The Passion of Muhammed Ali – George Lois

This is arguably one of Lois’ most recognized works. The image has become a part of American history, and known within most any typical American household. The image has become closely associated with Muhammad Ali’s career and riveting cultural impact on a nation amidst a time of such uncertainty. This work has been regarded as artistic genius, as it juxtaposes Muhammed Ali with the patron saint of athletes, and christian martyr, Saint Sebastian, who was persecuted for his religious beliefs under the roman empire (Muhammad Ali as The Patron Saint of Sports).

The project was one of the many magazine covers that Lois designed for Esquire Magazine, where most of his recognizable work in print media was rooted. His work with esquire spanned from the sixties to the early seventies, where he visually captured iconic moments and figures of American history that will not soon be forgotten. This style of work, which Lois’ is typically known for, has been reproduced and imitated dozens of times over by other magazines, celebrities, and ad campaigns, making it a monumental image that will continue to perpetuate its effect on viewers.

The project represents the work that was common of Lois, and other unconventional icons of American journalism, and art, of the time. This piece exemplifies the political, cultural, racial, and religious climate of the 1960’s, as Muhammed Ali came to represent the polarization between America’s conservative past and the emerging counterculture movement of the late sixties. Ali, a champion boxer, was barraged for his personal beliefs regarding the Vietnam War, racial climate in America, and religion (Shecter). Lois artistically portrays the athlete as a martyr to the cause of political progressivism embodied by the youthful fervor of the sixties.


“Muhammad Ali as The Patron Saint of Sports.” The Genealogy of Style, 20 Jan. 2014,

Shecter, Leonard. “The Passion of Muhammad Ali.” Esquire, 11 Oct. 2017,