A major retrospective celebrating the past 70 years of Muhammad Ali’s life made its northern debut in Bradford on 20th June 2013. Open to the public at The Midland Hotel in Bradford, the exhibition is free until 30th June 2013. It features a unique collection of iconic images from the world’s greatest photographers and artists. ‘In the Rings with Ali’ offers a rare opportunity to buy some of the most famous photographs of Muhammad Ali by some of the world’s most acclaimed artists. Profits will go to charity.
Richard Dunn (pictured) who fought Ali for the World Heavyweight championship in 1976 attended the event.
Photographers and artists showing their work includes Ken Regan, Carl Fischer, Terry O’Neill, Sonia Katchian, Chris Smith, Neil Leifer, Michael Gaffney, Neil Kenlock, Christina Jansen, Graham Wood, Chris Gollon, Lola Nicol and Roberto Rabanne.
“In the Rings with Ali” is the brainchild of Dutch photographer Christina Jansen, who first met and photographed Ali in 1986. She lives in London, working as a portrait photographer in music film and advertising. It has taken two years to bring together the world’s leading artists and photographers who are exhibiting at this event and get it off the ground.
The exhibition was originally shown in London during the 2012 Olympics at a gallery overlooking the Olympic Stadium. Muhammad Ali’s brother, Rahaman, flew over from the States for the launch.
Bradford charity QED-UK and Yorkshire’s Cause UK worked in partnership to make the exhibition possible.
Clair Challenor-Chadwick, MD of Cause UK, said: “Cause UK helped stage the London event and it was such a huge success that we just knew we had to bring it to the north. Bradford was the perfect choice. It’s a fantastically rich and cultured city as a UNESCO city of film, but it also seemed the right place for a celebration of the world’s most famous boxer, and Muslim, who has done so much good addressing prejudice of all kinds. Bradford has shaken off its negative press of the past, and this is a fantastic way to build on the buzz around the city. The Midland Hotel has been very generous and supportive to host the exhibition, and I think everyone we’ve spoken to just feels a huge amount of positivity around this. It’s a fantastic to be part of something that clearly inspires people in Bradford. We hope people will come far and wide to visit.”
Photographs and paintings of Ali at different stages of his life will be shown alongside poetry and memorabilia, recording not just his contribution to sport but also his extraordinary humanitarian work through the decades. The event is designed to promote Ali’s inspirational philosophies: “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them: a desire, a dream, a vision.”
Adeeba Malik, Deputy CEO of QED-UK, said: “It’s fitting that this inspiring exhibition makes its grand northern premiere in Bradford, the ‘City of Dreams.’ At QED, we wanted to be part of it because it’s such a distinguished artistic celebration but also to promote the wonderful values of Muhammad Ali. He’s a global icon, and shows what greatness can be achieved with belief, passion, and poetry. His philosophy transcends ethnicity, class and creed, and his message around social justice resonates with our work to improve the social and economic position of disadvantaged ethnic minorities.”
At the launch, boxers and coaches from the Bradford Police and College Boxing Academy attended, as well as Yorkshire’s most famous choir ‘Rock Up and Sing.’ Muhammad Ali’s old adversary, Richard Dunn, who fought Muhammad Ali for the world heavyweight title in 1976. Dunn is also notable as the only Yorkshireman ever to fight Ali. He lost in the fifth round and was knocked down five times in five rounds, but British fans have said that Dunn made one of the most courageous showings of any British boxer when he faced Ali. A sports centre, the Richard Dunn Sports Centre in Bradford, was named in his honour.
Mr Dunn said: “I was just honoured to be invited by Cause UK to attend the northern premier of this remarkable exhibition. Muhammad Ali is one of the last living icons of our time. I’m proud to support this event that extols all the wonderful values and philosophies of the great man. I really hope young people come and see the exhibition and get the passion and direction that he so naturally inspires. It isn’t just about boxing and sport, but about being the best you can be in life, finding your passion and making it happen.”
Three times world heavyweight champion, self-proclaimed “The Greatest”, Muhammad Ali was never less than entertaining as a boxer. There were his pre-fight insults to opponents delivered in rhyming couplets, his unorthodox fighting style – which he described as “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” – and his homespun, inspirational views on life.
For the last 25 years, despite suffering increasing physical disability associated with Parkinson’s Syndrome, Ali has worked tirelessly for the humanitarian causes he believes in, including relief of poverty, education, adoption, race relations, and encouraging people of all races to understand and respect each other.
Ali has helped to provide 232 million meals to those suffering food poverty, and has hand-delivered food and medical supplies to needy communities in Asia, Africa and North and South America. He is the international ambassador of Jubilee 2000, a global organization dedicated to relieving debt in developing nations. He has raised millions of dollars for research into Parkinson’s Disease.
Ali has been a peace campaigner since the 1960s, when he refused to fight in Vietnam, and he continues to fight for peace to this day. In the 1960s he worked alongside black activists to try to end race discrimination in the US, and he remains an ambassador for race relations under Obama’s administration. Former President Jimmy Carter called Ali “Mr International Friendship” and in 2005 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Amnesty International have given him their Lifetime Achievement Award and the Secretary-General of the UN bestowed him with the citation United Nations Messenger of Peace. No other sportsman has done so much, in so many areas, while fighting severe progressive illness.
Adeeba added: “Bradford has been a City of riches and a City of destitution. In a City of Dreams, Ali’s are worth fighting for.”
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