The Indianapolis Colts owner says his memorabilia collection has bought the robe that world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali wore before his 1965 knockout rematch with Sonny Liston.
The Jim Irsay Collection on Saturday bought the walkout robe used by “The Greatest” for $438,000, according to New Jersey-based Goldin Auctions. Experts had predicted the robe could go for as much as $500,000.
“When Ali wore the white terry cloth robe – which boasts “MUHAMMAD ALI” embroidered in bright red – that day it was the first time he appeared in the ring wearing the name that soon would be known around the world,” said a news release issued Sunday night through Colts Communications.
Cassius Clay Jr. at age 22 first beat Liston on Feb. 25, 1964, to become the world heavyweight boxing champion. After gaining the title, he joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name to “Cassius X” and later Muhammad Ali.
He wore the robe May 25, 1965, in Lewiston, Maine, where Ali in the rematch with Liston threw a “phantom punch” and was declared the winner by knockout. “Many boxing fans and news outlets refused to acknowledge his new name,” the release from Colts Communication said.
Ali held the world heavyweight boxing title over three stints: February 1964 to April 1967; October 1974 to February 1978; and September to October 1979.
Two years after he revealed he had Parkinson’s disease, Ali lit the torch for the 1996 Olympics Opening Ceremonies in Atlanta. At age 18, Clay had won a gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome and turned professional later that year.
Sports Illustrated and the BBC in 1999 named him the top athlete of the 20th century.
The Louisville, Kentucky, native died in June 2016 at age 74.
“Muhammad Ali was not only one of the greatest athletes the world has ever known, but he also was a trailblazer for so many across our country and world. Anything used in the ring by ‘The Greatest’ is special. But this robe represents a pivotal moment in his career when he was criticized for standing up for religious freedom and against racism and bigotry. I can’t think of anything more important then or today, and I’m proud to add this piece to my collection.”Jim Irsay, owner and chief executive officer of the Indianapolis Colts