Bids for Ali's 'Thrilla in Manila' trunks top $3.5 million. GETTY IMAGES

The auction of Muhammad Ali's boxing trunks from his iconic 'Thrilla in Manila' fight against Joe Frazier in 1975 is set to close on 12 April. Sotheby's of New York is handling the sale of the famous white trunks with black stripes, signed by the legendary boxer who won the 14-round fight.

Sotheby's in New York is to auction the shorts worn by the iconic Muhammad Ali during his legendary 'Thrilla in Manila' fight. The famous auction house is tapping into a growing market for sports memorabilia. Auction houses are watching. 

Bids, including the most recent for $3.8 million (€3.5 million), have soared since late March when it was announced that the prized sportswear was up for sale. The Everlast shorts are white with black stripes. They are signed by Ali. Interested parties will have to put a lot of money on the table and can do so until 12 April. 

The sale comes as Sotheby's is auctioning off a number of sports items, including a uniform worn by NBA star Victor Wembanyama. Despite the growing interest in historic sporting items, Sotheby's said on Thursday that the minimum price agreed by the seller of Ali's shorts had not yet been met. 

Sotheby's estimate the shorts could sell for between $4 million and $6 million (€3.6 million - €5.5 million). Ali's legendary 'Thrilla in Manila' fight against Joe Frazier took place in the Philippines in 1975, following the 'Rumble in the Jungle' in the Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire) in 1974. It was the third and final fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier for the World Heavyweight Championship.

The 'Thrilla in Manila' is one of the most legendary fights in the history of boxing. GETTY IMAGES
The 'Thrilla in Manila' is one of the most legendary fights in the history of boxing. GETTY IMAGES

It took place at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City and symbolised the long rivalry between the two fighters for the heavyweight championship. The 14 intense rounds in 40 degree temperatures and terrible humidity produced one of the most exciting fights of all time. If Ali will always be remembered for his quality as a boxer, he will also be remembered for his outbursts outside the ring.

He had fights that will never be forgotten. Manila with Frazer, South Africa with Foreman and Miami with Sonny Liston, which changed everything. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the fight in which Ali emerged victorious and became a symbol.

Frazier was very convinced that he could take away that dominance. Their relationship was so strong and went so far that in 1967, when Ali lost his title for refusing to do his military service, Frazer himself asked Richard Nixon, the President of the United States, to let him box so that he could beat him in the ring. Frazer won in 1971 and Ali, without the title at stake, would beat him in 1974. In "Thrilla in Manila" Frazier's trainer threw in the towel after 14 rounds. "It was like death. The closest I've ever been to death," said Ali.

Along with other sports items, the bidding will remain open until 12 April. GETTY IMAGES
Along with other sports items, the bidding will remain open until 12 April. GETTY IMAGES

Born Cassius Clay in the southeastern state of Kentucky, Ali is as famous for his athleticism as for his role in the fight for civil rights for African-Americans. He died in 2016, but his legacy lives on. He became a symbol against racism in the US. A number of NBA jerseys will also be up for sale. This includes the complete uniform worn by French player Wembanyama in an exhibition game earlier this year. Items from Wembanyama's locker will also be up for bid. 

These include a chair, water bottles and a towel. For those who don't have the cash to buy the jersey, which is expected to sell for between $80,000 and $120,000, the contents of the locker are expected to fetch between $5,000 and $7,000.