Arizona PBS to premiere Ken Burns’ documentary on life of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali

Tuesday, Sept. 14

  

“MUHAMMAD ALI,” a new four-part documentary by Ken Burns that examines the life of one of the greatest figures in sports history, will air over four nights on Arizona PBS starting Sept. 19 and ending on Sept. 22. The 2½-hour premiere episode begins at 7 p.m. on Sunday, and the remaining three two-hour episodes follow Monday through Wednesday at 7 p.m.

“MUHAMMAD ALI” follows the life of the former heavyweight boxing champion who also fought for social justice and challenged racial prejudices, religious biases and society’s views of athletes and celebrities with a combination of charm, wit and outspokenness.

The film includes interviews with families and friends, journalists, boxers and historians, among others, and includes archival footage and photographs, as well as contemporary music that represent key moments in Ali’s life.

“MUHAMMAD ALI” delves into the life of Ali, who called himself — and was considered by many to be — “the greatest of all time” as he rose to become one of the most dominant and celebrated boxers in history. The three-time world heavyweight champion fought in some of the most dramatic and widely viewed boxing matches ever, including “The Fight of the Century” and “The Thrilla in Manila,” both against his rival Joe Frazier, and “The Rumble in the Jungle,” in which he defeated George Foreman to regain the heavyweight title that was stripped from him seven years earlier.

Ali was also known for his social stances, including his resistance to the Vietnam War. In 1967, he was convicted of violating the Selective Services Act, resulting in the loss of his boxing license and his heavyweight title. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overturned his conviction in 1971. 

The documentary also examines Ali’s commitment to his Muslim faith and his relationships with Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X, who profoundly shaped his life and worldview. 

Ali, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1984, bought a home in Paradise Valley in 2005 and spent his later years in the Phoenix area. The Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at the Barrow Neurological Institute is named for the boxing great, who was a founder of the center as well as a patient.

Ali died in Scottsdale on June 3, 2016. West Merrell Street in Phoenix near the medical facility was renamed Muhammad Ali Way in 2019. 

In addition to the national PBS premiere of “MUHAMMAD ALI,” Arizona PBS will tell the story of Zora Folley, a former Chandler city councilman and boxer, who once jumped into the ring with Ali. Jody Crago, administrator of the Chandler Museum, will talk about Folley, who’s featured in an exhibit at the museum. The episode will air on “Arizona Horizon” on Friday, Sept. 17 at 5 and 10 p.m. 

“Conversations with Muhammad Ali,” a series of hour-long discussions about the film, can be viewed here. The trailer can be viewed here.

Jamar Younger

Editor Associate

jamar.younger@asu.edu