Neil Leifer is an American sports photographer and filmmaker. He shot covers for magazines such as People, TIME, and Sports Illustrated, which published Leifer on 170 of its covers. Leifer followed Ali from the beginning of his career to the end, and he is now considered to be one of the greatest sports photographers of all time.
What may be surprising is that the picture was not considered that special at that time — it didn’t make the cover of the Sports Illustrated and was only on the 4th page. When they entered it in the biggest photo contest of the year held by Encyclopedia Brittanica, the University of Missouri Pictures of the Year, the picture didn’t make to the podium and wasn’t even given an honorable mention.
For many reasons, Ali was a personal hero of mine. I was honoured to have met him late in his life during an Apple Masters event at Macworld Expo. For me, there is no doubt this is the greatest sports photograph of all time made even more so when you hear the story behind it. Great, consistent photography takes skill but it also takes a measure of luck. Leifer was incredibly lucky to get this shot.