Sport

Behind the scenes with Muhammad Ali

By Kyle Almond, CNN

Updated 8:45 AM ET, Thu June 9, 2016
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Muhammad Ali trains at the 5th Street Gym in Miami in December 1965. The photo was taken by George Kalinsky, an amateur who noticed Ali on the street and then talked his way into the gym. "Ali's trainer, Angelo Dundee, stopped me and said you can't come in unless you pay a dollar," Kalinsky remembers. "I don't know why, but I said to Angelo, 'I'm the photographer of Madison Square Garden.' ... He looked at me and said, 'OK, comedian, come on in.' " Ironically, the Ali photos helped Kalinsky land an actual job at MSG a month later, so it wouldn't be the first time that he and the champ would cross paths. George Kalinsky
People at the 5th Street Gym watch Ali jump rope in December 1965. "At that point, photographers weren't taking pictures of athletes doing what they do behind the scenes," Kalinsky remembers. The photographer, now 80, has been with Madison Square Garden for more than 50 years. George Kalinsky
Legendary jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie laughs with Ali at the boxer's training camp in Deer Lake, Pennsylvania, circa 1972. Kalinsky took many photos of Ali over the years, and the two formed a friendship. George Kalinsky
Ali lathers up with soap for a playful photo shoot in Miami. "I just wanted to show what he was really like," Kalinsky said. George Kalinsky
"Ali was always on, always promoting, always the showman, always loving children," Kalinsky said. George Kalinsky
Ali drives around a busload of reporters in 1976, before his third fight with Ken Norton. "It was a publicity thing that Ali's driving the bus," Kalinsky said. "Well, he drove the bus into a ditch. And I know he purposefully did that because he told me he was going to do it." George Kalinsky
In 1971, Kalinsky managed to get Ali and Joe Frazier together before their historic first fight, which was billed as the "Fight of the Century." The two were cooperative and friendly, Kalinsky said, as he took promotional shots at Frazier's gym in Philadelphia. "They had a tremendous amount of respect for each other." George Kalinsky
The two boxers fooled around for the camera at Kalinsky's request. "I said: 'Come on guys, you've got to make it look more realistic. Make it look like you're in the ring at the Garden, and I'll do what I have to do,' " Kalinsky recalled. "And they started jabbing a little bit, and Joe hits Ali in the stomach with a huge left and Ali goes down. ... Ali looked up at Joe and said, 'You son of a gun can really hit.' And Joe looks at Ali and he said: 'That's the way it's going to be the night of the fight.' " Frazier, of course, would go on to win the fight and hand Ali his first professional loss. George Kalinsky
While in Philadelphia, Kalinsky asked the boxers to "go a round" with him, pretending the camera was their opponent. He remembered being astonished by Ali's "incredible precision," his punches missing the camera by just a quarter of an inch. "With Joe it was a different story," Kalinsky said. "Joe made me very much afraid of him. After a few seconds I said: 'Joe, that's enough. You're gonna push the camera down my throat.' " George Kalinsky
This iconic shot of the two boxers was taken as Ali left Frazier's gym. "I told (Ali) to keep up the showmanship," Kalinsky said. "It turned out to be one of my most famous pictures." George Kalinsky
Ali poses with a poster for his 1976 fight against Norton. "The bottom line is that (Ali) was a great performer and he was a great athlete and he was a great entertainer," Kalinsky said. "And he was very playful. He always liked to do playful things, things that are a little different, things that would bring smiles to people's faces." George Kalinsky