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King of the World

King of the World

Written by David Remnick

Narrated by Dick Hill


King of the World

Written by David Remnick

Narrated by Dick Hill

ratings:
4.5/5 (31 ratings)
Length:
6 hours
Released:
May 25, 2012
ISBN:
9781455889785
Format:
Audiobook

Description

The rise of the most extraordinary athletic talent of our century-Muhammad Ali

There had been mythic sports figures before Cassius Clay, but when he burst upon the sports scene in the 1950s, he broke the mold. Those were the years when boxing and boxers were at the mercy of the mob and the whim of the sportswriters. If you wanted a shot at a title, you did it their way.

Young Clay did it his way-with little more than an Olympic gold medal to his credit, he danced into Sonny Liston's baleful view and provoked the terrifying champ into accepting him as his next challenger. The rest is history.

Muhammad Ali has become a mythic hero, an American icon, a self-invented legend. As both a mirror and a molder of his times, Ali became the most recognizable face on the planet, a key figure in the cultural battles of the times. This is the story of his self-creation, and his rise to glory, written by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author.

Released:
May 25, 2012
ISBN:
9781455889785
Format:
Audiobook

About the author

David Remnick has been the editor of the New Yorker since 1998. He was a staff writer for the magazine from 1992 to 1998 and, previous to that, the Washington Post’s correspondent in the Soviet Union. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for his book Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire. He lives in New York City with his wife and children.


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What people think about King of the World

4.7
31 ratings / 12 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (5/5)
    Wow, this has to be one of my favorite all-time sports biographies. The prose is pure butter: elegant, but also smooth and riveting. One does not need to be knowledgeable about the sport of boxing, nor a particular fan of boxing, to find this book entertaining and enlightening.

    This book covers Ali's childhood through his Patterson/Liston fights. The book starts out by describing Patterson's and Liston's tough childhoods, and their rise to fame in the chaotic boxing world. Both of these opponents go on to play significant roles in Ali's life, and both left indelible marks on Ali's career.

    Ali's was a product of his time. His membership in the Nation of Islam, his friendship, and then estrangement to Malcolm X, his refusal to be drafted in Vietnam, his scathing lip, all clearly defined Ali during his early days.

    I admire Ali. His refusal to being drafted was an inspiration to many African Americans. During this time, there was talk of getting Ali a cushy non-combat job, but he still refused. He paid a dear price for his recalcitrance - a forfeiture of his title, and millions of dollars in revenue from prospective fights/endorsements. In addition, his refusal came before the war lost support at home, and Ali's reputation suffered as a well. He was a man of convictions and I find the honorable and courageous.

    This book isn't a hagiography. Ali was far from perfect; he was completely human. While Martin Luther King Jr was fighting for integration and equality, Ali joined the militant, separatist sect of the Nation Of Islam. For some, their behavior was a set back to progress made by King and others. Ali also disowned Malcolm X after Malcolm X fell out of favor with the Nation of Islam. Later in life, Ali himself admitted he regretted that situation. Ali also had a very turbulent relationship was his first wife, which ended in divorce over her refusal to dress as a proper Muslim woman, even though she didn't adhere to that code to begin with. Also, Ali's treatment of Patterson during their follow up fight after the two Liston fights, in my view, was a low blow.

    To his credit, Ali's views evolved as he aged. And he left a strong legacy in the sport, political, and religious realms. He also ultimately helped moved forward Civil Rights for African Americans by his political stands, his unwavering confidence in himself, and his example of a successful, strong, independent minority. His persona in interviews, his poetry, his confidence, are all very charming intricacies of his personality. I never found those intricacies arrogant. I think most of it was an act to mess with his opponent. It also was a brillaint marketing move. Ultimately, it's classic Ali.

    I also found this book sad. Both Patterson and Liston had tough childhoods. Both had limited access to education. Ultimately, Liston's life came to a tragic, possibly drug overdosed, end. For boxers, this was a common refrain. Boxing was the one thing that could propel them out of poverty and desolation. After boxing, many ended up with severe brain damage; dementia and confusion are common symptoms of too many blows to head. For ones who made a ton of money, there is at least a small consolation of security. But for the majority of boxers, poverty and waywardness awaited them post boxing.

