Black is Best
The Riddle of Cassius Clay
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Although perhaps the world's best known athlete, Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) was far more important as an American phenomenon of the 1960’s than as a prizefighter. In his career as a boxer, he followed a traditional, even a stereotyped road to the top for an African American, but his distortion of the American rags-to-riches story is peculiarly his own. When he defeated Sonny Liston for the world's heavyweight championship in 1964, he was hailed by press and public alike as the clean-cut kid who would, by his exemplary life, restore wholesomeness to the tainted world of boxing. Three years later, he has made a hash of these earlier impressions. His affair with the Black Muslims, his outspoken support of black power, his inflammatory statements about Vietnam and his controversial draft status have all contributed to the vilification to which he is currently subjected. Olsen talked at length with those who surrounded Clay – his family, his first boxing coach, his trainer, his physician, the group of white businessmen who gave him his start and dozens of others, thereby allowing those closest to the champion to offer, through observation and anecdote, their own interpretations of what makes Cassius run. Even more to the point, the author dogged Clay's footsteps and his own account of what he saw and heard, including Clay's extensive conversations, presents a firsthand record of the life of a truly puzzling personality. A classic sports biography.