THE GLOVES WORN by Muhammad Ali when he defeated Sonny Liston to win his first heavyweight crown will go on auction block tomorrow, three days before the fight’s 50th anniversary.
The gloves, expected to bring more than $250,000 by Heritage Sports Collectibles, were used by the young fighter from Louisville, Kentucky, then named Cassius Clay to launch a legendary boxing career that made him a global sport icon.
Clay won a gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics and four years later faced a heavily favored Liston at Miami Beach.
Liston was coming off back-to-back first-round knockouts of Floyd Patterson, the first to end Patterson’s six-year reign of the heavyweight division and the second to defend the crown.
But along came Clay, a brash and outspoken 22-year-old who taunted Liston.
“Sonny Liston is nothing,” Clay said before the bout. “The man can’t talk. The man can’t fight. The man needs talking lessons. The man needs boxing lessons. And since he’s going to fight me, he needs falling lessons.”
On February 25, 1964, Clay stopped Liston in the seventh round to claim the crown, screaming as he jumped around the ring with his arms raised.
“I shook up the world,” Clay said. “Everyone predicted Sonny Liston would destroy me. And he was scary. But it’s a lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges and I believed in myself.”
The next day, Clay announced the he was changing his name, becoming Muhammad Ali and embracing the Islamic faith.
Ali would knock out Liston the following year in the first round at Lewiston, Maine, and defend the title eight more times before his 1967 refusal to be inducted into the US Army caused him to be stripped of his titles and banned from boxing for 3 1/2 years.
In 1971, the US Supreme Court overturned his conviction and Ali would go on to win the title twice more.
Another rare item up for auction Saturday is the pocket watch given to New York Yankees baseball legend Babe Ruth to commemorate the team’s 1923 World Series championship, the first of a record 27 titles for the Yankees.
Rings were used as tributes for later crowns but the watches for the 1923 title are rare.
Ruth gave his to a friend who owned a New York hotel and his wife passed the watch to a nephew who had served as a golf caddie for Ruth. That man sold it at auction in the 1980s and now puts the item on the block once more.
“While a few 1923 Championship pocket watches have surfaced from lesser players and front office personnel, it was widely believed that Babe Ruth’s had been lost,” said Heritage director Chris Ivy.
“Learning that this wasn’t true, that this extraordinarily piece still existed, was a great thrill. The pre-auction estimate is $750,000 plus, but it’s truly a priceless artifact of Yankee history.”
Also up for grabs are a 1980 US Olympic ice hockey game-worn jersey from the “Miracle on Ice” victory over the Soviet Union and a 1989 San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl championship ring.