Nets Honor Muhammad Ali With Specials

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who died at age 74 on June 3, continues to be honored with special programming, including by HBO, Smithsonian Channel and Sony Movie Channel, and with plans for coverage of his memorial service in Louisville, Ky., on Friday (June 10) on several outlets.

HBO has scheduled encore plays of the HBO Films drama Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight, which will air on the main HBO channel tonight (June 8) at 9 p.m. ET/PT and Friday, June 10, at 8 p.m. Debuting on HBO in 2013, Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight goes behind the closed doors of the U.S. Supreme Court as the nine judges decide the outcome of Muhammad Ali’s landmark 1971 case for being a conscientious objector.

HBO  on June 14 will air a special edition of its series The Fight Game With Jim Lampley in tribute to Ali. 

El Rey Network tonight (June 8) beginning at 10 p.m. ET will air a marathon of all 13 half-hour episodes of the 1977 animated series I Am the Greatest:  The Adventures of Muhammad Ali, which aired on Saturday mornings on NBC in 1977 with voices provided by Ali and his real life publicist Frank Bannister. The series featured The Champ and Bannister travelling around the country fighting crime and solving mysteries – both real and supernatural.

Smithsonian Channel will honor the boxing legend's life and legacy by airing Lives That Changed the World: Muhammad Ali and Sports Detectives: Ali’s Gold Medal throughout this week, starting Thursday night with the LivesThat Changed The World episode at 8 p.m. ET/PT. (It also airs Friday, June 10, at 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. ET/PT; Saturday, June 11, at 3 p.m. ET/PT; and Sunday, June 12, at 5 p.m. ET/PT). Ali in his biography says that after he was refused service in a Louisville diner he tossed his gold medal from the 1960 Rome Olympics into the Ohio River, making it an enduring symbol of his struggle for civil rights. The Sports Detectives episode explores whether or not the story was true, or simply part of the legend of Muhammad Ali. It airs Friday, June 10, at 4 p.m. ET/PT, 6 p.m. ET/PT and 10 p.m. ET/PT on the channel.

Thursday night (June 9), Spike will air a 10th-anniversary special of its Guys Choice awards at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The special was taped on Saturday, June 4, and in the wake of Friday's somber news of Ali's passing, John Legend paid special tribute to "The Greatest," followed by a performance of "The Greatest Love of All," with Andra Day (here is a video link). Legend said, “The Champ was the towering figure of our times – in the boxing ring and beyond. He was a freedom fighter who used his fists and his wits, his force and his faith to make our world a better and more just place," Spike relayed. Supermodel Gigi Hadid, who took home the honor of Our New Girlfriend, took a moment (video link) to remember Ali during her acceptance speech as well, by saying “Muhammad Ali has touched me so much in my life, I’m so grateful to have met him, so I wanted to openly say rest in peace Muhammad -- you're the champ!” 

Sony Movie Channel has scheduled a special presentation of the 1977 biopic The Greatest, based on Ali’s autobiography The Greatest: My Own Story, for Sunday, June 12, at 7 p.m. ET and 8:45 p.m. ET, with replays on Sunday, June 19, at 12:10 p.m. ET and Saturday, June 25, at 1:25 p.m. ET. It stars Ali as himself, in his feature film debut, and details some of the most defining moments in his life, from his gold medal Olympic performance at the age of 18, to his quest for the heavyweight championship under the tutelage of trainer Angelo Dundee (portrayed by Ernest Borgnine), as well as his victory over Joe Frazier in the fabled “Thrilla In Manila;" his conversion to Islam; and his three-and-a-half year court battle to retain the title that was stripped from him, after he refused to serve in the army on the grounds that it violated his religious beliefs. “This special tribute is the perfect way for fans to remember one of the most celebrated, controversial, and influential sports figures of all-time,” Jeff Meier, SVP of Programming, Sony Movie Channel, said in a release. “Muhammad Ali truly changed the face of boxing forever, and left an indelible mark on society as an athlete, actor, activist, and champion. SMC is proud to be able to honor this great man with this unforgettable film.”

TV One, ESPN, Bounce TV and BET, among others, are planning coverage of Ali memorials on Friday. TV One is pre-empting its regularly scheduled programming to broadcast the service live beginning at 2 p.m. ET. Roland Martin will report from the network’s Washington, D.C., studios and TV One will air a special encore presentation of the one-hour documentary, Muhammad Ali: Fighting Spirit, at 7 p.m. ET. "Muhammad Ali was an iconic figure who was an unapologetic Black man and a world figure. We are proud to continue our weeklong coverage since his death by carrying his funeral live on TV One,” Martin said in a release. "In the past, TV One has broken into coverage to carry the funerals of Coretta Scott King, Dr. Dorothy Height and the memorial service for the Charleston 9. We believe the homecoming service of ‘The Greatest’ is deserving of such an honor."

Bounce TV said its coverage Friday will start at 9 a.m. with the funeral procession through the streets of Louisville and will carry through his memorial service, aired live, uninterrupted and commercial-free. The memorial service, scheduled for 2 p.m. ET, is to include eulogies by Bill Clinton, Bryant Gumbel and Billy Crystal. Between the procession and the service, Bounce TV will present The Greatest along with several special tributes throughout the telecast of Premier Boxing Champions on Sunday night, June 12, starting at 9 p.m. ET. Bounce TV is partnering with its Louisville affiliate, Raycom Media-owned WAVE-TV, for WAVE’s local hometown coverage and insight.

BET and Centric will air the memorial sesrvice commercial free as part of its news special, BET Remembers Muhammad Ali: The Memorial Service beginning at 2 p.m. BET Networks will also broadcast and encore airing of BET News' The Truth Series documentary Muhammad Ali: The People's Champ at 1 p.m. 

ESPN continues its extensive coverage of Ali's passing with live coverage of Muhammad Ali’s memorial service from Louisville, beginning at 2 p.m., with more coverage plans slated to be announced Thursday. ESPN moved the opening match for the UEFA European Football Championship 2016 – France vs. Romania on Friday, June 10, kicking off at 3 p.m. ET after a one-hour pre-game show – to ESPN2 from ESPN to accommodate coverage of the Ali services.