, the man and the boxer.
Brunt's vivid portraits of each man add flesh, heart, and soul to those often reduced to a footnote in boxing history. Anyone who has followed the heavyweight saga over the past four decades knows plenty about Joe Frazier, George Foreman, and Canadian hero George Chuvalo. Even those major players, however, are given new life in Brunt's perceptive pugilistic profiles. Of special interest are looks at such virtual unknowns as Brian London, Karl Mildenberger, Chuck Wepner, and Tunney Hunsaker, Ali's first pro opponent. By seeking out these boxers on their own turf, whether it be a Hamburg bar (Jurgen Blin) or a Fayetteville, West Virginia, home (Hunsaker), Brunt elicits extraordinarily candid responses. Blin confesses to knowing in advance he had no chance against Ali, while Belgian Jean-Pierre Coopman notes that "two seconds after the opening bell, Ali knew that I was nothing more than a fly." Frazier reveals himself to be tragically bitter and angry about Ali, even claiming that the champ's Parkinson's is God's punishment for Ali's disrespect toward Frazier and his country. Other fighters display real affection for Ali. "If there is a God, what must have been going through His mind to give a disease like Parkinson's to a great man like Ali?" Coopman asks the author. Entertaining anecdotes fly fast and furious. Chuck Wepner (the inspiration for Rocky) recalls buying his wife a sexy negligee before his Ali fight and telling her, "tonight you're going to be sleeping with the heavyweight champion." Upon his loss, his wife teased him, "Do I go to Ali's room or does he come to mine?"
Brunt is Canada's best boxing writer, as evidenced by his earlier book Mean Business: The Rise and Fall of Shawn O'Sullivan, not to mention his Globe and Mail columns. He clearly loves the sport, yet he has never backed off from revealing its ugly side. His reputation is now firmly cemented by Facing Ali, a beautifully written work, worthy of international recognition, that does those it features real justice. It's a knock-out read. --Kerry Doole
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Brunt provides penetrating and honest profiles of 15 fighters from around the world who faced Muhammad Ali, and he produces a book that should become one of the essential works for understanding the legendary fighter. Brunt's subjects range in chronological order from Tunney Hunsaker, the first man to fight Ali (then known as Cassius Clay) as a professional, to Larry Holmes, whose crushing victory in Ali's fourth comeback showed that the champion's career was truly finished. In between, Brunt (columnist for Toronto's Globe and Mail) offers bracing new looks at Ali's well-known opponents, including Joe Frazier, Ken Norton and George Foreman. Some of Brunt's best portraits, however, bring to life those "extremely unlikely tales, longshots, no-hopers, fighters lifted out of obscurity for their date with the most famous man on earth," such as Germany's Jurgen Blin, who fought Ali and the next day "was back at work at the sausage factory." Although each story varies, Brunt is amazingly sensitive to and respectful of each fighter's own words, no matter how factually wrong or self-serving they might be. He deftly illustrates how all the fighters to some degree believe that, as Jean Pierre Coopman says, "The Ali fight was the defining moment of my career," although this feeling is ironic for some, such as George Chuvalo, who despite his winning record became better known in his native Canada for going the distance with Ali and losing. Others are bitter, such as Joe Frazier, who views Ali's current Parkinson's disease unsympathetically; as Brunt cannily observes, "on the cosmic scale, [Frazier's] getting even..- getting even."
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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