John Lennon Hated Muhammed Ali For Making Him ‘Look Stupid,’ The Beatles Photographer Shares

It turns out John Lennon had a bit of a grudge against Muhammad Ali following their first meeting, a fact that’s coming to light thanks to The Beatles’ photographer. Harry Benson, the man behind the lens during the band’s first US tour, spilled the beans during an interview with Page Six as he celebrated the 60th anniversary of those famous snaps.

The meet-up, arranged by Benson himself, took place in Miami on February 8, 1964. Ali was prepping for his match against Sonny Liston, and The Beatles were gearing up for their big moment on The Ed Sullivan Show.

The Boxer Made The Band Members ‘Look Stupid’

The photographer thought it would be a good idea for the band to meet Ali, thinking his bold personality might lead to some interesting photo ops. But the vibe between the group and the boxer was less than friendly:

“Ali dwarfed them. Just the repartee of Ali: ‘You think you’re good-looking? You’re not that good-looking — you’re tiny, small, little men. Look at me!’ They didn’t like it — Lennon and Paul McCartney in particular.”

Benson continued:

“He didn’t particularly like their singing and told them that… Afterward, John said to me, ‘He made us look really f ** king stupid, and it’s your fault, Benson.’”

Following the meeting, The Beatles stopped talking to the photographer for three months. Later, Lennon shared that the band would rather meet Liston than the ‘loudmouth who’s going to lose.’

The Beatles Still Remembered Ali Fondly

Despite this tension, the group and Muhammad Ali did come together for some memorable photographs, with one showing The Beatles pretending to be knocked over like dominoes by the boxer’s punch and another with Ali lifting Ringo Starr while the others played along on the ground.

George Harrison later recalled the experience in ‘The Beatles Anthology,’ noting:

“Obviously, we were having an effect because all these people were clamoring to meet us – like Muhammad Ali, for instance. We were taken to meet him on that first trip. It was a big publicity thing. It was all part of being a Beatle, really – just getting lugged around and thrust into rooms full of press men taking pictures and asking questions.”

About the boxer, he shared:

“Muhammad Ali was quite cute. He had a fight coming up in a couple of days with Sonny Liston. There is a famous picture of him holding two of us under each arm.”

McCartney Honored The Late Boxer

Ali passed away in 2016 from ‘septic shock due to unspecified natural causes,’ as his family’s spokesperson revealed. Paul McCartney remembered him and their meeting fondly on X by writing:

“I loved that man. He was great from the first day we met him in Miami, and on the numerous occasions when I ran into him over the years. Besides being the greatest boxer, he was a beautiful, gentle man with a great sense of humour…”

The screening of ‘Harry Benson: Shoot First’ at the Museum of Arts and Design, along with a dinner at Robert, was organized by Barbara Tober, David Patrick Columbia, and Grace and Chris Meigher to celebrate the 60th year of these photos.