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Drama in the Bahamas

Muhammad Ali's Last Fight

On December 11, 1981, Muhammad Ali slumped on a chair in the cramped, windowless locker room of a municipal baseball field outside Nassau. A phalanx of sportswriters had pushed and shoved their way into this tiny, breeze-blocked space. In this most unlikely of settings, they had come to record the last moments of the most storied of all boxing careers. They had come to intrude upon the grief.

“It’s over,” mumbled Ali. “It’s over.”

The show that had entertained and wowed from Zaire to Dublin, from Hamburg to Manila, finally ended its twenty-one-year run, the last performance not so much off-Broadway, more amateur theatre in the boondocks.

In Drama in the Bahamas, Dave Hannigan tells the occasionally poignant, often troubling, yet always entertaining story behind Ali’s last bout. Through interviews with many of those involved, he discovers exactly how and why, a few weeks short of his fortieth birthday, a seriously diminished Ali stepped through the ropes one more time to get beaten up by Trevor Berbick.

“Two billion people will be conscious of my fight,” said Ali, trotting out the old braggadocio about an event so lacking in luster that a cow bell was pressed in to service to signal the start and end of each round. How had it come to this? Why was he still boxing? Hannigan answers those questions and many more, offering a unique and telling glimpse into the most fascinating sportsman of the twentieth century in the last, strange days of his fistic life.

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"Hannigan’s book excels here with well-chosen quotations painting the unique status, even among athletes, of the boxer." --The New York Times Book Review

“It’s a brilliant piece of reportage, full of quirks and factoids from an almost unrecognisable time and place. If it was fiction, it would be thoroughly enjoyable. The fact that it’s all appallingly true makes it too grim for that.” --The Irish Times

“Released shortly after the death of ‘The Greatest,’ this requiem for a heavyweight should enjoy a wide readership among boxing fans and a general audience.” --Library Journal, starred review

“Boxing is not like baseball. A ballplayer who comes back for one too many seasons risks embarrassment. A boxer faces far worse dangers. After his October 1980 beating at the hands of Larry Holmes, Muhammad Ali should have exited the sport. But he didn’t. He needed one more fight, one final sad exhibition of courage before calling it quits. Dave Hannigan traces the reasons why, and the men who allowed it to happen. Drama in the Bahamas reads like a train wreck, making one want to turn away and not watch. But it details a reality in the sport.” —Randy Roberts, author of Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X and Joe Louis: Hard Times Man

"Hannigan’s book excels here with well-chosen quotations painting the unique status, even among athletes, of the boxer." --The New York Times Book Review

“It’s a brilliant piece of reportage, full of quirks and factoids from an almost unrecognisable time and place. If it was fiction, it would be thoroughly enjoyable. The fact that it’s all appallingly true makes it too grim for that.” --The Irish Times

“Released shortly after the death of ‘The Greatest,’ this requiem for a heavyweight should enjoy a wide readership among boxing fans and a general audience.” --Library Journal, starred review

“Boxing is not like baseball. A ballplayer who comes back for one too many seasons risks embarrassment. A boxer faces far worse dangers. After his October 1980 beating at the hands of Larry Holmes, Muhammad Ali should have exited the sport. But he didn’t. He needed one more fight, one final sad exhibition of courage before calling it quits. Dave Hannigan traces the reasons why, and the men who allowed it to happen. Drama in the Bahamas reads like a train wreck, making one want to turn away and not watch. But it details a reality in the sport.” —Randy Roberts, author of Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X and Joe Louis: Hard Times Man