Remembering Ali

Muhammad Ali, one of the most recognized sports figures in history died Friday at a Phoenix-area hospital.

The revealing and intimate feature documentary Muhammad Ali’s children released just two years ago could be one of the most intimate memories fans will have.

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Ali, one of the most recognized sports figures in history died Friday at a Phoenix-area hospital, where he had spent the past few days being treated for respiratory complications. He was 74.

In 2014, I was invited to speak with Ali’s children Hana and Maryum and watch their documentary film, “I am Ali” which featured previously unseen family photographs and private tape recordings of the world’s greatest boxer who was born January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky.

A personal account of Ali not just as a fighter, but as a father, husband, brother, friend and a man who stood up for what he believed in, the film was a collection of tapes Ali’s daughters, Maryum and Hana, wanted to share with the world. With their father’s frail health, (he suffered for years from Parkinson’s disease) they wanted to document their special memories.

Ali's daughters Hana and Maryum

“I’ve seen many stages of my dad and have seen him young and sharp and bright and fighting. Then the Parkinson’s and the gradual progression of that. I feel very spiritually connected to my father.” Maryum (pictured right) had told me. “I have so much appreciation and love for him. I know how important and wonderful he is and feel like he is like an angel on this earth.”

Both children extensively shared with me their fondest memories of their father who Maryum said had always dreamed that he could live on a hill or a plot of land with all of his children, their husbands and all his grandkids on the same street.

“He taught us the important things in life,” said Hana who shared a particularly poignant childhood memory. “When I was five and wet the bed he would still lay in the bed with me and kiss me and wouldn’t jump up. I just felt so loved.”44Alionthemountain1410222695

Although they resided in different States at the time, both admitted to calling their father often, for Ali loved to know how his children were doing.

“I didn’t get to talk to him everyday,” shared Hana, “but at least two or three times a week I would give him a rundown of what was going on in everyone’s life. He loved that.  I would share things with him and ask for advice. There are so many memories and there is so much love. He made me feel important and made me feel like I was the best little girl in the world.”

Stunningly candid, emotional and tremendously entertaining, the must see film was mixed with clips and photos from Ali’s career and showed “the greatest” who initially retired from boxing in 1979 at the age of 37 (he came out of retirement in 1980 to fight Larry Holmes) at his highs, pulling punches, sharing jokes and spending quality time with his children.

“He let the kids be around him,” Maryum told me. “We were like daddy’s girls. We went everywhere he went.”

Ali's daughters

For Hana, (Ali has nine children), her father was like a big kid. “He woke me up to kisses every morning and his door was never closed.  It didn’t matter if he was talking to the President of the United States, he gave himself and his time and made me feel like I was the best little girl in the world.”

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“I am Ali” revealed a different aspect of Ali’s character with several touching interviews and testimonials from his inner circle of family and friends that include son Muhammad Ali junior, ex-wife Veronica Porche and brother Rahaman (below), who was at his side throughout his career.  Boxing legends Mike Tyson, George Foreman and business manager Gene Kilroy were also featured.

Brothers Ali and Rahman

There are several documentaries of the world’s greatest boxer, but “I am Ali,” now more poignant than ever, stands apart with its genuinely incisive portrait of the boxer.

With Ali’s passing, the world has lost an irreplaceable champ and news of his death has led to people paying tribute on social media. From those who knew him personally, the numerous fans he had, to those who fought the champ, everyone feels a drastic loss.

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For Ali’s children, this candid piece “I am Ali” is something they can at least share with the world  — especially now.

“We wanted to make something for people to take away and show people the incredible human being that he was, the love that he had for his children and people and his incredible spirit.”

Samantha Ofole-Prince is an entertainment journalist who covers industry-specific news. Follow her on twitter @SamanthaOfole

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