Muhammad Ali belt from 'Rumble in the Jungle' sold at auction for $6.18m

Item the fourth most-expensive piece of sports memorabilia ever sold

Muhammad Ali defeated George Foreman in the eighth round of their 'Rumble in the Jungle' heavyweight title fight in 1974. Ali’s belt from the fight was sold at auction for $6.18 million. AP
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Muhammad Ali’s WBC heavyweight belt from his 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” fight was sold at auction on Sunday for $6.18 million, making it fourth-most expensive piece of sports memorabilia ever sold.

The winner of the heated competition for the belt was Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, according to Heritage Auctions in Dallas. The belt was sold for 13 times its $440,000 estimate.

In a tweet on Sunday, Irsay confirmed he acquired the belt for his collection of rock music, American history and pop culture memorabilia that is currently touring the country. The belt will be displayed on August 2 at Chicago’s Navy Pier and on September 9 in Indianapolis.

“Proud to be the steward!” tweeted Irsay, who acquired the belt from Troy Kinunen, an American businessman and avid collector of Ali memorabilia.

“After several hours of watching two bidders go back and forth over this belt, this proved to be a battle worthy of the Rumble itself,” Chris Ivy, Heritage’s director of sports auctions, said in a statement.

Presenting the belt ahead of auction, a Heritage Auctions spokesperson said: "Here we present the foremost symbol of that glorious achievement, the WBC Heavyweight Championship belt earned for Muhammad Ali's victory over George Foreman in the fabled 'Rumble in the Jungle'.

"Ali drained the thunder from the Foreman storm and then unleashed lightning of his own, dropping Goliath for the count and, finally, seven years after his title had been unjustly stripped, completing his long journey back to the mountain top of the sport.

"The historical significance of the piece, arguably the most important boxing award ever made available at public auction, is quite simply immeasurable."

The 1974 fight was one of boxing’s most memorable moments. Deploying his now infamous 'rope-a-dope' tactics, Ali stopped the fearsome George Foreman to recapture the heavyweight title in the African nation of Zaire. Ali won the fight with a knockout in the eighth round.

At $6.18m, the belt is one of the most expensive items of sports memorabilia ever sold. Only the T206 Honus Wagner SGC 3 baseball card ($6.61m), the 1892 Original Olympic Manifesto ($8.81m), and Diego Maradona's "Hand of God" and "Goal of the Century" World Cup Match Worn Shirt ($9.28m) sold for more.

Also in the sale was Ali's red robe worn in his ring walk before his 'fight of the century' with Joe Frazier in 1971. The robe was sold for $348,000. Frazier won the fight via a 15-round unanimous decision.

Top 10 most expensive sports memorabilia ever sold

10) Tiger Woods’ 2000-2001 Tiger Slam Game-used Winning Irons ($5.16m)

9) 2003-04 UD “Exquisite Collection” #78 LeBron James Signed Rookie Patch Parallel BGS 9.0 ($5.20m)

8) 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle PSA 9 ($5.20m)

7) 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth SGC 3 ($5.20m+)

6) Circa 1928-1930 Babe Ruth Game-Worn Jersey ($5.64m)

5) 2009 Playoff National Treasures Stephen Curry 1/1 Logoman ($5.90m)

4) 1974 Muhammad Ali's 'Rumble in the Jungle' WBC heavyweight belt ($6.18m)

3) T206 Honus Wagner SGC 3 ($6.61m)

2) 1892 Original Olympic Manifesto ($8.81m)

1) Diego Maradona "Hand of God" and "Goal of the Century" World Cup Match Worn Shirt ($9.28m)

Updated: July 25, 2022, 6:13 AM
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