    I recommend this book. It's more than a small slice of Muhammad Ali's life. Its more than exciting title fights. It's a look into the turbulent 60's and of men finding their way.
  • (5/5)
    Great book. Great writing.
  • (5/5)
    Great listen. Well narated and learned a lot i didn't know about Ali.
  • (5/5)
    A frank and honest appraisal of a great boxer and a sometimes flawed but complex man - part myth part legend, all box office.
    Well written and beautifully read.
  • (5/5)
    Fantastic summary of the life of an iconic figure
  • (5/5)
    David Remnick has done a wonderful job of telling the story of Mohamed Ali's emergence out of Louisville, KY into the national consciousness. He begins at the beginning when he was just a boy and brings the story to its climax with the first fight against Sonny Liston that made him the champion. Importantly, Remnick focuses on Ali's attraction to and decision to join The Nation of Islam, his relationship with Malcolm X, and others in the movement, and ultimately his choice of faith over politics. Dick Hill as usual brings Remnick's words to life professionally and with feeling.
  • (4/5)
    David Remnick is perhaps best known for his award-winning work on Russia since the collapse of Communism (Lenin's Tomb and Resurrection: The Struggle for a New Russia). His most recent book deals with Cassius Clay and his transformation into Mohammed Ali. "Boxing in America was born of slavery." Southern plantation owners would often pit their strongest slaves against each other, sometimes to near death. Frederick Douglass objected to the sport because he believed it "muffled the spirit of insurrection. Mohammad Ali had mixed feelings about the sport that made him a public figure, too. Two black men beating up on each other was too intense a reminder of other times. Few who lived through the turbulent sixties have lukewarm feelings about Ali. He became a symbol of rebellion against the oppression of a white society that was reluctant to change. He invented not just a new style of boxing, but spoke loudly to his black brothers when he embraced Elijah Muhammad's black separatist nation. His message to the white community was powerful: "I don't have to be what you want me to be" — a message many in the white community still haven't grasped yet.

    The Vietnam War provided the justification for both sides of the issue to love or hate Ali after he refused the draft on religious grounds, thereby sacrificing millions of dollars in defense of the championship he had won. His decision was made when virtually no other celebrity was taking a similar stance, yet he was willing to stand up and represent his black brothers who were giving their lives in Vietnam in disproportionate numbers.

    The boxing world contamination of the fifties and sixties was spread beyond the boxers and their managers. The mob had always enjoyed a monopoly on boxing because they, like the boxers themselves, were outsiders. Only a fool or a desperate man would make his living getting hit in the head. Boxers were easy targets. It was not uncommon for sportswriters to receive envelopes filled with cash in order to receive more favorable treatment. Boxing was not unique. Baseball columnists were wined and dined and supplied with all sorts of perquisites to influence their stories. The writers themselves were not investigated during the Kefauver investigations into the boxing world of crime because the senator knew how important it was to keep journalists on his side. As it was the newspaper world took a dim view of the investigations, perhaps because they threatened to derail their gravy train.

    In 1960, as Cassius Clay, he became famous as the U.S. Olympic boxing champ. He was so proud he wore the medal to bed. He returned to Louisville a hero and to a parade. When he tried to get a sandwich at a local Woolworth's, however, he was refused service. (Even in 1978 at the height of his fame, renaming a street after him only just barely passed the city council by one vote.) A group of prominent white businessmen put together a promotional package. Most of them knew nothing about boxing, but thought it would be fun. The poetic doggerel that became synonymous with Ali was part of the "great American tradition of narcissistic self-promotion, a descendant of Davy Crockett and Buffalo Bill by way of the dozens. " Ali was fully aware of what he was doing. A meeting with Gorgeous George, a forty-six-year-old wrestler who engaged in vitriol against his opponents, had impressed him. Ali was astute enough to see how it filled the arenas with people. "I saw fifteen thousand people coming to see this man get beat. And his talking did it. I said, this is a good idea!" He said later, "Where do you think "I’d be next week if I didn't know how to shout and holler and make the public take notice? I'd be poor and I'd probably be down in my hometown, washing windows or running an elevator and saying 'yassuh' and 'nawsuh' and knowing my place."

