INDIANAPOLIS – Jim Irsay delivered another haymaker.
In an expensive early-morning bidding process, the Indianapolis Colts’ owner purchased Muhammad Ali’s WBC Championship belt from the 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle’’ victory over George Foreman in Zaire.
Bidding persisted until roughly 4 o’clock Sunday morning. Irsay prevailed. The cost: $6 million.
Heritage Auctions described Ali’s belt “arguably the most important boxing award ever made available at public auction.’’
Ali had been stripped of his world championship and suspended from boxing in the United States in 1967 for refusing to serve in the military during the Vietnam War, citing religious reasons. He reclaimed the WBC belt in Zaire in 1974 with his “Rumble’’ victory over Foreman.
The WBC belt is the latest Ali-related artifact added to the Jim Irsay Collection. It joins Ali’s 1965 walkout robe that first bore his new name following a change from Cassius Clay, his shoes from the 1975 “Thrilla in Manila’’ versus Joe Frazier and Ali’s fight-worn gloves from a 1966 title defense in Germany.
The WBC first awarded belts in 1976, but retroactively constructed one and presented it to recognize his ’74 championship in Zaire.
The Jim Irsay Collection consists of a wide-range in memorabilia, including instruments and items from the rock and roll world: a drum set of Beatles drummer Ringo Starr (purchased for $2.2 million), the black Stratocaster guitar of Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour ($4 million), an Elton John-owned piano and artifacts from Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain, Eric Clapton, James Brown, Prince, Johnny Cash and others.
Irsay has taken his eclectic collection on tour and the latest stops are Aug. 2 at Chicago’s Navy Pier and Sept. 9 in Indy.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.