Signed photo of Muhammad Ali with fan and friend, Russell Routledge
Tynesider Russell Routledge graduated from devoted fan to personal friend of boxing legend Muhammad Ali.
Now the late Mr Routledge’s collection of items relating to Ali will be sold in Newcastle on Tuesday (July 4).
The Newcastle-born collector, who worked for Newcastle City Council, wrote two books on Ali.
Muhammad Ali: Tyneside 1977 told the story of the four-day visit the boxer made to the North East in July 1977.
Ali was the world heavyweight champion when South Tyneside painter and decorator Johnny Walker set out to convince the then highest paid and most famous sportsman of his time to come to Tyneside.
Russell Routledge’s collection of Ali memorabilia is being auctioned
He travelled to America and realised his dream.
Russell, who had been a fan of Ali since he was 13, was also the author of Ali: The Fight America Didn’t Want.
When he was 16, he travelled to London to witness a public appearance by the boxer soon after his iconic Rumble in the Jungle with George Foreman.
He said later: “I was never the same after seeing him in real life. I saw him not just as a great boxer but as a great man, very funny, kind and generous.”
Russell took up amateur boxing at West End Boys’ Club in Newcastle and was at nearby Grainger Park boxing club when the champion turned up and sparred with a local youngster during his visit to the region.
After a year of writing to Ali, the champ telephoned his Newcastle home and invited Mr Routledge to visit him in Los Angeles.
In LA, Russell used his video camera to record the footage of the private Ali, with his children and around his home
Of his time over there, he said: “There are a lot of clips of driving through LA, with his daughters around the house and of me with him. There are clips of him meeting fans; fans coming up to the car – I’m sitting in the back with a video camera – and of him clowning around with them.”
Some of the footage was included in 2014 documentary film, I Am Ali, and Russell attended its UK premiere in London.
The auction collection, which will be sold at Anderson and Garland, includes an autographed photograph of Muhammad Ali, pictured with Russell, and signed ‘To Russell, from Muhammad Ali, my main man,” together with a other photographs, prints, artworks, comics, newspapers and magazines relating to the boxing career and life of Ali.
Also included is a collection of boxing match programmes, including: Tyson vs. Bruno, Heavyweight Championship of the World programme, February 25 1989.
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