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Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times by Thomas Hauser

Release date: 30th November, 2004
Publisher: Robson Books

List Price: £9.99
Our Price: £6.99
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Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times
By Thomas Hauser
Published by Robson Books

4SportsBooks.co.uk price: £ 6.99 (a saving £ 3.00 on rrp)

Cynics would, no doubt, suggest that the apparently endless stream of fresh publications that have Muhammad Ali as their central subject also have an uncanny knack of appearing with the same frequency and, less surprisingly, at the same time, as dodgy 'Christmas hits'.

But apart from King of the World by David Remick and The Fight, Norman Mailer's account of the Ali - Foreman 'Rumble in the Jungle' fight in 1974, each of which is superbly written, when it comes to books about Ali, there is an awful lot of dross. There is, however, one book about Muhammad Ali's life which remains head and shoulders above the rest: this is it. If just a single written appreciation of the greatest sportsman ever to have lived has to adorn your bookshelf, make sure it is Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times.

Thomas Hauser's work was first published in hardback in 1991 which has ensured that, like a fine wine, it has had plenty of time to have attracted justifiable praise; the plaudits will continue to flow now that the paperback version has appeared. It is easy to see why it has been called "the most significant boxing book ever written" and Ali's "definitive biography".

Hauser tells the story of Ali's life by drawing upon interviews with several hundred of the boxer's family, friends, opponents and enemies. The comments of Ali's contemporaries and loved ones are moulded into Hauser's building blocks around which he has constructed a magical tale of determination, pride, ability and respect. Naturally, he does this in chronological order and, given the book's style, it is inevitable that every few pages the reader is treated to another golden anecdote, the steady supply of which stretch right back to Ali's earliest days.

For example, his younger brother Rudolph recounts a boyhood memory when, like most brothers, they fought and wrestled, but Ali, then Cassius Clay, preferred to have Rudolph do something which honed his already lightening quick reflexes: "he used to ask me to throw rocks at him," says his kid brother, "I thought he was crazy, but he'd stand back and dodge every one of them. No matter how many I threw, I could never hit him."

Later, young Cassius decided the only way he could get to fight Sonny Liston for the world heavyweight title was to pester, badger and bait him, something he did mercilessly. There is one particular amusing episode when Liston was gambling in Vegas and Clay, having clearly pushed him too far, decides that discretion is the better part of valour and walks away. "Were you scared?" asks Harold Conrad, to which Clay replied, "Yeah, man: that big ugly bear scared me bad."

It's interesting to note that Clay was written off before the fight with Liston took place in February 1964; indeed, the New York Times didn't feel the fight was important, so decided not to send its principle boxing reporter to Miami for the clash! How times were to change.

Throughout, it is apparent that Ali's magnificent skill was admirably supplemented with a supreme confidence evident in only the truly great sportsmen. Ali was the greatest and this book is an admirable testament to his peerless position in world sport - buy it!


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