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Thread: Today's (1/13/07) ESPN Classic take on Ali's Birthday

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    Today's (1/13/07) ESPN Classic take on Ali's Birthday

    Classic take on Ali's birthday
    Larry Stewart from The LA Times


    To commemorate Muhammad Ali's 65th birthday, which is Wednesday, ESPN Classic will devote 52 hours of programming to the boxer beginning today and concluding next Saturday.

    "No one represents what ESPN Classic is all about more than Muhammad Ali," said John Papa, the network's vice president in charge of programming. "We opened up our vaults to do this."

    The Ali celebration, which kicks off today at 5 p.m., is highlighted by a 24-hour programming marathon on Wednesday in honor of the man who transcended his sport and became a beloved public figure. Included are seven complete Ali title fights, starting at 9 a.m.

    The fights: 1964, Sonny Liston; 1965, Floyd Patterson; 1965, Sonny Liston II; 1966, George Chuvalo; 1974, George Foreman; 1975, Chuck Wepner; and 1975, Joe Frazier III.

    Ali's legendary first two fights with Frazier are not included.

    "Unfortunately, we do not have the rights to everything," Papa said.

    At 5 p.m., after the showing of the seven fights, will be a recent ESPN special, "Ali Rap," which focuses on the words and influence of Ali. Then at 6 p.m. will be "Ali's Dozen," featuring Ali's 12 greatest and most important rounds, as selected by Ali. At 7 p.m. will be "Ali's 65," which looks at Ali's effect on society.

    — Larry Stewart

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    Re: Today's (1/13/07) ESPN Classic take on Ali's Birthday

    So in other words they will replay the same fights they normally would.

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    Re: Today's (1/13/07) ESPN Classic take on Ali's Birthday

    Is there anyone here on the CBZ who can record this material on VHS or
    DVD for sale?

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    Re: Today's (1/13/07) ESPN Classic take on Ali's Birthday

    Quote Originally Posted by GorDoom
    Classic take on Ali's birthday
    Larry Stewart from The LA Times


    To commemorate Muhammad Ali's 65th birthday, which is Wednesday, ESPN Classic will devote 52 hours of programming to the boxer beginning today and concluding next Saturday.

    "No one represents what ESPN Classic is all about more than Muhammad Ali," said John Papa, the network's vice president in charge of programming. "We opened up our vaults to do this."

    The Ali celebration, which kicks off today at 5 p.m., is highlighted by a 24-hour programming marathon on Wednesday in honor of the man who transcended his sport and became a beloved public figure. Included are seven complete Ali title fights, starting at 9 a.m.

    The fights: 1964, Sonny Liston; 1965, Floyd Patterson; 1965, Sonny Liston II; 1966, George Chuvalo; 1974, George Foreman; 1975, Chuck Wepner; and 1975, Joe Frazier III.

    Ali's legendary first two fights with Frazier are not included.

    "Unfortunately, we do not have the rights to everything," Papa said.

    At 5 p.m., after the showing of the seven fights, will be a recent ESPN special, "Ali Rap," which focuses on the words and influence of Ali. Then at 6 p.m. will be "Ali's Dozen," featuring Ali's 12 greatest and most important rounds, as selected by Ali. At 7 p.m. will be "Ali's 65," which looks at Ali's effect on society.

    — Larry Stewart
    You mean they are showing the FULL Check Wepner bout in COLOR!!! I AM JUMPING OUT OF MY CHAIR!!! IT'S LIKE DISCOVERING THE FISTIC JEWEL OF THE NILE!!!!

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    Re: Today's (1/13/07) ESPN Classic take on Ali's Birthday

    You know, if you squint and search really, really diligently, you might find yours truly in the audience of Ali-Wepner. Yep, I was there (though too young for the beard and a few other "character-enhancing" features which would show up later in life). PeteLeo.

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    Re: Today's (1/13/07) ESPN Classic take on Ali's Birthday

    Do a snap shot of the fight, and circle yourself.

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    Re: Today's (1/13/07) ESPN Classic take on Ali's Birthday

    MSNBC.com

    Celizic: Saluting Ali, a true champion, on birthday.

