Back Watch: Sportswriter’s classic portrayal of Muhammad Ali, “the maddest of existentialists,” lives again in new video

Connoisseurs of the sweet science who enjoyed The Library of America’s 2011 collection At the Fights: American Writers on Boxing will want to know that one of the contributors to that volume, sportswriter Mark Kram (1933–2002), is now the subject of his own best-of compilation. Just out from St. Martin’s Griffin, Great Men Die Twice: The Selected Works of Mark Kram is edited by Kram’s son, Mark Kram, Jr., and arrives with advance praise from John Schulian, who co-edited At the Fights with George Kimball and also edited The Library of America’s Football: Great Writing About The National Sport.

Kram’s contribution to At the Fights is “Lawdy, Lawdy, He’s Great,” his report for Sports Illustrated on the third and final contest between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1975—the famous “Thrilla in Manila.” Great Men Die Twice reprints that piece—and also makes it the basis of a new promotional video in which actor James Fouhey reads Kram’s text against the backdrop of an empty boxing gym. Fouhey’s resonant tones bring to life Kram’s description of the world heavyweight champion:

The maddest of existentialists, one of the great surrealists of our time, the king of all he sees, Ali had never before appeared so vulnerable and fragile, so pitiably unmajestic, so far from the universe he claims as his alone. He could barely hold his fork, and he lifted the food slowly up to his bottom lip, which had been scraped pink.

Enjoy the full video below—and check out the links beneath the video for additional Library of America boxing-related posts.

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