Title: The Fight You Didn’t See
Photographer: Neil Leifer
Location: Lewiston, Maine at the Central Maine Youth Center
Format: Magazine Cover
Currently resides in the Sports Illustrated Vault
This picture graced the cover over Sports Illustrated on June 7, 1965 after one of the most infamous punches in boxing history. The photo depicts the Heavyweight Boxing Championship between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston. The title of the photograph, “The Fight You Didn’t See” is a play on words of what became known as the “Phantom Punch”. This fight took place during a time of racial turmoil, and during a time period where Muslim faith was rising around the black community. Many believe that Ali never really delivered this knock out punch to Liston, and that Liston actually went down because he was threatened by followers of Malcom X and the Nation of Islam.
The picture chosen to grace the cover captures the uncertainty and controversy that surrounds the infamous “Phantom Punch”, for the picture never shows Ali landing the punch. The angling of the photograph allows the photographer to leave a lot of questions up in the air. To start, Liston’s glove is directly in front of Ali’s glove, making it impossible to see if Ali’s glove is making contact with Liston. Also, it appears that Liston already has his eyes closed and appears to be leaning away from the punch, rather than falling down, which alludes to the fact that Liston could have gone down on is own. Equally important to note, is that Ali’s punch, based on the camera angle, appears to be directly in between Liston’s glove and his face, making it appear that Ali did not land his knockout blow.