On a balmy afternoon in New York City, late summer of 1971, on the lower East side (near Little Italy) I came across a little old man with a shop that sold anything and everything. The store was loaded with sponges 3 for $1, batteries, umbrellas, socks, rugs, refrigerator magnets, potato chips and the list goes on. The place was called “Stuff.” After snooping around the store, on the top of a shelf I found a hidden treasure.
There was a small stack of closed circuit television posters of the Madison Square Garden Heavyweight Championship Fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. The battle had taken place a few months earlier as Ali (undefeated and the challenger) lost his first fight and was knocked down in the 15th round as well. He was my idol and I thought he was invincible. It broke my heart. I wasn’t surprised the poster said “Muhammad Ali A.K.A. Cassius Clay” because he had changed his name fairly recently, when he became a Muslim. I’m sure the promoters wanted to make sure that all the fans knew that although he now called himself by another name, this was in fact also the man they knew as Cassius Clay. Soon that stopped appearing on posters as he became known around the world as Muhammad Ali.
The white, black, yellow and red posters were beautiful with great pictures of both boxers. I grabbed them all and went to the counter and discussed the price. The little old man tried to make the sale based on the fact that these were “good cardboard”, and to my shock, to prove his point he tore one of these fantastic posters in half. I bought them all and as I left the store realized I’d found a boxing treasure.
Year’s later, Ali’s manager set up a meeting for me with my idol Muhammad Ali. He was gracious enough to sign some of the posters. He is a huge man (a heavyweight to be sure). I am very small and if I’m not a flyweight, certainly a paperweight. I asked Ali when he fought at my weight and he said “when I was in the 3rd grade”.
Hanging out and having lunch with Ali has always been the thrill of my life. Now nearly a quarter of a century later I am parting with some of my collection to share this unique item with other fans of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, with fans of boxing and with fans of sports history.
Ali was as loveable and as funny as I had seen and imagined he would be. As I departed he gave me a hug and said he enjoyed our time together! It’s no wonder he’s recognized as the 20th century’s most popular athlete in the world.
A similar meeting was set up later with Joe Frazier who signed some of the posters for me, as well. Joe…well…quite frankly, he didn’t seem to be having as much fun as Muhammad did. He seemed a little tense, maybe not in the best mood. Considering he’s a big man, let’s just say that I was very glad his nice son Marvis was there, too. Definitely three momentous days in my life.
I’ve spent a lifetime collecting these incredible treasures. Now it is time to part with my “VINTAGE EYE CANDY.” I hope you enjoy it, as much as I have. YOU WILL!
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