Muhammad Ali, boxing legend, activist and icon of the 20th century, in his prime considered perhaps the most famous person on Earth. I’ve read and watched a great deal on Ali and every time I seem to find out something new. He truly was an intriguing and multi-dimensional figure, no piece of writing seems to be able to fully capture the entity that is Muhammad Ali.
The Tao of Muhammad Ali was no exception. This book was unique in that it deals with Ali well past his prime, long after the Parkinsons and physical decline had begun to set in. It gives us a glimpse at a simple, warm and open side to Ali, a prankster and wise grandfatherly figure to practically everyone he encounters. The central theme being that although Ali has been practically written off by the world at large, he still has a great to deal to give. He religiously promotes the Nation of Islam and spends with his fans, treating every one of them with respect and attention.
That being said, I find the book a little over the top in its adoration of Ali, almost to the point where the author is worshiping a transcendent figure. Davis Miller (The author) is quite clearly a fan in the most extreme sense of the word, knowing every minute detail of Ali’s life and dedicating a large part of his own to the task. Although I have no problem with this of course, it does lead me to question whether it was truly all-encompassing of Ali’s personality or whether the less flattering elements were left out.
For example I’d previously read King of the World in which Ali was portrayed as both an incredible individual and well, a bit of a dick. Particularly striking was his complete abandonment and criticism towards Malcom X, formerly a close friend, when he left the Nation of Islam. There were no stories of this kind present in The Tao of Muhammad Ali. Perhaps this was because Ali had in fact changed as he’s aged and Mr Miller wanted to leave out the less honorable elements of his past. Maybe it was also because the author has used this book as a way to commentate on the personal impact Ali has had on his life, which is clearly significant, of course on;y encapsulating Ali’s positive traits. Whatever the case, it felt a little shallow.
All in all it’s a well written book and gives great insight into the life of the mortal Ali, the one who still lives life on his own terms and shuns our sympathies. Perhaps he really doesn’t need them.