29-kg tome devoted to Muhammad Ali
7 October 2003
FRANKFURT - Boxing great Muhammad Ali, 61, is to drop in to the German city of Frankfurt Thursday to personally launch a photographs-and-text biography that is heavyweight in every way including price.
The 830-page book, entitled "G.O.A.T. - Greatest of All Time", weighs 29 kilograms. The German publisher says the first 1,000 copies, the "Champ's Edition", are to retail at USD 7,500 apiece.
The remaining 9,000 copies, which lack four silver-gelatine prints by Ali's best friend and photographer Howard L. Bingham, will be a snip at just USD 3,000 each.
Though the text is English, the financing is German. The project was conceived by eccentric German picture-book publisher Benedikt Taschen, 42.
Ali, who is semi-immobilized by Parkinson's disease, will autograph the entire print run, according to the company, Taschen Verlag, which has turned its stand at the Frankfurt Book Fair into a mocked-up boxing ring to add to the hype.
As a bonus, every copy will carry the personal moniker of Jeff Koons, 48, the provocative US artist. Koons prepared a photo-litho for the lavish book.
German, French and other foreign readers will receive translated inserts to help them understand the sports star hall-of-fame prose, compiled from interviews, essays and news reports about the career of Ali, who was born Cassius Clay in Louisville, Kentucky.
Der Spiegel, the German news magazine, printed Monday a 10-page interview-cum-profile of Ali, describing the awe he still inspires on a Beverly Hills street, the 30 seconds it takes the former "Louisville Lip" to speak four words, and his abiding generosity.
This report uses Spiegel's measure of the book's weight and length, though a Taschen publicist, announcing on Monday the Ali visit, asserted that the book weighs fully 34 kilograms and has 900 pages.
The discrepancy is not expected to be explained till reporters see a copy of G.O.A.T. in Frankfurt on Thursday.
Taschen has devoted four years to collecting material about Ali, described on the publisher's website as "one of the most remarkable personalities of our time and the greatest sportsman to ever walk the earth".
The US boxer, whose 1964-1967 and 1974-1978 championships were followed by one last brief reign after a rematch against Olympic gold medalist Leon Spinks, shocked Americans with his 1964 conversion to Islam and his 1967 refusal to be inducted into the US Army.
The biography is far from the first, but Taschen claims it is "the most comprehensive" with contributions from hundreds of writers and photographers, as well as over 3,000 photographs and Ali's own drawings and writings.
"Ali is not just a figure from the past, but one whose influence pervades everyday popular culture, even now," said Taschen's website.
"He is a man who stood by his convictions, took a highly unpopular stance at the peak of his career in a country not yet ready for radical change. He risked everything - his boxing licence, livelihood, and tremendous popularity - and lost everything, and in the process began to emerge as a hero for all time."
Ali's wife of the past 16 years, Lonnie, is also to be present at the book launch Thursday, said Taschen, who hosted an earlier visit by the Alis to Germany, in June 2002, to discuss the book project.
Der Spiegel quoted Taschen saying he had invested 10 million euros in the book, which is expected to be the heaviest single volume launched at this year's book fair. The Frankfurt show, which has attracted 6,413 exhibitors from 104 nations, runs October 8-13