Taschen and Muhammad Ali: Round 2

This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

Fifty years ago, Muhammad Ali (a.k.a. “The Louisville Lip”) began his transformation into the Greatest of All Time, winning the light-heavyweight boxing gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Rome. On Oct. 29, 1960, Ali (then known as Cassius Clay) won his first professional bout, against Tunney Hunsaker, beating the West Virginia police chief in a six-round decision. It’s hard to find a date that’s not significant in Ali’s history; Wednesday, for example, marks 33 years since his win over Earnie Shavers in New York City, the last bout in which he retained the heavyweight title.

To celebrate 50 years of the life and career of the boxing great, Taschen has published an updated and scaled-down version of its 2003 behemoth tribute to the Champ with an affordable trade edition selling for $150. See a photo gallery of images from Taschen’s “Greatest of All Time.”

The original “Greatest” was four years in the making when it debuted seven years ago, weighing in at a hefty 75 pounds and measuring 20 inches by 20 inches. The nearly 800 pages featured 3,000 photographs by 150 photographers and artists including Steve Schapiro, Andy Warhol and David LaChapelle.

“The Champs” edition was limited to 1,000 copies and came with four gallery-quality silver-gelatin prints signed by photographer Howard L. Bingham and Muhammad Ali. It also included two inflatable sculptures by Jeff Koons. The price tag: $15,000. A collector’s edition is also available without all the swag for $4,500. Both editions came in a silk-covered box illustrated with Neil Leifer’s legendary 1966 photo, “Ali vs. Williams,” an overhead shot in the Houston Astrodome of the Champ and his flattened opponent, Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams -- a picture that later earned for Leifer the title “Greatest Sporting Image of All Time.”


Leifer’s other well-known photo, of the 1965 Ali-Liston fight, graces the cover of the trade edition. The shot of Ali towering over a floored Sonny Liston was the center of a recent episode of the 1960s AMC drama “Mad Men.”

“This shot is on the cover of every newspaper in the country,” said Don Draper as he borrowed the image for a Samsonite ad campaign and reminded a new generation of the effect of that photo and moment in history.

The trade edition of “Greatest of All Time” is part of Taschen’s Golden Books collection, marking its 30th anniversary in publishing. Although this edition may have dropped a few weight classes to a lightweight 16 pounds, it contains the same images, essays and interviews that still define and honor Ali’s life.

-- Liesl Bradner

See a photo gallery of images from Taschen’s “Greatest of All Time.”

Images, from top: “Greatest of All Time” cover, Golden Book edition, 2010. Ali versus Liston II, 1965. Copyright: Neil Leifer, “Greatest of All Time"/Taschen. And a rare poster from the Clay-Liston fight that was postponed for six months due to Ali’s hospitalization after suffering from an acute hernia. Copyright: Taschen Archive, “Greatest of All Time"/Taschen