The documentary "Muhammad Ali" premiered Sunday on PBS, with episodes airing nightly through Wednesday.
The four-part series is directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon and chronicles Ali’s life from a Louisville youth looking to find his way in the world to the global icon he became as a result of his boxing, beliefs and courage as he dealt with debilitating Parkinson's Disease.
The third episode, titled "The Rivalry," aired Tuesday night and focused on Ali’s professional and personal exploits in the early 1970s, including his epic rivalry with Joe Frazier, his draft evasion case that made it to the Supreme Court and his marital infidelities.
Round Three: The Rivalry (1970-74)
Smokin' Joe won but lost
After his 15-round unanimous-decision victory over Ali in their first fight at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 1971, Frazier was arguably the one who endured more punishment during "The Fight of the Century." Frazier absorbed Ali’s jab all night and ended up with his eyes being closed shut. Smokin’ Joe also could not stand up or walk, could not urinate and spent a week and a half in the hospital, where he was treated for exhaustion and high blood pressure.
Ali was convicted on June 20, 1967, of refusing to take part in the Vietnam War draft, after which he remained free on bail while the case was appealed. The Supreme Court deeply divided and twice was set to affirm Ali’s original sentence and send him to jail without offering an opinion. The Court finally overturned Ali's conviction 8-0 (Thurgood Marshall recused himself) and delivered their opinion on June 28, 1971.
Justice Potter Stewart found an error by the Kentucky Appeal Board. The state appeal board never gave a reason for denying Ali’s conscientious objector status and in essence denied Ali due process in the case. Ali was delivered the news of the Supreme Court decision by a shopkeeper after buying an orange at a grocery store.
Generous to a fault
Although Ali made millions in the first decade of his boxing career, he was nearly broke by the time of the Frazier fight. He was responsible for his family obligations but also gave money to his large entourage, spent money to acquire numerous houses and cars and gave a considerable amount of cash to strangers and people on the street, essentially anyone that asked.
Straying and staying
Before the third part of the documentary addressed his with Frazier, it delved deep into Ali’s repeated dalliances with women who were not his wife.
Members of his entourage helped him facilitate those affairs while his second wife Belinda carried on with her own infidelities. The filmmakers said Ali had a near "insatiable" craving for sex, cementing a reputation for being a womanizer. During his marriage to Belinda, Ali fathered two children with other women. "I can't tell you my worst fault because I’m married. You figure it out," Ali said.