The boxing gloves that Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay) wore when he beat Sonny Liston and won his first heavyweight championship in 1964 are on the auction block. The gloves, which are from the estate of Ali’s long-time trainer Angelo Dundee, have a current high bid of over $203,000 via Heritage Auctions, which anticipates a winning bid of at least $500,000.
The company’s Winter Platinum Night Auction in New York closes February 22, just three days before the 50th anniversary of the fight that rocketed Ali to stardom.
The gloves hold Dundee’s handwritten notation at each interior wrist, “Clay Feb. 25 KO Liston.” Each bears the label of manufacturer, “Sammy Frager” at the wrist and according to Heritage “perfectly match all fight footage”. A photo of Ali leaning on the ropes shows the wrist tape matching the pale outline left behind after its removal. The original laces remain intact and the gloves were apparently preserved well enough that the leather is still soft and supple.
“It’s hard to imagine a more important or evocative piece of boxing memorabilia,” said Chris Ivy, Director of Sports Collectibles at Heritage Auctions. “Ali is the greatest of all time, no doubt, and these gloves were part and parcel of his first step to sports immortality.”
iston was as fearsome a champ as boxing had ever known. He had learned to box while in jail for armed robbery and it was widely reported that he broke bones for the underworld figures who held the majority stake in his professional contract.
Clay, who had experienced mixed success in the years that had passed since his debut in the 1960 Olympics, remained a paradigm of self-confidence nonetheless when he was given the shot at the reigning champ. He was a heavy underdog in the fight and an antagonistic performance at the morning’s weigh-ins nearly precipitated an early start to the violence.
The fight was fearsome and controversial, but by the end of the sixth round, with Ali firmly in charge, Liston sat in his corner and spit out his mouth guard, becoming the first Heavyweight Champion since 1919 to quit on his stool.
“I’m the greatest!” Clay bellowed, as he held his arms aloft and flashed the shuffling footwork that would become his trademark. “I shook up the world!”