In this series for T, Emily Spivack, the author of “Worn Stories,” interviews creative types about their most prized possessions. Here, the singer Andrea Bocelli talks about the pair of boxing gloves, signed by Muhammad Ali, that he keeps in a glass case in his home in Italy.
About 10 years ago, Muhammad Ali gave me a pair of his autographed boxing gloves when I visited him at his Scottsdale, Ariz., home. We had become friends — he had come to several of my concerts, and I’d spent time at his house with him and his family. On one visit, he said, “Sing for me,” and we were all deeply moved because by then, he wasn’t speaking much as a result of his disease. I sang an Italian a cappella song at his request.
A photograph of friends Andrea Bocelli and Muhammad Ali alongside the autographed boxing gloves Ali gave to Bocelli.
When I was young, I would listen to Ali’s boxing matches on the radio — with my father, or later, with friends and classmates. We would wake up in the middle of the night or early in the morning since we were in Italy and his matches were in a different time zone.
I always had great admiration for Ali — as a man, a great athlete, a champion of civil rights in America and across the world. And I felt his affection for me when I was around him. He was always interested in me — and in my music — until the very end. What tied us together was a great bond of friendship and affection for each other.
The night after Ali gave me the gloves, I was performing in Phoenix. I announced on stage that there was a “very special person” in the audience, and I greeted Ali. He was sitting in the front row and received a standing ovation. I’d brought the gloves with me, and to celebrate my idol and pay tribute to him, I wore those gloves onstage for my last song.
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