In 1975, Tim Shanahan was a medical instruments salesman living in Chicago and working with a charity that arranged for pro athletes to speak to underprivileged kids. Muhammad Ali had just reclaimed his title as heavyweight champion of the world by defeating George Foreman (the “Rumble in the Jungle”) and then successfully defended it in a rematch against Joe Frazier (the “Thrilla in Manila”). When Shanahan learned Ali was planning a move to Chicago, he contacted the Champ to ask whether he would participate in the charity program. Not only did Ali agree, he invited Shanahan to his new home, where the two spent a night talking, laughing, and bonding over bowls of ice cream—the beginning of an incredible friendship.
Ali soon enlisted Shanahan as his early morning running partner. Quickly, Shanahan became a trusted confidant and travel companion, and Ali often stunned strangers by introducing Shanahan as his cousin. The two grew even closer over family dinners with Shanahan’s wife, Helga, and Ali’s wife, Veronica. Shanahan was with Ali as the Champ trained for his legendary battles with Ken Norton, Earnie Shavers, Leon Spinks, and Larry Holmes, and moved to Los Angeles with Ali when the Champ prepared for a life after boxing. Shanahan was a recipient of and witness to Ali’s tremendous generosity, and as Ali’s health began to deteriorate, Shanahan had a chance to return the favor, encouraging and comforting his ailing friend.
Running with the Champ is an insightful personal portrait of the Greatest of All Time. But, above all, it is a touching, candid narrative of an extraordinary friendship that continued until Ali's death.