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Book Review: Norman Mailer. Neil Leifer. Howard L. Bingham. The Fight

Posted on 08/02/2022

By Stephanie Kent

Nearly fifty years after Muhammad Ali and George Foreman met in Kinshasa, Zaire, Taschen pays homage to the Rumble in the Jungle with a special edition of Norman Mailer’s The Fight. 

This version takes Mailer’s account of the boxing match and presents it alongside photography from renowned sports photographers Neil Leifer and Ali’s biographer Howard L. Bingham; the result is a stunning update to the original book, and reads like a treasury of boxing imagery and fight artifacts.

The book’s photography – principally pictures from Leifer and Bingham, with various other photojournalists’ work supporting – spans the event in full. Depictions include parades in Zaire, quiet pre-fight moments in the dressing rooms, and local children posed with clenched fists before out-of-focus fight posters in the background.

This edition of The Fight also relies on unique relics of the event. Readers will find illustrations of other heavyweights alongside their outcome predictions, reproductions of paintings inspired by the fight, and original red ink edits to the original manuscript.

Read The Fight linearly and you’ll find an abridged version of Norman Mailer’s 1975 book, with supporting photos from Leifer and Bingham, plus moments captured from other photojournalists. Snaps from pre-fight press conferences and newspaper clippings set a tone in time with Mailer’s original writings. However, in true Taschen form, The Fight also lends itself well to a more serendipitous reading process. You can feel the excitement of the fight by opening the book at random and landing on gorgeous two-page spreads of Ali and Foreman in the ring or an image of the pennant made to celebrate Ali’s win or a photo of dozens of press badges for the event.

The exhilaration of anticipation and the joy of pageantry depicted in these pages are utterly contagious; modern boxing followers are bound to be left hungry for a fight of this magnitude in their lifetimes, but glad to get a taste of the exhibition through this book’s exquisite curation.

More than forty years after its original publication, The Fight can still bring goosebumps to the backs of the necks of fight fans. Mailer captures both the spectacle of fight night and the subtle moments in Ali and Foreman camps leading up to October 30, 1974, and Taschen’s additions of manuscript pages, backstage photography, and other fight artifacts bring the event to life all the more vividly. The book is a piece of boxing history, artfully rendered, and any boxing fan would be proud to display on their coffee table.

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