    By Mike Celizic
    Updated: 3:52 a.m. PT Jan 17, 2007
    Muhammad Ali turns 65 on Wednesday. Let this be a lesson to you kids out there, because some day you’re going to be reading the same thing about the great you had growing up, whether it’s Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, Derek Jeter, Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky or Lance Armstrong.

    Those are some pretty good athletes with whose stories you will bore your grandchildren. But as great as they are, none will ever exert the influence across the years and the generations that Ali has. It’s not that they are lesser men, but that they have lived in lesser times.

    Even today, according to the people who paid $50 million for the rights to market Ali’s name, no athlete has a higher profile around the world — or a more positive one.

    With Ali ready to turn 65, the traditional age of retirement — 26 years after he last worked in a boxing ring — it’s a good time to look back on how he came to be so revered around the world. It certainly wasn’t anything he set out to achieve; Ali was a fighter, a kid from Louisville who took up boxing because another kid stole his bicycle.


    He won a gold medal in the 1960 Rome Olympics, and although the potential greatness was obvious, the regard in which he would come to be held was well hidden. Ali was not a Boomer himself, having been born in 1941, four years before the first of that post-World War II generation emerged squalling upon the stage. But he led the Boomers through their youth and young adulthood, showing them at every turn a new way of looking at things.

    Before Ali, heroes were made of the stuff that society most admired; they were of their eras, not ahead of them. Babe Ruth was the Roaring 20s. Mickey Mantle was the blue-collar child of the 1950s. But not Ali. He was born into the insular black community of Louisville, but he didn’t follow the lead of other iconic African-American athletes before him. Whereas Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson worked so hard not to offend the white folks, Ali at first seemed intent on offending everyone. It was hardly the recipe for creating a legend.

    But the times made it all possible; Ali would have been crushed by society if he had come along earlier; he would have been ignored if his day had come later. Jack Johnson tried being a proud and independent and unapologetic black man early in the 20th century, and America wouldn’t let him.

    He wouldn’t be possible today, either, not in an era in which no one gets points for standing on principle — if there are any left to stand on — and not in an era in which it is impossible to shock the masses with anything as simple as a name change and a conversion to Islam.

    What made Ali was that he stood for something new and brave at a time when the children of the Baby Boom were ready to forge an identity separate from their parents, when Vietnam and a new sense of personal freedom and political empowerment was sweeping the nation.

    Heroes like Jordan and Woods will go down among the all-time great athletes. But they haven’t had a cause to take them beyond the arena. They sell shoes and clothing and athletic equipment; Ali sold an ideal. They got rich on their talents; Ali gave up untold millions by ticking off the establishment, millions that he’s only now starting to get back, thanks to a generation that wasn’t even born until after his career was over.

    What Ali stood for was the power and the right of each individual to forge his own identity and to choose his own beliefs. It wasn’t a popular course to choose, and if he were around today, his agents and business consultants wouldn’t allow it.


    If you’re a 20-something, it’s probably impossible to understand the furor that Ali raised when, as the young and brash heavyweight champion of the world, he changed his name from Cassius Clay — his “slave name” — to the name by which the entire world knows him today. Nor is it possible to imagine the outrage he inspired among the parents of those of us who were kids then by his brash predictions of victory, delivered in simple, doggerel rhyme.

    Some people have credited his verses with inspiring rap and hip-hop. That particular art form is actually rooted in the Caribbean and goes back to a street-corner game called “doin’ the dozens,” but you’ll have a hard time convincing anyone of it. Ali is the person they remember doing it. That makes him the founding father.

    That’s fine with me. Ali certainly made trash-talking acceptable and fun, and with him, it was never bragging, because he did what he said he’d do.

    What finally set him apart was his refusal to be drafted during the Vietnam War. You didn’t do things like that in those days, and the reason he gave — he said he was a conscientious objector because of his belief in Islam as interpreted by the Nation of Islam — gave establishment America fits.

    He gave up his career for that belief, denied — illegally — his right to earn a living while his case made its way to the Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled in his favor. Who among today’s heroes would do such a thing?

