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Auction of signed Muhammed Ali prints that chart the career of boxing’s ‘Greatest’

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Cuttlestones’ Tom Waldron with the print depicting
Muhammed Ali knocking out George Foreman during
the legendary ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ in 1974.
The print is signed by both fighters.

Three signed prints showcasing the career of boxing’s self-proclaimed ‘greatest’, Muhammad Ali, are going under the hammer at Cuttlestones’ Friday 21st June Specialist Collectors’ Sale.


Widely regarded as one of the great sporting icons of the twentieth century, Ali dazzled the world with his boxing skills throughout a tremendous yet controversial career which spanned the 1960s and 1970s. Fighting under his given name of Cassius Clay, Ali was crowned heavyweight champion of the world in 1964; beating Sonny Liston – one of the most intimidating fighters of the age – to the title at the tender age of 22. Later that same year, the fighter converted to Islam and was bestowed his current title of ‘Muhammad Ali’ by Elijah Muhammad, leader of the black separatist movement, the Nation of Islam.


Ali’s links to the movement and one of its most infamous members, Malcolm X, caused a huge stir in 1960s America, which was in the grip of social unrest regarding the black civil rights movement. Although relations between Ali and the white American press began to deteriorate during this time as a result, he confirmed his status as the undisputed king of the ring in 1965 by winning the re-match between himself and Liston with a first round knockout.


The first print up for sale, signed ‘Cassius Clay aka Muhammad Ali’, depicts an iconic image from this fight. Ali stands over Liston following the knockout punch; imploring him to get up and continue. The outcome of the fight, however, remains shrouded in mystery, with Liston widely reported to have ‘taken a dive’ to ease his financial troubles with the New York Mafia.


Ali continued to dominate the heavyweight circuit until 1967, when he was controversially stripped of his title following his refusal to fight in the Vietnam War. His famous quote, “No Vietcong ever called me Nigger”, neatly summed up his opposition to fight in a war for a country which he believed refused to recognise the basic human rights of its black community. Although the War in Vietnam would cause huge protests from all sections of America later in the decade, Ali’s argument was somewhat unique at the time and was widely condemned as treasonous by the American press.


However, by the early 70s American opinion had turned against the Vietnam War and Ali was allowed to return from boxing exile. Whilst he would continue to prophesise his greatness, many believed Ali was past his best and his two losses to Ken Norton and, more famously, his great rival and contemporary Heavyweight Champion Joe Frazier during the ‘Fight of the Century’ in 1971, seemed to confirm this.

 

The second print in the collection is taken from the second of Ali and Frazier’s three epic fights in 1974. Signed by both men, it depicts their trading blows with the typical gusto of a bitter rivalry.


In 1973, another of Ali’s legendary rivals came to prominence. George Forman was crowned the new Heavyweight Champion of the World having beaten Frazier, and set up a fight with Ali the following year. Dubbed ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’ by the fight’s promoter, Don King, because of its location in Zaire, Africa, Foreman was unanimously considered the favourite to win. Indeed, he had destroyed both Frazier and Norton (the only two men to have beaten Ali), knocking out both during their title fights, and many believed he would send the aging Ali into retirement.


Nevertheless, anticipation for the fight reached global fever pitch. Music stars flocked to the African nation to stage a concert celebrating African American culture, and the World’s sporting press crowded into the gym during both fighters’ training sessions. Whilst Ali proved hugely popular amongst the people of Zaire, most boxing experts at the time expected Foreman to win comfortably.


The stage was set on the night of 30th October 1974. Roared on by a chorus of cheers and chants of “Ali bumaye” (“Ali kill him”) from the locals within the crowd, Ali stunned Foreman with a knockout in the eighth round having goaded the Champion into striking out wildly and tiring as a result during the previous rounds. Signed by both men, the final print of the three depicts an image from this famous fight, with Foreman reeling from a devastating right hand blow from Ali. Cuttlestones’ Auction Room Manager, Tom Waldron, says:


Muhammed Ali is one of the greatest sporting icons of the 20th Century – his huge personality and the fact that he risked his career standing up for black civil rights ensured that he possibly remains boxing’s most famous figure and a legend beyond the ring. We’ve guided the prints at £200-400 each, but as they are likely to cause a real stir amongst collectors of boxing memorabilia – as well Ali’s legions of fans – they could well achieve more.”


The prints will go under the hammer on Friday, 21st June 2013 at Cuttlestones’ Wolverhampton Auction Rooms. Viewing will be from 10am – 7pm on Thursday, 20th June and the morning of the sale, with the catalogue available online at www.cuttlestones.co.uk from Friday, 14th June. For those unable to attend on the day of the sale, telephone, commission and live internet bidding options are available. For further information call 01902 421985.

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