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Frank Sinatra was front row photographer for the ‘fight of the century’ with Muhammad Ali

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In 1971, Frank Sinatra, like many other celebrities, attended the “Fight of the Century” between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. Unlike most of the celebs in attendance, however, Sinatra had a job to do. Hired by Life Magazine, Sinatra sat at ringside to photograph the fight. One of his shots ended up on the cover of the magazine.

Frank Sinatra and Muhammad Ali | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images; Stanley Weston/Getty Images

Frank Sinatra turned on boxer Floyd Patterson after losing to Muhammad Ali

Sinatra was not a fan of Ali, evidenced by his previous attempts to see him lose a fight. In 1965, Sinatra did everything to see boxer Floyd Patterson beat Ali. He even set up Patterson with a trainer. On the day of the fight between Patterson and Ali, Sinatra invited Patterson to see him.

“Sinatra was very nice that morning, very encouraging, he told me I could win, how many people in America were counting on me to win back the championship from Clay,” Patterson wrote in a 1966 article for Squire.

Patterson lost the fight in a 12th-round technical knockout. Subsequently, Patterson visited Sinatra.

“I told him I was sorry for letting him down and everyone else but Sinatra was a very different guy after losing to Clay,” he wrote. “I was talking to him in his suite and then he did a weird thing. He got up and walked across the room, and he sat there, so far away that I could barely talk to him. I got the message. I went.”

Frank Sinatra’s photo of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier was on the cover of Life Magazine

Several years later, Sinatra was invested in another fight against Ali. He got front row seats for the “fight of the century” between Ali and Joe Frazier and planned to take pictures. Life Magazine editor Ralph Graves wanted to take advantage.

“Shortly before the fight [staff writer Tommy Thompson] learned that Sinatra had a ringside seat and was going to take pictures with a battery of cameras,” he said. Vice. “Tommy went to work to convince Sinatra to let us take a look at his film. We weren’t expecting to get something that professional photographers don’t have, but it might be worth checking out.”

Sinatra then shared his experience taking pictures at ringside.

“I got some good shots that night, but I kept watching Frazier stick his head out too much for Ali to hit,” he explained. “He was challenging Ali, and I said to the reporter next to me, ‘He can win, but if he keeps on like this, he’ll go to the hospital, taking all these beatings.'”

Although Sinatra was an amateur photographer, his photo ended up on the cover of the magazine.

The singer had other artistic activities

Sinatra loved photography, but his favorite artistic activity – aside from singing and acting, of course – was painting. He favors an abstract style and throws himself into the work. His wife Barbara wondered if the activity was therapeutic for him.

“He was, of course, Charlie Neat [as he was dubbed after his obsession with cleanliness – Ed.] when it came to painting; there was rarely a mess,” she said, per Country of Art. “He only had one ‘Jackson Pollock moment’ that I know of. I walked into his studio one day and found him reaching for cans of paint with his fingers and throwing them at the canvas. I think he didn’t even know I was there. Watching him lost in a world of his own creativity, I knew that art was another kind of therapy for him.

Although only a hobby, one of his paintings sold for $100,000 in the years after his death.

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