Lipsyte's been in Ali's corner, as reporter and friend, since 1964, and this forthright, fair-minded biography nicely chronicles the champ's highly publicized career, circling in on the man's genuine talents and pointing out much of the ""fakelore"" as well--three versions of the Olympic medal story, for example. The approach requires a mature reader (Ali's ""vanity has always bordered on narcissism""), able to comprehend the political climate of the Sixties, when the champ asserted his rights as an individual--to convert, to change his name, to refuse induction--and suffered undeserved recriminations from sportswriters, boxing associations, and the U.S. Army. Lipsyte doesn't dance away from the contradictions in his personality, and although he clearly acknowledges Ali's worldwide appeal and popularity, he doesn't muddle his account with the rhetoric of the literary heavyweights. No mention of the second Spinks fight, however, which limits this even before publication. A contender nonetheless.