- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Canada; 1st Printing edition (Oct. 7 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0676973515
- ISBN-13: 978-0676973518
- Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 299 g
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #246,910 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Facing Ali Paperback – Oct 7 2003
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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.
A Globe and Mail Best Book
A Sports Illustrated Book of the Year
“Mandatory reading, for any age: Stephen Brunt’s latest book, Facing Ali, is an eloquent and elegant journey through the lives of those who fought Muhammad Ali.” Toronto Sun
“Stephen Brunt, besides being one of the best sportswriters out there, is absolutely at the top of his game when it comes to boxing…. For a deadly dose of Ali, his times, his travails, Facing Ali is a KO.” The Hamilton Spectator
“Stephen Brunt has found a refreshing and revealing entrance into the storehouse of myth and lore that has grown up around The Champ. In examining the stories of 15 fighters who traded punches with the former Cassius Clay, Brunt goes the distance in a brand new direction, scoring a unanimous decision.” The Toronto Star
“A fascinating, well-researched and sometimes deeply sad book. You needn’t be a boxing nut to enjoy this rogue’s gallery…. Facing Ali offers some swift, hard jabs by one of our country’s best sportswriters, one who knows boxing and, more importantly, the frailty that goes with human pride. Stephen Brunt takes us for a rare and sometimes painful sit in the loser’s corner, where, as all observers of tragedy know, the most revealing stories take place.” Andrew Pyper, Ottawa Citizen
“By interviewing 15 prize fighters who entered the ring against Muhammad Ali, Brunt illuminates how these people were affected, and paints a composite portrait of the man at the centre of it all.” The Globe and Mail
“The real appeal of this book…is in learning how these men have coped with life’s travails outside the squared circle…. Brunt reveals a deep respect for the men who ply the bruising trade of prizefighting…. It tolls a 10-count over the hoary stereotype of boxers as crude, one-dimensional louts. It is a winner.” The Gazette (Montreal)
“Facing Ali is rich in boxing lore and is often laugh-out-loud funny…. A work of wit and insight. It goes the distance.” The Vancouver Sun
"Brunt does an excellent job of bringing his subjects out of the shadow of the Greatest, recounting their often poignant tales of life before and after their dates with the champ. In the end, of course, we learn more about Ali." Library Journal
"Between the perspectives on Ali and the witty, elegant retelling of the 15 fighters' lives, this is a must for boxing fans." Booklist, starred review
"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 is amazingly sensitive to and respectful of each fighter's own words, no matter how factually wrong or self-serving they might be." Publishers Weekly, starred review
"A compelling read.... As with Princess Diana and Marilyn Monroe, barely a year can now go by without a new biography of the boxer Muhammed Ali. Thankfully, Canadian journalist Stephen Brunt comes at the subject from a new angle, providing pen portraits and testimonies from 15 of the professionals who fought him." Sunday Telegraph
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The stories provide a fresh perspective on Ali through the course of the book, since many of these men developed a relationship with him that transcended their battle(s) with him in the ring, but the spotlight here is directly on the lives of these fifteen men. Each of their stories is unique. Some are funny, some are tragic, some offer us lessons if we care to look. All the stories show us how these men's lives were altered by their moment in the spotlight. With the exception of Joe Frazier, who gets the longest section of the book devoted to him, every man conveys a fondness and respect for Ali even if they had differences with him.
Brunt is a great writer who is able to convey something essential about each of the men he dedicates a chapter to. There isn't a trace of sentimentality and every portrait comes across as being fair to it's subject. "Facing Ali" is a masterpiece of sports writing and belongs on the shelf of every boxing fan.
I good book that is a nice change from the typical boxing book.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Unfortunately, there's almost none of that kind of thing in there. I only bring this up because it is a pattern amongst many authors in general: Come up with a great idea, a catchy title, a nice cover, and then have the content of the book have almost no connection to what those things lead you to expect, and therefore buy the book for.
I was wrong, but delightfully wrong.
The book is about the PEOPLE, the boxers. Each chapter gives is interviewed and discussed where they are at currently, then goes back into a summary of their lives, which is wrirtten so well and so fascinating.
It is funny, touching, sad, and inspiring.
While Ali doesn't "Appear" in the book, Ali's prescence seems to hover over the entire book. It is incredible how all of these boxer's in the ring and out of the ring meetings with Ali has influenced their lives forever.
The character of experiences of these men are so interesting. It had to be difficult to on what to choose to write about, for so many of the boxer's have had such interesting and unusual lives.
For all lthose who simply want a great read as well as all sport's and of course boxing fans.
A boxing masterpiece.
The book presents 15 fights, and the individual stories of the opponents are written in vivid detail. Brunt gives a brief history of the opponent, how he became a fighter, how he came to fight Ali, and what happened to him afterwards. The 15 fighters represent several of Ali's best fights, including Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, and Ernie Shavers. Too bad we could not have read about Ali's greatest upset fight, i.e. Sony Liston's experience in words - now that would heve been eye-popping! (Liston died of an apparent drug overdose in late 1970.)
Brunt does a thorough job with each fighter. He does not so much concentrate on the blow to blow action in the fight, but rather, what the opponent was thinking and feeling before, during, and after the fight. It makes for very interesting reading for boxing fans in general, and of course Ali fans.
I could not give it a 5-star ranking as it was not spell-binding, but for being unique and holding my interest throughout, it deserves a solid 4-stars.
Jim "Konedog" Koenig
I love the idea of this book - the concept of understanding Ali or what it must have been like to face him in the ring. This part of the concept fell a tad short - not exactly what I wanted or expected.
I loved the way the chapters are divided and selected - you get to hear the story of 15 fighters that got to square off in the ring with Muhammad Ali.
As a Muhammad Ali fan and after reading so many books about him, I missed him - I missed Ali - He's in the book, but through the eyes of his opponents - these are their stories about their lives, careers (both before and after Ali) and of course their experience with the Great One and how he affected their lives.
It's a great look and unique perspective at what and who was in the other corner - 15 stories from 15 fighters
I was especially interested in Joe Fraziers comments - I understand why he hates Ali, but it just makes you sad to read it in print. I also really enjoyed the chapters of George Forman and Ken Norton, and - actually I really enjoyed the others too.
Simply put - it really is a cool book about some very interesting fighters and their moment(s) with Muhammad Ali - and after
A MUST have for Ali fans.