Photo Story: Thomas Hoepker, 'Ali Jumping in Chicago'

In 1966, photographer Thomas Hoepker travelled with Muhammad Ali on assignment with STERN magazine as the young champion journeyed from a title bout in London to his Chicago home and later his childhood hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. For all his charisma and legendary confidence, Ali had moody days when he would skip appointments and leave Hoepker and his wife, the reporter Eva Windmöller, waiting at his favorite deli. And then there were days when Ali would say things like, "I should be a postage stamp. That’s the only way I’ll ever get licked." When he was in that mood, Hoepker learned, there wasn’t much that Ali wouldn’t do.

One morning Ali and I drove over a bridge across the Chicago River, when I remarked that this was a great view of the skyline. Muhammad stopped the car and got out. “Could you please climb on that railing?” I asked. Ali jumped onto the banister, took his shirt off and shouted: “I’m the greatest! Want me to jump?” A split second later I had my picture of Ali flying – just this one click, one chance – and we drove on…

Ali: Photos by Thomas Hoepker runs from October 1 through October 20 in Milk Gallery. Keep an eye out for RSVP instructions but remember that an RSVP does not guarantee entry because, honestly, there are a lot of people trying to get into this.

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