Muhammad Ali was known as ‘The Greatest’ and will ever remain one of the most iconic personalities of the 20th and 21st centuries for his activism and boxing prowess. But it might not have been if it weren’t for his comeback fight in 1970 in Atlanta, GA.
When you hear the phrases, 'The Greatest" and "Rope-A-Dope", or "Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Bee" you automatically remember the man behind those catchy anthems, Muhammad Ali. Arguably the best heavy weight boxing champion of all time, certainly of his generation. Muhammad Ali was many things to different people across race and social/political party lines.
Demonized by many who saw him as a radical threat to our country and the government's involvement in the Vietnam War, and beloved by many African Americans, in particular, who saw him as their hero both in and out of the ring, who empathized with his plight in 1967 when he was stripped of his boxing title and banned from the sport the world came to know him by, and for what many believed to be an unjust war that was killing African American servicemen disproportionately.
Muhammad Ali, a reluctant activist at first, became a lightning rod for which the issue over draft dodging as a conscientious objector and his religious beliefs, and for not wanting to fight in a war that he did not see as a patriotic duty when African American's rights were at war with the very same government that wanted him to fight.
Ali’s position on the war also caused some concern in the African American community where so many black men were laying down their lives in the armed service, who believed the better way to end the social and civil ills in the nation, was to stand up for the country and serve in the military.
Muhammad Ali found himself embroiled in a controversy beyond what he ever wanted to deal with. He was a 25 year young man from Louisville, KY who just wanted to do what he did best, fight in the professional world of boxing.
But, fate and destiny would have a different path for Muhammad Ali, and one can only imagine a different future outcome for him had it not been for a diverse group of business men and politicians who came together in 1970 in Atlanta, GA., a state that had no boxing commission, leaving a loophole in the government‘s ban against him, and allowing them to set an unlikely return to boxing, in an unlikely state to host it.
It was the pivotal series of meetings and negotiations that took place between those individuals that are the centerpiece of the story for a new documentary film that will make it’s worldwide release debut on December 1st, 2020 called, ‘Ali’s Comeback’.
The fight was Ali vs. the great white hope heavy weight contender, Jerry Quarry, that took place 50 years ago on Oct. 26th, 1970, a seminal moment in sports history that launched the legacy of Muhammad Ali.
’Ali’s Comeback’ is the creation and vision of filmmaker, Art Jones and his Dream Factory production company. This film has been a labor of love for Jones who has toured around the world for the last couple of years, screening the award winning film at festivals. The rewards for this labor of love have been more than gratifying for Jones and his Dream Factory team.
“I am proud to be able to be a part of a film like this that will forever be a chronicle of a profound event in professional sports history, born out of the civil rights era” says Jones.
‘Ali’s Comeback’ will be available worldwide on December 1st, 2020, distributed by Vision Films on VOD via streaming and cable platforms, and in major retail outlets in the United States and Canada.
- Knockout: An oral history of Muhammad Ali, Atlanta, and the fight nobody wanted - Atlanta Magazine
The notion that Muhammad Ali—a conscientious objector who was a member of the Nation of Islam—would make his comeback in the deep South at the height of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War seemed laugh-out-loud ridiculous. But thanks to one
Many of the African American Pro Athletes Supported Ali’s Political & Religious Stand
How The Fight Came To Be
Promoter and press agent Harold Conrad doggedly knocked on doors in twenty-two states in his effort to obtain a boxing license for Ali. He came very close in California before then-governor Ronald Reagan declared that no draft-dodger would compete in his state and approval was promptly denied.
But in Georgia of all places, the situation was different because no state athletic commission existed. If the mayor of Atlanta approved it, a boxing match could be staged in the city and the governor was powerless to stop it. A black state senator named Leroy Johnson put some heat on Atlanta mayor Sam Massell and, at long last, Ali was back, much to the consternation of Georgia governor and segregationist Lester Maddox. In the words of activist Julian Bond, the event established Atlanta as “the black political capital of America,” even as Maddox called for a boycott and proclaimed a “Day of Mourning” on the eve of the match.
‘Ali’s Comeback’ Logline
Logline: An unusual group of people came together in the most unlikely location to return Muhammad Ali to the boxing ring.
The year is 1970. It has been three and a half years since Muhammad Ali was stripped of his title. Convicted of draft evasion. Threatened with imprisonment. Banned In all 50 states, he is unable to work in the field for which he had no equal. The wide door on his illustrious career seems to be closing. But in Atlanta, Georgia, an astute white businessman, a visionary black senator, and a progressive Jewish mayor came together to make it possible for Ali to resume his amazing boxing career.
Who Is Filmmaker Art Jones & Why 'Ali's Comeback’
I first got excited about the world of audiovisual media in grad school when I worked as an unpaid PA on a children's' program that was then called Multiplication Rock. Seeing how it had impacted on my then 4 year old son opened my eyes to the infinite possibilities of harnessing this medium to craft engaging stories. At heart, I am an educator who sees the infinite possibilities for delivering meaningful content via film and television.
Yes, my greatest early influence was Dr. Bill Cosby. It may not be popular to say this today, but if I am honest, he influenced much of my thinking about the types of film and TV projects I would like to become involved with. Cosby was the first black man I saw as a youth on the screen to played strong, dignified roles in such programs as I-spy, the Sidney Poitier collaborations (Uptown Saturday Night A Piece of the Action, and Let's Do it Again), and a plethora of children's shows and commercials leading up to and beyond The Cosby Show,
In terms of pure film, I love what Francis Ford Coppola was able to do with practically no direct lighting in the film classic, The Godfather. I also admire Ridley and Tony Scott's film work, Stanley Nelson and Melivn Van Peebles.
Simply put, the great Muhammad Ali passed on June 3rd of 2016. I froze in my tracks and stayed in all the coming weekend reading my new subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. There were several articles written about Ali's connection to the city of Atlanta. In learning that this was the location where he was able to return to boxing following a three and a half year involuntary exile, and learn that there was well over 50 attempts across the country to get him a license, I asked myself, "How was the Atlanta license possible?"
Ali was the most polarizing man in America in 1970. He took a stand against an unauthorized and illegal war against a people who had never threatened America. He also used that platform to also speak out against injustices occurring against black people right here in America. And he did it boldly and without apology.
So, after an intense week with members of my team researching to see if another filmmaker had already done a film about this seminal moment in the life of the greatest athlete on the planet, and finding that none existed, we saw our opening. And, as they say, the rest is history.
Ali's Comeback: The Untold Story is an incredible true life tale about an unusual team that was forged in the most unlikely location to make the impossible possible.
-- Art Jones, Director
Don’t Forget To Leave A Comment Below
Robert Walker (author) from Atlanta, GA. on November 24, 2020:
Most appreciated Pam! I feel the same about your articles!!
Thank you! ;-)
Pam Morris from Atlanta Georgia on November 24, 2020:
Hello Rob, You always write an interesting and detailed article that shares what is worth reading. It good to read a hub from you, it been a while and I look forward to reading other hubs.
Liz Westwood from UK on November 24, 2020:
This is an interesting and well-written review. So sad that, in later years, his health declined.