Color, 1965. Dye-transfer print. Signed and inscribed in ink to Neil Leifer by Muhammad Ali “To Neil Leifer, Thank you for such a great picture, from Muhammad Ali.” Signed in ink by Neil Leifer. Lot also includes one 11 x 14in. portrait of Neil Leifer and Muhammad Ali, more than forty years after the original photo, holding a copy of the image being offered here. This 11 x 14in. portrait is also inscribed and signed to Neil by Muhammad Ali, dated 12-1-08.
Fight fans around the world universally agree that the Cassius Clay (now known as Muhammad Ali) vs. Sonny Liston fights changed the world of boxing—and the world of sports—forever. A brash, young, Cassius Clay remained a relatively unknown athlete, despite his Olympic Victory in 1960, four years prior. This lightly regarded pro-heavyweight was pitted against the fearsome Sonny Liston, who was, at the time, the reigning World Heavyweight Champion. Cassius Clay's victory in their first fight—a major upset—shocked the whole world.
But was it a fluke? Was Clay for real? For many, the true test came in the second fight. The world was riveted by the coming event, which was set to take place in the obscure setting of Lewiston, Maine. A young Neil Leifer (22 years old at the time) was granted the coveted press credentials to the highly anticipated event, due to his previous compelling work on events such as the NFL game between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts. Positioned ringside, it was from this vantage point that Leifer to the shot that, nearly half a century later, is still widely regarded as definitive of the era. Clay, with a punch that is still actively discussed, dropped Liston to the canvas. Refusing to go to a neutral corner, Clay challenged the fallen Liston to get up. Neil Leifer captured that moment in a photograph that remains one of the honored images of the 20th century.
To Neil Leifer's knowledge, this is the ONLY dye-transfer print ever made of this photograph. It is a full frame print, from the original kodachrome transparency. Combined with the signatures of Muhammad Ali and Neil Leifer, as well as Leifer's press credentials for the fight, this is one of the most extraordinary offerings in sports history.
Includes four of Neil Leifer’s press credentials for the fight.
1) Press credential reads, "Working Press Clay vs. Liston, Tuesday Evening, May 25, 1965. St. Dominic’s Arena, Lewiston, Maine. Intercontinental Promotions, Inc. Robert A. Nilon, President, in association with Arena A.A. of Maine presents a Fifteen Round Heavyweight boxing match for the championship of the world. Sec A Row 1 Seat 13." Measures 6 x 3 1/4in.
2) Press credential reads, "Heavyweight Championship of the World, Central Maine Youth Center. Co-promoters Intercontinental Promotions Inc. and Arena AA." Credential features images of Muhammad Ali ("the Champion") and Sonny Liston ("the Challenger") Neil Leifer's name has been misspelled on this credential. Measures 4.5 x 9 1/4in.
3) Press credential reads, "St. Dominic’s Arena Dressing Room Pass, a fifteen round heavyweight boxing match for the championship of the world. Press Pass No. 16." Measures 4in. across the diameter.
4) A ticket to the special weigh-in at noon on the day of the fight, Pass No. 00816.
The photograph measures 20 x 24in. The frame, with press credentials included, measures 25 1/8 x 36 1/2in.
Bidders please note: The scratches on the image (visible on the ropes and on the left side of Liston's head) are present on the original ectochrome transparency and is not damage to the print.
This framed work has been professionally framed by Mr. Leifer’s preferred framer. The frame is handsome, created in a simple, modern design much preferred by museums. The woods is a light, natural shade; the glazing is a UV plexiglass of the highest quality; the backing board is generally a sheet of foam core. More information on the specific framing can be provided by the auction house upon request.
The photographs in this auction have been examined by an expert, whose opinions pertaining to the age of the prints, the printing process, and the type of paper used, are included in the description of each photograph. Although Guernsey’s believes these descriptions to be accurate, interested buyers are urged to personally inspect the prints either at the public preview or by appointment with Guernsey’s. As with all items in this auction, all lots are being sold as is.
Please note the terms being used to describe photographic prints:
Vintage print: Printed no more than 3-5 years after the negative was made.
Older print: Also referred to by collectors as "printed later." Refers to a print that was made more than 3-5 years after the original negative was made, but not within the 21st century.
Modern print: Refers to a print made in the 21st century from an earlier, 20th century negative.