Sunday, May 18, 2014

PHOTO of the Week "Mohammed Ali for Sports Illustrated"

   I love this photo taken by Neil Leifer in 1965 as Mohammed Ali stands over Sonny Liston urging him to "get up and fight, sucker!!" I have to say I'm no fan of boxing as such, but there was something special about Ali and I've blogged before that I had a couple of sickies from High School that happened to correspond with some of his 1970s bouts on daytime TV here in Oz.
   To be in command enough of your fitness, skills and determination to able to trash talk your opponent and get the famous head wabble going was just amazing... It's a brutal pursuit and Ali's Parkinson's and later life are testament to the damage that's possible. It's true that this image captures how most people want to remember him!! You only have to see how some fighters 'never know when to quit' to see the addictive side to this alongside the money on offer...

That's not what's so unique about this photo!!
   It's one of the most iconic sports photographs in history. At the time the picture was shot Leifer was 22 years old. He had sold his first photos to Sports Illustrated when he was 16 years old. On the 25th May 1965 Leifer was asked to cover the WBC Heavyweight Championship contest between Ali and Sonny Liston, held at St Dominick's Arena in Lewistown, Maine. Ali was defending his title in a rematch. Leifer was one of only two photographers that night with colour film in his camera.

‘When you’re shooting ringside, you feel what the fighters feel, hot under the overhead ring lights, squeezed in between the other photographers,’ he has written. ‘When a fighter is against the ropes, you’re so close that even with a wideangle lens you’ve got to lean back to get the fighters in frame. But my favourite subject, no matter what the sport, was and still is Muhammad Ali.' 

Look more closely...

   Sports Illustrated colleague, Herbie Scharfman, was on the other side of the ring and is actually seen through Ali's legs in the picture. "It didn't make a difference how good [Scharfman] was that night. He was obviously in the wrong seat," Leifer said in a 2002 interview. However, he also added, "what the good sports photographer does is when it happens and you're in the right place, you don't miss." I've heard Scharfman interviewed and he acknowledges he had the choice of seats!!

"Where you stand [or sit] determines what you see!"  


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