1965 Muhammad Ali "I Am The Greatest! Cassius Clay" Signed Promotional Photo

Sold For: $823

Auction Year: 2010 spring

Lot: 1480

Item Year: 1965

Category: Football/Basketball/Hockey/Boxing/Other Sports

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This 8 x 10-inch black-and-white publicity photo of Muhammad Ali, captioned "I Am The Greatest! Cassius Clay," has been inscribed and dated in blue ballpoint pen, "To Ralph/from Muhammad Ali/World Champ/1965." Both the inscription and signature grade "8/9" overall and contrast beautifully against the light background. This is one of the earliest "Muhammad Ali" signed photos we have ever seen, dating approximately one year after he had joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali. The name change officially occurred on May 6, 1964, just two weeks after Ali defeated the heavily favored Sonny Liston to become the heavyweight champion of the world; however, despite his conversion, most reporters and broadcasters refused to recognize his new name and continued to call him Cassius Clay. It's interesting to note that even in this publicity print, which appears to have been issued following his defeat of Liston in 1964, he's still referred to as Cassius Clay. The fact that Ali even signed this piece, which featured his former "slave name," makes it an extraordinary item, and indicates that the recipient was probably someone close to him, as opposed to just a casual fan. Accompanying the photo is a ticket stub from the second Ali-Liston bout, held on May 25, 1965 in Lewiston, Maine, in which Ali successfully defended his title. While purely speculation, given the fact that the photo and ticket came together, it is possible that the photo was signed by Ali on the night of the fight. At the very least, as Ali has dated the signature with the inscription following his signature "World Champ 1965," it was signed soon after, thereby adding to the significance of the piece. This is an exceptional Muhammad Ali signed photo in all respects and one that stands in stark contrast to the countless commercially produced Ali-signed items circulating in the hobby today, nearly all of which date from after his retirement in 1981. The photo has a few insignificant light creases, two tiny areas of discoloration (in the lower right border area), and surface paper residue on the reverse from having once been mounted in an album (all of no consequence to its impressive Excellent appearance and mentioned strictly for the sake of accuracy). In Very Good to Excellent condition. The accompanying ticket stub (2.5 x 1.5 inches) is in Good condition, with surface paper loss on the front, a pinhole, and a number of moderate creases. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $200. Estimate $400/$800. SOLD FOR $823

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