The Lens and The Lip. This week, it was announced that in 2014, Neil Leifer will become the first photographer inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Leifer started shooting for <italics>SI</italics> as a 16-year-old in 1958 and went on to capture some of the fight game's most iconic images, many of them featuring Muhammad Ali. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johansson
After losing his heavyweight title to Sweden's Johansson on a third-round KO in 1959, Patterson became the first man to regain the crown when he flattened Johansson a year later. Their third fight, held on on March 13, 1961 at Miami Beach's Convention Hall, was a sloppy brawl that ended when Patterson put Ingo down face-first, here, in Round 6. Leifer caught the moment as referee Bill Regan jumped in. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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Undefeated in his first 17 pro fights, Ali (then still Cassius Clay) mugged for Leifer's camera before the start of his 1963 bout against Doug Jones in Madison Square Garden. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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Sonny Liston and Muhammad Ali
Liston, one of the most feared heavyweight champions in history, was a 7-1 favorite over the young challenger known as the Louisville Lip. But Ali, here stinging the champ with a right, used his dazzling speed and constant movement to dominate the action and pile up points. Battered and discouraged, Liston would quit on his stool before the start of the seventh round, and Ali, at 22, would become the new champ. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston
In one of the most iconic and controversial moments of his career, Ali stands over Sonny Liston and yells at him after knocking the former champ down in the first round of their 1965 rematch. Skeptics dubbed it "the Phantom Punch," but films show that Ali's flashing right caught Liston flush, knocking him to the canvas. Refusing to go to a neutral corner, Ali stood over Liston and told him to "get up and fight, sucker." Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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Muhammad Ali and Cleveland Williams
High point: Ali's brilliant performance against Williams?some would call it the finest of his career?was witnessed by an Astrodome crowd of 35,460, a record at the time for an indoor fight. Leifer's overhead shot was a knockout in its own right. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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Leifer, thinking outside the box?and outside the ring?captured the crowd of cameras surrounding Ali, as the champion weighed in for his fight against Zora Folley at Madison Square Garden in March 1967. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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Cashed out: This photo of Liston posed at a poker table in Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on May 25, 1967 offers a haunting portrait of the former champion, then on the comeback trail. He would never get another shot at the title, dying under mysterious circumstances at his Las Vegas home on Dec. 30, 1970. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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The man in the mirror: Stripped of his title and his boxing license after he refused military induction in 1967, Ali spent more than three years in professional exile. After the Atlanta Athletic Commission at last granted him a license, the deposed champion went back into serious training for a bout against Jerry Quarry in October 1970. Leifer caught the former champ at the Fifth Street Gym in Miami, perhaps reflecting on his chances. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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With his return to the ring a reality at last, Ali made clear to all who would listen that he was on a mission to reclaim the title that had been stripped from him. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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Muhammad Ali and Oscar Bonavena
In his first comeback bout, Ali stopped Jerry Quarry in three rounds. Two months later he took on the rugged Argentine contender Bonavena in Madison Square Garden. After a long, often sloppy bout, Ali?here being held back by referee Mark Conn?produced one of the most dramatic finishes of his career, dropping Bonavena three times in the 15th and final round to automatically end the fight. The win cleared the way for a showdown with Joe Frazier, the man who had taken the heavyweight title in Ali's absence. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier
On the night of March 8, 1971, the eyes of the world were on a square patch of white canvas in the center of Madison Square Garden. There, Ali and Joe Frazier met in what was billed at the time simply as The Fight, but has come to be known, justifiably, as the Fight of the Century. For 15 rounds the two undefeated heavyweights battled at a furious pace, with each man sustaining tremendous punishment. In the end Frazier prevailed, dropping Ali in the final round with a tremendous left hook to seal a unanimous decision and hand The Greatest his first loss in 32 professional fights. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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George Foreman and Joe Frazier
"Down goes Frazier!" Howard Cosell's memorable call provided a dramatic soundtrack to Foreman's shocking two-round destruction of Frazier in Kingston, Jamaica, on Jan. 22, 1973. With the win, Foreman claimed the heavyweight title and set himself up as the most feared puncher in the sport. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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Howard Cosell, Sammy Davis Jr. and Muhammad Ali
It's not often that anyone talked over Ali, but Leifer captured this image of an evidently amped-up Sammy Davis Jr., interjecting himself into Howard Cosell's interview of Ali after his 1973 victory over European champion Joe Bugner. Although Ali won easily, he praised Bugner's effort and said that "Aussie Joe" could be a champion in a few years. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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George Foreman and Jose Roman
Big George at his bruising best: In his first defense of the heavyweight title, Foreman blasted the hapless Roman to the canvas three times in the opening round of their bout in Tokyo. The fight was over after just two minutes, and Foreman's reputation as a destroyer grew. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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Muhammad Ali and son Ibn
Ali changed the diaper of his son Ibn Muhammad Ali Jr. in his bedroom during a photo shoot at the family's home in April 1973. Ali had suffered a broken jaw less than a month earlier in his fight against Ken Norton. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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George Foreman and Ken Norton
