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‘King of the World: The Story of Muhammed Ali and the Rise of An American Hero” Analysis

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    This is a synopsis of the book ‘King of the World: The Story of Muhammed Ali and the Rise of An American Hero” Some day they’re gonna write a blues song for fighters. It’ll just be for slow guitar, soft trumpet and a bell, said Sonny Liston in 1962. He had just become the Heavyweight Champion of the World after beating Floyd Patterson. Sonny Liston was not known for being a sensitive guy. He was not the best fighter. He was born in Arkansas, the 24th of 25 children. He never knew the date or exact place of his birth, and he was illiterate. He was sent out to work in the fields at the age of eight, picking cotton, peanuts and sweet potato. His mother left Arkansas to find work in St Louis and he followed her, He couldn’t hold down a job and began engaging in criminal activity. By the age of 16 Liston was over six feet tall and weighed more than 200 pounds.

    In 1956, he was convicted of assaulting a policeman and received a nine-month prison sentence, he got involved with the Mafia. The press hated him.

    Patterson and Liston dominated boxing in the 1950s and early 1960’s. Enter Muhammad Ali, who over the next few years would change the face of boxing. This book concentrates the two fights Ali had with Liston.

    Cassius Clay was born in 1942 into the Southern black middle class. He was concerned about racial inequality at an early age. He once asked his father, ‘Daddy, I go to the grocery and the grocery man is white. The bus driver is white. What do the coloured people do?’ When he was 12, he was introduced to a boxing gym and was a natural.

    When he turned professional, he got backing from wealthy businessmen. He also became involved with the Nation of Islam. In 1964, he challenged Sonny Liston. Neither of them were popular at the time but Cassius might have been ahead in popularity. The fight was off balance and there were there were fears that Clay would be injured. At the weigh-in he worked up so much that he shouted out ‘I’m ready to rumble now! I can beat you any time, chump! Somebody’s gonna die at ringside tonight! I am a great performer! You’re too ugly! You are a bear! You’re a chump, a chump, a chump,’ he ranted.

    At the end of round four, Ali began screaming that his eyes were burning: later we would read that Liston’s gloves had some cream on them that would blind Ali. Ali sat on his stool demanding that the fight be stopped; Angelo Dundee, his trainer, sent him back out. Ali boxed the fifth round almost blind, then recovered his sight and began to dominate. Liston retreated after the sixth round, claiming a shoulder injury.

    The rematch in 1965 was even more crazy. Halfway through the first round, Liston fell to the ground; there had been a slight movement from Ali but no real punch. It was questioned whether the knockout was punch or a word whispered in Liston’s ear by the Mafia or the Nation of Islam.

    Issues of race and class are a strain in the book. After he’d beaten Liston, Ali officially proclaimed his adherence to Islam. It was Malcolm X’s view that manipulated Ali, but the bravery he showed in refusing to go to Vietnam is not in questionable.

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