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Mistake at Smithsonian’s Muhammad Ali exhibit comes to light after boxer’s death

Muhammad Ali's boxing gloves displayed at the Smithsonian's American History Museum. (WTOP/Allison Keyes)

WASHINGTON — Millions of people have seen Muhammad Ali’s famous “rumble in the jungle” boxing gloves at the National Museum of American History, but it turns out those gloves were not used in the fight.

A current curator at the museum tells WTOP that the robe Ali donated was part of the fight, but the gloves that have been displayed on and off for 40 years, were not.  So why did the label say they were used in the fight?

The Smithsonian says the mistake goes all the way back to the donation in 1976. The original deed of gift states that the robe was used in training sessions both in Pennsylvania and Zaire, and that the gloves were used in the Ali-George Foreman fight in Zaire.

Pictures of the fight, however, clearly show the gloves used at the fight are not the same ones at the museum. The gloves in the fight were black, while the ones on display are red and white.

The Smithsonian says it is rare that their labels are wrong, but it can and does happen, and they are committed to maintaining historical accuracy in all presentations.

In addition, the museum says it has a practice of sending its major exhibition scripts to outside readers and for external scholarly review, as well as conducting internal reviews.

The Smithsonian says it has recently further strengthened its review process with the addition of a new editor to the staff — a former journalist and copy editor, who is also an experienced fact-checker.

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