13 October 2021 |
There is no doubt that photographs tell a story, especially in the sport of boxing.
One of the earliest books with outstanding posed photographs was the Gladiators of the Prize Ring – Heroes of All Nations by Billy Edwards published in 1895.
In the introduction the author writes that the illustrations are taken from authentic photographs or sketches made from life and are clear pictures. These pictures were taken more than 126 years ago.
However, possibly the greatest collection of photos in boxing were those in GOAT: Greatest Of All Time – Collector’s edition signed by Muhammad Ali.
The TASCHEN website lists the undermentioned information: The Collector’s Edition: No’s 1,001 to 10,000
• The “Collector’s Edition” shows Ali’s torso with pink lettering.
• Limited to 9,000 individually numbered copies, each one signed by Muhammad Ali and Jeff Koons.
• Every “Collector’s Edition” comes with the photo-litho Radial Champs (see image, supplied unframed) by Jeff Koons in the size 50 x 40 cm (20″ x 16″).
• Over 3,000 images – photographs, art and memorabilia, much of it published for the first time – from over 150 photographers and artists.
• Original essays and the best interviews and writing on the champ of the last five decades, from hundreds of writers, totalling 600,000 words.
• XXL-format: 792 pages, including two gatefold sequences measuring 200 cm x 50 cm (80″ x 20″) and nine gold-metallic double-page spreads printed in silkscreen, open each chapter.
• Measuring 50 cm x 50 cm (20″ x 20″), GOAT tips the scales at 34 kg (75 lbs).
• Each copy comes in a silk-covered box illustrated with Neil Leifer’s iconic 1966 photo, Ali vs Williams.
• Bound by the official bindery for the Vatican, in pink leather, the colour of Ali’s first Cadillac. The bindery, specialising in the most elaborate and oversized editions of the Bible and the Koran, enforces the strictest standards of quality control and only several hundred copies can be assembled per week.
• Utilising state-of-the-art digital technology, no expense has been spared to restore the original photographic materials to the highest possible standards. The results of this effort create unparalleled intensity and range in the colours, and exquisite tone and density within the duotone images. Eight-colour printing on Galaxi Keramik 200 gsm.
A book seller in England is currently advertising a new and unused copy for £4000 which could cost R81,022 plus postage in South Africa at the current rate of exchange.
Photographer Neil Leifer started out as a 16-year-old and went on to capture some of the fight game’s most iconic images, many of them featuring Muhammad Ali. He became the first photographer inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, in 2014.
Most boxing fans have their favourite or memorable photograph and my first one was on the cover on the local Fight magazine of December 1946 which I purchased for one shilling as a young boy.
The cover picture was of Johnny Ralph on his hand and knees on the canvas.
Ralph subsequently became the heavyweight champion of South Africa and was the idol of boxing fans until he was knocked out by world light heavyweight champion Freddie Mills on 6 November 1948 at Wembley Stadium in Johannesburg.
There was no mention inside the magazine who Ralph’s opponent was, but many years later I found out that Ralph had slipped to the canvas in his professional fight against Big Bill Horn.
The fight took place at the Johannesburg City Hall on 2 February 1946 and Ralph got up to win on a first-round knockout.
Having been associated with the SA Boxing World magazine which later became Boxing World for close on 25 years before it ceased publication in December 2004, I had a special feeling for the magazine, which at the time was the only trade paper and mouthpiece for boxing in South Africa.
However, my favourite photograph will always be the cover picture of the first issue of the South African Boxing World, as the magazine was known then and which appeared on bookstands in July 1976.
The cover picture on the magazine was taken from the fight between Richie Kates and Victor Galindez for the WBA light heavyweight title held at the Rand Stadium, Johannesburg on 22 May 1976 and will always be deeply etched in my mind.
I attended the fight which was one of the greatest to take place on South African soil with Galindez retaining his title with a dramatic fifteenth-round knockout. There was only one second left in the final round.
Shortly afterwards I was on a business trip in Cape Town and during the lunch break I wandered into a bookstore and there it was on the shelf, a new South African boxing magazine with the Galindez vs Kates picture on the cover.
I immediately wrote to the then-editor of the magazine, Chip Wilson, congratulating him and wishing him every success for the future.
A year or so later Bert Blewett took over the editor’s chair and under his guidance the magazine became highly regarded worldwide until he resigned in August 2004.
But let’s get back to the photograph of Galindez and Kates. The photo is most striking with blood streaming down the face of Galindez from the gash over his right eye.
There is no mention of who took the photograph but inside the magazine there are several action pictures taken from the fight, and it mentions pictures by Bill Handley and Tony Stapelberg.
Reading through Fight magazine in 1946, this started my love affair with the fight game, firstly as a collector, commentator, boxing writer and historian.
This love affair has become a passion that is not easy to define, but I enjoy every minute of my involvement with the sport and its people and would not change it for anything else.
This fight with the Arnold Taylor vs Romeo Anaya epic, must rank together with Galindez vs Kates as possibly the two greatest fights in the history of South African boxing.
The cut eye, the drama of the fight and the blood-stained shirt of referee Stanley Christodoulou, possibly one of the greatest referees in the history of the game worldwide, come flooding back to me every time I pick up the first copy of South African Boxing World.
Speaking to many collectors of boxing memorabilia, there’s always a special photograph that tells the story.
South Africa’s top collector of boxing photographs must be Jeff Ellis, who has an estimated 30 000 photos in his collection and spends most of his day scanning photographs and placing them on his computer.

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