Every great fighter has that one great rivalry that marked his career: Sugar Ray Robinson had Jake LaMotta, Joe Louis had Max Schmeling, Rocky Graziano had Tony Zale - but Muhammad Ali, befitting his title as “The Greatest," had multiple rivals. His two epic fights against Sonny Liston made his career, the three-fight series against Ken Norton were legendary, and his three bouts with Joe Frazier made “Ali” a household name. But, what could have been Ali’s greatest rival of all, George Foreman, did not progress past a single fight. The two men met the first and only time in 1974, Foreman the defending heavyweight champ, and Ali trying to regain the respect and title lost when he was suspended for his refusal to be drafted. Often called the “greatest sporting event of the 20th century,” Ali KO’d Foreman in the eighth round to claim the title. The showmanship, financial success, and pageantry of the “Rumble in the Jungle” set the standard for modern marquee prize fights, and as a result Ali, Foreman, and the sporting world were eager for a rematch.
This is the contract that attempted to set that fight in motion.
The nine-page document spells out the conditions and expectations of a 15-round bout between defending heavyweight champ Ali and George Foreman. The exact venue and date was yet to be determined, but the month of June, 1975 was given as a placeholder. Items covered in the contract include the television and photography rights, souvenirs, etc. Most importantly, this document secures Ali’s payment of “Seven Million Five Hundred Thousand ($7,500,000.00) Dollars” for the fight, payable no later than 24 hours after the bout. Other interesting parts of the contract include $200,000 allocated to Ali for training, 40 first-class plane tickets to and from the fight venue, 25 first-class hotel rooms plus meals and liquor for six days surrounding the day of the fight, and 50 of the highest priced and 50 second-class tickets to the fight. An acceptation to the clause preventing Ali from engaging in any other fights before the Foreman bout is given for the March 24, 1975, fight against Chuck “The Bayonne Bleeder” Wepner. The last portion of the document deals with life insurance and cancellations. Despite the expectations of the sporting world (not to mention this document), the highly anticipated second Ali-Foreman bout was not to be. Instead, Ali faced Joe Frazier on October 1, 1975, in the famed “Thrilla in Manila”. The reason for the rematch cancellation was never given. Some say Ali was wary of facing Foreman again. Indeed, most experts believe Foreman became an even stronger boxer after his loss to Ali. Whatever the reasons, what could have been the greatest rivalry in boxing history failed to materialize.
The historic document consists of nine 8 ½ x 11 inch type-written pages, the first eight of which has been initialized in blue ballpoint “M. Ali” by The Champ. Page nine has a full, flawless “Muhammad Ali” in blue ballpoint as well as the signature of Robert Alum to seal the deal. The nine pages are secured with a staple in the upper left corner. The pages show light wear with the expected folds in the stapled area from use, and the edges show slight toning from age. Ali’s initials and signature on page 9 remain in flawless condition. This is an extraordinary piece of Heavyweight history, containing not only the signatures of one of the most iconic fighters in history, but also offers a rare look behind the scenes at how a major fight was arranged and it comes with a LOA from JSA.