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    The Greatest narrowly averts disaster in bizarre Tokyo spectacle

    1976 Muhammad Ali Fight Worn & Signed Robe from Antonio Inoki Bout. His is one of the most compelling stories in the history of American sport, following a path that wound its way from international hero to pariah and back again. It could be--and often is--argued that the penthouse of the twentieth century sport pantheon contains a triumvirate: Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan and this man, Muhammad Ali, who stood as a paragon of courage in all its myriad forms.

    They say that discretion is the better part of valor, and while Muhammad Ali owned valor in unlimited supply, he lacked that better part. Though his legacy is one of great principle and achievement, it would be dishonest to suggest that his tale is not also a cautionary one, his sad decline the clearest evidence that the hubris of staying in the ring too long carries a terrible price. It's difficult to watch those last bouts with Holmes and Berbick without feelings of enormous regret.

    But as ill-advised as those late contests had been, Muhammad Ali's decision to face off against Japanese martial artist Antonio Inoki on June 26, 1976 may have been his most foolish of all.

    The iconic pugilist was riding high on the crest of his world-beating talents as he made the journey to Tokyo, having recently completed his seventh successful defense of the Heavyweight belt he removed from George Foreman's waist with his stunning underdog victory at the Rumble in the Jungle. The bout had come as the result of a flippant comment Ali had made in April 1975 when he was introduced to Ichiro Hatta, president of the Japanese Amateur Wrestling Association.

    "Isn't there any Oriental fighter who will challenge me?" Ali teased. "I'll give him one million dollars if he wins."

    And so the first mixed-martial arts contest in history was soon scheduled, and Ali set about promoting the international fight summit with his peerless skill in that arena, believing the bout to be a staged affair, performance art rather than genuine combat. But Inoki had other ideas, a fact that became apparent as the six-foot three inch, 225 pound giant assumed a crab position on the canvas and began directing thunderous kicks at Ali's legs. Ali would throw only six punches in fifteen rounds, and the bizarre spectacle would result in a draw.

    It wasn't until 2009, in a Bob Arum interview with The Guardian, that the near-disaster of the bout came to light.

    "So fine, OK. It was terrible, it was embarrassing. But Ali is bleeding from the legs. He gets an infection in his legs; almost has to have an amputation. Not only the [Ken] Norton fight would've been not happening, but Ali could've been a cripple for the rest of his life."

    Presented is the white satin robe that Ali wore into the most bizarre and dangerous bout of his career, but one that is arguably the most beautiful design to emerge from the wardrobe of The Greatest. The "Everlast" brand garment announces the Champ's surname over the heart and full name on the back, as was standard for Ali robes, but adds the delectable details of a pair of floating butterfly patches on the left sleeve, and stinging bees on the right. A bit of red dye bleed is apparent, the result of years of storage in Bundini Brown's damp California storage locker, but the aesthetic strength of the display is tremendous. Ali has autographed the front in 8/10 black ink.

    The garment derives from that famous storage locker auction in the late 1980's, a fact substantiated in the included letter of examination from top boxing collectibles expert Craig Hamilton. He confirms that the robe is a perfect match to film and photography footage of the bout, and the printed round tag clipped to interior collar hanging loop is likewise identical in format to other noteworthy relics from the Bundini sale. We note that Bundini's cornerman's jacket from this fight likewise appears within this Platinum Night auction. LOA from Craig Hamilton. LOA from Heritage Auctions. Full LOA from SGC Authentic.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2017
    19th-20th Saturday-Sunday
    Internet/Mail Bids: 14
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,935

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