A rare collection of sketches and paintings by the departed former world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, who loved to sketch and paint, have been showcased for auction in New York.

The 24-piece collection, many of them in cartoon style and some of them signed, reflected Ali’s interest in religion and social justice, but there are also some that pictures him in the ring.

“Ref, he did float like a butterfly and sting like a bee!” reads the speech bubble from a boxer knocked out by an opponent with his arms raised in victory.

The sketch, titled “Sting Like a Bee” was the most sought-after of Ali’s more than 20 paintings, drawings, and sketches. Pre-sale estimates ranged from $40,000 to $60,000.

Ali’s painting sold for $945,524, more than three times the low end of the expectations, according to Bonhams auctioneers.

According to Bonhams, “Sting Like A Bee” was purchased by a British collector of Ali memorabilia. The identities of the other purchasers were not revealed.

Earlier, Bonhams said Ali’s passion for drawing was little known, but he liked to sketch as a way of unwinding after a fight or training.

The works for sale came from the collection of Rodney Hilton Brown, who worked with Ali on his art.

‘The Starving Children of Mississippi,’ from 1967, showed a figure in shorts saying, “I only wanted to fight to help feed you, poor Black kids.”

There’s one that points to the race riots in L.A. and Newark in ’65 and ’67. One of the paintings was devoted to Islam and then some of them had a lighter tone and relate to boxing.

Other works include “America: The Big Jail” from 1967, and “War in America” which have a predicted worth of $25,000 to $35,000.


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