A touching signed message from former three-time world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali to his long-time friend and ex-South African President Nelson Mandela went under the hammer last week.
Ali’s letter to Mr. Mandela, which displays the bond between two of the most famous people in recent years, sold to an American buyer in the UK for $8,900 (£7,200).
‘The Greatest’ offered his condolences over the death of an anti-apartheid leader known to Mr. Mandela on April 13, 1993.
Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge of Devizes, outlined the significance of the letter, a piece of history that has taken on even more meaning since the death of Ali in 2016.
“It is a truly iconic cross-collectible and will appeal to collectors of Ali memorabilia as well as those who collect Nelson Mandela material, items relating to apartheid, political history and collectors of iconic memorabilia,” Mr. Aldridge said to Gazette and Herald.
“Muhammed Ali was only in South Africa for a short period in April 1993, arriving shortly after the assassination of Chris Hani on April 10.
“Hani was the chief of staff of Umkhonto We Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC). He was a fierce opponent of the apartheid government and was murdered by a far-right extremist outside of his home in Boksburg.
“Against that backdrop, Muhammad Ali arrived in South Africa at a time when the country stood on the edge of a precipice with civil war a possibility.
“He attended Hani’s farewell at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on April 19th 1993, when he appeared to the crowd, they chanted ‘Ali! Ali!’.”
A note from the personal assistant who originally typed the letter was also present with the collection piece.
It outlined a mistake made in the first draft of the letter and read: “Due to my nervous excitement about typing a letter of such historical importance I misspelled the name Muhammad replacing the last “a” with an “e”.
“The letter was taken to Muhammad Ali and duly signed before someone noticed the error and returned it to me. I typed it again but kept the incorrect copy for posterity.”
Mr. Mandela, who himself died in 2013, was a keen boxer as a youngster and a massive fan of the sport throughout the years.