    It was when he came back that he finally won over the world, including most of those who had once found reason to hate him. After a three-year layoff, he came back, lost to Joe Frazier, then fought three of the greatest fights ever — beating Frazier twice and George Foreman in Zaire. He fought around the planet, picking up fans everywhere he went, a handsome, brilliant athlete who made people happy just by being in their presence.

    It was the whole package that made him the one transcendental star of his or any era. No one had ever been like him. No one would be like him again, because there would never be a like opportunity. People don’t ignore public opinion on principle these days. They don’t give up millions for their beliefs. They don’t travel the world sowing smiles and hope in their wake. And all of that while awing and inspiring us in the arena.

    He’s officially a golden-ager now. Happy birthday, Champ.

    © 2007 MSNBC InteractiveMike Celizic writes regularly for MSNBC.com and is a freelance writer based in New York.
    URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16643958/

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    Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier...1974


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    Today's (1/13/07) ESPN Classic take on Ali's Birthday

    Jumping into the ring and into life with Ali
    Many of the writer's defining events are linked to the former boxing champion, who turns 65 today.
    By Davis Miller, Special to The Times
    January 17, 2007


    I remember sitting in front of my father's little black-and-white television as Ali's voice roared from the huge world outside and through the TV's tiny, rattling speaker. "I'm young and handsome and fast and pretty and can't possibly be beat," the voice said, and as I listened, I felt the glory train pass through me.

    Over the next four decades, many of my life-defining events were connected to Ali, who turns 65 today.

    In 1974, with Ali as stylistic mentor, I became a junior-lightweight kick boxer. In 1977, my girlfriend Lynn and I unsuccessfully tried to get married in Madison Square Garden at the Ali-Earnie Shavers fight. Then, in 1981, I sold my first story to a big national magazine; that piece concerned Ali's influence on my life. Yet, in 1986, frustrated by not being able to sell other (unrelated) stories I had written, I took a job as manager of a video-store chain in Ali's home state of Kentucky. By that time in my life, I seldom thought about him. He'd been a childhood obsession.

    My first day in Louisville, on a driving tour with the company president, he pointed at a ranch-style house and said, "Muhammad Ali's mom lives there." From then on, whenever I passed by, my eyes zeroed in on the house. The Friday before Easter in 1988, a white motor home with license plates that read "THE GREATEST" was parked out front.

    I worked up courage, went to the door, knocked. Ali opened the door, looking as big as God. He leaned under the frame to see me, waved me in, did magic tricks, invited me to stay for dinner.

    For years after that, I saw a lot of Ali. I spent hundreds of hours with him and wrote stories about our friendship. My first book, "The Tao of Muhammad Ali," was a nonfiction novel about the ways my life intersected with his. Because of my childhood idol I could finally make a living doing the exact thing I most wanted to do: Ali made me a full-time writer.

    Which brings me to the first time I met Ali face to face. It was July 1975. At the suggestion of my friend Bobby, who was Ali trainer Angelo Dundee's nephew, I'd driven 700 miles to Deer Lake, Pa., where Ali was preparing for a world title defense against British champion Joe Bugner.

    Tugging on blood-red Everlast trunks I'd bought for the occasion, I heard him through the dressing room walls, exhorting spectators who'd each paid $1 to watch him train. "I'll prove to the world that I am not only the greatest boxer of all times," he said, "I am the greatest martial artist."

    His was the most elemental voice I'd heard; it sounded huge, melodic, eternal. Listening to him made me so nervous I shook a little and felt I needed to urinate. The old guy strapping a pair of red leather gloves on my arms looked at me and laughed. "He won't hurt a little white boy like you," he said.

    I was 22 years old, fierce and hard-bodied as a hornet, and no longer thought of myself as "little" or a "white boy." The old guy was stooped, his face long, his eyes yellow with age. "Naw, he won't hurt you," he said again. "Not too bad anyways."

    Ali was standing in the center of the ring when I stepped through the ropes. Insect-looking splotches of dried blood dotted the porous canvas under my feet. As I stared up at him, he came into focus and everything else blurred. His skin was unmarked and without wrinkles, and he glowed in a way that could not be seen in photographs or on television.

