Boswell's Lives

Boswell's Life of Muhammad Ali

Series 2 - Episode 1 Boswell's Life of Muhammad Ali



It’s 1968 and Muhammad Ali has lost his mojo. Stripped of his heavyweight boxing title for refusing to be conscripted into the Vietnam War, he’s out of shape and out of sorts. He’s no longer the greatest. Fortunately, Samuel Johnson’s biographer, James Boswell (1740—95), is on hand to provide a pick-me-up, some blood-brother bonding.

This entirely unfeasible scenario is the work of supreme comedy writer Jon Canter. The first series of Boswell’s Lives won the Best European Radio Fiction Series or Serial award at last year’s Prix Europa and it’s not lost its edge this time round.

Boswell (played by Miles Jupp) attempts to show Ali (a convincing interpretation by Lenny Henry) that being Scottish makes him as much an outsider as a black Muslim man in 1960s America. The boxer is not so easily convinced. ”When I was growing up, everybody that mattered was white: Jesus was white, Superman was white, Tarzan was white, the President was white. Even Santa Claus was white!” “Are you sure?
Was he not merely covered in snow?” responds Boswell.

A true comic treat.


Comedy, by Jon Canter. Time-travelling biographer James Boswell meets Muhammad Ali, who has been banned from boxing and is in the wilderness. Starring Miles Jupp. From 2016.

Cast & Crew

James Boswell Miles Jupp
Muhammad Ali Lenny Henry
Producer Sally Avens
Writer Jon Canter