Colts owner Irsay pays $6M for Ali belt at auction

11:54 AM ET

  • Stephen HolderESPN

INDIANAPOLIS — Colts owner Jim Irsay made a major late-night acquisition at a hefty price tag.

Irsay’s latest move wasn’t football-related. Instead, it is the newest addition to his growing historic collection: Muhammad Ali’s WBC championship belt won in the fighter’s 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” victory over George Foreman in Zaire.

Irsay acquired the item for $6 million at auction after a bidding process that lasted until nearly 4 a.m. Sunday morning. It is considered one of the most treasured examples of boxing memorabilia in existence. The belt sold in 2016 for $358,500 and then sold in 2017 for $120,000. According to Heritage Auctions, the belt is one of just two known Ali WBC belts; the other is held in a private museum collection and unlikely to be sold, according to the company.

“Proud to be the steward!” Irsay tweeted.

BREAKING–Muhammad Ali’s
championship belt from 1974 ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ when he employed his rope-a-dope and defeated George Foreman–just added to @IrsayCollection Just in time for the Aug. 2 show at Chicago’s Navy Pier (and Sept. 9 at Indy). Proud to be the steward!🙏

— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) July 24, 2022

The belt is just the latest piece of Ali memorabilia to come into Irsay’s possession. He previously purchased the shoes Ali wore in the in 1975’s “Thrilla in Manila,” Ali’s famous victory over Joe Frazier. And earlier this year, Irsay purchased the walkout robe Ali wore in his first fight after changing his name from Cassius Clay — a 1965 rematch with Sonny Liston.

Irsay has compiled a historic collection of hundreds of items. They range from rare rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia such as the famous black Stratocaster guitar of Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour ($4 million) and Beatles drummer Ringo Starr’s drum kit ($2.2 million), to documents written by America’s founding fathers. But the Ali belt represents one of the most expensive items Irsay has ever purchased.

Ali defeated Foreman in the 1974 fight but was given the belt retroactively when belts began being awarded in 1976. Ali defended the WBC title nine times before yielding it in 1978.

Information from ESPN’s Tom VanHaaren was used in this report.