I am the Greatest!
I have to confess that I've become a bit cynical when it comes to boxing. Our less-than-stellar personalities, charges of corruption, and some plain boring fights, along with astronomical costs for watching the latest championships on pay-per-view have kept me away from following the sport closely. But back in the days of yore, I was quite a fan of the "Sweet Science" and even did a little boxing myself. My last fight was not what you would call memorable; I gave my opponent everything I had to his midsection and was convinced enough that would hurt him that I was a tad slow in raising my guard. He got me with a hook that started in California and hit me somewhere in Illinois, and I'm lucky I am not still out from it. So HBO won't be making a DVD of my career. They did make a DVD about who is arguably the greatest heavyweight champion though, Muhammad Ali. From his early days as Cassius Clay to the end of the longtime rivalry with Smokin' Joe Frazier, this DVD does a great job of showing his career, including the full footage of three of his most memorable fights: the 1964 bout with Sonny Liston where Clay won his first championship, the 1974 "Rumble in the Jungle" with George Foreman, and the third fight with Joe Frazier, the "Thrilla in Manila." The once despised champion and conscientious objector became the only man to become Heavyweight Champion three times, and has grown into one of America's most beloved people. It is only fitting that we get a record of his career on DVD.
The disc begins with a one hour-long documentary called "Muhammad Ali: Boxing's best." It takes a look throughout Ali's career through the eyes of Jim Lampley and Ali's trainer Angelo Dundee. I found it quite informative and entertaining. There are behind the scenes footage, pre-fight interviews, and film clips that cover his career in detail right up to his final loss to Larry Holmes in 1980. You also can go straight to each fight on the disc, or plop in the bonus CD-ROM (yes CD, not DVD) into your computer for "The Ali Influence," a feature about Ali's influence on boxing from the past to the modern era. You get plenty of one-liners and boxing poetry from the outspoken (to say the least) Ali.
HBO certainly picked three great fights for the DVD as well. Larger than life boxing, intense matches all. The image quality varies from the very grainy black and white of the 1964 Liston fight to very clear and detailed footage of the later fights. I'm surprised how well the footage has held up. Sure there is some color bleeding, and colors not as bright as they were back then, but it's looks fine to me, and the few problems will not be distracting at all in the latter two fights.
The sound is a Dolby Digital 2.0 track that is usually more than adequate, just a bit muffled during some of the footage from years past. I wouldn't call it bad, and certainly good enough for the material being shown.
The CD-ROM is a wealth of information, and fighter bios on the DVD round out the extra content. No complaints here at all.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
One huge complaint about this disc; the absence of Howard Cosell. For the best-known announcer of Ali's fights, and one of his biggest supporters over the years, he is nowhere to be seen on this disc. I consider that a travesty.
Take the chance to relive boxing history with this fine DVD from HBO. From the great fights to the wealth of information, you can't miss if you are a fan of the sport. Sports fans haven't had the opportunity to get much from the DVD format yet, but this is a great beginning.
Muhammad Ali remains larger than life, and is a credit to us as Americans. HBO does it right with this DVD, and I hope to see more discs like it in the future. Case dismissed!
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