The ring awarded to Muhammad Ali when he became boxing’s first three-time heavyweight champion has been returned to Ali’s former wife six years after she loaned it to a friend who was dying of cancer, her lawyer said.
"It’s been a long road," said Veronica Porsche, who was married to Ali for 10 years.
That road ended Monday when a federal judge ruled against the friend’s widow, who claimed it was a gift, not a loan, attorney Darren Enenstein said.
Collector Keya Morgan, who is an Ali family friend, said the gold and diamond ring is the "holy grail" of boxing memorabilia. Ali got it after the September 1978 decision against Leon Spinks that made him a three-time champ, Morgan said.
Porsche, who is a clinical psychologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, loaned it to Dr. William Young in summer 2004 after she learned he was suffering from cancer.
Young had treated her husband, who had died from leukemia earlier that year, she said. "He had always been so supportive of us."
"It was a natural thing," she said, because Young was a fan of her former husband. Porsche thought the ring would give the doctor hope and inspiration in his battle with cancer, she said.
When Young died in November 2004, he still had the ring, she said.
"I didn’t want to ask his widow immediately, so I waited a month or so and then I couldn’t find her," Porsche said. "She had left town."
After six years of trying to find the ring, a private investigator located Phyllis Young in Phoenix, Arizona, and began a legal battle that ended this week, Enenstein said.
When Porsche filed a lawsuit against the widow seeking the ring, Young counter-sued claiming it was given to her husband by Ali as a gift.
"The ring was my husband’s to keep and an assurance of the personal bond between them, my husband and Muhammad Ali," Young said in her suit.
While the doctor had treated the boxer once or twice, they were not close friends, Porsche said.
Muhammad Ali signed a sworn statement to help his former wife’s legal battle for the return of the ring, Enenstein said.
It was handed over to Porsche in a Los Angeles courtroom on Monday after U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson threw out the widow’s counterclaim, he said.
The ring will eventually go to Laila Ali, the 32-year-old daughter of Porsche from her marriage with Ali, she said. The couple’s other daughter, Hana, already has the ring the boxer was given when he became a two-time heavyweight champ.
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