Finding Muhammad Ali in UO’s Special Collections

Jack Olsen was a jouBlack is Best 1967 by Olsen coverrnalist who wrote for Sports Illustrated and later wrote true crime books. His was the very first biography of Muhammad Ali. UO Special Collections and University Archives has Jack Olsen’s Papers, check out the finding aid here.

Listen to an excerpt from the book Black is Best: The Riddle of Cassius Clay (New York Dell) of an excerpt of an Ali recording that Jack Olsen made and read the audio transcript.


“Clay comes out to meet Terrell and Terrell starts to retreat. If Terrell goes back an inch farther he’ll end up in a ringside seat. Clay swings with a left, Clay swings with a right. Just look at young Cassius carry the fight. Terrell keeps backing but there’s not enough room. It’s a matter of time until Clay lowers the boom. Then Clay lands with a right—what a beautiful swing. And the punch raised Terrell clear out of the ring. Terrell is still risin’ and the ref wears a frown, But he can’t start counting until Terrell comes down. Now Terrell disappears from view; the crowd is getting frantic. But our radar stations have picked him up somewhere over the Atlantic.”


Comparing the original audio recording with the printed text in the book shows how an author can change things to suit their own viewpoint or prejudices. In this case, Ali had already changed his name from Cassius Clay to Ali at the time the recording was made, yet the journalist (Jack Olsen) insisted on using “Clay” in his book.

Borrow this title from the UO Libraries and remember The Greatest!


Special Collections and University Archives are full of these types of materials and present endless opportunities for discovery and original research. Let us know if you would like to schedule an instruction session or research consultation.

By Linda Long, Manuscripts Curator

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