There is a tale behind this iconic photograph.
Mohammed Rafi, the legend of Indian singing scene, was touring the United States in 1979. It was a great year for Rafi. His songs were, like always, chartbusters. His legacy in India firmly ingrained in the hearts of the millions of fans, Rafi went on a tour of 14 cities in the United States that year.
A huge fan of boxing and Muhammed Ali, the legendary singer expressed his desire of meeting ‘The Greatest’ during the tour.
It was the year when Ali had already started marching into the sunset – a victor of 56 fights, having lost just 3. Yet Ali’s popularity was immense. A friend of Rafi’s was also a common friend of Ali’s. Rafi got to know of this and immediately requested to arrange a meeting with his favourite boxer. Rafi’s then 18-year-old son Shahid was accompanying him on the tour.
Recalling the momentous meeting between the two legends during a 2011 conversation
, Shahid says that his father and he flew from Chicago to Kentucky, where Ali was staying at the time.
Ali didn’t know Rafi but when told of the singer’s phenomenal popularity in India, he immediately agreed to meet him.
That was how the two met at a hotel and they chatted for 45 minutes. Ali also gifted a plaque to Rafi.
And do you know how the conversation began? Shahid says that Ali started it: “I am the great Muhammad Ali from America and you are the great Mohammad Rafi from India.”
And then they posed in that iconic photograph – treasurable for everyone who is a fan of the two. The idea to pose like that came from Ali. He told Rafi: “You punch me on the face and I will punch you back.” The very next year, July 31, 1980, Mohammed Rafi will depart for his heavenly abode. Today the other legend in that photograph has left for the same abode.