I Am The Greatest: Muhammad Ali Autobiography
One Line Summary
The greatest boxer of all time tells everything
I knew almost nothing about Muhammad Ali before I read this book. I knew he was a great boxer and had some trouble with the law, but that was about it. I had no idea.
Muhammad Ali was more than a world champion boxer. He was one of the biggest sports icons of all time and still to this day remains hugely popular.
Why? Because of not only what he did in the ring, but out of it.
I Am The Greatest gives you a direct look into the mind someone who is not only performing at the highest level at their craft, but a fascinating human being.
Why it’s Awesome
The book starts out with a bang, jumping right into the night he got his jaw broke by Ken Norton. Ali had been on a string of easy victories and began to take his opponents for granted. After his first loss in a long time, Ali decided to take a trip back to his roots in Louisville, Kentucky.
We then find out that Ali lived mostly in poverty as a child. He took up boxing when he was 12 and never looked back, winning a gold model in the Olympics by age 18.
He had a single minded pursuit from that point on: world heavy weight champion of boxing. Everything he did was in moving towards that goal.
Ali was a great fighter, but almost just as important was that he was a great trash talker. He realized that by being cocky and talking about how he’d destroy everyone he’d face, people would flock to see him fight. Even if it was to watch him get beat.
He became famous for declaring what round he would win his fights. This wouldn’t be so impressive, except that he was right far more often than not. So much so that people began to think that Ali must somehow be rigging his fights.
What his critics and haters probably didn’t realize was that all their attention was actually just making Ali thrive. When he finally got the title fight against Sonny Liston for the world heavyweight championship, it was largely due to the fact that almost no one drew a crowd like Ali. Boxing is a business, and if people truly want to see a fighter fight, the people will get what they want.
Then he destroyed Liston and became champion. He seemed unstoppable.
However, there was a challenger even Ali couldn’t beat: the United States Selective Service, i.e “The Draft”. After being drafted to go to Vietnam, Ali refused to serve and was stripped of his title and thrown in jail. He was forced to stop boxing for almost 4 years during his prime age as an athlete because of this.
Most people would have quit, but Ali was relentless. After a few years away from boxing, he staged a fake fight with then-heavyweight champion Joe Frazier. The publicity generated from this fight was so enormous that it forced politicians to pull some strings and allow Ali to fight under certain conditions. Eventually he was released from jail.
Ali finally got a second shot at the title against George Foreman. Foreman at the time was considered a monster, having destroyed Joe Frazier and Ken Norton. He was young and Ali was getting old. Almost no one believed Ali could win.
Not only did he win, he won by knockout in one of the biggest fights in boxing history. He was world heavyweight champion a second time.
He then beat the only two opponents he had lost to in the past, which were Joe Frazier and Ken Norton. After losing the title to Leon Spinks, he won it back a third time in just a few months.
From there Ali’s career went down hill. He was too old to be boxing and began to show serious medical problems, most notably Parkinson’s disease.
What I found inspiring about this book was Ali’s dedication. He lived boxing. He WAS boxing. He knew nothing else, which is likely why is was so hard to walk away from him.
If you’re into sports or just want to get into the mind of someone who is world class at what they do, this book will give you insights. Hint, it’s not a “9-5” kind of thing.
Why Does It Suck
The book jumped around a lot chronologically which made it hard to follow at times. Especially for someone like me who didn’t much at all about Ali coming into it.
The Wrap Up
Entertaining and inspiring autobiography by The Greatest. It’s hard not to like Ali, who had charm and skill to back it up. Recommended especially for sports lovers.