8 Mar: Frank Sinatra: Boxing Photographer

Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier’s ‘Fight of the Century’ at Madison Square Garden on 8th March, 1971 had the attention of the world – including multiple celebrities. But the photographer LIFE magazine had hired for the event was, nevertheless, a coup: Frank Sinatra. 

“I’m so mad I could chew nails and spit tax”, wrote former LIFE staff photographer Robert W. Kelley. “I’ve been a professional news photographer 34 years… and what irks me is your cover. It was obviously selected because Frank Sinatra took it, rather for any photographic excellence. In fact, it was a bad picture. What millions of LIFE readers wanted to see was Frazier’s fist firmly implanted against Muhammad Ali’s mouth.”

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly ask whether LIFE’s Managing Editor Ralph Graves was right to commission Sinatra to contribute the cover photo for such an iconic event; reveal what happened when Bing Crosby tried to blag his way into the fight; and look back on how Ali’s trash-talking of Frazier spurred him on for the fight of his life… 

Further Reading:

• ‘Frank Sinatra Once Photographed Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier’ (Vice, 2015): https://www.vice.com/en/article/ezedg7/frank-sinatra-once-photographed-muhammad-ali-and-joe-frazier

• ‘Brutal first meeting of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier stopped the world 50 years ago’  (Mail Online, 2021): https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/boxing/article-9335207/Brutal-meeting-Muhammad-Ali-Joe-Frazier-stopped-world-50-years-ago.html

• ‘Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier’ (ABC, 1971):

#1960s #Sport #Black #Arts #US #Music

We had EVEN MORE to say about ol’ Blue Eyes and his boxing pics. To hear bonus material this and every week*, support the show NOW at Patreon.com/Retrospectors!

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The Retrospectors are Olly Mann, Rebecca Messina & Arion McNicoll, with Matt Hill.

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