The two-part HBO Sports documentary What’s My Name | Muhammad Ali, chronicling the extraordinary life of Muhammad Ali, one of the 20th century’s most iconic figures, will debut Tuesday, May 14 (8:00-10:45 p.m. ET/PT), with both chapters airing back-to-back in a special television event on HBO.
What’s My Name | Muhammad Ali is the first feature-length HBO production from SpringHill Entertainment, with LeBron James and Maverick Carter serving as executive producers, and is directed and executive produced by acclaimed feature-film director Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day,” “Southpaw,” “The Magnificent Seven,” “The Equalizer” franchise).
Exploring Ali’s challenges, confrontations, comebacks and triumphs through recordings of his own voice, it paints an intimate portrait of a man who was a beacon of hope for oppressed people around the world and, in his later years, was recognized as a global citizen and a symbol of humanity and understanding.
In addition to relying on Ali himself to guide viewers through his remarkable journey, What’s My Name | Muhammad Ali features archival footage, some of it previously unseen.
Chapter one looks back at the Louisville, Ky. native’s childhood and early boxing career as Cassius Clay, including a gold medal win at the Olympics in Rome. Turning pro, he becomes heavyweight champion at age 22 with a stunning win over Sonny Liston. After converting to Islam, he forges close ties with Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad, and changes his name to Muhammad Ali. Stripped of his heavyweight title for refusing induction into the military to fight in Vietnam, based on his religious beliefs and opposition to the war, Ali spends three years away from the sport in legal battles. He returns to the ring for an epic fight with Joe Frazier at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
In chapter two, determined to avenge his loss to Joe Frazier, Ali builds a rustic training camp in Pennsylvania and goes on to battle a parade of elite fighters, including arch-nemesis Frazier, as well as Ken Norton, George Foreman and Larry Holmes. Though he becomes the first three-time heavyweight champion of the world, the toll of so many historic ring encounters starts to show. “The Greatest” travels the globe as a goodwill ambassador, philanthropist and activist and is defined as much by his humanity as his exploits in the ring. Ali lights the flame at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, an unforgettable moment seen by billions of TV viewers worldwide.
“Muhammad Ali transcended sports in a way the world had never seen before,” says LeBron James. “It’s an honor to have the opportunity to tell his incredible and important story for the coming generations. He showed us all the courage and conviction it takes to stand up for what you believe in. He changed forever what we expect a champion to be, and I’m grateful that SpringHill gets to be a part of continuing his legacy.”
“Muhammad Ali had a deep impact on me from an early age,” observes Antoine Fuqua. “Being given the opportunity to tell his story, both inside and outside the ring, is a privilege and a dream come true.”
Lonnie Ali, who was married to Muhammad Ali for the final 30 years of his life, adds, “We are at a time in American history when we look to a new generation of heroes like LeBron James to carry on Muhammad’s legacy, not only by remembering Muhammad, as is done so eloquently in this documentary, but also through their own words and deeds. I’m grateful to LeBron, Maverick Carter, SpringHill Entertainment and HBO for advancing the ideals that Muhammad believed in and fought for throughout his life.”
What’s My Name | Muhammad Ali is produced with the cooperation of the Muhammad Ali family estate and Jamie Salter, founder, chairman and CEO of Authentic Brands Group, which has been active in preserving the Ali legacy and brand.
“As proud guardians of Muhammad Ali’s legacy, we are dedicated to preserving and upholding his core principles, and HBO’s production of What’s My Name | Muhammad Ali provides audiences around the world with an intimate connection to this global icon,” says Jamie Salter.