Muhammad Ali
Ernest Borgnine and Muhammad Ali in the 1977 movie "The Greatest."

TV tributes planned for Muhammad Ali

More TV tributes have been planned this week to celebrate the life of legendary heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who will be interred Friday in his hometown of Louisville, Ken.

The global icon died June 3 from septic shock due to unspecified natural causes. He was at a Phoenix-area hospital where he was treated since May 30 for respiratory complications. according to reports. He was 74. Ali had suffered from Parkinson’s disease for 32 years.

An interfaith funeral service is planned for Friday in Louisville. On Thursday, a Muslim funeral prayer service will take place at Louisville’s Freedom Hall, where Ali defeated Willi Besmanoff on Nov. 29, 1961.

The Muhammad Ali Center’s web site will televise the services.

While several TV tributes already have aired, more non-traditional ones are planned for this week before and after the services. I’ll update this list as I hear about more.

The Greatest

10/9 June 6, Bounce TV

7/6 & 8:45/7:45 June 12, 12:10/11:10 June 19, 1:25/12:25 June 25, Sony Movie Channel

Ali stars as himself in this 1977 film dramatization of his life. The movie starts with Cassius Clay’s rise to fame by winning the heavyweight gold medal at the 1960 Olympic Games. He then stuns Sonny Liston to become heavyweight champion of the world and soon after converts to Islam and changes his name. When he is suddenly classified 1A by the Draft Board that earlier rejected him, Ali refuses the draft on religious grounds, which leads to the stripping of his title. Embarking on and ultimately winning a nearly four-year court battle, Ali then returns to the ring and takes part in what many consider some of the greatest fights of all time. Against all odds, he defeats George Foreman in the legendary “Rumble in the Jungle” to win back the heavyweight title. “The Greatest” was based on a book written by Ali and others and the boxing footage is largely from the actual fights. The film includes the song “The Greatest Love of All,” written for the movie and performed by George Benson; it was later remade by Whitney Houston.

Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight

10/9 June 8 and 9/8 June 9, HBO

HBO will air this 2013 film that goes behind the closed doors of the United States Supreme Court as the nine justices—Chief Justice Warren E. Burger (Frank Langella), Hugo Black (Fritz Weaver), William O. Douglas (Harris Yulin), John Harlan II (Christopher Plummer), William Brennan Jr. (Peter Gerety), Potter Stewart (Barry Levinson), Byron White (John Bedford Lloyd), Thurgood Marshall (Danny Glover) and Harry Blackmun (Ed Begley, Jr.)—decide the outcome of Muhammad Ali’s landmark 1971 case for being a conscientious objector. Justice Harlan, a respected jurist with 15 years on the Court, finds himself at odds with the status quo after his perspective is challenged by the contemporary ideals of his new clerk (Benjamin Walker). Executive produced by Frank Doelger, Tracey Scoffield and Jonathan Cameron; directed by Stephen Frears from a script by Shawn Slovo.

I am the Greatest: The Adventures of Muhammad Ali

10/9 June 8, El Rey Network

All 13 half-hour episodes of the 1977 animated series will be shown during the marathon. “I am the Greatest: the Adventures of Muhammad Ali” aired Saturday mornings on NBC in 1977 with voices provided by Ali and his real life publicist Frank Bannister. The series featured the champ and Bannister traveling around the country fighting crime and solving mysteries—both real and supernatural.

The Dick Cavett Show

Starting June 8, Shout! Factory TV

Legendary boxer Ali talks to Dick Cavett about everything from his exile period to the classic Ali-Frazier fight in this collection of “The Dick Cavett Show” episodes spanning 1970-1978.

  • May 20, 1970: Ali during his exile period, when he had his title stripped over his refusal to be inducted into the United States Army. Ali is doing his best to espouse the teachings of Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam, and Cavett is trying very hard to understand some of Ali’s more difficult to comprehend diatribes.
  • March 15, 1971: After the classic first Ali-Frazier fight, Ali came on the Cavett show with a very swollen face, but the fact is that the loser of the fight was able to appear on television while Frazier was still in the hospital. Ali was a surprisingly gracious loser after being defeated for the first time.
  • Jan. 17, 1974: When Ali and Frazier met for the second time they both had just been defeated. Frazier lost the title to George Foreman and Ali had suffered a broken jaw in a fight he lost to Ken Norton. So for their upcoming non-title fight they engaged in a little more publicity than usual and made this joint appearance on the Cavett show. Ali’s win in the fight got him a shot at George Foreman, who he later defeated to win back the title.
  • March 13, 1978: Ali visited Cavett’s PBS show shortly after losing his title to Leon Spinks, and while preparing for the Spinks rematch in which he would win it back to become the only three-time heavyweight champion in history. The insightful discussion includes Ali’s assessment of the erosion of his boxing skills as he continued to fight in his late 30s.

Muhammad Ali procession, memorial service

9 a.m./8 a.m. June 10, Bounce TV

Bounce TV will carry Muhammad Ali’s farewell procession through the streets of Louisville and his memorial service live, uninterrupted and commercial-free. The procession will take Ali on a final journey through his beloved hometown of Louisville, passing memorable landmarks in his life, including his childhood neighborhood and the Muhammad Ali Center. The memorial service, with eulogies by President Bill Clinton, Bryant Gumbel and Billy Crystal, is scheduled for 2 p.m./1c.

Premier Boxing Champions—The Next Round

9/8 June 12, Bounce TV

The telecast will include several special tributes to the late icon and his tremendous impact on boxing.