“Don’t count the days. Make the days count.”
This is an original World Boxing Council (WBC) Championship Belt awarded to Muhammad Ali for his legendary 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” victory over the reigning champion George Foreman in Zaire, Africa.
Using his patented “rope-a-dope” strategy, Ali bobbed and weaved while covering up and leaning on the ropes, draining the frustrated Foreman’s energy. By the time Foreman ran out of gas in the eighth round, Ali knocked him out in one of the greatest boxing victories of all time. With his win, Ali was recognized as the undisputed heavyweight champion.
ABOUT THE ASSET
This belt was purchased on February 22, 1989 by Joel Platt, founder of Sports Immortals, Inc., directly from Muhammad Ali’s father, Cassius Clay Sr., when Platt visited Clay’s home in Louisville, Kentucky.
The mint condition belt features a large oval, gold center plate that reads “World Champion W.B.C adidas” with a human figure draped in flags, with continents of the world on either side.
The central plate is flanked by two smaller plate medallions which have a wreath around the perimeter and a green doral design at center.
The length of the belt is about 41 inches. The width at the widest point is 8 inches and at the smallest point 3.5 inches.
Cassius Clay Sr. signed the belt in two different locations, writing, “This was the championship belt won by my son Muhammad Ali.” He wrote a note that said if his son objected to the sale within six months, the buyer would return the belt and be reimbursed.
Five years later, Platt met Ali in Philadelphia where The Champ signed a note stating it was an honor to have his Championship Belt in the Sports Immortals Collection. The note has been independently authenticated by James Spence Authentication.
Platt kept the canceled check from the purchase, which will be included with the belt.
The belt comes with a detailed six-page Letter of Authenticity (LOA) from boxing memorabilia expert Craig Hamilton confirming its authenticity and lineage from WBC to Ali to Platt, based on the father and son’s notes and video of Ali wearing a belt exactly like Platt’s after his victory over Richard Dunn on May 24th, 1976.
Hamilton notes, “[The] belt has been tried on by people with waist sizes consistent with that of Ali in 1976. The result was that the belt would fit a person of Ali’s waist size.”
Hamilton states in his LOA that, “[It] is my conclusion that the belt in question is an original World Boxing Council Championship awarded to Muhammad Ali following his victory over George Foreman on October 30, 1974.”
Hamilton has further concluded that there were two authentic WBC belts awarded to Muhammad Ali in 1976 for his 1974 victory over George Foreman. The other belt comes from one of Ali’s cornermen, Bundini Brown.
On Brown’s belt, most of the central plate’s enamel detailing of swirling national flags has chipped away during decades of storage. The belt has transacted twice, once by Heritage for $358,500 and once by Leland’s for $120,000. Sports Immortals’ belt commands a premium due to its ironclad provenance.
Unique Ali memorabilia, particularly that from his bouts, is at the top tier of collectibles. In 2014, Heritage auctioned off the gloves Ali wore to beat Sonny Liston in 1964 to claim his first heavyweight champion for $836,500.
That same year, Ali’s fight worn gloves from his 1971 bout with Joe Frazier fetched $388,375.
In 2020, the-fight worn shoes from the final Ali/Frazier bout—a.k.a., “The Thrilla in Manila”—changed hands for $150,000.
Written By Alan Goldsher
Alan Goldsher is Collectable’s Head of Content, as well as the author of 16 books.
THE G.O.A.T. IN AND OUT OF THE RING
Nothing frightened Muhammad Ali. Not. One. Damn. Thing.
Getting into the ring with the pre-George Foreman Grill George Foreman, the George Foreman who was the farthest thing from cuddly you could imagine, the George Foreman who was so badass that he liked to bring killer dogs to his press conferences? Zero sweat.
So there’s no reason he’d be scared to pick up a hitchhiker, right?
In terms of interfacing with strangers, the 1960s and 1970s were more genteel than the 2000s. Nonetheless, that didn’t mean it was necessarily a wise idea to offer rides to random people standing on the side of the road with their thumbs cocked in the air and dirty duffel bags at their feet. Count the so-called Santa Rosa Hitchhiker Murders of the early ’70s—murders that some believe were committed by serial killer Ted Bundy—among the anti-hitchhiker cautionary tales.
But when Ali saw a stranger in need of a ride, he didn’t see potential danger. He saw, well, a stranger in need of a ride. And he was happy to give them one. That’s the way The Champ rolled.
