Gordon Marino in the New York Times Book Review:
There is today a thriving industry of hagiography on Muhammad Ali. It is, however, not easy to explain how the Louisville Lip morphed from a blarney-filled boxer into a global symbol of racial pride and self-respect. According to Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith in “Blood Brothers,” the chrysalis was Ali’s intense but tragic friendship with Malcolm X.
As early as his high school years, Cassius Clay had been intrigued by the Nation of Islam. In 1962, the heavyweight contender traveled to Detroit to listen to the Nation’s “Supreme Minister,” Elijah Muhammad, and Malcolm X.
For African-Americans, the Nation represented a militant alternative to picket lines, fire hoses and attack dogs. Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm sneered at Martin Luther King’s strategy of nonviolence, supported segregation and declared that the white man was the Devil. How did this hostile-to-paranoid worldview attract the people-loving boxer who was bankrolled by a lily-white investment group?