With the recent passing of legendary boxer Mohammad Ali, looking back at his remarkable career is only natural. His achievements have been covered by almost countless sources in the decades he was a household name, but only one has really caught the enigmatic and magnetic performer and his legacy with all the raw power and explosive energy as the man himself. It’s When We Were Kings.
Whether you’re a boxing fan or not, the impressive presence of Mohammad Ali cannot be denied. A fan or detractor, one must look in awe upon his incredible influence on not just boxing but sport in general. A showman above all, he was devout in his commitment to his beliefs and his cause. He was a loud, arrogant and yet infectiously charming statesman who transformed boxing, yet by 1974, he was thought to be done, over the hill and close to being washed out.
He was scheduled to fight the reigning heavyweight champion, a young, brash, fearsome fighter named George Foreman, well before he became the television star with the beaming face of lovable cuddles he eventually became. While Foreman was champ, he was rock, an undefeated behemoth that was becoming the biggest sure thing in the business. Nobody thought Ali, a former champion, had the slightest chance. Nobody except Ali.
The event became the biggest media circus of the year. Held in Zaire, the city of Kinshasa was overrun with press, entertainers, and celebrities and the long celebration leading up the fight became a party. In attendance were some of the best journalists of the time, including Norman Mailer and George Plimpton, who covered the proceeds, and more than twenty years later, for this documentary, reflect back on the sheer madness and excitement of the contest and the build up around it.