Muhammad Ali: 1942 – 2016
The "most recognised man on earth" through the lens of Magnum photographers
Magnum photographers have followed the “most recognised man on earth” from winning gold at the 1960 Rome Olympics, his early pro career with classic studio portraits by Philippe Halsman, onto the seminal behind-the-scenes shoots with Thomas Hoepker in Chicago and Miami, and Abbas in Kinshasa, Zaire for his greatest fight, the Rumble in the Jungle and finally onto Ali’s later life in retirement.
Born Cassius Marcellus Clay in Louisville, Kentucky, on 17 January 1942, the boxer’s prodigious talent led him to win the World Heavyweight Championship three times. In his own words: “I’m not the greatest, I’m the double greatest. Not only do I knock ’em out, I pick the round. I’m the boldest, the prettiest, the most superior, most scientific, most skilfullest fighter in the ring today.”
"It's hard to be humble when you're as great as I am"
- Muhammad Ali
" I am America. I am the part you won't recognise, but get used to me. Black, confident, cocky. My name, not yours. My religion, not yours. My goals, my own. Get used to me"
- Muhammad Ali
Upon receiving the Olympic light-heavyweight gold medal at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, he proclaimed, “[t]o make America the greatest is my goal, so I beat the Russian and I beat the Pole. And for the USA won the medal of gold. The Greeks said you’re better than the Cassius of old.”
A charismatic figure, he was loved for his outspoken support of the civil rights movement; his confidence and self-belief infused with humor: “Will they ever have another fighter who writes poems, predicts rounds, beats everybody, makes people laugh, makes people cry and is as tall and extra pretty as me?”
Muhammad Ali passed away on Friday June 3, 2016. “People don’t realise what they had until it’s gone. Like President Kennedy, nobody like him. Like The Beatles, there will never be anything like them. Like my man, Elvis Presley. I was the Elvis of boxing.” – Muhammad Ali.