When Muhammad Ali died last month, the world mourned a saint who fought beautifully in the ring and sacrificed himself outside of it to stand up against inequality and unjust wars.
And that’s part of who Ali was.
But that’s not all he was. Muhammad Ali was a controversial figure, and to smooth out his rough edges is to miss much of the incredible narrative of Ali’s life. It is to miss that Ali initially rejected Martin Luther King’s vision of peaceful desegregation. It is to miss that Ali used hateful speech against his black opponents, attacking them for being Christian and “Uncle Toms.” It is to miss that Ali held dangerous views, not just for the white status quo, but for the mainstream civil rights movement.
At his worst, he was mean, sexist and self-obsessed. At his best, he was a kind, generous man who loved to be around people, playing practical jokes and preaching peace and tolerance.
The many sides of Cassius Clay / Muhammad Ali are captured in Fighting Words: The Greatest Muhammad Ali Stories Ever Told, which goes on sale today on Amazon for Kindle apps and devices. (The paperback and eBook for other devices will be available soon).
Fighting Words is the first release from FanReads, a new publishing company that focuses on fan-based anthologies. The FanReads promise is that we package up the greatest stories ever told for fans of sports, screen and music.
In the next few months, we’ll be releasing other books on sports (Toronto Blue Jays), screen (Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black) and music (The Beatles).
Visit us at FanReads to sign up for our mailing list to be the first to know about our newest titles.
Ali’s story is so appealing because it is a classic redemption arc with a twist.
He is a man who falls, goes into exile, and is reborn first as a hero and later as a saint. What makes his story special, however, is that it is bidirectional. When Ali lights the torch at the 1996 Olympic Games, it’s not just that America is forgiving him for his past. Ali himself is forgiving his country.