Noise, bluster, opinion and punch: all things associated with Muhammad Ali, arguably history’s most famous pugilist. Yet here we have a book of portraits that show the boxing world’s most contentious personality in quiet, pensive reflection at his private lakeside retreat in Pennsylvania — a rare moment of calm in the eye of the usual media storm.
In October 1974, Muhammad Ali would attempt to regain the world heavyweight boxing championship title that was stripped from him when he’d refused the Vietnam draft seven years earlier. He was to face the undefeated George Foreman in Zaire, Africa, in the fight he dubbed The Rumble in The Jungle. A few weeks before the event, photographer Peter Angelo Simon was invited to visit the Deer Lake enclave to document Ali in a two-day photo essay as he prepared mentally and physically for the biggest challenge of his career.
The resulting images — from five-mile runs at dawn to Ali in repose at the retreat’s log cabin — are intimate, arresting, surprising. Most of the photos in this 176-page hardback are previously unpublished. There’s also a foreword by DA Pennebaker, renowned chronicler of American 1960s counterculture, and an introduction by Angelo Simon.
A selection of images from the book is on show at I Am The Greatest, a major exhibition at The 02, London, until 31 August 2016.
Muhammad Ali: Fighter’s Heaven 1974 by Peter Angelo Simon will be published by Real Art Press in July. RRP: £40
Published in the May 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)