Chicago, Illinois, 1971. It’s a piping-hot spring day—the Windy City has always been known for temperature glitches; freezing autumns, toasty Christmases, and the like—and a young man named Louis Diamond decided that rather than take un-air-conditioned public transportation from suburban Evanston to downtown Chicago, he’d hitch and hopefully get picked up by a vehicle with some A.C.
It being Sunday, the roads were relatively empty, so a ride was slow in coming. Then, from over the horizon, Diamond feast his eyes upon one beast of a machine.
“I was sweating,” Diamond said, “and I’m looking at the heat waves rising from the street and the cars coming at me, and this big, big RV started heading toward me… And I remember thinking, Gee, that’d be really cool if that thing stops for me. And then it slows down, then slows down some more, then it stops.”
The door opened, and Diamond peeked in. He was greeted by several nattily-clad gentlemen, one of whom said, “Hi. Would you like to meet The Champ?”
Diamond, a casual boxing fan, was well aware that “The Champ” meant Muhammad Ali. Who says no to that?
Diamond stepped into the RV and there, splayed out on a bed, is the prettiest, the handsomest, the bee-sting-floatingest boxer in history.
As the vehicle rumbled forward, Ali got on his metaphorical pulpit. “He starts telling me about his philosophy of life,” Diamond said. “I don’t remember a lot of the details, just that he stressed the necessity for peace and people working together, and how important this is, us being brothers and sisters and being together in society and life.”
In the midst of the conversation, the RV pulled over, the door opened, and in came walked hitchhiker. “I was still talking to Ali when she got on,” Diamond said, “and they only took her about five or six blocks. By the time they dropped her off, I was still chatting with him. [The hitcher] may not have noticed that [Ali] was even there.”
Not too long thereafter, as sportswriter and Ali intimate Greg Simms recalled, Ali was road-tripping from Chicago to points east. Before they reached the city limits, they happened across a couple who needed a ride to Cincinnati. Once Ali’s crew hit Cincy and dropped off their guests, Ali—for reasons that weren’t made clear—decided it would be a good idea to hit the bars on the rough side of town.
They weighed anchor in front of one of the drinking establishments but didn’t make it all the way inside. Simms explained, “’Muhammad Ali’ written across the front [of the RV]. Somebody recognized him and in a flash that place emptied. They were out there on the street.” Team Ali escaped unscathed, ready to pick up more hitchers.
The most telling Ali/hitchhiker tale was best told by Rabbi Joe Rapport during a memorial service for The Champ in his hometown of Louisville:
“[Ali’s daughter] Hana is driving her father to a bookstore on one Sunday to pick up some Bibles and Qurans for a project that he’s working on. They pass an elderly man standing by the road with a Bible in one hand and his thumb in the air with another. They offer him a ride.
And he thanks them, saying that he’s on his way home from church, he only needs to go a few miles down the street. Hana asked where he lives. He doesn’t want to trouble them or go out of their way. He has no idea who is sitting in the front seat of this car.
Until Muhammad Ali turns around and says, “It’s no trouble at all. We’re just on our way to a bookstore to buy some Bibles and Qurans.”
Once the man gets over meeting the greatest of all time, he insists that he has three Bibles in his house and he’d be pleased to give them to Ali in appreciation for the ride. Ali thanks him but says he wants to pay for the Bibles. The man says, no, the Bibles were meant as a gift. Ali asked him what he does for a living and it turns out that the man had a stroke and he’s been forced into retirement. Ali then tries to hand him a big pile of money for the Bibles.
But the man refuses and this is where things get interesting. Ali says, “Take the money, man, I’m trying to get into heaven.” And the man replies, “So am I.”
Ali is not taking no for an answer. He says, “If you don’t take the money, I might not get in.” And the man replies, “If I do take your money, I might not get in.”
They arrive at his home and the man invites him in to meet his wife of 30 years. He gives Ali the Bibles. Ali slips the money under a napkin on the kitchen table. They are about to leave and Hana gives the man her phone number and tells him to call her if he ever needs a ride home from church again.
Sitting in the car, Ali turns to his daughter and asks, “Would you really go out of your way and pick him up, drive him all the way home?” And she says yes. And with tears in his eyes, he says, “That’s me in you.”
He says, “You’re on the road to heaven.”
