Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali (1999)
HBO Home Video
Extras: Documentary, Separate CD-ROM

"Muhammad Ali: The Greatest Collection" is a release from HBO Home Video that should make every fan of the world-class boxing champ happy. Not only does it contain full, unabridged footage of some of Ali’s landmark fights, you can also watch the one-hour long documentary "Muhammad Ali: Boxing’s Best" on this disc.
And, to top things off, HBO Home Video has also added a separate CD-ROM (yes – that is CD-ROM, not DVD-ROM) to this release, that holds "The Ali Influence," accumulated information that takes a good look at the impact Ali has made on the boxing world for generations that followed him. Altogether, this is a thrilling package for every boxing fan.

All three fights on the disc are accessible from the disc’s main menu and HBO has done a great job encapsulating each one of these fights with separate chapter stops. That way, you have quick access to the opening ceremonies and each one of the rounds of the bout. This is a very nice touch to the disc that makes every one of these fights a separate entity.

The first fight is Cassius Clay versus Sonny Liston, a seven-round match that is suitably titled "I Shook Up The World." It is a very intense match that shows us a young Muhammad Ali at the beginning of his career in 1964, who was rated as a complete underdog at the time.

The second fight is the memorable encounter of Ali and George Foreman in 1974, called "Rumble In The Jungle". The match ended Foreman’s brief reign as the heavyweight champion, but as we all know, Foreman is one of the most illustrious personalities in boxing and reclaimed the championship title much later in his career at the age of 45! This eight-round boxing match is truly intense battle and shows us two larger-than-life athletes in a bout of determination and inhumanly willpower.

The third boxing match on the disc is "Thrilla In Manila", the 1975 fight against another boxing legend, Joe Frazier. It is a gargantuan fight, the mammoth of all boxing matches and still ranks as one of the best fights ever. Pitted against each other we see two fighters at the top of their form in a truly grueling and electrifying battle of pride that takes them to the edge of total exhaustion. It is without a doubt one of the best fights I have ever seen, and it is Ali at his very best, throwing combination after combination at Frazier who refused to go down.

"Boxing’s Best" is a 60-minute documentary that explores Muhammad Ali’s career from his early days to his ultimate defeat by Larry Holmes in 1980 that also marked the end of his career. Step by step, fight for fight the documentary shows us how Ali made his way to the top to one of the most successful boxing champions in the history of boxing. With a lot of pre-fight interviews, explanations and behind-the-scenes footage, this documentary is an insightful addition to the disc that makes the boxing matches themselves so much more personal and weighty. It also shows us so much more about Ali’s personality when he upstages his fights with his infamous speeches.

The image quality of the material resented on this disc from HBO is unquestionably as good as it will ever get. With the technical limitations of television broadcasting of the time, it is quite surprising that the footage looks the way it does. Although quite dated and with muted colors, the footage looks fresh and mostly clear, although some significant signal degradation is evident and some <$chroma,chroma noise> troubled the original material. The compression is good with only slight signs of <$pixelation,pixelation> in selected scenes. Given the action in the ring however, I would assume you will never even notice.

The fights contain the original HBO Sports broadcast commentary in a 2-channel <$DD,Dolby Digital> presentation. The audio tracks are good without noticeable distortion, but sound a bit muffled and also dated at times, due to the technical limitations of television broadcasting technologies in general.

As I mentioned before, the release also contains a CD-ROM on the inside of the cardboard sleeve. It contains accumulated information about Muhammad Ali in a website-style, interactive presentation called "The Ali Influence." After a brief installation you will have access to dates, fights, bios, sounds, trivia, a timeline and much, much more. It is a fantastic assembly of information, nicely presented that is a great addition to this release. Like the disc’s beautiful menus this added programming has been prepared by EMA Multimedia, the same folks who made HBO’s "From The Earth To The Moon" such a memorable special edition.

Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest heavyweight athletes in the history of boxing and this release from HBO home video marks a memorable tribute to this incomparable fighter. Filled with stunning footage and information, presented with beautiful menu screens and spiced up with great interactive content, this DVD is a revelation for every boxing fan! Don’t miss this chance to relive history and to see these historic fights that have redefined boxing as the world knew it.