A signed letter from Muhammad Ali to Nelson Mandela offering his condolences on the death of an anti-apartheid leader has sold for $8938.08 to a collector in the U.S.
The typed letter, signed by the boxing legend on “Muhammad Ali in South Africa” stationery, dates from 1993. It was sold at auction in Devizes, England, and had been expected to fetch between $7447.47 and $9930.60.
“It’s fair to say Mohammad Ali was the greatest sportsman of all time and Nelson Mandela was one of the greatest figures of the last century,” Henry Aldridge and Son auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said.
The letter was typed by the personal assistant to the general manager of the Elangeni Hotel in Durban, South Africa, where the former world heavyweight champion was staying at the time. She misspelled the champ’s name as “Muhammed Ali.”
“It is a truly iconic cross collectible and will appeal to collectors of Ali memorabilia as well as those who collect Nelson Mandela material, items relating to apartheid, political history and collectors of iconic memorabilia,” Aldridge said.
Muhammad Ali was in South Africa for only a short period in April 1993, arriving shortly after the assassination of Chris Hani on April 10. Hani was the chief of staff of Umkhonto We Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress. He was a fierce opponent of the apartheid government and was murdered by a far-right extremist outside of his home in Boksburg.
Against that backdrop, Ali arrived in South Africa at a time when the country stood on the edge of a precipice, with civil war a distinct possibility. Ali attended Hani’s memorial service at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on April 19 and when he appeared, the crowd began to chant ‘Ali! Ali!’”
Aldridge said Mandela kept a photograph of himself with Ali on his desk and his favorite book, in his later years, was an autographed copy of Ali’s biography.