The typed letter, signed by the boxing legend on “Muhammad Ali in South Africa” stationery, dates from 1993. It was sold in an auction in Devizes. Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said: “It’s fair to say Mohammad Ali was the greatest sportsman of all time and Nelson Mandela was one of the greatest figures of the last century.”
The letter was typed by the personal assistant to the general manager of the Elangeni Hotel in Durban, where former world heavyweight champion Ali was staying at the time.
Henry Aldridge and Son said the letter was sold to a collector in the US.
It was expected to fetch between £6,000 and £8,000. The letter also includes an explanation as to why Muhammad Ali’s name was typed incorrectly by the personal assistant, who has sold the letter.
“It is a truly iconic cross collectable and will appeal to collectors of Ali memorabilia as well as those who collect Nelson Mandela material, items relating to apartheid, political history and collectors of iconic memorabilia,” Mr Aldridge added.
“Muhammad Ali was only in South Africa for a short period in April 1993, arriving shortly after the assassination of Chris Hani on 10 April.
“Hani was the chief of staff of Umkhonto We Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC).
“He was a fierce opponent of the apartheid government and was murdered by a far right extremist outside of his home in Boksburg.
“Against that backdrop Ali arrived in South Africa at a time when the country stood on the edge of a precipice with civil war a possibility.
“He attended Hani’s farewell at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on 19 April 1993 and when he appeared to the crowd, they chanted ‘Ali! Ali!’.”
Mr Aldridge said Mandela kept a photograph of himself with Ali on his desk and his favourite book, in his later years, was an autographed copy of Ali’s biography.