Qatar Museums will open ‘Muhammad Ali: Tribute to a Legend’, a homage to boxing legend and activist Muhammad Ali, in a unique collection of artefacts spanning the first 18 years of his 21-year professional boxing career, from 1960 until 1978. The temporary exhibition will be on show from 7th July 2016 in the Museum of Islamic Art’s fourth floor eastern gallery.
Ali, ne Cassius Clay, passed away on 3rd June, aged 74. He was a significant global sporting figure, having been the first boxer to win the undisputed world heavyweight boxing title three times. Ali was also a global cultural icon and prominent activist and campaigner throughout the Muslim world, having converted to Islam and changed his name in 1964, immediately after defeating Sonny Liston in his first world heavyweight title fight. In 1966 he refused the draft to the US armed services on grounds of conscientious objection (and as a minister of the Lost Found Nation of Islam), an act which saw him banned from boxing and stripped of his world title from 1966 to 1971, when his conviction was overturned on appeal. Having returned to boxing in 1970, he fought an exhibition bout in Doha in 1971.
‘Muhammad Ali: Tribute to a Legend’ is the first significant exhibition dedicated to Ali since his death. Organized under the patronage of Qatar Museums Chairperson, HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al -Thani, the exhibition brings together 22 artefacts that have been collected and curated under the auspices of the 3-2-1 Olympic and Sports Museum. This museum will open in a permanent home as part of the redeveloped Khalifa International Stadium, featuring some of the exhibits from this show.
The significant artefacts within the exhibition include photography from Ali’s outdoor exhibition bout at the Doha Stadium in 1971; and significantly his momentous ‘draft exemption’ letter, which will be exhibited for the first time- on loan – on the 50th anniversary that a 24-year-old first Ali wrote it. In this letter, addressed to the US Selective Service Directorate on 23rd August 1966, Ali refused his ‘draft call up’ to the US armed forces to fight in Vietnam. Arguably it is a letter which changed history.
Other notable memorabilia on display in ‘Muhammad Ali: Tribute to a Legend’ spans Ali’s journey to the 1960 Rome Olympics (where he won a gold medal); Ali’s two world title winning bouts against Sonny Liston in 1964; the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ fight in Kinshasa, Zaire in 1974, where Ali regained his heavyweight crown from George Foreman; and his final world title winning fight against Leon Spinks in New Orleans in 1978.
Commenting on the exhibition launch, Khalid Yousef Al Ibrahim, Consultant at Qatar Museums, said: “We are pleased to organize this innovative exhibition and to show our important collection ahead of it moving into the 3-2-1 Olympic and Sports museum’s permanent home at Khalifa International Stadium. For many in Qatar and throughout the Arab world, Muhammad Ali truly was ‘the greatest’ – an icon and inspiration as an athlete and a man. This retrospective celebrates that, and his life following his sad passing”.