Happy Birthday, Champ!

Muhammad Ali faces off against Atlanta (GA) Mayor Maynard Jackson in a charity fundraiser in Atlanta, GA in 1973. Officiating (middle) is Julian Bond, then President of the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC).

“The Greatest” turned 74 today. Happy birthday Champ!

Over the years I’ve photographed Muhammad Ali in training, four title fights and the moment when his shaking hand lowered the torch that opened the 1996 Summer Olympics.

My favorite moments though were when Ali was Ali and not the managed athlete.

Like the time that Ali agreed to a spur of the moment community fundraiser with Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson.

With civil rights activist and legislator Julian Bond as a striped shirted referee, The Champ climbed into the ring at the old dingy, dimly lit Atlanta Civic Auditorium.

It was a long way from the glittering Vegas rings where Ali took on all contenders.

The Champ looked anxiously for his opponent, turned and began to shadowbox.

Moments later, the ropes parted and the rotund mayor – Maynard Jackson in flowered trunks and a tshirt – entered the ring, walking toward the back of the famed boxer.

Slowly, Ali turned and began to stare at his unlikely foe. It was the trademark Killa’ stare.

And then just for a second – he lost it.

The moment preserved on one frame.

Of the thousands of boxing images I’ve made of Ali, it’s one of my favorites.



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