Norton was blown out in two rounds by Foreman in a title bid on March 26, 1974 in Caracas, Venezuela. When Norton was asked prior to the fight if he was awed by Foreman's power, Norton replied: "Awed? No. I respect it, but it will just make me fight a better fight. If I was awed, I wouldn't fight at all." Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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Muhammad Ali and George Foreman
When Ali signed to fight Foreman in Zaire in 1974, many feared that The Greatest was in danger not only of losing but of perhaps being seriously hurt or worse under the heavy fists of the new champion. But as this shot of Leifer's makes clear, Ali brought a fierce focus into the ring in Africa, and he had a clear plan of battle for the bout that would forever be known as the Rumble in the Jungle. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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Muhammad Ali and George Foreman
Employing his never-before-seen rope-a-dope strategy, even as his corner pleaded with him to move and dance, Ali let Foreman punch himself out, then came off the ropes firing big shots of his own. In a stunning finish he put Big George down for good in the eighth round. Here, the soon-to-be-ex-champ stares at the ceiling (and Leifer's lens) as referee Zack Clayton counts him out and Ali, having once again shocked the world, stands calmly by. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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Angelo Dundee, Wali Muhammad, Muhammad Ali, Ferdie Pacheco and Drew Bundini Brown
The men behind The Man: Ali stands with (from left) trainer Angelo Dundee, assistant trainer Wali Muhammad, physician Dr. Ferdie Pacheco and assistant trainer Drew Bundini Brown before his bout with Ron Lyle in May 1975. Ali won the fight by technical knockout in the 11th round. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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Muhammad Ali, Don King and Joe Frazier
Leifer's memorable triple-portrait, shot during the build-up up to the third Ali-Frazier fight (dubbed the Thrilla in Manila), perfectly captured the dynamic of the sport, with the leering promoter looming over a playful Ali and a deadly-serious Frazier. Ali verbally abused Frazier during the buildup to the fight, telling the media that "it will be a killa and a thrilla and a chilla when I get the gorilla in Manila." Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier
The third fight between Ali and Frazier, held on Oct. 1, 1975, in Quezon City in the Philippines, proved to be one of the most dramatic and brutal bouts in heavyweight history. Both men absorbed tremendous punishment in the relentless back-and-forth battle. (Ali would later call it the "closest thing to dying that I know of.") With his eye swollen shut, and no longer able to see Ali's punches coming, Frazier rose from his stool for the 15th and final round, but his trainer, Eddie Futch, called the fight off, giving Ali the victory. "Sit down, son," Futch said to Frazier. "No one will ever forget what you did here today." Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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Ken Norton and Muhammad Ali
The rugged Norton was consistently one of Ali's toughest foes. He beat Ali by split decision in 1973, breaking Ali's jaw in the process. Ali won a close rematch later that year. Their third bout, here, was held at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 28, 1976. Ali won the 15-rounder on a unanimous decision that many observers thought was a gift to the Greatest. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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Muhammad Ali and Leon Spinks
Having upset Ali to take the heavyweight title in February 1978 in only his eighth pro fight, Spinks was on top of the world at age 25. His reign didn't last long. In a rematch seven months later, Ali was in much better shape and won the fight by unanimous decision, becoming the first three-time heavyweight champion. It would be the last victory of his career. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran
Sugar Ray Leonard, who had won the Olympic light welterweight gold medal in Montreal in 1976 and was now WBC welterweight champion, had come back to that city to defend his title against the former lightweight champion of the world, Roberto Duran, on June 20, 1980. Duran took the title from Leonard that night, beating him narrowly but unanimously, in a war that locked the two fighters in a kind of brutal dance and swept them from one side of the ring to another for 15 rounds. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duan
Five months after he outpointed Leonard for the welterweight title in Montreal, Duran was outboxed in spectacular fashion through seven-and-a-half rounds of the return bout on Nov. 25, 1980. That's when Duran abruptly turned his back and refused to continue, handing Leonard a TKO victory in what came to be known as the "No Mas" fight. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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Mike Tyson and Trevor Berbick
Boxing was re-energized in the 1980's by the emergence of the seemingly unstoppable Tyson, who tore through the heavweight ranks with a fearsome blend of speed and power. Here, he unloads on WBC champion Berbick at the Las Vegas Hilton on Nov. 11, 1986. Tyson would end the bout with a stunning 2nd round TKO to become the youngest heavyweight champion in history. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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He's back, by George! After a 10-year retirement, Foreman returned to the ring in 1987 and ran up a string of victories. Here, on April 9, 1991, the 42-year-old flexed during a photo shoot, just 10 days before his fight with heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield. Big George would lose that one, but three and a half years later he would become the oldest heavyweight champion in history with a 10th-round KO of Michael Moorer. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis
Gladiators in the Garden: Holyfield and Lewis posed at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Nov. 2, 1998, in anticipation of their coming fight in March 1999. That bout would end in a draw. Their second meeting, in Las Vegas in November of '99, would be won by Lewis on a split decision. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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Laila and Muhammad Ali
Like father, like daughter. Ali absorbed a loving left in this, presumably, posed shot before Laila's fight against Erin Toughill in 2005. Unlike her old man, Laila would retire undefeated, ending her career with a professional record of 24-0. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton
In a bout billed as "The Battle of East and West," Hatton went south. The British hope was knocked down by Pacquiao twice during the first round, and again in the second to lose by KO at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on May 2, 2009. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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Leifer went to his Ali's home in Paradise Valley, Ariz., to shoot his old friend on the occasion of Ali's 70th birthday. As this photo makes clear, both Hall of Famers still have what it takes. Click here for Neil Leifer's fine art photography.
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