Training in Zaire for the "Rumble in the Jungle", a youngish looking 32 year old Muhammad Ali prepares for the heavyweight championship title match in 1974 against George Foreman. I will tell you a secret, I remember when I took this shot, looking behind me and saw the reason he was all smiles was that his new girlfriend had just walked into the gym. Drew "Bundini" Brown was principal cheerleader, joker, and fall guy for Ali. Here they ham it up for TV crews, singing their famous jingle "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.....Ohhh, young man, rumble!!!" To the side is the ever-patient and attentive Walter "Blood" Youngblood, curator of equipment and keeper of the time. We were literally floating down the Zaire River on a large private ferry boat. Ali had brought along a copy of Elijah Muhammad's "Message to the Blackman in America," where he had obviously come across a passage he found especially gripping and which he shares here with Bundini. In Zaire (now Congo), Ali regained his trim figure and built up body mass at the same time. This is his favorite of all my photos. It seemed like a good idea to document his early morning rituals. It turned out that 4:30 am was just a bit too early for me and I actually fell out of the back of the station wagon as I rushed to get out. Ali had a good laugh at me. Seconds later this truck full of dayworkers passed by. We both knew this would be a good shot. I call this photo
"Floating like a Butterfly". Ali has always been a master of the photo opportunity. I usually preferred to photograph his less theatrical moments, but couldn't resist taking this one shot. After many minutes of posing he leaned toward Momma Clay for this maternal kiss. Relations between Ali and his Dad, Cassius ("Cash") Clay, Sr were, shall we say, rather strained.
Please click on an image for individual purchase pricing.

Other photos by Sonia Katchian at
Dawn, 6am, at his training camp in Deer Lake, Pennsylvania. This meditative moment seemed poignant to me after seeing Ali constantly surrounded by hundreds of people.
NYC, 1977, night before fight in the Garden with Ernie Shavers, the mood is kept light with Dick Sadler telling an Uncle Tom joke to Ali and his entourage.
The Rumble in the Jungle. 1974, Kinshasa, Zaire. This was the moment we had all been waiting for, and wouldn't you or I have been more concerned about conserving energy before a major athletic event? Not Muhammad Ali. He needed to stir up the crowds and hear them chant his name. "Ali, bumayť!" meaning "Ali, kill him!" The crowd bonded with him. It's why he was called The Peoples' Champion. It was one of many things that totally eluded the dull and flat-footed Foreman.
A new technique Ali unveiled in Zaire, later dubbed the Rope-a-Dope. Not even his trainers knew what Ali had been planning.
Manila, 1975. The Thrilla in Manila where Ali defended his title against Joe Frazier. "It was the closest I've come to death," muttered a weary champ the next day. And Joe acknowledged, "Lawdy, Lawdy—
he's a great champion! I could have destroyed an entire city with some of the punches I threw."
Harlem, 1974. NYC celebrates Muhammad Ali day. Ali is surrounded by friends and politicos, among them, Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton, promoter Don King, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Ali's younger brother Rahmann, and behind Ali, his ever-present friend Howard Bingham.
In his Chicago mansion, Ali had withdrawn to a room where I found him sitting in the semi-darkness humming a little tune. When I approached and asked if it was OK to take a picture, he nodded yes and I took one, then he quietly lifted his two fists and together we made this even better one.