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Acquired from Cassius Clay, Sr. with a copy of his letter of provenance!1960 Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) USA Olympic Team Blazer Worn in Rome. He's the greatest name in the history of the sport, but an intense fear of flying almost ended Cassius Clay's rise to superstardom before it began. Though he'd bravely step through the ring ropes in future years to face the terrifying punching power of Sonny Liston and George Foreman, the National Gold Glove Champion nearly dropped out of the Rome Games when informed that air travel was the only mode of transport available to the American team. But in the end he would board the transatlantic flight after first stopping at an Army surplus store to purchase a parachute he'd wear for the duration of the crossing.
In Rome, Clay would outperform even the loftiest expectations assigned to him, cruising easily to the Gold Medal final in the Light Heavyweight division, where he'd nearly knock out Zbigniew Pietrzykowski of Poland in the finals to claim the top step of the podium. It was the global "coming out party" for a superstar unlike any the athletic world had ever seen.
Biographers consider Ali's time in Rome to be instrumental in his personal evolution, and not only as an elite athlete. In the Olympic village, the teenaged American reveled in the global diversity, engaging athletes from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and South America, trading national insignia pins with every competitor he met. New York Times reporter Arthur Daley wrote of his fervor for the hobby: "the leader for the Olympic championship in this department is a handsome American light-heavyweight boxer from Louisville. He has out-traded everyone in the compound."
Clay would return to America a changed man, carrying with him new perspectives on race and class that would transform him into the most controversial and important figure of post-war sport. He also carried with him this team-issued blazer, worn in the Olympic village as his young eyes were opened to a world much larger than any he had imagined as a youngster in Louisville. It could certainly be argued that Cassius Clay's time in Rome outside the ring was just as important in his transformation to Muhammad Ali as his world-beating victories within it.
Crafted in light cotton plaid earthtones, the jacket bears a "USA Olympic Team 1960" crest patch over the heart, and interior tagging by "McGregor Automatek Sportcoat." No size markings are apparent, but the garment is consistent with a size forty-four (44), correct for Clay's frame. A black sharpie signature on the chest dates to years after the Rome Games, and rates 9/10. Jacket is in fine condition with no flaws of distraction.
Ironclad provenance is supplied in the form of a handwritten letter from Cassius Clay, Sr., an artist who provided a fine portrait of his son in the margins as he attests to the validity of the jacket. While we have been unable to find a photograph of the 1960 Gold Medalist wearing this style, the design appears in many photos of the American team, including one of Clay posing with fellow American boxing Gold Medalists Eddie Crook and Willie McClure as they exited the aircraft that returned them to the States. Letter of provenance from Cassius Clay, Sr. (photocopy). Letter of provenance from collector who purchased two Olympic jackets from Clay, Sr. LOA from Heritage Auctions.
Guide Value or Estimate: $100,000 - up.
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2017 June 29 Premium Sportscard Catalog Auction - Dallas