Muhammad Ali's earliest known letters auctioned

Personal memorabilia from the past of Muhammad Ali went up for auction in Dallas, Texas at the weekend (October 2-3).

The starring lots were three handwritten letters sent by the boxer between 1960-61 and signed with Ali's birth name, Cassius Clay.

The sale, at Heritage Auctions, focussed on items signed by Clay prior to changing his name to Muhammad Ali after his conversion to the faith of Islam in 1964.

They date from immediately before, and soon after, his light heavyweight gold medal victory at the 1960 Olympics and offer a rare insight into his private thoughts at the time.

A letter written on August 1, 1960, shows the young Clay as brash, charismatic, confident and charming. It reads, with the spelling mistakes included:

"Hello Mel, I hope this letter finds you and your family well, I am here at Fort Dix getting ready for Rome, I am in the best of shape... still hitting hard.

"Send me Connie address will you, and try to get a picture of here, I stil dig her, so find here and let here know that I am still talking about here, get that picture man, 'please'."

The letter sold for $17,925.

The three Cassius Clay letters date from 1960-61


Another letter, from October 18, 1961, brought $14,340.

It reads: "Say my man, Ain't nothing happening man, all of the little girls won't come, were there are I just don't know, Collage is whats happening man...

"I am going back to florida next week to train for a fight I will have in 7 weeks, this one will not be on T.V....who it is I don't know yet, but I can't be stoped (smiles) ... I have a good write up on my last fight, and I should have a good story in the next ring..."

The third letter, from October 25, 1960, on a scrapbook page with a torn upper left corner, sold for $13,145.

Written to his friend, Tunney Hunsaker, the police chief of Fayetteville, West Virginia, it reads: "Say my man I will have my first fight, professional that is, and it will be Oct 29 find Mclure and tell him about it..."

The sale was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for collectors to own these historic pieces of memorabilia, giving a new personal perspective on Clay's ascension to icon status.

Elsewhere, a contract signed by Clay, just three months before he shocked the boxing world by knocking out Sonny Liston to win the 1964 Heavyweight Championship, sold for $4,182.50.

A signed boxing glove sold for $1,314.50. Gloves signed "Muhammad Ali aka Cassius Clay," are not uncommon. But this one, signed simply "Cassius Clay", was an altogether rarer find for its buyer.

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