Muhammad Ali (1942-2016) is arguably the most famous heavyweight boxer of all-time, and was known as ‘The Greatest’. A two-time Undisputed champion, he was a vocal civil rights activist and was eventually stripped by the US government for his political views.
Born Cassius Clay, he changed his name in 1964, saying “Cassius Clay is a slave name. I didn’t choose it and I don’t want it. I am Muhammad Ali, a free name – it means beloved of God, and I insist people use it when people speak to me.”
In 1967, a 25-year-old Ali denied a call to military service, citing religious reasons. As punishment, Ali was convicted of draft evasion, stripped of his heavyweight title, suspended from boxing, sentenced to five years in prison, and fined a total of $10,000.
In later life, he battled with Parkinson’s disease, passing away in 2016. Here’s a rundown with three of the best Muhammed Ali cards, with a mix of vintage options that look to be some of the best boxing investments right now.
The Top 3 Muhammed Ali Boxing Cards
Many of the best Ali boxing cards were released while he was still known as Cassius Clay. We’ll start with a 1960 release which is also seen as his rookie card.
1960 Cassius Clay Hemmets Journal RC #23
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The 1960 Hemmets Journal Cassius Clay is the first known trading card image of the boxer and is seen as his RC. Originally, it was printed on thin, glossy paper and had to be physically cut from the page, as he shared the space along with sprinter Wilma Rudolph, Swedish Olympian John Ljunggren, and Danish footballer Harald Nielsen.
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As such, every card will behand cut’. The image focuses on Ali’s time as a U.S. Olympic boxing champion, with a simple profile shot of the fighter in a white vest. It has a deep green background, and Hemmets Journal is a Swedish magazine, so you’ll find a wall of text in their native language on the reverse.
1965 Cassius Clay Swedish Candy
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Next up is an exceptional card released in 1965. Unlike the RC seen above, there’s no number, and no text found on the reverse. However, it is originally from Sweden, while it shares similarities in look and overall feel.
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Ali is pictured in a profile shot, with both gloves visible at the bottom of the card. The background is a bright orange color, while his name is found in simple text at the base. Given the era and the origin, it’s another Ali collectible which is difficult to find in good condition but is still fairly cheap considering his popularity.
1979 Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali Venorlandus Our Heroes World Of Sport #3
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World of Sport 1965-85 was a British show focusing on competition from the era. In 1979, they released a set of sporting caricatures by Tim Holder, which included The Greatest.
“Float like a butterfly sting like a bee – His hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see,” Ali said in the famous quote before the Rumble in the Jungle in 1974, and it’s been taken literally in the image seen here.
Ali is floating in the drawing, with butterfly wings attached to his feet. He has a couple of bees for fists, and a third is flying into his open mouth. It’s a bit of an oddity, but that hasn’t stopped there from being significant interest whenever a decent copy comes onto the market. The World of Sports card is interesting and fairly affordable if you’re looking at gem mint copies, but there are 134 versions that have achieved the top grade from PSA.
Muhammed Ali Boxing Cards: Buyers Guide and Investment Outlook
For a time, it was difficult to find an Ali card produced in America. Most of the fighter’s earliest collectibles were made in Europe and were issued as promotional items, as the boxer was largely ignored by manufacturers in his own country.
The Swedish cards are only a recent discovery, as his ‘rookie card year’ has been a bone of contention with collectors who couldn’t seem to agree on which one is the original. The situation isn’t helped by the massive number of prints that have been released over the years, muddying the waters even further.
PSA and SGC originally refused to slab the 1965 Swedish Candy Cassius Clay card, but now you’ll be able to find copies graded by both companies, as well as by Beckett. They’re somewhat underpriced considering the age and the subject and could be one of the best boxing investments in the here and now.
No other boxer has the mystique of Ali, even if the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather, and Tyson Fury (among others) have taken up the mantle over the last couple of decades. For example, Fury is reminiscent of Ali in many ways, as a heavyweight with an amazing chin that is confusingly light on his feet. However good Fury maybe, he’s not The Greatest, while Ali’s bout with Parkinson’s is a reminder of the toll paid by every fighter in the end.
His early cards will always be a popular item for boxing enthusiasts, although Ali’s reach went beyond that. He was a true icon, and he’s never going to be forgotten. At the very least, we’d keep tabs on prices for gem mint copies, as they do appear to be rising each year.
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