(CNN)Floating and stinging arsenic it explores the boxing icon's beingness wrong the ringing and out, "Muhammad Ali" is different epic Ken Burns-produced dive into the beingness of an influential 20th-century figure, coming connected the heels of "Hemingway." Much has said astir Ali, but going the region with this four-part PBS documentary makes it consciousness like, well, the greatest.
Coming soon aft Netflix's "Blood Brothers: Malcolm X & Muhammad Ali" and 2 years aft HBO's "What's My Name/Muhammad Ali," the bosom of this accumulation comes successful the attraction to detail, from providing little biographies of Ali's cardinal opponents to examining the emergence of the Nation of Islam, which the boxer controversially joined aft winning the rubric arsenic Cassius Clay successful 1964, having conscionable turned 22.
"Muhammad Ali" is besides greatly enriched by the voices enlisted by directors Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon (whose erstwhile collaborations see "Jackie Robinson" and "The Central Park Five"), from New Yorker exertion David Remnick noting that radical hide however "incredibly divisive" Ali was to novelist Walter Mosley, who speaks of his apprehensions watching Ali roil the constitution successful those years. As Mosley puts it, helium was "a spark, and I was lasting successful a tract of gasoline."
The documentary deftly balances Ali's biography and analyzable idiosyncratic beingness with his bonzer gifts arsenic a boxer, combining stunning manus and ft velocity for a heavyweight with an quality to instrumentality a punch that would yet go a liability, fixed the tremendous toll that each those blows took connected him.
Former boxer Michael Bentt is particularly bully astatine describing Ali's skills, portion sportswriter Dave Kindred articulates the guilt that galore felt during aboriginal years, having thrilled to Ali's exploits and helped make the marketplace that caused him to go a shadiness of himself owed to Parkinson's illness earlier his decease successful 2016.
Ali's communicative besides covers increasing up Black successful Kentucky -- and being greatly influenced by the execution of Emmett Till in 1955, who was lone a twelvemonth older -- winning golden astatine the 1960 Olympics, embracing Islam and declaring his conscientious objector presumption to the Vietnam war. That past determination not lone triggered a backlash but interrupted his vocation astatine his apex, followed by regaining the title aggregate times, including his memorable fights with Joe Frazier.
Burns and institution don't soft-peddle Ali's excesses and transgressions, from the racially tinged insults helium flung astatine Frazier and earlier him Sonny Liston to his abandonment of Malcolm X, an enactment helium aboriginal admitted regretting.
Yet determination is besides the Ali who joshed with reporters, generously gave distant wealth to strangers and spouted poesy arsenic helium boasted astir his talents, claiming to person adopted that maneuver aft watching the wrestler Gorgeous George.
Ali could besides beryllium brutal successful the ring, toying with Floyd Patterson and pummeling Ernie Terrell -- who had insisted connected calling him Cassius Clay -- yelling "What's my name?" astatine him betwixt punches.
The documentary is filled with those benignant of details, specified arsenic Ali having mislaid to Ken Norton aft not grooming seriously, and spending hours earlier the combat successful furniture with 2 women. Of his serial infidelity, erstwhile woman Khalilah Ali says, "I conscionable fto him bash what helium had to do."
Even astatine much than 7 hours "Muhammad Ali" doesn't incorporate overmuch appreciable fat, a testament to what a larger-than-life fig Ali was and the imprint helium near connected sports, authorities and culture.
Ali biographer Jonathan Eig notes that losing to Frazier successful 1971 humanized the fighter, successful a mode that helium hadn't been earlier for many. "This is erstwhile Ali truly becomes fashionable successful America," helium says.
Burns has captured that humanity arsenic good arsenic the greatness, successful a mode that rumbles with the sheer scope of Ali's bequest and impressively comes retired connected top.
"Muhammad Ali" volition aerial Sept. 19-22 astatine 9 p.m. ET connected PBS.