The decorated green strip of leather was the first WBC title belt custom-made for a boxer, and that boxer was Muhammad Ali, according to Tony Shultz, a Daytonian who shares the belt with everyone he meets.
The 39-year-old who lives in the Dayton View Triangle neighborhood is a former boxer who trained with the likes of Manny Pacquiao and Roy Jones Jr.
Shultz said the belt was given to him at Ali's funeral by Ali's wife, Lonnie.
"This was the first belt created for a champion," Shultz said. "It was created to divide all the weight divisions. This was the heavyweight championship belt and named the "Ali WBC Belt" because it would always have his image on it as the division's greatest champion."
The belt has the signatures of many famous boxers — including Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy "The Hitman" Hearns and Neon Leon Spinks, who defeated Ali in 1978 in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.
Shultz said the belt was Ali’s favorite and he often wore it around the house.
"After he passed away, Lonnie (Ali's wife) decided that she wanted to keep the Ali legacy alive and the best way she could do that was having a belt in circulation," Shultz said. "All the other belts are either in the Ali Center, they're in the museum or his kids have them. This is actually the only Ali belt that's in circulation, outside of the 'Rumble in the Jungle' belt which just sold at a private auction."
Shultz said he was given the belt on the condition that he share it with people and thus share Ali's legacy.
"Lonnie gave it to me, said 'Tony, here's the deal. I want you to have every champion that you know, every champion that you meet, sign it … have their story told. I want (to continue) Ali's legacy of humanity, his spirit of equality, fairness, and most importantly that of conquering any challenges," he said.
At the last sparring session for Dayton Fight Night competitors at the Brown Institute of Martial Arts, Shultz brought the keepsake and let anybody who wanted to have a photo taken with it draped over their shoulder.
Shultz will be sharing the amazing keepsake tonight at Memorial Hall at Dayton Fight Night. Tickets are $20. The doors open at 7 p.m.
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