October 26, 1970 was perhaps one of the biggest nights in Atlanta history.
Boxing legend Muhammad Ali began his comeback, after three and a half years out of the ring, on that autumn night in the South.
(A program and ticket from the 1970 Ali comeback fight against top-ranked contender Jerry Quarry.)5,100 people packed the small municipal auditorium located in the center of Georgia's capital city. But the 15-round bout wasn't particularly eventful. Top-ranked contender Jerry Quarry didn't answer the bell at the start of round 4, handing the 1960 Summer Olympic medalist a victory.
Still, the fight's legacy looms larger than the fight itself. The contest's incredible impact on both Ali's career and the City of Atlanta remains a story of legend.
That story, the story of how Atlanta hosted Ali's comeback, is at the heart of a new documentary produced by veteran director Art Jones.
Jones, whose previous work includes a feature length documentary (Thirteen Percent) about the devastating toll HIV/AIDS is taking on the black community in America, places Ali v. Quarry under the microscope for an intimate look at how the fight was organized from start to finish.
"We started going down this rabbithole to find out who were the people who made this happen," Jones said. "What were the forces that came together to get [Ali] back in the ring?"
Ali's three and a half years out of boxing came as a result of his outspoken opposition to the Vietnam War.
“I will not go 10,000 miles from here to help murder and kill another poor people simply to continue the domination of the white slave master over the darker people of the earth,” Ali said at the time.
The World Heavyweight Champion refused to be inducted into the armed forces in 1966. He was ultimately convicted of draft evasion, stripped of his title and was unable to receive boxing license in any city or state except Atlanta, Georgia.
The documentary with the working title "Ali's Comeback" is a film that tells about the little known politicians and businessmen who navigated a circuitous and challenging path to bring the World Heavyweight Champion back to boxing after three and a half years. It also details how Ali's Atlanta fight was the precursor to some of The Greatest's greatest matches, and examines how the event moved Atlanta even closer to becoming the world class city it is today.
The documentary features interviews with former Atlanta Mayors Sam Massell and Andrew Young, attorney and Emory University graduate Robert Kassel who provided a $600,000 letter of credit to finance the fight, family and friends of Muhammad Ali and the family of Jerry Quarry.
"Our story is less about Ali as it is about those who made it possible for him to go back in the ring," Jones said of his film.
The documentary is slated for a June premiere date.