P R E S S R E L E A S E S 2001
December 15, 2001
Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight Documented in When We Were Kings Jan 10
In 1974, filmmaker Leon Gast went to Zaire to cover the Woodstock-style concert featuring B.B. King, James Brown, and The Pointer Sisters which was to take place before the Ali/Foreman fight, all masterminded by then-unknown Don King. When Foreman had a sparring accident and was forced to delay the fight for six weeks Mobuto Sese Seko, dictator of the new and still unstable Zaire, prevented everyone from leaving until the fight was finished. Gast followed Ali as he trained and won over the people of both Zaire and the U.S. with his trademark over-the-top charisma.
Gast returned to the United States with more than 450 hours of footage documenting not only the miraculous comeback of an American icon but also the rise of Don King, the birth of a new nation, the antics of a dictator, and the quickly changing social climate. Gast spent decades processing and editing the footage, finally adding modern interviews with George Plimpton, Norman Mailer, and Spike Lee. The end result is a fast-paced, patchwork quilt of old and new footage, music and boxing, history and social unrest, and the rise and fall of giants.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1942 Cassius M. Clay started boxing lessons at the age of 12. While in high school, he won the national Golden Gloves middleweight championship. The next year he won the Golden Gloves again, the AAU national light heavyweight title, the Olympic light heavyweight gold medal, and won his first professional bout. During the next several years he began the habit of predicting, often successfully and with poetry, the round in which he would win. With the body of a heavyweight and speed of a welterweight he would box with his left hand by his side and pull straight back to avoid punches, two of the sweet science's cardinal sins, dramatically revolutionizing the game. Clay was the underdog when he challenged Sonny Liston in '64 for the heavyweight championship. He indeed "shocked the world" when he forced Liston to retire on his stool claiming a shoulder injury. In the rematch he knocked Liston out in the first round with a "phantom punch" that few observers saw. It was then that he publicly announced his conversion to Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
In 1967, citing religious reasons, he refused induction into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam draft. Public opinion of Ali dropped as the boxing icon refused to back down even though his boxing license and titles were revoked and he was sentenced to five years in prison. At 32, Ali pulled off a surprise victory in Zaire over the 25-year-old George Foreman who had systematically put down everyone from Ken Norton to Joe Fraizer (one of few men Ali ever lost to) for the heavyweight title. Ultimately Ali retired having won 56 fights and lost five.
Tickets for When We Were Kings are $5. MASS MoCA members receive a 10% discount. Tickets are available through the MASS MoCA Box Office at 1040 MASS MoCA Way in North Adams from 11 A.M. until 5 P.M. Wednesday through Monday. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 during Box Office hours or purchased on line at www.massmoca.org.
MASS MoCA, the largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts in the United States, is located on Marshall Street in North Adams on a 13-acre campus of renovated 19th-century factory buildings.
For Immediate Release