NEW YORK – The gloves worn by Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston during their infamous 1965 rematch and a rare century-old signed photo of Shoeless Joe Jackson fetched over $1.1 million total at an auction Saturday.
Both pairs of gloves from the May 25, 1965, bout in Lewiston, Maine – won by Ali with a first-round knockout from what some saw as a “phantom punch” – were seized by George Russo, the boxing commissioner for Maine. The gloves remained in the Russo family until a California collector purchased them several years ago before putting them up for auction.
Dallas-based Heritage Auctions, which handled the sale in New York City, said the gloves were purchased for $956,000 by a buyer who wished to remain anonymous.
The photo of Jackson, who is mostly remembered for being banned from baseball for his role in the 1919 World Series scandal and later being depicted in the movie “Field of Dreams,” brought in $179,000. It sold to an anonymous collector.
Jackson was illiterate and rarely signed anything but paychecks and legal documents, making his autograph among the rarest in sports.
Footage of the Ali-Liston fight does not make it clear whether Ali’s quick right hand actually connected, and many fans booed. Even the most famous photos of the fight show an enraged Ali standing over Liston as he lay on the canvas; Ali is gesturing and yelling at Liston to get up and fight.
The Lewiston rematch was the first bout in which Ali stepped into the ring as Muhammad Ali after converting to Islam. He was still Cassius Clay a year earlier when he won the championship from Liston in Miami. His glove from that bout sold last year at Heritage Auctions for $836,500.
Ali signed both pairs of gloves when he came to Lewiston in 1995 to celebrate the fight’s 30th anniversary. Liston died in 1970.
How many of Jackson’s signatures are in existence today isn’t clear, but most experts agree the number is probably less than 100.
Autograph experts from two different authentication companies closely examined the signature on the photo of Jackson and determined it was the real thing, said Heritage Auctions said.
A baseball bearing Jackson’s shaky signature brought $78,000 in 2011. Even a scrap of paper with his autograph sold for $23,100 nearly 25 years ago.
The photo of Jackson that sold Saturday was unknown in the sports memorabilia world until last year.