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“It’s very different in that it's not just a collection of interviews and footage from other people. It’s him in his own words and own footage,” Laila Ali told THR about her father Muhammad Ali's new doc.
Boxing legends Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar De La Hoya and Sugar Shane Mosley all walked the red carpet at Regal Cinemas LA Live on Wednesday for the premiere of What’s My Name, a two-part HBO documentary about the life of Muhammad Ali.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua and produced by LeBron James’ SpringHill Entertainment, the film is made entirely of archival footage and is narrated by Ali, using audio from previous interviews and media appearances. Part one details Ali’s life from his first bouts as an amateur fighter in Louisville, Kentucky and goes all the way through to his first fight with Joe Frazier.
Fuqua spoke with THR about what sets his documentary apart from previous film’s about Ali’s life. “There’s never been a definitive film about Ali talking about his personal work and life told from his perspective and his own words. This whole movie is Ali walking you through scene by scene, it's pretty amazing. He’s even commentating on the fights. To have that voice, to have that presence, to have that spirit leading me through the making of the film was incredible.”
It was clear from the attendance of so many boxing champions that Ali remains a beloved figure in the sport. Leonard, one of the greatest light and middleweight champions of all time, told THR why his legacy remained great years after his death.
“He threw the fastest punches, the best punches but the biggest impact he had was with the world. People outside the ring. We talk about Ali in the ring but Ali was a champion outside the ring," he said. "His heart was so big and that’s what makes a great fighter. Great heart. Big heart. But his heart was even greater because he helped so many people out. He gave so many people hope and a chance to be somebody.”
The film elicited several vocal reactions from the audience as it detailed Ali’s boxing success, political struggles and the taunts he dealt with from other boxers when he changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali.
Ali's daughter Laila Ali told THR on how this documentary stands out from the rest: “It’s very different in that it's not just a collection of interviews and footage from other people. It’s him in his own words and own footage."
In addition to his accomplishments as a boxer and political activist, Ali was well known for his sense of humor and De La Hoya told THR about one of his first encounters with Ali.
“We were getting awards at the Staples Center, I was young, maybe twenty years old. My career was just taking off and he calls me over, he was sitting with his family and he called me over and said ‘you’re pretty, but I’m still the greatest!’”
Both chapters of What’s My Name will premiere on HBO on May 14.