Months before the 50th anniversary of the classic heavyweight rematch between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston, fans have a chance at owning a piece of boxing history, from one of the most debated title fights of all-time.
According to ESPN, both pairs of gloves from the May 25, 1965, bout in Lewiston, Maine are going up for auction on February 21 in New York… and is expected to fetch more than $1 million.
The classic fight was won by Ali with a first-round knockout from what people called a “phantom punch”… garnering boos from the crowd. One of Ali’s most famous photos is from the fight, which shows him standing over Liston as he lay on the canvas, yelling at him to get up and fight.
Given the controversial ending, the boxers’ gloves were seized by George Russo, the boxing commissioner for Maine… and remained in the Russo family until they were purchased several years ago by a California collector who is now selling them.
“The fight is one of the most, if not the most, controversial happenings in sports history. It’s still not solved today,” said Chris Ivy, director of sports auctions at Heritage Auctions, which is handling the sale. “It’s one of those things people discuss like the 1919 Chicago Black Sox Scandal. One of those controversial moments that is often coveted by memorabilia collectors.”
There have been many theories about what exactly happened: Did Liston, an ex-con known as the Big Bear, throw the fight because he was in debt to the mob? Or did Ali actually deliver a perfectly landed punch?
The rematch was the first bout in which Ali fought as as Muhammad Ali after converting to Islam. He was went by Cassius Clay a year earlier when he won the championship from Liston in Miami. A glove from that first fight sold last year at Heritage Auctions for $836,500.
Ali signed both pairs of gloves when he came to Lewiston in 1995 to celebrate the fight’s 30th anniversary. Liston died in 1970.