Muhammad Ali Loved the Running Scene in Rocky II

All those kids running after Rocky in the 31-mile training montage run? “That’s real,” Ali said. “I had the same kinda crowds follow me in New York.”

Rocky - Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali died over the weekend. For decades, Ali had battled Parkinson’s Disease in the public eye. It robbed him of his ability to speak.

The Ali one sees in old footage won’t stop talking. And it was this Ali that agreed to do a story with Roger Ebert in 1979, two years before his final fight. The two got together to watch Rocky II.

The story is great. Ebert even rides with Ali to the screening, and sees the former champ surprise fellow drivers by sitting in the front seat and waving at them. “Not one person who saw Ali in the car failed to recognize him, to wave at him, to shout something,” Ebert writes. “Ali says he is the most famous person in the world. He may be right.”

His analysis of the movie — as both a film and for its accuracy — is very entertaining. From the article, you get a sense of why people ended up loving him so much: He’s just such an engaging guy.

Then, Ali actually commented on the famous 31-mile run Rocky does before the fight.

In an inspirational scene, Rocky was running through the streets of his native Philadelphia, trailed by a crowd of cheering children who followed him all the way up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Rocky gave his trademark victory salute, repeated from the most famous moment in the original Rocky.

“Now that’s one thing that some people will say is artificial, all the crowds running after him, but that’s real,” Ali said. “I had the same kinda crowds follow me in New York.”

So, all those kids running behind Rocky during that scene, perhaps the most ridiculous one? That’s completely accurate, Ali says. Who knew?

Rest in peace, champ.