Cinema: Ali In History: An American Original

Country boy. Braggart. Jester. Rebel. Daredevil. Heroic champion athlete. Muhammad Ali symbolizes so much of our unconscious American identity and so much of what it is about us that has universal appeal.

In Ali, who almost always had a white trainer, we see the frontiersman in buckskin learning from the Indians how to best handle the dangers of the woods. In his chanting of doggerel before fights and speaking of himself as "so pretty" and "the greatest," he was heir to the charismatic insolence and humor that have always defined our national bad boys.

Considered laughable when challenging "the big...

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