MUHAMMAD Ali used to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee to thump his opponents, now after the world has said goodbye to the The Greatest, his autograph will go under the hammer at an Oxford auction house.

On June 29, the three-time world heavyweight champion's signature will go up for bidding at Mallams Auctioneers in St Michael's Street.

The Champ's autograph dates to his prime boxing years in 1976 when he signed a Savoy Hotel notepaper for Clare Stein, from Summertown who was employed as the personal assistant to the banqueting manager at the London hotel.

Mallams’ director and specialist, Benjamin Lloyd, has given an estimate of £300 to £500 on the Ali autograph.

He said: "It’s difficult to estimate what the autograph will go for – he was, after all, a towering sportsman and a significant figure in the anti-draft movement during the Vietnam War, and so much more besides.

"This is a rare chance to own a memento of a significant and historic figure.

Louise Dennis, who also works at the auction house added: "I think it will certainly bring a lot of interest from collectors due to the timing being around his death and that fact he was a well known figure head across the world.

"I think this perhaps could be the first piece of memorabilia linked to Ali sold here before."

Mrs Stein, a devoted Christian who works at St Andrew's Church in North Oxford, said despite not knowing Ali's sport she connected with him through his "aim to change the world through love and faith".

She unearthed the historic autograph in her basement on 3 September, 39 years to the day that it was given to her.

She added: "I had the great fortune to meet Muhammad Ali as he walked past my office, which was near the restaurants.

"Even though he was with his entourage, he still made time to chat, and to sign his autograph. He was the perfect gentleman – and beautiful too.

Mrs Stein said his thoughtfulness showed even more next day when his car drew up outside the hotel.

She said: "Despite his busy schedule, he still had time to roll down the window and say hello and he even remembered my name. He was charming.

"I thought I would auction the autograph and donate some of the money to the church.

"He had time for everyone and his message to the world about understanding humanity through faith was something we both agreed with, despite having different religions." Mrs Stein is married to Oxford University academic, professor John Stein, and is also sister-in-law to the TV chef and restaurateur, Rick Stein.

Mallams’ Gentleman’s Library Sale will be held on Wednesday June 29 from 11am.