By Marice Richter
DALLAS (Reuters) – The gloves that boxing great Muhammad Ali wore in his legendary 1971 fight against Joe Frazier in what became known as the Fight of the Century sold at auction on Thursday for almost $400,000.
An anonymous bidder bought the gloves for $388,375 at the auction run by Texas-based Heritage Auctions at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland. Heritage previously auctioned a set of gloves Ali wore to claim his first World Championship in 1964 for $836,500.
The Fight of the Century, in New York’s Madison Square Garden, was the first of three fights between Ali and Frazier during the 1970s.
In 1971, Frazier officially held the title of Heavyweight Champion of the World. Ali had been stripped of the title he had held since the 1964 bout against Sonny Liston because of his refusal to participate in the Vietnam War-era draft.
The March 8 fight against Frazier was Ali’s second after returning to the ring following a 3-1/2 year absence. Ali’s conviction had just been overturned earlier in 1971 by the U.S. Supreme Court and his boxing license was reinstated.
“It was a controversial fight at a controversial time in America and the bout took on distinctly political and cultural overtones,” Chris Ivy, director of sports auctions for Heritage, said in a statement.
Frazier and Ali were each guaranteed $2.5 million, a record purse for the time.
“The fight sold out a month before the event with ringside seats commanding a record $150, with even Frank Sinatra unable to get his hands on one,” Ivy said. Sinatra received a press credential and shot ringside photos for Life Magazine.
Ali lost to Frazier but prevailed in a re-match at Madison Square Garden in 1974 and a third match-up known as “The Thrilla in Manilla” in 1975.
(Ediing by Edith Honan and Sandra Maler)