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Kinshasa, Zaire, at the virtual center of Africa, two African American boxers were paid five million dollars apiece to confront each other in an epic match. One was Muhammad Ali, who vowed to reclaim the championship he had lost. The other was George Foreman, who was as taciturn as Ali was voluble and who kept his hands in his pockets “the way a hunter lays his rifle back into its velvet case.” Observing them both was Norman Mailer, whose grasp of the titanic battle’s feints and stratagems—and sensitivity to their deeper symbolism—made his 1975 book The Fight a masterpiece of sportswriting. Whether analyzing the fighters’ moves, interpreting their characters, or weighing their competing claims on the African and American souls, Mailer was a commentator of unparalleled acumen—and surely one of the few intrepid enough to accompany Ali on a late-night run through the bush. Through The Fight he restores our tarnished notions of heroism to a blinding gleam, and establishes himself as a champion in his own right. Four decades after its original publication, this new abridged edition of The Fight is introduced with an essay by Mailer scholar J. Michael Lennon and illustrated for the first time with principal photography by the two men who captured Ali and Foreman in the ring and in private like no one else: Neil Leifer and Howard L. Bingham. Widely considered to be the greatest sports photographer of his generation, Neil Leifer’s vibrant color coverage dominates from ringside. It also serves as a living testimony to the pageantry, sheer physical power, and deep psychological interplay of the fighters, their camps, and their controversial host, Zaire’s President Mobutu Sese Seko. Behind the scenes, meanwhile, Howard Bingham was Ali’s constant companion, documenting his every move from the moment he stepped off the plane in Zaire, his daily training regime, right through to the dressing room tension as he prepared to face Foreman once and for all. Together with pictures from other photojournalists, reproductions of Mailer’s original manuscript pages, and additional visual documentation of the media frenzy surrounding the “Rumble in the Jungle,” the result is a dazzling tribute to The Champ and a vivid document of one of the most epic, unique, and adrenalin-laced events in sporting history.
Marking the year of the match, The Fight is limited to 1,974 copies, including: Collector’s Edition No. 251–1,974, each signed by both photographers Two Art Editions (No. 1–250), each with a signed print by Neil Leifer Contributors The author Norman Mailer (1923–2007) was one of the 20th century’s greatest and most influential writers, as well as one of America’s most renowned and controversial literary figures. The best-selling author of a dozen novels and 20 works of nonfiction, he also wrote stage plays, screenplays, television miniseries, hundreds of essays, two books of poetry, and a collection of short stories. A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, he lived in Brooklyn, New York, and Provincetown, Massachusetts. The photographers Native New Yorker Neil Leifer began photographing sports events as a teenager. Over 160 of his pictures have appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated and over 40 of his photographs have graced the cover of Time. He has published 15 books, and was one of two principal photographers in TASCHEN’s tribute to Muhammad Ali, GOAT—Greatest Of All Time and the illustrated edition of Norman Mailer’s The Fight. Howard L. Bingham first met Muhammad Ali—then Cassius Clay—at a press appearance in Los Angeles in 1962. His million-plus photographs of the champ create an intimate and enduring portrait of Ali’s life and their long friendship. Bingham has also photographed many of the most important events and personalities of the last 50 years for magazines including Life, Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, and Ebony.
The contributing author J. Michael Lennon is Emeritus Professor of English at Wilkes University and the late Norman Mailer’s archivist and authorized biographer. He is the author of the authorized biography Norman Mailer: A Double Life (2013) and editor of Selected Letters of Norman Mailer (2014).