By Jason Klein
As Seen in In New York Magazine – 1/17/12
He could no longer float like a butterfly, but his stinger was still just as sharp.
Muhammad Ali was at the Steiner Sports Corporate Offices in New Rochelle, New York to tattoo his coveted signature on a slew of rare collectables. His body had already endured two decades of physical decay at the hands of Parkinson’s Disease, but his creative mind was still focused.
“The Champ” inked his name on photos and red Everlast gloves with devastating consistency, one after the next, like throwing jabs in the ring. Once an outspoken showman, he then sat quietly in the Steiner signing room, head down, hard at work to finish the task at hand.
His autograph instantly transformed each item into a sought-after keepsake, destined to sell for a couple thousand dollars each. However, what Ali did next was priceless.
During a lull in the action, while others in the room conversed on a break, Ali got his legendary hands on an ordinary piece of cardboard. It was part of a brown shipping box some of the photos had come in. He then picked up a sharpie off the table. “The Greatest of All-Time” had something cooking.
Always innovative with his words, at that moment, Ali let his imagination run wild with each pen stroke. He drew a square in the center of his makeshift canvas, and then began to make hundreds of tiny dots. He surrounded his square with these dots, pelting the pen to cardboard like rain drops landing on a windshield.
When he was done, he carefully drew two tiny figures inside of his box. He took a moment to reflect upon his masterpiece before putting pen to cardboard one last time to sign his name at the bottom. Ali peered up and saw looks of amazement from Steiner employees there to conduct the signing.
The greatest fighter in the history of boxing had just personally illustrated one of the greatest collectibles in the history of memorabilia. He had drawn his own interpretation of a championship boxing match – the square was his ring, the dots were his cheering crowd, and the figures in the box were his fighters. It was brilliant.
Not realizing the magnitude of what he had done, “The Champ” left the unique piece of artwork behind after his signing was completed. A one-of-a-kind, it was hologramed with a Steiner Sports seal and sold to a private collector.
Like the artist himself, the sketch was without peer. It was an intimate peek into one of the most unique minds the sports world has ever known, that of a man that turns 70 years-old today.
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