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Boxing icon Muhammad Ali’s drawings up for auction

A rare collection of artwork by boxing legend Muhammad Ali is set to go up for auction in New York next week.

Boxing icon Muhammad Ali’s drawings up for auction

Ali, who loved to draw between fights, had created sketches and paintings that demonstrated the heavyweight’s fascination with religion and social justice, as well as pictures that showed him in the ring.

The 24-piece collection, some of them bearing his signature, includes works in cartoon style. One of them is a painting that shows a boxer knocked out by an opponent with arms raised in victory, with a speech bubble saying, “Ref, he did float like a butterfly and sting like a bee!”

High price for Ali's art

The canvas, called “Sting Like a Bee”, was created by Ali while shooting the historical mini-series “Freedom Road" in 1978, in which he was the protagonist. Bonhams auctioneers said the painting by the man frequently hailed as the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time is expected to sell between $40,000 and $60,000 when it goes under the hammer on Oct. 5.

The auction house said not many knew about Ali’s fascination for creating art, but he used drawing as a means of de-stressing after a bout or training session.

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“A lot of people are excited because no one knew he was an artist and no one knew about this treasure trove of artwork. So we’re seeing a lot of interest and a lot of excitement,” according to Helen Hall, Bonhans’ director of popular culture.

The artwork for sale are part of the collection of Rodney Hilton Brown, who collaborated with the boxer on his art.

Ali's interest in social justice illustrated by his art

A piece called “The Starving Children of Mississippi” from 1967, depicts a person in shorts saying, “I only wanted to fight to help you poor black kids.

"There's one that references the race riots in L.A. and Newark in '65 and '67," said Hall. "One of the paintings is devoted to Islam. He had just recently converted. And then some of them have a lighter tone and relate to boxing."

Other creations include “War in America”, which is expected to fetch between $25,000 and $35,000, and “America; The Big Jai"l from 1967.

The boxing legend declared his conversion to Islam in 1964 at his athletic peak. He died in 2016 at the age of 74 after battling Parkinson’s disease.