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Victory Journal: The Greatest

Cassius Clay's marvelous mouth, Argentina's Boca Juniors and Tokyo batting cages in the new issue

by James Thorne in Culture on 18 October 2012

The fourth iteration of Victory Journal—a sports publication born out of creative agency Doubleday & Cartwright—focuses squarely on Muhammad Ali. With a cover image of the Champ by Thomas Hoepker, "The Greatest" is a large format newsprint issue that commands a hefty presence. The journal is dedicated to sports outside of statistics and injury reports—telling timeless stories in words and images. Stories range from a profile of Argentina's Club Atlético Boca Juniors (AKA "The Factory") to the batting cage scene during a Tokyo lunch break to an illustrated reprint of a story on Ali by Tom Wolfe from 1963.

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Thomas Hoepker's images of Ali lead off the issue and take the fighter outside the context of the ring. "Hoepker captured not only Ali the showman, ready at a moment's notice to tear his shirt off and pose leaping from a Chicago River bridge, but other faces and moods the Champ himself was not pushing," write Christopher Isenberg and Christopher Anderson in the essay. "In the Chicago images, we see an Ali by turns vain, worried, flirtatious, bored, determined, kind, defiant and reverent."

Hoepker, an old-school German photojournalist, brings to the table advice for budding photographers: "We had this… It was actually a saying at Stern Magazine: 'If you meet an interesting person, hang on with him or her until you're thrown out.' He never threw us out, so we came back."

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"The Marvelous Mouth," a narrative tale by Tom Wolfe on his time spent following Ali through NYC, is the curveball of the issue. The rambunctious story, which portrays the boxer in his social element surrounded by "foxes" and the slang of that era, is modernized with new illustrations by Mickey Duzyj. "Cassius, six feet three, 200 pounds, was wearing a black-and-white-checked jacket, white tab-collared dress shirt and black tie, light gray Continental trousers, black pointed-toe Italian shoes, and walking with a very cocky walk. The girls were walking one or two steps behind, all five of them, dressed in slayingly high couture," writes Wolfe, describing the athlete's entourage on its way to the Metropole Cafe.

Finishing up the issue is a photographic series by Chadwick Tyler with female model Elsa Hosk. Taking inspiration from Flip Schulke's iconic water series, the photographs play on Ali's two sides as both hard-hitting boxer and lithe, beautiful athlete.

"The Greatest" is available online for $5. See more images of the journal in our slideshow.

Images by James Thorne

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