Muhammad Ali: The New Ken Burns Documentary

September 2, 2021


The new documentary Muhammad Ali by Ken Burns premieres Sunday, September 19 through Wednesday, September 22 at 8 p.m. on THIRTEEN.

Universally regarded as one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century, boxer Muhammad Ali captivated fans with his mesmerizing combination of speed, grace, and power in the ring, and charm and playful boasting outside of it. At the height of his fame, he challenged Americans’ racial prejudices, religious biases, and notions about the roles celebrities and athletes play in our society, and inspired people all over the world with his message of pride and self-affirmation.

Acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns explores the life of the legendary three-time heavyweight boxing champion in Muhammad Ali, a new four-part documentary series airing Sunday, September 19 through Wednesday, September 22 at 8 p.m. on THIRTEEN. Right now on our Muhammad Ali page, you can find clips and recordings of virtual events that include discussions about Ali with his daughter Rasheda Ali Walsh, ESPN writers Lonnae O’Neal and Howard Bryant, and more.

Drawing from an extraordinary trove of archival footage and photographs, the series details the story of the athlete who called himself “the greatest of all time.” Ali competed in some of the most dramatic, widely viewed sporting events ever, including his bouts with Joe Frazier, “The Fight of the Century” (1971) at Madison Square Garden in New York City and “The Thrilla in Manila” (1975) in the Philippines. During “The Rumble in the Jungle” (1974) against George Foreman in Kinasha, Zaire, Ali beat the odds to regain the heavyweight title that was stripped from him seven years earlier. The event was the most-watched live, televised broadcast at the time.

A black man in suit and tie hands piece of paper back to smiling man. A crowd around him smiles.

Muhammad Ali, surrounded by autograph seekers at W. 51 Street and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, New York. August 23, 1968.


The film does not focus exclusively on Ali’s boxing career and the sport, however. The series, written and co-directed by Sarah Burns and David McMahon, captures Ali’s principled resistance to the Vietnam War – which led to his a three-and-a-half-year banishment from boxing – his commitment to his Muslim faith, and his complex relationships with Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X, who profoundly shaped his life and worldview. The film also includes moving footage of Ali, his hands trembling from Parkinson’s Disease, lighting the torch in a surprise appearance at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

Film Interviews

Interviews include Ali’s daughters Hana Ali and Rasheda Ali, his second wife Khalilah Ali, his third wife Veronica Porche, his brother and confidant Rahaman Ali, former basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, historian Gerald Early, sportswriter Howard Bryant, Ali biographer Jonathan Eig, poet Nikki Giovanni, former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, friend and business manager Gene Kilroy, boxing promoter Don King, New Yorker editor David Remnick, poet and playwright Wole Soyinka, writer Gay Talese, and others.

A black man in boxing shorts lunges towards camera with outstretched hands while person in white hugs his waist and others rush towards him, smiling.

Cassius Clay after becoming heavyweight champion of the world after knocking out Sonny Liston. Bundini Brown embraces Ali. Luis Sarria runs to the group in a smile on the right. Miami, Florida. February 25, 1965.