Muhammad Ali’s surprise appearance gives lucky punch to in-progress doc on boxing

Nathan Israileff was shooting a Congressional hearing for his boxing documentary “Beyond the Ropes,” when in walked the first witness, “The Greatest” himself, Muhammad Ali.

“It was amazing to have ?the prettiest boxer ever’ five inches from my face,” Israileff said. “There was a moment when he looked right into the camera. I got goosebumps.”

Ali was testifying at a hearing of the House Sub-Committee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer protection, which is pushing to impose federal standards and protections on the historically decentralized sport and its oft-exploited athletes.

The Congress shoot is part of Israileff’s marathon tour of the U.S., in which he is recording a variety of angles on the sport and the politics of boxing for his debut doc.

He has shot 31 hours of footage, in Washington D.C., Baltimore, and Sarasota, Fla., where he was a high school boxer.

“I originally started the idea about two years ago when my coach told me that the gym where I used to box in Sarasota was no longer funded,” Israileff recalled, “because the city did not want to support anything that may spawn violence amongst minorities.”

“Except this was the South and his wording was much more ?colorful’ if you catch my drift.”

While he plans to shoot an upcoming bout in Detroit “from the weigh-in to post-fight,” Israileff’s focus is on the social dimension of the sport, particularly urban, city-funded gyms where underpriviliged teens can box for free.

“I’ve been blown away by the support I’ve been getting from boxers, managers, and everyone in between,” Israileff marveled.

“I’ve met boxers as young as six, to as old as 63. They’ve been so intelligent, and so determined to assist me to get my word across.”

Israileff said he’s got more than two thirds of the film left to shoot. He’ll lens here and in Boston, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Oakland and Detroit before he wraps photography next year and aims for the fest circuit.


? by Ed M. Koziarski,