    He introduced me to the crowd as a "great karate master," an accolade I didn't merit. Then he opened his mouth steam shovel-wide, pointed his gloved left fist at me and, in a voice directed to no one in particular, but to the world in general, he shouted, "You must be a fool to get in the ring with me. When I'm through, you gonna think you been whupped by Bruce Lee.

    "Are you scared? Are you scared? — Just think who you're with. How's it feel, knowing you're in the ring with the greatest of all times?"

    The bell rang and he danced to my right around the 20-foot square of taut canvas. Suddenly, I was no longer nervous. My thighs were strong and full of spring, there was looseness in my movement.

    He bounced from side to side in front of me; I felt every step he took shoot into my feet and up my legs. I bent to the right, tossed a jab toward his belt line, straightened, snapped a long, tentative front-kick to his head. I figured it was the first kick he'd ever had thrown at him, but he pulled away as easily as if he'd been dodging feet his entire life.

    He stopped dancing and stood flat-footed in front of me, studying my movements. I tried to lever in a jab from way outside. His eyes were bright, his face beaming and round and open. He waited until my punch was half an inch from his nose and pulled his head straight back. I punched nothing but air and dreams.

    He turned square toward me, teased by sticking out a long, white-coated tongue, stepped back to the ropes, took a seat on the second strand where his head was only a little higher than mine, and beckoned me in with a brisk wave of gloves.

    I slid inside his arms three half-steps; he was so close I felt his breath on my shoulder. I dug a round kick into his right kidney, felt his flesh conform to the shape of my shin, saw the opening I was hoping for, faked a jab and rocketed from my crouch, blasting a spinning back-fist jaband left-hook combination into the center of his jaw. The punches felt so good I smiled. People in the crowd sounded impressed.

    He opened his eyes fried-egg-wide in feigned disbelief. For the next two seconds, I deserved his serious attention. For two long seconds we were inseparably bound, whirling in a galaxy of electricity, each seeing nothing but the other. For two week-long seconds I was flying. Then he came off the ropes and squashed me with one flyswatter jab.

    I saw the punch coming: a piece of red cinnamon candy exactly the size of a gloved fist. I tried to slip it and couldn't — it was that fast. The back of my head bounced off my shoulders. A chorus of white light went off behind my eyes. A metal taste clouded my mouth, then there was a second, heavier thump as he caught me with a left hook I didn't see. The spectators sounded way, way off. I tried to regain control of my body and couldn't; my legs went to soup beneath me.

    He knew I was hurt and he stepped back. Then his eyes went kind, he slid an arm around my shoulders, we exchanged hugs, and it was over.

    But I'd accomplished something I'd never, yet always, believed I'd have an opportunity to do.

    I had boxed with Muhammad Ali.

    As we left the ring together, my childhood hero and the world's greatest pugilist spoke in a way few men had ever talked to me — softly, gently, almost purring. "You're not as dumb as you look," he said. It was one of his canned lines, my personal favorite.

    "You're fast," he continued. "And you sure can hit to be sssooo little."

    He may as well have said he was adopting me.

    I began to quake. My insides danced. But I stayed composed long enough to say the one thing I hoped would impress him most. With confidence I'd learned from watching him on TV and hearing him on the radio countless times, I said simply, "I know."

    All these years later people around the world continue to admire Muhammad Ali — not only for the obvious reasons: the extraordinary beauty with which he boxed for 25 years, his glowing, self-proclaimed "prettiness," his huge charm and presence, his contagious and distinctive humor, his brave stand against the Vietnam War, but also because of the great, tender dignity with which he carried himself through his afflicted middle years.

    "I'm more human now," Ali has often told me, spreading the fingers of his shaking left hand. "That's what makes people care. They believe I'm like them and that's good."

    Each of us is changed by the work we do. When I've asked Ali if he regrets that his health has been compromised by boxing, he has said, "A man goes to war, fights for his country, comes back with one leg. He either thinks it was worth it or it wasn't. It depends on what he values. I look at all my world fame, the people I've helped, all the things I've done, spiritual and nonspiritual. I add it all up and I'd do it all over again."


    Davis Miller

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    Davis Miller & Muhammad Ali




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