    Perhaps Ali's greatest achievement was his disavowal of the white world's expectations. Remnick contrasts Patterson and Liston with Ali. Floyd Patterson was the great conciliator, the white black man, if you will. Sonny Liston was the stereotypic bad black man. Importantly, both showed deference to white society and were expected to remain aloof from the racial upheaval going on around them. The principled stand on Vietnam had profound implications. During his exile he lost his speed. He learned that he could take punches, though, and he absorbed many in the fights that followed. He won a lot but took incredible punishment. Soon his kidneys were affected and his brain was damaged, leading eventually to Parkinson's Disease. Today he is but a mere shadow of his former ebullient self. It says a great deal for America's need to mythologize and to eulogize its athletic heroes that Ali is now mostly regarded with "misty affection." Perhaps that's sad, for it trivializes the accomplishments of an authentic American hero.
  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    I am not a fan of boxing, nor of Ali, but this book is remarkable in the biography genre. Without idolizing him, it captures the charisma of Cassius Clay, without white-washing it describes the prevailing mob rule, race attitudes, political tension, radical Islamists like Elijah, the break with Malcom X, in an enthralling and objective way that you do not find in the so-called authoritative biographies of these people. David Remnick, of New Yorker fame, in his younger years, did his best work. Ali's complex relationships with people are explained, his professional taunts and rap psycho-analyzed. At centerpiece is his fight with Liston who also is developed in this book as a character.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (5/5)
    I own a few books about the sport, but as of this writing, this is the first boxing book I've read to date. And I have to say, it's going to be hard for anything to top this. I know that The Sweet Science (which I own) has a fantastic rep and I'll get to it at some point, but I really enjoyed this one. It's nominally a biography of Muhammad Ali's early years and his rise to the top of boxing, but it also squeezes in bios of two of the main fighters that preceded him as champion (Floyd Patterson and Sonny Liston), and surveys the political climate of the times. It's very well-written, easy to understand, and honestly, leaves you wanting more material about Ali's later years (which may be the one flaw of the book - Ali's career after the first Patterson fight is reduced to mere summary). The Patterson and Liston bios are done well, too. However, according to a recent Floyd Patterson bio, the first Ali-Patterson bout was fought under the pretense of Ali playing up the bad guy role and Patterson being the good guy, and that Patterson was hurt before the fight, not during it. So that part of the book may ring a little hollow, depending on which story you find more believable. Nevertheless, this is an excellent piece of work that is well worth the time of any boxing fan.
  • (4/5)
    I think the entire story of Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali can be summed up by one sentence late in the prologue, "He hit people for a living, and yet by middle age he would be a symbol not merely of courage, but of love, of decency, even a kind of wisdom" (p xvi). It is true Ali started out as a loud-mouthed, egotistical, "pretty" kid who could back up his bravado with a mean left hook. He hid his emotions under constant chatter. But, by the time the heart of Remnick's biography leaves the story of Cassius Clay, Clay had barely become Muhammad Ali, had just beaten Sonny Liston in a November 22, 1965 fight to defend his heavyweight title, and was on the cusp of being a cultural icon. He had yet to sway the country as a force to be reckoned with. He would not become the beloved everyone thinks of today. It's as if Remnick needs to write a King of the World: Part II and tell the rest of the story.
  • (2/5)
    This bestselling biography of Muhammad Ali is an excellently written page-turner which not only captures Ali’s rise to greatness, but also the political undercurrents of the era.
  • (5/5)
    A great writer tells the story of how Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali. An entertaining tale of a great athlete with a desire to become not only the Heavyweight Champion but also become a man of dignity and honor. One gets a clear idea of how Ali was able to captivate the world with his entertaining and unique charisma.One of the better sports biograhies you will read.