AN exhibition showcasing the extraordinary life and career of Muhammad Ali opened at the O2 Arena in London last week [March 4], and it is a real treat for fans.
More than 100 artefacts are on display at the exhibition, which runs until August 31, and Boxing News were lucky enough to attend a preview.
Several robes, boots and gloves worn by the man himself are dotted around each room of the exhibition, while the floor of the main display is adorned with the names of past and current world heavyweight champions (including, inexplicably, Charles Martin).
Lurking in the shadow of a bronze Ali statue sits one of the highlights of the exhibition – the gloves Ali wore for his first fight with Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden in 1971.
Another pair of more infamous gloves are displayed in a separate room – the ‘split glove’ which Ali wore when stopping Henry Cooper in five rounds back in 1963. Down in the fourth, Ali trudged back to his corner where his trainer, Angelo Dundee, allegedly ripped open a minor split in the glove. However it happened, the large tear is impossible to miss and you can even seen the horsehair inside.
Countless posters and photographs, many of them signed, cover every wall and document Ali’s historic career while footage of his fights play on numerous television screens.
The exhibition – which includes an audio guide – provides insight on all the key stages of Ali’s life. Details on his humble beginnings are punctuated by a replica of the bicycle stolen from him when he was a youngster – which prompted him to start boxing – and an actual piece of the door frame from his childhood home in Louisville, Kentucky, which he touched each time he left the house.
Previously unseen footage of some of Ali’s amateur bouts is another gem of the exhibition, and even shows a gangly Cassius Clay (as he was then known) getting dropped in an Olympic qualifier, before eventually going on to win.
Memorabilia from the 1960 Games in Rome is encased in a room which also displays footage from Ali’s gold medal-winning efforts.
All of Ali’s major professional fights are honoured, and his full career record is written onto a circular beam which wraps around the main exhibition room.
Henry Cooper’s signed shorts from his first clash with Ali are framed while the boots Ali wore when he fought Jimmy Young in 1976 are also on display.
His exile from boxing between 1967 and 1970 is also well documented and the passport he was issued in 1972, as well as its replacement, are also a part of the exhibition.
A ticket stub from Ali’s titanic clash with George Foreman in Zaire (which cost 10 dollars!) catches the eye, as does a heavily embroidered robe with the words; ‘People’s Choice’ spread across the back, given to Ali by none other than Elvis Presley. The invoice for said robe also sits in the display – sufficed to say, it was an expensive bit of kit.
The exhibition is tied into the release of co-curator Davis Miller’s new book, Approaching Ali. Miller said: “Nothing like this exhibition has ever been done before. The goal is for each and every visitor to come away feeling that they have spent serious time in the company of – and sharing stories with – this singular and extraordinary man.”
Even for the most devout Ali fan, this exhibition will show you something you’ve never seen before.