Malcolm X gets Cassius Clay’s attention in a Miami diner
(Photograph Â© Bob Gomel)
“Cassius Clay was born in Louisville,” says Ferdie Pacheco, “Muhammad Ali was born in Miami.” Muhammad Ali: Made in Miami explores the critical role that Miami played in the evolution of one of the most significant cultural figures of our time.
Cassius Clay arrived in Miami in the fall of 1960, fresh from earning an Olympic gold medal as a light-heavyweight boxer in the Rome Olympics.
He moved into a succession of hotels in Miami’s Overtown district when the neighborhood was still considered Harlem South-a vibrant center of black entertainment and commerce-and trained with Angelo Dundee at the Fifth Street Gym on Miami Beach.
Over the course of the next few years, coinciding with the height of the national civil rights movement, Clay evolved both professionally and politically, piling up victories in the ring and adopting the black separatist teachings of the Nation of Islam. It was during this period that Cassius Clay in essence became Muhammad Ali.
The metamorphosis was complete in February 1964 when Clay, in one of the most stunning upsets in boxing history, defeated the seemingly invincible heavyweight champion Sonny Liston in Miami Beach. Two days later, the new champion declared to the world his new identity.
Muhammad Ali: Made in Miami tells not only Ali’s story, but the story of Miami’s black community and the Fifth Street Gym, as well. The film combines rarely seen footage with interviews of trainer Angelo Dundee, fight doctor Ferdie Pacheco, Ali’s Miami neighbors, former Overtown residents, and sportswriters and photographers who covered the young phenom.
The film also features such nationally recognized figures as bestselling Ali biographer Thomas Hauser, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Remnick and Columbia University historian Manning Marable.
Muhammad Ali: Made in Miami examines several critical episodes in Ali’s life that played out in Miami, including the fighter’s friendship with Malcolm X, his celebrated encounter with the Beatles, his dramatic victory over Liston and his refusal to be drafted into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.
Until now, Muhammad Ali’s time in Miami has been treated as little more than a prologue to his worldwide fame. Muhammad Ali: Made in Miami provides a fascinating chronicle of the personal and professional transformations the legendary fighter experienced in the city, and argues compellingly that, without Miami, there might never have been a Muhammad Ali.
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