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Classic take on Ali's birthday

January 13, 2007|Larry Stewart

To commemorate Muhammad Ali's 65th birthday, which is Wednesday, ESPN Classic will devote 52 hours of programming to the boxer beginning today and concluding next Saturday.

"No one represents what ESPN Classic is all about more than Muhammad Ali," said John Papa, the network's vice president in charge of programming. "We opened up our vaults to do this."

The Ali celebration, which kicks off today at 5 p.m., is highlighted by a 24-hour programming marathon on Wednesday in honor of the man who transcended his sport and became a beloved public figure. Included are seven complete Ali title fights, starting at 9 a.m.

The fights: 1964, Sonny Liston; 1965, Floyd Patterson; 1965, Sonny Liston II; 1966, George Chuvalo; 1974, George Foreman; 1975, Chuck Wepner; and 1975, Joe Frazier III.

Ali's legendary first two fights with Frazier are not included.

"Unfortunately, we do not have the rights to everything," Papa said.

At 5 p.m., after the showing of the seven fights, will be a recent ESPN special, "Ali Rap," which focuses on the words and influence of Ali. Then at 6 p.m. will be "Ali's Dozen," featuring Ali's 12 greatest and most important rounds, as selected by Ali. At 7 p.m. will be "Ali's 65," which looks at Ali's effect on society.

-- Larry Stewart

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