New Muhammad Ali Documentary Coming to PBS

A big documentary on boxing legend Muhammad Ali is coming to PBS. Legendary documentary filmmaker Ken Bruns is taking a closer look at Ali in a four-part documentary that will start airing on PBS this Sunday at 8 p.m. The documentary, which is fittingly called Muhammad Ali, took seven years to complete. Burns' daughter, Sarah. and his son-in-law, David McMahon, produced the documentary with Burns. 

"This is a seven-year labor of love and what we wanted to do," Burns said to CBS News.  "We wanted to do soup-to-nuts from his birth and boyhood in Jim Crow segregated Louisville, Kentucky, to his death only five years ago from Parkinson's Disease."  Along with looking at Ali's legendary boxing career, the film will take a close look at his personal life, religious journey and his views on politics. This comes after Netflix released a documentary on Ali and his relationship with Malcolm X. 

"I think he may be the greatest athlete of all time," Burns said. "I think if Michelangelo was around today and about to sculpt David, he'd go, 'Maybe I should do Muhammad Ali.' Just a beautiful human specimen who's also funny, who's gregarious, who's difficult, who's you know, passionate about life and is an inspiration to this day for people concerned about social justice."   

The first part will look at the early days of Ali. He rose up the amateur ranks before winning a gold medal at the 1960 Olympics. The documentary will then look at Ali's path to being one of the top heavyweight champions him skipping the draft, and the fourth part of the documentary will look at him being one of the beloved sports figures of all time. Ali died in 2016 at the age of 74. 

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"Nobody was as good at promoting as he was," Burns said. "And he knew just the right word to say how to get under his opponent's skin, how to frame every single fight as a kind of drama with him as the lead... the fights were like the collected works of William Shakespeare. He made himself the lead character. He made himself Hamlet or Macbeth, or whatever, you know, King Lear in whatever of the fights he did." Muhammad Ali will also stream on PBS's official website and the PBS app.