Today I pick out another boxing item, although this is not a sportscard. These are the shoes that were worn by Muhammad Ali in his historic “Rumble in the Jungle” fight against George Foreman in Zaire in 1974.

It’s gotta be the shoes

Apologies to Marz Blackman – but hey….how could you prove these are actually the shoes that the “Greatest” wore during this fight?

Well it really is that easy.

First off, they have been photo-matched and video-matched by world-renowned boxing expert Craig Hamilton. This is essentially comparing the footage of the fight and markings on the footwear in questions and seeing if all of those stars align. More importantly however, these set of tires have the provenance of originating directly from Drew “Bundini” Brown. Brown was Ali’s longtime assistant trainer and friend. If Drew says they are good, well then ….obviously they are good.

These high toppers are no Chuck Taylors

Written in blue ink along the top interior portion of the right shoe, in what we believe to be the hand of Bundini Brown, is the notation “Ali-George Foreman – Oct 29, 1974.” (The fight took place in Zaire on October 29, 1974, but because of the time difference, it was viewed live in the United States on October 30, 1974.) A similar blue-ink notation, again in what we believe to be the hand of Bundini Brown, appears along the top interior portion of the left shoe and reads “Ali-Foreman – Oct 29, 1974.” Each shoe has been signed by Muhammad Ali in black marker on the outside of the shoe- As expected the shoes displays heavy wear, including numerous scuff marks, which could be from the fight itself, or being thrown around in luggage on the Pan-Am flight back from Africa . It would have been normal for the trainer or manager to get some of the items after the fight because let’s face it, Heavyweight Champion of the World, new fight, all new gear. So the old stuff would be packed away for safe keeping as a memento of a big win.

Goodman’s Epiphany

I guess this item is cool on a different level as I remember watching Ali and Howard Cosell on ABC as a youngster always sharing their friendly banter. I also remember a few of the “prime time” fights for Ali against various opponents in my youth. My would at time when they had Ali on the television repeat the chants of the fight crowd that night which was “Ali Bomaye!” in a very rhythmic fashion.

It is only after reading the REA catalog that I actually now know that that phrase means – Ali Kill Him!

This item started with a $10,000 opening price…pretty hefty actually, and currently has been bid up to $40,000. It is obviously one of the most important and documented items from Ali’s career and one of his most important, historic and popular fights.

Stay tuned for the last installment.

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Johnny Goodman writes a weekly sports column for The Soap Boxers. His articles can be found in The Goodman File.

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