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    Alternatively known as the "Boxing Writers' Association of America Fighter of the Year Award."

    1965 Edward J. Neil Memorial Award Presented to Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali). It's the professional boxing equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, conferred annually to the person "who has done the most for boxing during the preceding year." The award is named for sports reporter turned war correspondent Edward J. Neil, who perished while covering the Spanish Civil War in 1938, the year the Award was first instituted. Past winners have included Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano and Sugar Ray Robinson. And, like the Heisman, the award is so highly prized and cherished that very few examples have ever found their way into the collecting community.

    We find one most welcome exception to that rule here, issued to a fighter whose spectacular 1965 exploits surely made him a landslide victor in sportswriter balloting. The year saw the young Champion knock out a pair of former titleholders and future Hall of Famers--first Sonny Liston in the historic and controversial rematch in Maine, and then Floyd Patterson in a brutal one-sided affair at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

    While the narrative has since been questioned, with many believing the bad blood was merely stage dressing to promote the fight, the combatants in the Ali vs. Patterson contest assumed roles of mutual antipathy in the lead-up to the bout. The reigning Champion called Patterson an "Uncle Tom" and "Rabbit," while the former Champ refused to acknowledge Ali by his new Muslim name.

    Remarkably, the Boxing Writers' Association likewise failed to recognize their honoree's chosen identity in an unexpected show of defiance, the likely reason why this earliest of three Neil Awards bestowed upon Ali was not retained by the young star. The raised text of the plaque reads as follows:

    "The Edward J. Neil Memorial for Outstanding Service to Boxing in 1965, Presented by Boxing Writers' Association of New York to Cassius Clay."

    An included wire photograph of the twenty-three year old legend at the award banquet finds him tuxedo-clad and holding the plaque proudly, but intentionally covering his "slave name," as he called it, telling journalists, "I am Muhammad Ali, a free name. It means "Beloved of God, and I insist people use it when people speak to me."

    An included 1999 notarized letter of provenance reads, in part:

    "This plaque has been in the possession of my family since the early 1970's. It was given to my father, now deceased, by Muhammad Ali's father as a gift of friendship. I have a photograph which shows Muhammad Ali's parents with my father in a social environment." That photo is likewise included.

    The plaque is crafted from heavy bronze and wood, measuring 10.5x15.5" inches in size and weighing just over eight and a half pounds (8.5 lb.). A small "Lambert Bros. Jewelers N.Y." metal label is affixed at lower border of obverse. Light handling and storage wear is evident, but to no distraction. Notarized letter of provenance from Ali family friend. LOA from Craig Hamilton.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    September, 2016
    10th Saturday
    Internet/Mail Bids: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,479

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