Colts owner Irsay purchases 1965 Muhammad Ali pre-fight robe at auction

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A historic boxing robe from Muhammad Ali’s career is the newest addition to Jim Irsay’s collection of cultural artifacts.

Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, placed a winning bid of $365,000 Saturday for the robe Ali wore before his first-round knockout of Sonny Liston on May 25, 1965.

Known by his given name, Cassius Clay, through the first 20 bouts of his professional career, the iconic boxer made his in-ring debut as Muhammad Ali when he faced Liston for the second time. Their 1965 bout in Lewiston, Maine, followed a 1964 fight in which Ali became the world heavyweight champion.

Heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali stands over fallen challenger Sonny Liston after dropping Liston with a short hard right to the jaw on May 25, 1965, in Lewiston, Maine. The bout lasted only one minute into the first round. Ali is the only man ever to win the world heavyweight boxing championship three times. (AP Photo/John Rooney)

Shortly after beating Liston the first time, Ali joined the Nation of Islam and unveiled his new name.

The white terry cloth robe, featuring “Muhammad Ali” embroidered in red, was sold via New Jersey-based Goldin Auctions.

“Muhammad Ali was not only one of the greatest athletes the world has ever known, but he also was a trailblazer for so many across our country and world,” Irsay said in a prepared statement. “Anything used in the ring by ‘The Greatest’ is special. But this robe represents a pivotal moment in his career when he was criticized for standing up for religious freedom and against racism and bigotry. I can’t think of anything more important then or today, and I’m proud to add this piece to my collection.”

The Jim Irsay Collection already included Ali’s shoes from his 1975 “Thrilla in Manila” bout against Joe Frazier.

High-profile guitars, including instruments once owned by Paul McCartney, Jerry Garcia and Bob Dylan, are a component of Irsay’s collection. He also owns items such as Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” scroll and the original 1777 Continental Congress proclamation designating Thanksgiving as a national holiday.

Irsay presently is considering locations for a permanent museum to display his collection. His “world tour” of temporary exhibitions recently made stops in Nashville, Tennessee; Washington, D.C.; and Austin, Texas.

According to the Jim Irsay Collection website, exhibitions are planned in Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Paris, Rome and London.

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7 thoughts on “Colts owner Irsay purchases 1965 Muhammad Ali pre-fight robe at auction

  1. Glad we had a 1-cent sales tax forced on us to go towards paying for an already-rich man’s pro sports team instead of going towards public goods and services for the whole of the population. We can rest easy at night knowing that he can buy Muhammad Ali’s robe.

    1. It’s too bad the Indianapolis Star didn’t reprint Mike Royko’s column about Irsay…