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    Description

    Written just six days before first victory over Sonny Liston to become Heavyweight Champion of the World!

    1964 Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) Handwritten Letter with First Confirmation of Conversion to Islam. It was just a year and a half ago that Heritage Auctions presented a lot entitled, "1966 Muhammad Ali Signed Letter to Draft Board Requesting Religious Exemption," an artifact we characterized as "The most significant Ali document in existence." That lot commanded $334,600 in one of the longest live bidding wars in Platinum Night history. We do not offer a retraction of our pronouncement here, but rather an acknowledgment that the race between that document and the one presented here is arguably too close to call.

    We would suspect that opinions on supremacy would likely be split very close to the middle, half believing that the draft board letter was the opening salvo of the war between Muhammad Ali and the American government that serves as Ali's primary cultural touchstone, and the other half considering the religious conversion itself to be the sparking genesis of the conflagration. Heritage Auctions takes no side in the debate, instead acknowledging the solid validity of either argument.

    This remarkable handwritten page finds the iconic fighter at an extraordinary crossroads both professional and personal. In six days, he would step through the ring ropes at the Miami Beach Convention Center as a seven-to-one underdog, facing a human wrecking machine who had flattened the great Floyd Patterson in back-to-back first-round knockouts. But with his body in peril, so was young Cassius Clay's very soul and identity, with Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X offering rescue in the form of the Muslim religion.

    This 6x9" lined page, torn from a spiral notebook, is the legendary boxer's first public affirmation of his conversion to Islam, a document requested by the editors at Life Magazine who refused to acknowledge the news without personal confirmation from Clay. The text reads, in full, as written with errors uncorrected:

    "Miami, Florida, Feb 18-64.

    I believe in the Religion of Islam which means: I believe there is no God but Allah, and that Muhammad is His apostle, This is the same religion that is beleived in by over 750 Million of our people through out Africa and Asia. And 750 Million is about 4 times as many people as there are in America.

    Sincerely,

    Cassius Clay."

    The document is witnessed by Ali photographer and biographer Howard Bingham and one other. Four handwritten surnames in a different ink at bottom all appear to be in the same hand, and match those of Life Magazine staff writers. Three names are slashed, the fourth circled, matching the surname of the article's by-line. We supply with this lot a copy of the March 6, 1964 edition, containing a two-page article entitled, "Champ 23: A Man-Child Taken in by the Muslims."

    Remarkably, this first public affirmation of his religious conversion is not the event for which the day February 18, 1964 is best remembered in Ali lore. Rather, a visit to Angelo Dundee's 5th Street Gym by four young lads from Liverpool dominated the news, and supplied some of the most beloved photographs of both Ali and of the Beatles that exist. Looking at those charmingly playful images, it's nearly impossible to imagine how The Greatest so effortlessly carried the weight of the world. Full LOA from PSA/DNA. Full LOA from James Spence Authentication. LOA from Craig Hamilton. LOP from David Wolf (assistant editor at LIFE Magazine). LOA from Thomas Hauser (Ali Biographer).


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    September, 2016
    10th Saturday
    Internet/Mail Bids: 14
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 5,106

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