On October 30, 1974, in Kinshasa, Zaire, at the virtual center of Africa, two 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 stratagemsâ€•and sensitivity to their deeper symbolismâ€•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 acumenâ€•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.
Over four decades after its original publication, this edition of The Fight has been introduced and abridged 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, adrenaline-laced events in sporting history.
“A sensitive portrait of an extraordinary athlete and man, and a pugilistic drama fully as exciting as the reality on which it is based.” â€• The New York Times
“No fighter, no American athlete, would ever be so connected with a writer as Ali would be with Mailer.” â€• The Atlantic
“…the most in-depth look at every step of the fight for the Heavyweight Championship of the World.” â€• thedailybeast.com
About 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.
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 and editor of Selected Letters of Norman Mailer.
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 17 books, and was one of two principal photographers in TASCHEN’s tribute to Muhammad Ali, GOATâ€•Greatest Of All Time, and the illustrated edition of Norman Mailer’s The Fight.
Howard L. Bingham (1939-2016) first met Muhammad Aliâ€•then Cassius Clayâ€•at a press appearance in Los Angeles in 1962. A year later, Ali knighted him his “personal photographer,” inaugurating a lifelong friendship and over a million photographs of The Champ both in and outside of the ring. Bingham also shot a significant portfolio of 1960s urban riots as well as portraits of other public figures as disparate as Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Malcolm X, and President Gerald Ford. His work was featured in magazines including Life, Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, and Ebony.