British photographer Zenon Texeira got the chance of a lifetime two months ago when he traveled to Muhammad Ali’s home in Phoenix to photograph the boxing legend. The shoot produced haunting, intimate photos of a champion ravaged by age and Parkinson’s disease, though the spark clearly was still there.

After Ali passed away Friday night, Texeira spoke to the Sun in England about the final shoot, saying at first he worried that Ali would not be well enough to take part. But his fears were soon allayed, as “The Greatest” was “feeling well and rested”:

“His skin glistens and he is meticulously groomed with cool dark sunglasses hiding his eyes.

“He is helped into an armchair and it’s clear to see how fragile this man has become.

“However, I am told that even though he may not respond he understands every word.

“I do what I have to do and 45 minutes later wrap the shoot, over the moon with what I have captured.

“I hold his hand, thank him, tell him that I’ll pray for him and kiss his forehead as I say goodbye.”

“Muhammad was a delight to photograph,” he told the Sun. “I feel blessed to have met my all-time sporting hero. To capture his majesty with such intimacy fulfills a dream.”

Courtesy Washington Post