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    The inspiration for "Rocky" nearly records historic upset!

    1975 Muhammad Ali Fight Worn Shoes from Chuck Wepner Bout.

    "The day before the fight, I took my wife out shopping and bought her a powder-blue negligée, because I told her, 'You need to look right when you sleep with the heavyweight champion of the world,'" he said. "The night I lost, my wife is sitting on the edge of the bed in the negligée and she asks, 'So, am I going to Ali's room or what?'"

    Nobody ever said Chuck Wepner didn't have a sense of humor, but plenty claimed he didn't have a prayer against the reigning World Champion, who had recorded an underdog victory of his own just five months earlier in a bout celebrated in boxing history as "The Rumble in the Jungle." Whereas Ali was an artist, to paraphrase veteran boxing writer Larry Merchant, Wepner was just a house painter, best known for an ability to absorb punishment that earned him the nickname "The Bayonne Bleeder." Most predicted that the cunning Ali would simply pick him apart, and, ultimately, that was exactly what happened.

    But as a young aspiring actor named Sylvester Stallone watched the bout on closed-circuit television in Los Angeles, he was struck with a bolt of inspiration. Clearly Wepner was not in Ali's league, but he couldn't help but admire the grit and determination of the blue collar challenger as he chased the butterfly and got stung by the bee. And when a right hook to the ribs sent Ali down in the ninth round, it suddenly appeared, for the briefest of moments, that miracles were possible.

    Ali has been steadfast in his contention that his trip to the canvas, just his third knockdown of his professional career, was the result of Wepner stepping on his foot. The film is inconclusive. But the image of Ali on his back beneath the ring ropes, the soles of his feet pointing skyward, is the most enduring one to emerge from the March 1975 contest. And, in that photograph, the details of the offered pair of shoes are clearly evident.

    They derive from the personal collection of Ali's trainer Wali Muhammad, with his signed letter of provenance. The lightning bolt "Everlast" logos at each ankle are the most distinctive visual cue on the otherwise nondescript white leather high tops. The interior of each bears a factory-stamped size "13" and handwritten black marker "Ali," and scoring of the leather soles to enhance grip are a common Ali trait. Some post-fight handling wear is evident but to little detriment, and original laces remain.

    Though the fight had been surprisingly competitive prior to the Ali knockdown, the tumble to the canvas seemed to inspire the Champion, who battered Wepner mercilessly over the course of the next six rounds. Finally Wepner himself was put on his back late in the fifteenth, and as he tried to beat the count, referee Tony Perez studied the contender's glossy eyes and determined the fight was done. He had come just nineteen seconds from going the distance with the Heavyweight Champion of the World.

    While any fight worn relic from the storied career of Muhammad Ali is a collectible treasure, the derivation of these shoes from "the Rocky fight" provides an extra measure of desirability. Wepner had proven that he "weren't just some bum from the neighborhood," and Ali, yet again, had proven that he was The Greatest. Letter of provenance from Wali Muhammad. LOA from Craig Hamilton.

    More information about Muhammad Ali.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    September, 2016
    10th Saturday
    Internet/Mail Bids: 21
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 4,632

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

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