Magazine article The New Yorker

Unretiring

Magazine article The New Yorker

Unretiring

Article excerpt

UNRETIRING

Muhammad Ali understood that one of the requirements of an icon is to let the iconographers through the door. He happily greeted photographers in his gym, his dressing room, his mosque, even his hotel room, where he held court for reporters and posed in bed, naked. And in the days after his death we returned to the myriad images of Ali in his glory: scowling in triumph and looming over the fallen Sonny Liston; shadowboxing underwater; peeking under the toupee of his adenoidal Boswell, Howard Cosell.

Ali, the most extraordinary athlete of the past century, was ordinary only in his refusal to stop. Like his idols Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson, he ached for the action and the adulation. As he told a friend, "There's nothing like the sound of the crowd when you come down that aisle and they're yelling 'Ah, Ali!' You'd give your life to hear it." And so, after a couple of idle years, Ali arranged to fight Larry Holmes, his old sparring partner. …

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