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How Jon Eig crafted the comprehensive account of Muhammad Ali in 'Ali: A Life'

Originally published on ESPN

by Tom Junod, ESPN Senior Writer

Muhammad Ali poses with gloves in this undated portrait. Action Images/Sporting Pictures

The title of Jon Eig's new book could not be more straightforward: "Ali: A Life." But we can't be deaf to the size of the claim that Eig is making any more than we can be blind to the size -- the 600-page heft -- of the book itself.

Until yesterday's publication of "Ali: A Life," there was no life of Muhammad Ali, no comprehensive account of the man who called himself -- and came to be called -- "The Greatest." Now, where once yawned a vacuum, there now stands a cinderblock, the product of 400 interviews conducted over five years of archival research and shoe-leather detective work. The Ali who emerges from Eig's biography is not the saint so many have made him out to be, but rather a figure whose humanity is earthy, complicated, fallible and thus, in these pages, restored.


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