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The Rumble in the Jungle: Collecting the Legacy of Muhammad Ali

Even if you don’t know a thing about boxing, you probably know a few things about Muhammad Ali. With a self-aggrandizing mouth that wouldn’t quit, fists that moved like lightning (and stung like bees), and a body that would eventually succumb to the incredible tumult of being punched by the strongest men in the world, Ali is a living legend.

Ali was the reigning World Heavyweight Champ from 1964 (after defeating Sonny Liston, amid accusations of Liston somehow getting “a substance” into Ali’s eyes) until 1967, when Ali was stripped of his title for refusing to answer the draft to Vietnam. By 1970, Ali had regained the right to fight, but lost two separate matches, one with a broken jaw. But on October 30, 1974, Ali had fought his way back up to the current World Heavyweight Champion, George Foreman. The bout was held in Kinshasa, Zaire for financial reasons, and broadcast on closed circuit television all over the world. This was the fabled Rumble in the Jungle.

Rumble in the Jungle Poster

On a recent episode of Pawn Stars(‘Take the Money and Run’), the pawn shop was brought a poster from this legendary bout, posted at one of the locations where the fight was being broadcast live on TV. This episode revealed some some of the history of these posters: a huge number of these were produced and distributed to the locations which were going to show the fight, and each location placed their own info on the poster however they saw fit. Because of an injury sustained by Foreman prior to the fight during training (a cut above the left eye), the actual fight was pushed back and many of these posters had to be altered. The number of variations and alterations isn’t known, as they’re unique to every venue, but there should be at least one for everyplace the fight aired, as well as a bunch that were never even used.

Ali_Foreman_posters

Because of this, the poster isn’t too incredibly rare. It’s still an awesome artifact, generally worth a few hundred bucks, at least. However, if you happen to come across the original poster created for the actual event, live in Zaire, you’ve got something pretty special.

ali_foreman_zaire

The Zaire poster, printed in French, has an asking price that hovers around $4500, due to the fact that it actually was displayed at the real event. It’s the difference between getting a high-end prop replica and the real thing. This wasn’t, however, the only poster created for the event, though it’s the most common and familiar one. Famed artist Leroy Neiman designed a poster for the event too. Copies of the decidedly more colorful poster generally sell for between $500 and $1000, and images of these appearing online also show evidence of having dates changed.

Leroy Neiman Rumble in the Jungle Poster

An unused ticket to the Rumble in the Jungle bout recently sold for over $300, so most vintage items relating to this fight are still sought after by collectors.

Muhammad Ali MegoAli doesn’t end at just ephemera, though. In 1976, Mego released an action figure of Ali, alongside the likes of The Incredible Hulk and Batman. This was released in various packaging configurations, including a standard bubble card, and a closed cardboard box. Sealed, these can go for around $250, and a very clean open figure can go for $150. This Ali was also released with a boxing ring ($300, sealed), as well as an opponent, simply called “Opponent” (but unofficially, this was probably a figure of boxer Ken Norton).

ILater action figures were also released: in 1997, Starting Lineup released a 12″ figure of Ali in their Timeless Legends line, this time with an embroidered robe and very detailed accessories, and reproduced a smaller Ali ‘statue’ in 1998. NECA has also produced both an 18″ talking figure and a 7″ figure of Ali as he appeared during his fateful fight with Liston.

Ali collectibles go on to include boxing gloves, signed photographs, coins, statues, and, incredibly, the actual robe he wore during the Rumble in the Jungle, which has an asking price around $100k.

Muhammad Ali Rumble in the Jungle Robe, via eBay

Muhammad Ali Rumble in the Jungle Robe, via eBay

The white satin and cloth, calf-length robe is decorated with African patterns and elaborate bead work. The tapestry is a mixture of wool, horsehair, unspun wool and ribbon. The tapestry panels are hand woven and the belt is decorated with great looking bead work off each end.

The robe was made with a black interior panel stating “Christopher Lynch and Mr. Fish for The Greatest, Zaire–September 24th, 1974.” Of course the fight was postponed until a month later due to an injury to Foreman while training.

And if you can’t afford Ali’s actual bout robe, you can always get a George Foreman Lean Mean Grilling Machine. Those things make some pretty alright hamburgers.


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