The film Ali begins and ends with a heroic victory for an athlete of incredible talent. The biggest fight, however, takes place outside of the boxing ring and showcases not just the speed of hands and the strength of muscles but the unstoppable force of a man who has the courage of his convictions.

Ali, starring Will Smith, tells the story of world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali from the period of 1964, when he first seized the heavyweight crown from Sonny Liston, to 1974 and the spectacular showdown with George Forman in Zaire, billed as “the rumble in the jungle.”

Born Cassius Clay, Ali was a convert to Islam, who was tutored by Malcolm X. This experience, combined with a childhood that exposed him to violent racism and ghetto poverty helped him develop hisworld view. Ali’s beliefs led him to refuse induction into the Army, which at the time was engaged in an imperialist military adventure in Vietnam.

Ali’s passport was revoked and his boxing license suspended. Police informants, intelligence agents and wire tappers lurked in the shadows.

One of the greatest moments in the film is when a polite but defiant champion refuses to apologize to the boxing commission for his remarks regarding Vietnam. In response, the commission denies him the right to fight and thus earn a living using his natural talents.

Ali bursts from the hearing room with reporters scrambling and flashbulbs popping. He proclaims his determination not to be shipped 10,000 miles away to kill poor people and says his oppressors are right here in this country. The scene explodes with ferocious energy.

The film does not attempt to make a plaster saint of Ali and his troubled personal relationships are handled with candor. The film also introduces us to the shady world of boxing promoters and shows how a boxer can fight for millions and still end up with nothing.

Some of the lengthy boxing scenes may not interest non-fans but the heroic story will leave you cheering.