The Most Iconic Photograph In The History Of Sports

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A 23 year-old kid was one of two photographers to have color film in his camera at ringside on May 25, 1965, when Muhammad Ali knocked out Sonny Liston in Lewiston, Maine.

Neil Leifer found himself in front of Ali as he stood over Liston in what is known as the phantom punch. I interviewed Neil Leifer for Classic Sports Network a few years back and he said he was working with the bald man with the glasses that is in his shot. The older man is seen in some frames pointing to the young photog saying, “you have the shot.”

Leifer fired away and the shot of the champ yelling at Liston to “get up and fight sucker” has been regarded by many to be the most iconic image in sports history.

The fight was the re-match of the 1964 title bout in Miami where Ali beat Liston when the champion didn’t comeout for the 8th round and the man known as Cassius Clay shocked the world.

After winning the heavyweight championship, Clay became a Muslim and changed his name to Muhammad Ali. With his new found fame, Ali also drew the hate of some white people in America that weren’t ready for a black Muslim as the champion. As the story goes, Liston was so freaked out by the death threats that Ali was getting, he thought he was going to be killed by a sniper’s bullet that was meant for Ali and that’s why he took the dive from the “phantom punch” in the first round.

The color photo is available on Google, I’m a big fan of the grainy black and white version of the shot.

For more on the story, check out [SportsIllustrated]





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Scott St. John

About Scott St. John

I have worked in the media for over 30 years as a Producer,director, cameraman,photographer and in publicity. I have worked for the four major television networks and for over 20 different cable networks. From American Idol to the Today Show to HBO Documentaries to the Academy Awards, I have been fortunate to work at the highest professional level in television. As a photographer, my work has been published or seen online in magazines such as Maxim, Stuff, Us weekly, InTouch,Gotham, Shock, OK magazine and more. My work has taken me to the four corners of the world from Africa to South America to Europe to Japan. It's been a great run and I am happy to be on board with the News Burner team.

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