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Photo by Theo Tate
Granite City resident Bob Galvan shows his Muhammad Ali robe at his home on June 8.
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Photo by Theo Tate
Galvan has plenty of Muhammad Ali memorabilia at his Granite City home, including this boxing glove that was signed by him and Joe Frazier.
On June 3, the world was mourning on the passing of boxing legend Muhammad Ali.
So was Granite City resident Bob Galvan.
“He was so quick and he was something else,” Galvan said. “There wouldn’t be another one.”
Galvan is a big fan of sports memorabilia. In his bedroom at his home, Galvan has memorabilia of famous sports legends such as Ali, Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Larry Holmes, Evander Holyfield, Stan Musial, Ozzie Smith, Jim Brown and Joe Montana, among others.
“I enjoy putting things together,” Galvan said.
Galvan said a lot of people would come to his home and visit his large display of memorabilia.
“I had parties out here,” he said. “There are people in here taking pictures of people looking at stuff.”
Galvan is also a big boxing fan. He started watching the sport while growing up in the Lincoln Place neighborhood in Granite City.
“I love the boxing game,” Galvan said. “It’s not what it used to be from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Back in them days, there were probably seven or eight good heavyweights in the ‘70s. I don’t think you’ll ever see that again. Those days are gone.”
Galvan said he was thrilled to see Holyfield while having breakfast at the Waffle House in Granite City three years ago. He even kept the receipt.
“We walked in there and nobody in the place knows who he is,” Galvan said. “So we walk in and they’re sitting down and then they get up, shake his hand and said, ‘Hey, champ, how are you doing?’ They started talking to him.”
A 1971 graduate of Granite City High, Galvan was the leading scorer of the Warriors’ boys’ soccer team for three years.
When he wasn’t playing soccer, Galvan watched a lot of boxing matches.
“I love the game,” said the 62-year-old Galvan, who retired as an employee at the Madison County Highway Department last year after 26 years. “If I wasn’t such a good soccer player, I would have taken up boxing.”
Galvan has been collecting sports memorabilia for 30 years. The first item Galvan collected was a robe by another boxing legend, Roberto Duran, in 1986.
“I started collecting memorabilia and the first fighter I met was Roberto Duran,” Galvan said. “He was probably my favorite fighter and I met him in St. Louis. Today, he’s considered one of the top 10 greatest fighters of all time. When I heard that he was going to be in St. Louis, I was working over there and when I found out that he was coming, I said, ‘I’ve got to get a camera.’”
Galvan has plenty of memorabilia of Ali. He has autographed pictures, an autographed glove, a robe, old Sports Illustrated magazines and a statue of Ali fighting Superman.
Galvan got interested in collecting memorabilia of Ali when he starting watching fights between Ali and Frazier. The two fought three times, including the “Thrilla in Manila” on Oct. 1, 1975.
“After they were done fighting each other and retired, I started collecting Ali’s stuff, too,” Galvan said. “I started to understand him more. It was more than just boxing with him. Being able to meet him was unbelievable.”
Galvan got to meet Ali not once, but twice. He first saw Ali in 1995 in St. Louis and again in 2001 in a national sports memorabilia show in Cleveland.
When Galvan saw Ali in St. Louis, Ali was showing effects from Parkinson’s disease, which he was diagnosed with in 1984.
“They had a show and he was there,” Galvan said. “He was getting around OK, but the expression on his face; he didn’t have much of an expression. But if you talk to him, I got in his ear and called him champ and said, ‘Hey, champ, I got a lot of great memories of you.’ To be in his presence was unbelievable.”
At the sports memorabilia show in Cleveland, Galvan not only saw Ali again, but he also got to see Frazier, Duran, Larry Holmes and Ken Norton.
“It was once in a lifetime,” Galvan said. “You see him (Ali) for the first time and chances are you aren’t going to see him again. When I heard that all of these guys were going to be there in Cleveland, I’m going. I flew out there for the thing and I came back the same day.”
Ali died at age 74 on June 3 in Scottsdale, Ariz.
“You knew that he wasn’t in great shape and you knew it (his death) could happen at any time,” Galvan said. “When I went to Chicago and met Jim Brown there and I asked him, ‘Jim, have you seen Muhammad lately?’ He said, ‘He’s hanging on.’ I think he had to go to a thing there in October and November at the Ali Center. He said, ‘He’s not good.’”
Nicknamed “The Greatest,” Ali was known as one of the most celebrated sports figures of all time. He is the only three-time world heavyweight champion and is best known for his catchphrase, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”
“To have somebody like Ali, he was just unbelievable,” Galvan said.
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