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It was late 1963, and Cassius Clay was Sonny Liston’s top contender for the title. The first bout between the two was held February, 25, 1964. Clay won that first match-up making his famous, “I’m the greatest” speech afterwards. Liston was eager for a rematch. After the first battle, Cassius Clay converted into Islam becoming Muhammad Ali. Hence the connection of this robe to the birth of his new public identity. This is the first piece of memorabilia in his history bearing the new name recognition, Muhammad Ali.
Ali began training for the much hyped rematch at the Schine Inn in Chicopee, Massachusets. During that time the consigner of this robe became friendly with Ali’s sparring partner, Solomon McTier. McTier an accredited boxer himself was in the Golden Gloves circle in the 1950s. The consigner, a freshman at a local college played golf with McTier and developed a friendship. In gratitude for trips to the links, McTier offered up some tickets to the big fight. However, a final exam blocked the opportunity.
The second fight between Ali and Liston was held in Lewiston, Maine. On May 25th, 1965 Ali continued his brazen outbursts with trainers and officials keeping them apart. The ending of the second fight remains one of the most controversial in boxing history.Midway through the first round, Liston fell to the canvas, in what many have argued was not a legitimate knockdown. The ref Jersey Joe Walcott appeared confused after Ali refused to retreat to a neutral corner. This is where that iconic, “Get up and fight, sucker!” photo was taken by Neil Leifer in Sports Illustrated.
“The blow that ended the match became known as “the phantom punch,” so named because most people at ringside did not see it. Even Ali was unsure as to whether or not the punch connected, as footage from the event shows Ali asking his entourage “Did I hit him?” after the match. Slow motion replays show Ali connecting with a quick, chopping right to Liston’s head (known as the “Anchor Punch” according to Ali) as Liston was moving toward him, and show that Liston was unsteady when he finally got to his feet. (Ali appeared to connect with four additional unanswered punches before Walcott belatedly declared the knockout, ending the contest.) However, whether the blow was a genuine knockout punch remains inconclusive.
The final exam may have blocked the opportunity to see greatness in the ring but twas a blessing in disguise for the young grasshopper. You see after the battle, the bus with Ali and the rest of his comrades (McTier in tow) went back down to Chicopee pack up and get the rest of the gear. The freshman went over to the Inn and congratulated McTier on Ali’s victory. Still in graciousness for the golf trips, McTier introduced him to Ali’s trainer, Angelo Dundee. With Dundee’s whispered blessing, a ROBE, in fact — THIS ROBE emerged from an interior bus hook and was bestowed to the consigner.
The long robe has weathered over the years and has some staining/discoloration on the front. The interior has a faded Everlast tag and includes the belt. Also notice the zipper feature on the sleeves which are a perfect accommodation to boxing gloves. Most importantly, is the Muhammad Ali embroidered in red on the reverse. Remember, this was the first time the legend was known as Muhammad Ali. In any event, in the video footage at the beginning of ‘phantom punch fight’ during the weigh-in 10 hours before the fight, Ali can be seen entering the ring crossing through the ropes wearing this robe. The style also matches the shorter version (also with red font and zipper sleeves) actually worn for the fight itself. It is truly one of the best pieces of boxing memorabilia ever offered. Let’s get ready to rumble!!!
Letter of Provenance, video match, Craig Hamilton