Muhammad Ali is dead and gone but his influence still looms large. On Tuesday, pieces of the artwork of the boxing legend were auctioned in New York City and they fetched nearly $1 million. According to The Washington Post, more than 30 of Ali’s drawings were auctioned as part of an auction of sports memorabilia called “TCM Presents … It’s a Knockout!” by a British auction firm Bonhams.
The auction included items that were related to the boxing legend or used to belong to him before he died in 2016 aged 74 after battling Parkinson’s disease.
One of Ali’s most anticipated works, Sting Like a Bee, was sold for $425,000 10 times more than the pre-sale estimate. The art depicted Ali in a boxing ring surrounded by fans cheering after he had knocked out an opponent.
Also, the second most anticipated item, “I Love You America,” which was painted in 1979, sold for $150,312, and the lowest-grossing item, a preparatory sketch of “Sting Like a Bee”, went for $637, The Washington Post reported.
Ali’s surprise art career was in part influenced by his old friend Rodney Hilton Brown, who put up the works for auction. Brown said Ali drew his first three pictures for him after a fight in Boston in 1977, according to the BBC.
“I had taken over a failing art gallery in Soho, and I was looking for a world-class famous figure that could paint some paintings that we could make limited edition prints of and sell,” Brown said, according to CBSNews.
“He never claimed to be a great artist,” Brown recalled. “He knew he was the greatest boxer in the world, but when it came to art, he said to me, ‘I paint pictures with meanings.’”
Ali, who declared himself the “world’s greatest”, died five years ago while undergoing treatment at HonorHealth Scottsdale Osborn Medical Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he was admitted with a respiratory problem, according to Bob Gunnell. The boxer was laid to rest in Louisville, Kentucky, his hometown.
Born in January 1942, Ali began training at the age of 12 and proceeded to win the World Heavyweight Championship at the age of 22. Originally known as Cassius Clay, Ali changed his name in 1964 after joining the Nation of Islam.
Throughout his boxing career, Ali won a total of 56 fights and lost only 5. An interesting thing to note is that of the total 56 wins, 37 of them were knock-outs.
However, in 1967, the legendary boxer found himself on the wrong side of the law after he refused to be conscripted into the U.S. military, which was involved in the Vietnam War. He was then arrested and found guilty of draft evasion.
After the ruling, Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title and did not participate in any boxing competition for close to four years. His conviction was later overturned in 1971 by the Supreme Court of the United States.
Ali vehemently opposed the Vietnam War, which did not go down well with the government of the day. Up to now, Ali is the only three-time lineal world heavyweight champion.