Boxers may not wear very much on their bodies, but they can still have signature visual styles. Mike Tyson famously wore basic black with no socks; Michael Spinks favored hoop-striped socks and "Spinks Jinx" on his trunks; Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins routinely wore a mask into the ring.
But what about the greatest and most famous boxer of them all, Muhammad Ali, who the world has been mourning over the past week? Ali's signature look, which he wore for the majority of his 61 professional fights, was disarmingly simple: white trunks with black trim, usually with an Everlast logo on the waistband.
Ali's signature look (vs. Foreman, '74): White trunks, black trim, white boots. Also: Rare zebra-striped boxing ref! pic.twitter.com/nWkrf8Wh0g— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 7, 2016
This is the look that instinctively comes to mind when most of us think of Ali. But he deviated from that look more than you might think. Here's a compendium of some of the other trunk designs Ali wore during his career:
1. Dark trunks with "LOU KY" trim. The young Cassius Clay was 12 years old and had just taken up boxing when he posed for a photo while wearing trunks that honored his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky:
A very young Cassius Clay wore trunks with "LOU KY" - his hometown, Louisville - in this 1954 shot. pic.twitter.com/TGdxK9tJPb— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 7, 2016
2. White with "USA" trim. Ali, still known as Cassius Clay, wore this patriotic design while winning the light heavyweight gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics and also for several of his first professional bouts in 1960 and '61.
Muhammad Ali (still Cassius Clay at this point) wore "USA" trunks while winning gold medal at 1960 Rome Olympics. pic.twitter.com/dhXGAokVGX— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 7, 2016
Cassius Clay kept wearing Olympics "USA" trunks in early pro fights vs. Tunney Hunsaker, Tony Esperti & LaMar Clark. pic.twitter.com/qy6kLrPSG5— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 7, 2016
3. White with a black waistband, red stripes, and "CC" monogram. Ali wore this design only once, when he won the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston in 1964. The "CC" monogram on the left leg of the trunks referred to his original name, which he changed shortly after this fight.
Against Sonny Liston in 1964, Cassius Clay wore white trucks w/ black waistband, red stripes & "CC" monogram. pic.twitter.com/qvBvCuxOsF— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 7, 2016
4. White with red trim. Ali went with this design several times during his career, in fights against Karl Mildenberger (1966), Ernie Terrell (1967), Zora Folley (1967), and Mac Foster (1972).
Ali wore white trunks w/ red trim for 1960s fights against Karl Mildenberger, Zora Folley, and Ernie Terrell. pic.twitter.com/p7OZeCA7m2— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 7, 2016
5. Red with white trim. Ali wore red trunks three times during his career: against Henry Cooper in 1963 (when he was knocked down and had to rally for a victory), against Oscar Bonavena in 1970 (the second fight in his comeback after being stripped of his title and license -- a 15th-round TKO), and, most famously, in the "Fight of the Century" against Joe Frazier in 1971 (when he was knocked down again and suffered his first professional loss).
Ali wore red trunks against Henry Cooper (1963), Oscar Bonavena (1970), and Joe Frazier (1971). pic.twitter.com/TSOhTckzGu— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 7, 2016
Another note about that first Frazier fight: Ali wore white boots throughout his career, but for that bout he had red tassels -- similar to what graduating students wear on their mortarboards -- added to his footwear:
For first Frazier fight, in 1971, Ali wore red tassels on his shoes. pic.twitter.com/pwf0wkgty3— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 7, 2016
Unfortunately for Ali, this was the fight in which he suffered his most spectacular knockdown, with the tassels just serving to punctuate his fall to the canvas.
Tassels on Muhammad Ali's shoes in first Joe Frazier fight just made the 15th-round knockdown look more spectacular. pic.twitter.com/DTqImiVRKP— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 8, 2016
6. Solid white. Although the colors occasionally changed, Ali's basic template of plain trunks with a contrasting waistband and side stripes remained constant throughout most of his career. One big exception: his 1971 bout against Jimmy Ellis, which found him wearing solid white.
Rare sight: Ali wearing solid-white trunks for 1971 bout against Jimmy Ellis. pic.twitter.com/e5Xetet26G— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 7, 2016
For most of these fights, Ali wore the Everlast logo on his waistband. But he also wore several other logos from time to time, including Ampro, Spartan, Frager, Mitre, and MacGregor. And on one sad occasion -- for his 1972 fight against Bob Foster -- he wore a Williams Furniture ad in that spot:
Sad but true: For 1972 fight against Bob Foster, Ali wore a "Williams Furniture" ad on his waistband. pic.twitter.com/ekoB5KPrMg— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 7, 2016
It's also worth noting that Ali wore a few other designs in non-fight situations. For a 1980 photo shoot in advance of his 1980 comeback fight against Larry Holmes, for example, he wore trunks featuring his familiar format of white with black trim, but with the addition of his own personalized logo:
And for a 1974 appearance on the TV show Candid Camera, Ali wore white trunks with blue trim -- a design he never wore in the ring:
Finally, we can't talk about boxing attire without mentioning robes. And in Ali's case, one robe stands out: For his early-1973 bout against Joe Bugner, none other than Elvis Presley arranged to have a sequined robe made for him, resulting in some priceless photos of The Greatest alongside The King.
Prior to Ali's 1973 bout w/ Joe Bugner in Las Vegas, Elvis Presley had a sequined robe made for him! pic.twitter.com/USRAW3c4bo— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 7, 2016
The robe was supposed to say, "People's Champ" on the back (Ali hadn't yet won back the title, which he would eventually do against Foreman in November of 1974) but instead said, "The People's Choice." Ali assured Presley that the the robe was fine that way.
Good look at Ali wearing the sequined robe that Elvis Presley had made for him for 1973 fight vs. Joe Bugner. pic.twitter.com/H2oZG9IvUo— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 7, 2016
Do you know of other designs Ali wore in or out of the ring? If so, you know what to do.
(Special thanks to Rick Roosa, Mary Bakija, and Steven Robinson for their research assistance.)
Would you like to nominate a uniform or uni element to be showcased in a future Friday Flashback installment? Send your suggestions here.
Paul Lukas tried boxing once in his backyard and quickly determined that he neither floated like a butterfly nor stung like a bee. If you liked this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted or just ask him a question? Contact him here.