5 Days of Muhammad Ali, by Michael Brennan – Day 5

This week, Iconic Images celebrates the publication of Michael Brennan’s new book: “They Must Fall: Muhammad Ali and the Men He Fought” by announcing a special deluxe package which will include the book, with a signed bookplate, and a never-before-released signed 8x10 portrait of Muhammad Ali, taken in 1977, along with a certificate of authenticity. Michael Brennan with Iconic Images, are only releasing 50 of these prints at this size, with orders shipping at the end of October.

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Muhammad Ali training camp, Deer Lake, PA. Saturday September 17, 1977

1977

“For a Muhammad Ali training session, the gym was surprisingly quiet. Ali had carried out his usual routine involving light shadow boxing, alone, lacing his gloves in a contemplative silence.

However, this was no ordinary training session, in twelve days Ali was up against a fearsome, hard-hitting heavyweight named Earnie Shavers in New York’s Madison Square Garden. Three sparring partners were selected for their similarities of style, toughness and roughness akin to the rugged Shavers. The late summer heatwave had left the gym uncomfortably hot, likely a bonus for Ali since

he would need to shed a little poundage to come in at the right weight. Just an opened door near one of the corners of the ring allowed some early afternoon light and much needed ventilation into the stuffy surroundings. Ali’s strenuous workout with the three chosen sparring partners left him exhausted. He ripped off his famous Everlast headguard and leaned into the corner post with his head cradled in his arms facing the open door. At that moment, a cameraman from ABC TV flooded the scene with a direct, searing, bright piercing light. Ali, never one to ignore a camera—whether still or movie—slowly raised his head and looked straight into the ABC lens, which by then was shooting over my left shoulder. A split second I will never forget. The exhausted, sweaty head shot has always been pretty much a stereotype, but this was Muhammad Ali, arguably the most recognised face in the world. Using a Nikon F2 with a 200mm f/4 lens with the focus racked as close as possible and with the cameraman’s piercing strobe-like light combined with the soft daylight from the open door shooting at 1/250th s at f/4, the result was this ‘1977’ image.

Some years later I showed Ali the picture I had taken. He was training in The Bahamas for a shabby farewell fight against an opponent called Trevor Berbick. He traced his right index finger over the sweat beads in the photograph and mumbled, ‘All them years, all them years of hard work.’"

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