Time is the greatest, and oftentimes rarest commodity for the most public of public figures. The lack of breathing room is especially problematic for athletes whose bodies are their business, and without proper rest, said business could tank. Viewers of the Chicago Bulls docuseries The Last Dance will recall how often Michael Jordan—another G.O.A.T. who is often mentioned in the same breath as Ali—pleaded his handlers for a few minutes to himself.
Muhammad Ali, on the other hand, viewed his time as a commodity for others.
Admittedly, boxers of the era weren’t as hardcore with their training rituals as their present-day brethren. For that matter, Ali’s trainer, Angelo Dundee said the champ was, “[The] worst gym fighter in the world. Ali hasn’t won a round in the gym since I’ve known him.” So training most definitely wasn’t Ali’s jam. But giving his time to children most definitely was.
Hartford, Connecticut, 1979. Connecticut Governor Ella Grasso and Hartford Mayor George Athanson were leading the celebration of Muhammad Ali Day at the Hartford Civic Center. Looking out at the 2,500-strong crowd, a shocked Ali said, “I figured when I retired, they’d forget all about me.”
After receiving his plaque and honorary proclamation, Ali decided it would be a good idea to visit the kids at nearby Newington Children’s Hospital—and many of the 2,500 in attendance decided it would be a good idea to watch him do just that, so they followed The Champ. With some on foot and some behind the wheel, the masses created a spontaneous, joyful parade.
No surprise there. After all, Muhammad Ali was a walking, talking, boxing, freedom-fighting celebration.
Ali’s visit to Newington wasn’t a quick, in-and-out affair. On a day where he was the guest of honor, he honored the child shut-ins—and he didn’t leave the hospital until he had spent time with each and every one of them.
Seven years later, while dealing with the early symptoms of the Parkinson’s Disease, Ali, during a visit to the United Arab Emirates, made a surprise side trip to an elementary school in Abu Dhabi, where he spoke to the students about a subject with which he had much experience: How to be a better person.
It’s often forgotten that there were moments in his life where Ali wasn’t the warm and fuzzy magician we came to know and love. In 1966, when he was making the transition from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali—and from Baptist to Muslim—he received oftentimes ugly pushback from fans, media, and his fellow boxers, some of whom were concerned that Ali would fully embrace the teachings of controversial Nation of Islam leader, Elijah Muhammad.
Many belittled and/or refused to acknowledge Ali’s name change, among them, sports columnist Jimmy Cannon, who wrote, “I pity Clay and abhor what he represents. Cassius should spend more time proving his boxing skill and do less talking.” Red Smith, another columnist, was equally harsh, comparing Ali to a cartoon version of a hippie protestor and calling him, “[An] unwashed punk.”
But it was fellow pugilist Ernie Terrell who most felt the wrath of Ali.
The two were schedule to go at it on February 6, 1967. During a pre-fight interview with Howard Cosell, Ali and Terrell exchanged trash talk that went next-level. After Terrell insisted on referring to him as Cassius Clay, Ali finally snapped:
ALI: Why do you call me Clay? You know my right name is Muhammad Ali.
TERRELL: I met you as Cassius Clay. I’ll leave you as Cassius Clay.
ALI: It takes an Uncle Tom Negro to call me by my slave name. You’re an Uncle Tom.
TERRELL: You have no right to call me an Uncle Tom.
After the exchange, Ali stood up, removed his sports jacket, and tried to hit Terrell. He missed. But on fight night, he connected. Again and again and again.
Ali had dominated the first seven rounds of the fight, but in round eight, he went off on Terrell. Ali biographer Jonathan Eig described the nasty scene.
In the eighth, Ali taunted him, yelling, “What’s my name?” followed by a whistling left-right combination that made the question rhetorical. “What’s my name?” he spat again through his mouthpiece. Terrell closed his eyes as the next combination flew.
When the bell clanged to end the round, Ali did not go to his corner. Instead, he stepped close to Terrell and leaned in. His eyes went wide. The tendons in his neck strained. His arms fell to his sides. He barked it this time so it didn’t sound like a question: “What’s my name!”
Considering his evolution into a humanitarian, one could fairly assume that at some point in his life, Ali cringed at the thought of consciously harming a clearly inferior fighter, strictly for revenge. So who better to speak with children about becoming a better person than The Champ?
During this 1986 visit to the Al Nahda National School, Ali was in full self-help mode. One of the attendees, Wael Mustafa, said, “I recall [Ali] talking about life being full of challenges and the importance of keeping focused and dedicated to our cause, and fulfilling our dreams to become future leaders.”
