Liston has competed in the ring for less than six rounds since 1961, and less than two rounds since 1962. He was also certain that he could easily defeat Clay, therefore he did not put forth any effort to prepare for the battle. Cassius Clay, on the other hand, was in great form and had been quite active. He had just fought five straight wins before meeting Liston, and was looking to continue his streak.
Cassius Clay fought George Listion on February 25th, 1964, at Las Vegas's Olympic Stadium. The match was scheduled as a non-title bout, which means that neither boxer was particularly interested in winning or losing. They were paid a fixed amount for each round they lasted (up to 12), with the winner being determined by a majority vote of the judges. If no winner could be decided, the fight would go on until one fighter showed mercy towards the other.
Clay started out strong in this fight, using his jab to keep Liston off balance while delivering several hard right hands of his own. In the second round, however, Liston caught Clay with a left hook that sent him down face first. As Cassius got back up, he was met with another punch that forced him to cover up. Referee Roy Martin saw how badly injured Clay was and stopped the fight.
Liston had fought three times between March 1961 and the Clay battle, winning all three with first-round knockouts, for a total of barely over six minutes in a 35-month span. The bout was made official at the 1962 championship.
It is widely believed that, had he not been poisoned by his trainer, Angelo Dundee, against whom he held a grudge since their days together with Cassius Clay as members of Louisville's "Mafia" who worked out of a gym, Liston would have won at least one round. As it was, he was stopped in four rounds by an unknown opponent (some say it was Joe Frazier) who took advantage of Liston's lack of defense to land brutal blows throughout the match.
After losing to Clay, who went on to become one of the most famous athletes in history, Liston tried but failed to have his title revoked. He died in April 1970 at the age of 28 after being knocked out by Alex Stewart.
Clay kept busy during this time and defeated several top contenders, including James Brown, who he met while serving in North Vietnam as a U.S. military prisoner of war. After their battle, which lasted only 30 seconds, Clay was able to escape from his captors and return home. The win set him up for another shot at Liston's title.
When Sonny Liston declined to return to the ring after the seventh round, surrendering the heavyweight boxing championship in 1964, the media—which had mostly gambled against him—was forced to cope with Cassius Marcellus Clay's "tongue and magic," as TIME phrased it. He was undefeated, with 26 wins (22 by knockout) over four years.
Clay returned on February 8, 1968, at Madison Square Garden in New York City. He took part in a tournament called "World Championship Boxing" organized by Jim Delligatti, which included opponents named Ali Mohammed and Alfredo Perez. The winner would become champion of the world. Clay defeated both opponents by KO in the first round. He then announced that he was quitting the sport.
After leaving the ring, he changed his name to Muhammad Ali and began a career as a civil rights activist. He helped integrate sports in Alabama and became one of the first black athletes to receive a professional contract. In 1967, he joined the Nation of Islam and adopted the name "Cassius Clay." After leaving the group in 1971, he regained his title as champion boxer and was awarded $3 million (about $12.5 million in today's dollars).
He continued to fight until he was knocked out by George Foreman in Zaire (now known as Congo)
The battle began at 0310 GMT at Miami Beach's Convention Hall, and Liston was largely predicted to retain his championship in the third round. Liston, dubbed the "black destroyer," had pinned Clay to the ropes in round two, but in round three, the champion was forced to escape, his left eye gushing with blood.
Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., the future world boxing champion, was born in Louisville, Kentucky in January 1942. Clay is shown here as a child (left) with his younger brother.
In a third tie, Marshall, according to Sonny, wounded Liston and went 10 rounds before losing the decision. Liston's jab was slipped by rotund Willi Besmanoff, who lasted seven rounds. Jimmy McCarter, who defeated Liston in an AAU championship fight, later defied him in training camp. When their match was made, nobody would have guessed that it would be so one-sided as it was. Not only did McCarter defeat Liston, but he also got away with some pretty serious infractions during the bout. During the round in which he was injured, Liston said he was hit with several blows behind the head - probably punches. He also claimed that McCarter had his foot on the bottom rope at one point. The referee stopped the fight and sent both men to the hospital. McCarter was diagnosed with a fractured skull and brain hemorrhages, while Liston suffered from heatstroke.
After the fight, many people believed that McCarter had won because he was using a footwork strategy that kept Liston off balance. However, under the rules of the time, any blow that caused your opponent to fall down automatically won you the round. Since McCarter had been counting on winning through attrition, this type of fighting style was very suitable for him. However, since nobody knew about this rule until after the fight, it is possible that someone may have taken advantage of it earlier if they had wanted to.
On February 25, 1964, the first fight took place at Miami Beach, Florida. The bout, in which Clay was a 7-1 underdog, ended in a big upset when Liston surrendered at the start of the seventh round (after being clearly dominated in the sixth)... The conflict.
|Title(s) on the line||WBA/WBC Heavyweight Champion|
|Tale of the tape|