TWO sisters were stunned after discovering rare memorabilia of the “Muhammad Ali of his day” in a garage.

Nicky Lane, 69, and Karen Douglas, 68, had put off clearing out the garage at their late mother's house due to a fear of spiders.

The retired civil servants began emptying the property in Bath after their mother died earlier this year aged 92.

Inside a set of suitcases, the sisters uncovered a silver tankard from 1860 awarded to bare-knuckle prize fighter Tom Sayers.

According to one of the world’s leading sporting auctioneers Richard Madley, the Brighton-born boxer was “the Muhammad Ali of his day”.

The Argus:

The 161-year-old tankard could fetch £5,000, while the whole collection, which also includes memorabilia relating to ex-England and Essex cricketer Johnny Douglas, is expected to sell for £8,000.

It is set to go under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers in Derby on January 22.

Richard said the silver tankard was given to Mr Sayers from “admirers of English pluck” from Montreal in Canada.

"I had it cleaned, did some research and soon realised it was special,” he said. “Sayers is revered. Born in Brighton in 1826, he was like the Muhammad Ali of his day.

"Though only five feet eight inches tall and never weighing much more than 150 pounds, he frequently fought much bigger men, and won.”

The Argus: Sisters stunned to discover boxing memorabilia of ‘Muhammad Ali of this day’Sisters stunned to discover boxing memorabilia of ‘Muhammad Ali of this day’

Mr Sayers career lasted from 1849 until 1860. In that time, he only lost one of his 16 fights.

"He was recognised as heavyweight champion of England from 1857 until his retirement in 1860,” Richard added.

"He was a national hero, so much so, £3,000 was raised from the public for his retirement. Sadly, he died aged only 39 in 1865 - his life taken by consumption.

“I would expect strong interest in the Sayers tankard from Canada as well as the UK. It was a totally unexpected discovery among the rich cricketing memorabilia relating to Douglas.”

Nicky and Karen are the granddaughters of Johnny Douglas's brother Cecil ‘Pickles’ Douglas.

Johnny Douglas, who captained England before and after the First World War, also won a gold medal at the London Olympic Games in 1908 for boxing.

“The boxing connection helps to explain the Sayers find,” Richard added.

The Argus: Sisters stunned to discover boxing memorabilia of ‘Muhammad Ali of this day’ Sisters stunned to discover boxing memorabilia of ‘Muhammad Ali of this day’

The sisters believe the items had been in the garage since 1985 – the year their father died.

“This isn’t about the money. We want these items, which have been buried at the back of a garage for decades, to be seen and treasured by sports fans,” Nicky said.

"This find is one of the most exciting things that's ever happened to us.”

A 1921 photo of Mr Douglas being presented to King George V, Prince of Wales and The Duke of York at Lord’s is also among the collection.

This is believed to be unique as it shows three British monarchs in one place at one time.

Richard added: “For me, making discoveries like this is a labour of love. Charlie and I sat around the dining table with Nicky and Karen to go through everything.

“This archive is very rare. Collections like this do not come to auction often."