Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts, is the new owner of one of the most historic artifacts in boxing history. Irsay took to Twitter to share his excitement about purchasing the sought-after prize.
“BREAKING—-Muhammad Ali’s championship belt from 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” when he employed his rope-a-dope and defeated George Foreman—-just added to @IrsayCollection,” his tweet read. “Just in time for the Aug. 2 show at Chicago’s Navy Pier (and Sept. 9 at Indy). Proud to be the steward!”
According to Heritage Auctions, the belt's winning bid is the highest price ever paid for a sports collectible.
“After several hours of watching two bidders go back and forth over this belt, this proved to be a battle worthy of the Rumble itself,” Chris Ivy, Heritage’s Director of Sports Auctions, said in a press release.
“We’re just thrilled this extraordinary piece of boxing history—of sports history, of cultural history—found such an exceptional caretaker who will now share it with the rest of the world.”
In one of the greatest fights of all time, Ali won the WBC heavyweight championship belt by beating Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), using his rope-a-dope defensive technique for the first time.
After Ali was stripped of his boxing license by the World Boxing Association title in 1967 for refusing to fight in the Vietnam war, the “Rumble in the Jungle” was his return to glory.
In 1988, the belt first entered the public domain when the storage lockers of Drew “Bundini” Brown, a longtime cornerman for Ali, were sold at auction.
The belt is only one of two WBC belts belonging to Ali following the fight; the other is kept in a private collection.
Irsay is an avid collector of items from Ali’s career. He owns the 1965 walkout robe that first bore the name Muhammad Ali and Ali's shoes from the legendary 1975 "Thrilla in Manila" fight against Joe Frazier.
Irsay will have his entire Ali collection on display in Chicago on August 2, 2022 , then it will head to Indianapolis to be displayed onSeptember 9, 2022s.