The lecture also made an indelible impression on Mustafa’s classmate, Shane Fernandes. “Ali was just a name that we heard, but after seeing the guy with his situation—with Parkinson’s—I thought to myself, what this man did and all that he has achieved, and now he is a man who can’t even speak properly, but despite all that he is still telling us to go out there and achieve what we want to. This was a great eye opener and kickstarter for me in my youth.”
Far too many successful professional boxers were frighteningly bad with their money. The great Joe Louis was one of the sport’s most notable, painful case studies
Early in his career, when he was knocking out all comers, Louis raked in the dough, but raked it out just as quickly. To his eternal credit, the majority of his spending was of the charitable variety. Soon after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, for instance, Louis donated over $100,000 of his winnings to the Naval Relief fund and the Army Relief Fund. He also happily helped his family and friends, and even reimbursed the government for the money his stepfather received as welfare.
After the war, the United States tax code underwent a radical facelift, and an unprepared Louis soon found himself facing a $500,000 tax debt. Desperately needing to amp up his bank account, Louis was forced out of retirement, and took on Ezzard Charles and Rocky Marciano, a pair of young, potent fighters. He lost both bouts and was in no shape to fight again, thus was unable to dig out of his financial hole. Louis died in 1981, penniless. (Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Riddick Bowe, and Thomas Hearns were among the other big-name boxers who suffered through numerous financial woes.)
Muhammad Ali, on the other hand, was pretty good with his money. When he passed away in 2016, The Champ was worth a whopping $80 million. But Ali would’ve been worth a lot more had he not given so much of it away. See, Ali had a soft spot for pretty much everybody, and was always willing to donate to what he deemed a worthy cause.
Cuba, 1998. After years of political and humanitarian unrest, the world was attempting to help the country right the ship. In January of that year, Pope John Paul II visited Cuba on a peacekeeping mission, while the United States made it easier for Cuban-Americans to send money to their relatives, a major step in stabilizing the economy. But the messy economy remained nowhere near stable, thus medicine and medical supplies were at a premium.
Enter Muhammad Ali.
Ali not only donated $500,000 worth of supplies to the country, but he hopped on a plane and delivered them himself. Additionally, along with actor Ed Asner, The Champ co-led a group that raised another $1,200,000. Thanks to his work in Cuba, Ali was named an official United Nations Peace Messenger. When presenting the award to Ali, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said:
The number of charities and foundations to which Ali either supported, donated, or created is nothing short of astounding:
- Ali Care Program
- Andrea Bocelli Foundation
- Athletes For Hope
- Buoniconti Fund To Cure Paralysis
- Celebrity Fight Night Foundation
- HELP USA
- Human Rights Action Center
- Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation
- Keep Memory Alive
- Michael J. Fox Foundation
- Muhammad Ali Center
- Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center
- Parkinson Society Maritime Region
- Project A.L.S.
- Save the Children
- Special Olympics
- The HollyRod Foundation
- The Miami Project
- Watering Seeds Organization
It’s been estimated that Ali donated over $50 million to these causes. Well known to be a soft touch when it came to handing out coin, the unreported amount of money he gave to family and friends undoubtedly numbered in the millions.
So go ahead and talk about the Rumble in the Jungle all you want. Wax poetic about the Sonny Liston fight. Feel free to revisit the three Ali/Frazier battles time and again. Each of those fights were Historical Events—capital H, capital E—that transcend sport. They’re cultural touchstones, moments that made indelible marks on those who either witnessed them in real time, or read about them in one of the countless Ali biographies, or watched them on You Tube. You don’t have to be a boxing fan to understand the significance of these fights.
You can also go ahead and dig into Ali’s poems—“Float like a butterfly / Sting like a bee / The hands can’t hit / What the eyes can’t see” will never get old—or watch those combative and hilarious interviews with Howard Cosell, or listen to his album I Am the Greatest (yes, as Cassius Clay, he cut an album). These are moments, thoughts, and words that could come from literally no other athlete, either before or since.
The artistry in the ring and the charisma on the ground is fine and good, but what made Ali transcend—what made Ali Ali—was the whole package. The athleticism, the wit, the ability to right his wrongs, the desire to help others, the compulsion to make people laugh, the need to share his heart with the world. This unequalled combo platter of talent, humanism, and sheer charisma is why Muhammad Ali was, is, and always will be The Greatest of All Time.