Segments in this Video

Muhammad Ali and George Forman (05:23)


Ali's comeback win against Joe Frazier made him incredibly popular. Ali was preparing for his heavyweight title fight against Forman in Zaire. Ali and Forman's differing religious and political beliefs became part of the promotion.

Fight Preparations (05:09)

In 1974, Ali spent weeks preparing for his fight with Forman and opened some of his trainings to the public. The fight would be in Zaire, ruled by wealthy dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. Ali arrived in Zaire on Mobutu's private jet and stayed at one of his compounds.

Ali in Zaire (06:17)

While Ali had settled nicely in Zaire, Forman seemed uneasy in Africa. His camp wanted to delay the fight because of a cut on his eyebrow. Ali spent time with locals and did public events, while Forman interacted little.

Ali vs. Forman (08:54)

Ali's camp worried he might be hurt in the fight. Ali used different strategies to tire out Forman. Ali knocked Forman out in the eighth round and won the title.

Ali's Triumph (02:30)

Ali's victory occurring in Zaire made many Americans take note of Africa for the first time. Ali was honored throughout the U.S. and invited the White House. Ali had marital problems with Belinda and had secretly married Veronica Porche in an Islamic ceremony while in Zaire.

Elijah Muhammad's Death (04:14)

Though still technically suspended from the Nation of Islam, Ali had been close with its founder. Ali supported Wallace Muhammad as his father's successor. Under Wallace, it became closer to traditional Islam and open to more people.

Ali and Frazier's Third Fight (02:59)

Ali and Joe Frazier agreed to a third, tie-breaking fight in the Philippines. The two men still hated each other.

The Thrilla in Manila (08:52)

Ali and Frazier were familiar with each other's styles. Ali took the upper hand early, but Frazier had improved his right cross. Worried Frazier might die, his manager Eddie Futch forced him to quit the brutal fight and Ali won; he collapsed shortly after.

Ali's Family (06:03)

Ali and Khalilah divorced in 1976 and the children went to live with their grandparents. Ali and Porche were expecting their first child. Ali wanted to retire from boxing but continued for the money, despite realizing it was hurting him.

Ali vs. Spinks (02:03)

In 1978, Ali announced his next fight against 24-year-old Leon Spinks. Ali did not take Spinks seriously and only trained for two weeks. Ali lost and Spinks was the new heavyweight champion.

Ali vs. Spinks Rematch (03:03)

Ali wanted a rematch with Spinks and agreed to retire after it. Ali trained hard and utilized mental strategies. He won back the title for the third time.

Ali's Slow Down (02:40)

Ali's entourage and family noticed his speech and movements were slowing down. Ali and Porche legally married in 1979 and had a second child, Laila. He officially retired in June of that year but talked about returning to the ring.

Ali and Larry Homes (03:12)

Ali was approached to fight Larry Homes, an old sparring partner and undefeated 30-year-old. He would be paid $10 million for the fight. Many thought the fight would be too dangerous for Ali.

Ali vs. Homes (05:02)

Ali was lackluster in the first few rounds and Homes took control early. It became clear that Ali was no match for Homes, who easily won the fight.

Ali vs. Berbick (02:27)

Many urged Ali not to fight again because of his health, but his promoters said it was a possibility. He announced his fight with Trevor Berbick as the first in a series to get the title back. Ali lost the fight, and his family told him to retire.

Ali's Retirement (06:23)

Ali retired after having won the heavyweight title three times and only losing five fights. His health got worse as Parkinson's developed; it was not diagnosed until 1984. His marriage to Porche fall apart because of his cheating and he grew close to Lonnie Williams.

Ali's Post-Boxing Career (08:27)

Now his wife, Williams stabilized Ali's finances and found ways for him to make money. He worked to dispel misconceptions about Islam and did Islamic charity work. He lit the torch at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, which was kept secret until the ceremony.

Ali's Regrets (02:37)

Ali's devotion to Islam grew and he expressed regret about his treatment of Frazier and women and his abandonment of Malcolm X. His family said he evolved into a better person.

Ali's Legacy (09:00)

Multiple media outlets name Ali athlete of the century. He spoke out against Islamophobia after Sept. 11, 2001. He received a medal of freedom and a museum in 2005. Ali died on June 3, 2016.

Credits: Round Four: The Spell Remains (1974-2016) (03:01)

Credits: Round Four: The Spell Remains (1974-2016)

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Episode 4: The Spell Remains (1974-2016) (Muhammad Ali: A Film by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns & David McMahon)

Part of the Series : Muhammad Ali: A Film by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns & David McMahon
3-Year Streaming Price: $339.90



Muhammad Ali shocks the world by defeating George Foreman, winning back the heavyweight title and becoming the most famous man on earth. After retiring in 1981, he travels the world spreading his Islamic faith and becomes a symbol of peace.

Length: 99 minutes

Item#: BVL274459

Copyright date: ©2021

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