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In one of the most controversial heavyweight contests ever staged, 55,000 spectators turned up at Wembley Stadium on a June night to hear Clay announce, with characteristic self-belief, that he would stop Cooper in the fifth round. He then proceeded to nearly lose the fight because he wished to fulfill his own prediction, carrying the bloodied Brit through rounds three and four when a few more combinations would have finished him off. Meantime a small split had opened up the horsehair in Clay’s glove (the flap of the repair visible).

Between rounds his manager Angelo Dundee had instructed the American to close his hand so that the referee wouldn’t notice. At that stage things were going well for them. But then Clay, dancing around his opponent late in the fourth, got hit by Henry’s Hammer. The famous left hook came from a long way back and impacted the champ with such force that he splayed through the ropes. The bell arrived cruelly soon for the Cooper camp, and Clay was helped back to his stool. Dundee decided now was the right time to consult the ref about the torn glove, which he later admitted he had aggravated to stall the start of the fifth. “I don’t know how much time that got us, maybe a minute, but it was enough,” Dundee said after the fight.

The rest is history. A reinvigorated Clay stepped up for the fateful fifth round and snuffed out the briefly ignited hopes for a British World Champion. Immediately after the fight, the gloves were presented to the current vendor, who housed them in a display cabinet of an Old Kent Road pub, the Thomas à Beckett, getting the signed by Alin in 1979. The damaged glove is inscribed in black felt pen ‘To Alex, from Muhammed Ali, Jan-14-79’. Consigned to Christie’s sale of boxing memorabilia in South Kensington on June 22, they were sold to new labour ad man Trevor Beattie for £32,000 (plus 17.5 per cent buyer’s premium and VAT).