Shooting Sports: Neil Leifer

May 25, 1965, Ali stops Sonny Liston with one punch in the first round of their heavyweight championship fight in Lewiston, Maine. Photo by Neil Leifer

This image is my best known photo. They say that luck plays a huge role in sports photography but you still have to be in the right spot, and then...don't miss! I was in the exact spot that I wanted to be, anticipating that if something happened, it would happen there. I was on strobes in the arena with a 3 second recycle time, manual focus, shooting film. I never got the punch landing. The frame before was Liston falling, the frame after was Ali with his arms in the air.

The best boxing pictures are not necessarily “the punch.” In 2003, this picture was voted #2 in the London Observer's "The World's 50 Greatest Sports Photographs" issue. #1 was my birds-eye view of Ali celebrating as a knocked out Cleveland Williams lies prone on the canvas. Neither one showed the punch. The Ali v. Liston picture didn't make the cover, but its reputation grew as Ali's reputation grew.


Neil Leifer

Neil Leifer, left, and Mohammad Ali in 1966.Neil Leifer has been shooting professionally for over 50 years. In the 1960, his pictures appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, Look, LIFE, Newsweek, Time and Sports Illustrated. His images have appeared on over 200 Sports Illustrated, Time, and People covers.

Leifer has covered16 Olympic Games, 4 World Cups, 15 Kentucky Derbies, and countless World Series and Super Bowls. He has also published 16 books and is currently working on his memoir “Relentless” which is due to be published in 2014. He is now a full-time filmmaker, producer and director.

 

www.neilleifer.com

 

 

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