The gloves worn by Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston in their rematch sold for $965,000 at an auction this week.
To put the buy in perspective, the pricetag stands at about five times the amount the heavyweight championship bout generated in its gate receipts. Floor seats cost $100. The worst seats for the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather match in May start at ten times that amount and ringside seats cost fifty times that amount for the Las Vegas superfight.
The controversial fight witnessed Liston, again the favorite, collapse to the canvas on what observers dub a “phantom punch.” Few actually observed the historic punch, with the verdict split on whether it actually hit—or at least hit with such force to down Liston. After an Ali injury delayed the rematch, and controversy over his ties to the Nation of Islam resulted in the fight “Banned in Boston,” the quiet ex-con and mouthy Olympian reconvened in the boxing mecca of Lewiston, Maine, at the invitation of the state’s governor. The Central Maine Youth Center filled just half of its 4,900 seats that night 50 years ago this May.
Ali went on to legendary battles with Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, and George Foreman, and, unfortunately, Parkinson’s-like symptoms since his retirement in the early 1980s. Liston, who eventually resumed an active schedule of bouts, died under mysterious circumstances in 1970. Their gloves have enjoyed more prosperous times.
The Texas auction of a jersey, purchased for 58 cents at a Goodwill, for $43,020 overshadowed the million-dollar gloves in press attention if not in dollar amount. Sean McEvoy bought the West Point gear in Asheville, North Carolina, for less than a dollar. He connected the dots to Vince Lombardi when he glimpsed the famous coach’s last name written on the tag and matched his purchase to a picture of Red Blaik’s Army assistant wearing the item.