Ali Center kicks off film festival with depiction of Ali's greatest fight


by Chelsea Rabideau

Posted on October 2, 2013 at 11:41 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 3 at 12:02 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11)-- On Wednesday night at the Muhammad Ali Center in downtown Louisville, The Champ himself made a rare appearance.

Ali stopped by the debut of the HBO film, “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight,” which chronicled the boxer’s battle with the U.S. Supreme Court concerning his refusal to be inducted into the Armed Forces during the Vietnam War based on his religious beliefs.

Ali’s daughter, Laila, said her father’s battles in court defined him as a man in her eyes more than any of his bouts in the ring.

She said that many people thought he was afraid to fight for his country.

“He wasn’t going to have to fight anyway,” she said.  “He’d have been in the back office somewhere, he’d assemble to elad other people into war and simply at that time, he said, ‘I’m not even respecting my own country, why would I go fight?’”

In 1971, the U.S. Supreme court voted unanimously to overturn his draft dodging conviction.

HBO Films president, Len Amato, said history would be very different if not for Ali’s stand and the landmark case that followed.

“There was no doubt that it had a political impact,” he said.

“It’s just so moving to see somebody who is at the height of their power and he was at the height of his career, he was in his prime, take a stand,” Amato said.

The film kicked off the inaugural “Three Days of Greatness” film festival at the Ali Center.  A Humanitarian Awards gala will be held on Thursday night and Michael Bolton, Christina Aguilera and Jimmy Carter are set to accept awards.