We usually talk about books "hitting" shelves, but in this case, it's probably more of a punch

By Isabella Biedenharn
April 12, 2017 at 10:56 AM EDT
Stanley Weston/Getty Images

We usually talk about books “hitting” shelves, but in this case, it’s probably more of a punch: Jonathan Eig’s highly anticipated Muhammad Ali biography, Ali: A Life, will be published on Oct. 3. Eig paints a thorough, layered portrait of Ali through interviews with crucial people in the boxing champion and public figure’s life, like his three surviving wives and his managers, along with detailed research like thousands of pages of new FBI and Justice Department files, plus recently discovered interview tapes from the 1960s.

Eig is also working with filmmaker Ken Burns on a four-part documentary on Ali.

EW is thrilled to reveal the stunning cover of Ali (the orange column on the left is actually the book’s spine), and a sneak peek inside the book, below.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Photo credit:  © Thomas Hoepker / Magnum Photos

Excerpt from Ali: A Life by Jonathan Eig

Miami, 1964

Round 1. The Challenger: Cassius Clay

A long, black Cadillac glides past waving palm trees and stops in front of the Surfside Community Center. The afternoon sun flashes off the car’s chrome bumpers. Cassius Clay gets out. He’s dressed in a custom-made denim jacket and swinging a dandyish walking stick.

He checks to see if anyone has noticed him.

Not yet.

He shouts, “I’m the biggest thing in history! I’m the king!”

Clay is tall and stunningly handsome, with an irresistible smile. He’s a force of gravity, quickly pulling people into his orbit. Horns honk. Cars on Collins Avenue stop. Women lean out of hotel windows and shout his name. Men in shorts and girls in tight pants gather around to see the boastful boxer they’ve been hearing so much about.

“Float like a butterfly! Sting like a bee!” he yells. “Rumble, young man, rumble! Ahhhh!”

As the crowd grows, the chief of police arrives and tries to move Clay off the street and into a parking lot where he might cause less trouble. A newspaper photographer points his camera, but instead of smiling Clay opens his mouth wide in a pantomime scream. He throws a left jab that stops inches short of the camera.

“I’m pretty and move as fast as lightning,” he says in his sweet Kentucky accent. “I’m just twenty-two and I’m gonna make a million dollars!”

Excerpted from ALI: A Life by Jonathan Eig. Copyright © 2017 by Jonathan Eig. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.