TWO sisters who discovered rare memorabilia of the “Muhammad Ali of his day” in a garage have been left stunned after the collection sold for thousands at auction.

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.

But the retired civil servants began emptying the property after their mother died last year aged 92.

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

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

The Argus: Memorabilia of ‘Muhammad Ali of his day’ sells for thousands at auction Memorabilia of ‘Muhammad Ali of his day’ sells for thousands at auction

The 161-year-old tankard was expected to fetch up to £5,000, while the wider collection, which included memorabilia relating to ex-England cricketer Johnny Douglas, was expected to sell for £8,000.

At Hansons Auctioneers in Derby, the collection sold for £19,650.

Nicky said the auction was “the most thrilling three hours of our lives”.

“We were completely shell shocked for the rest of the day to be honest,” she said. "We just kept looking at each other as the bids came in.

"We thought we'd be lucky to get the top end of the estimates. In the end, they were almost all exceeded.”

The Argus: Nicky Lane and Karen Douglas were shocked at the auction Nicky Lane and Karen Douglas were shocked at the auction

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.”

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.”

Nicky added: “Our dad would never have believed it. We thank our lucky stars that our mum wasn't one for throwing anything away, otherwise the photos could have been long gone and the silver melted down.”

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

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

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