Today in History... Muhammad Ali becomes World Champ for the first time

Muhammad Ali is one of the most famous and greatest boxers of all time. Back in 1964, however, he had not even adopted that name, and was known by his birth name of Cassius Clay Jr.

Clay was already brimming with self-confidence by 1964 was when Muhammad Ali became know to the world at large.

February 24 was the date set for his showdown with Sonny Liston - a hulking powerhouse of a man who many thought would flatten Clay with a shot or two.  The latter was not intimidated, responding to questions about Liston's power with now famous quips:

"Your hands can't hit what your eyes can't see." he boasted, and also explained his tactics were to "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee,".

At one point however, it looked as though Clay might not even be allowed to fight. The big night was almost cancelled when Clay was seen fraternising with the Nation of Islam's Malcolm X. The Nation was regarded as a hate group at the time. The association led to his change of name later in the year.

Ali won the World Heavyweight Championship that night, against the bookies odds, and went on to take part in legendary bouts with George Foreman and Joe Frazier.

Letter signed by 'Cassius Clay'
Letter signed by 'Cassius Clay' which sold for $17,925
(Click to enlarge)

Ali's memorabilia also packs a punch of course. Late last year for example, three letters written by The Greatest each sold for five figure sums, including one at $17,925.

Whilst these are no longer available, there are two great signed photos of Ali on the market right now: one a close-up of Ali in the ring, and one of him throwing a jab.

Memorabilia associated with a legend of the sport like Ali can only appreciate in value over the coming decades.



Images: Sports Illustrated (thumbnail) and Heritage Auctions (letter)

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