Chris Smith - The Greatest

Gost Books

Regular price $90.00


The Greatest brings together nearly 100 photographs of Muhammad Ali at the height of his career by Chris Smith. The images are accompanied by Smith’s memories of his time spent with Ali from the early days of his career until his final years before retirement.

In 1964 Chris Smith was in the US to photograph The Beatles on their first tour of the country. After photographing the band he headed down to Miami to photograph Cassius Clay, as he was then known, training at the 5th Street Gym. Smith was curious about the athlete who was starting to become influential in the world of boxing. Fortuitously, he was in gym when the doors opened and, much to everyone's surprise, in walked The Beatles.

‘You were always welcome at the gym. Angelo was very obliging and helpful. Clay certainly didn’t mind the attention. At the time, he was making a great impact on the boxing world and was in training fohis first fight with the formidable champion, Sonny Liston. I was in the gym the afternoon of 18 February 1964, when the door swung open and in walked The Beatles. The Beatles were in Miami as part of their first, hugely successful tour of the US. They came together in a riotous session at the gym, which gave me the opportunity to take a photograph containing, arguably, the five most recognisable faces on the

In the following years, Smith went on to spend time with Ali on several occasions, building an archive of photographs of the boxer both training and away from the gym. The book draws upon a selection of his images accompanied by anecdotes giving insight to Ali’s early morning training sessions, the now legendary 5th Street Gym in Miami, those who worked with Ali, the press conferences, interactions
with the public and his conversations with the boxer himself. Smith was present when Ali was training for the ‘Fight of the Century’ in 1971 against Joe Frazier and when Ali first surrendered a fight in 1980 to the young Larry Holmes.

 After retiring most of Smith’s work was archived until he was approached by gallerist Alon Zakaim about exhibiting his work in a retrospective on Cork Street, London. Together they went through his vast archive and brought to light a selection of photographs which were exhibited in 2012 and form the basis of this book. The book’s essay by Paolo Hewitt contextualises the political and social background to Ali’s life and career.

All photos by Chris Smith/Popperfoto via Getty Images

280 x 360 mm
176pp, 92 images
ISBN 978-1-915423-23-8