Sonny has neither Floyd's speed nor the versatility of his attack. Liston, fire away and then run like a thief in the night. He would not close in until the accumulated inside damage and Liston's own frustration had sapped the challenger's strength and will." Patterson's fatal mistake was that he "did not punch enough and frequently tried to clinch with Liston. In these feckless clinches he only managed to tie up one of Liston's arms. A grateful Liston found there was no need to give chase. I watched Sonny. His eyes swept the whole scene. You could feel the deflation, see the look of hurt in his eyes. He had been deliberately snubbed. A celebration for Philadelphia's first heavyweight champ is now in order. Emily Post would probably recommend a ticker-tape parade. The public is not with me. If you want to lose your money, then bet on Sonny! " Liston was supremely confident of easily beating Clay, trained minimally for the fight and went ahead with it despite an injury to his left shoulder.
39;s leading left jabs largely failed to land.
From the opening bell Liston attempted to close with Clay, looking to land a hard punch to the head to end the fight quickly and decisively. Although Clay often carried his gloves down at his waist, seems open to attack, he proved very difficult to hit. With Clay quickly ducking his head left, right or away, Liston's leading left jabs largely failed to land. As Liston pursued his target Clay retreated, using his foot speed to slip away into open space in the ring, largely circling to the left and away from the threat of a Liston left hook. Although the opening round saw Clay was largely on the defensive, it was soon established that Clay could reverse roles and take to the offensive with a remarkably fast series of combinations delivered to Liston's head. A sudden violent combination delivered with 30 seconds left in the round electrified the crowd. The opening round was fought an extra eight seconds, since both fighters and referee Barney Felix apparently did not hear the bell. The second round saw Liston continue to pursue Clay.
At one point, Liston had Clay against the ropes and landed a hard left hook. Clay confessed later he had been hurt by the punch, but Liston was unable to press his advantage home. Two of the three official scorers, or judges, awarded the round to Liston, and the other scored the round even. In the third round, Clay began to take control of the fight. At about 30 seconds into the round he hit Liston with several combinations, causing a bruise under Liston's right eye and a cut under his left, which eventually required eight stitches to close. It was the first time in his career that Liston had been cut. At one point in this attack, Liston was rocked as he was driven to the ropes. A clearly angered Liston rallied at the end of the round when Clay seemed tired, delivering punishing body shots. It was probably Liston's best moment in the entire fight. Sitting on his stool between rounds, however, Liston was breathing heavily as his cornermen worked on his cut. During the fourth round Liston appeared dominant as Clay coasted, keeping his distance. Joe Louis commenting on TV at ringside said "It's looking good for Sonny Liston". However, when Clay returned to his corner, he started complaining that there was something burning in his eyes and he could not see.
39;s corner. Felix later said Clay was seconds from being disqualified.
Angelo Dundee, Clay's trainer, recalled on an NBC special 25 years later. Biographer Wilfrid Sheed wrote in his book, Muhammad Ali: A Portrait in Words and Photographs, that Clay's protests were heard by ringside members of the Nation of Islam who initially suspected Dundee had blinded his fighter, and that the trainer deliberately wiped his own eyes with the corner sponge to demonstrate to Clay's approaching bodyguards that he had not intentionally blinded him. The commotion was not lost on referee Barney Felix, who was walking toward Clay's corner. Felix later said Clay was seconds from being disqualified. It was later theorized that a substance used on Liston's cuts by Joe Pollino, his cut man, may have caused the irritation. Clay later said that in round five he could only see a faint shadow of Liston during most of the round, but by circling and moving frantically he managed to avoid Liston and somehow survive. At one point, Clay was wiping his eyes with his right hand while extending his left arm-"like a drunk leaning on a lamppost" Bert Sugar wrote-to keep Liston at bay. But by the sixth round his sight had cleared, and a clearly enraged Clay fought a blisteringly aggressive round landing numerous combination punches.
Liston failed to answer the bell for the seventh round, and Clay was declared the winner by technical knockout. At that point, the fight was scored as even on the official scorecards. It was the first time since 1919-when Jack Dempsey defeated Jess Willard-that a world heavyweight champion had quit on his stool. Liston said he quit because of a shoulder injury. Dr. Alexander Robbins, chief physician for the Miami Beach Boxing Commission, diagnosed Liston with a torn tendon in his left shoulder. Hall of Fame matchmaker Teddy Brenner also disputed the shoulder injury, claiming he saw Liston use the same arm to throw a chair in his dressing room after the match. There is ample evidence that Liston did carry an injury to his left shoulder into the fight. Sports Illustrated writer Tex Maule wrote that Liston's shoulder injury was legitimate. Those findings were confirmed in a formal investigation immediately after the fight by Florida State Attorney Richard Gerstein, who also noted that there was little doubt that Liston went into the fight with a afternoon or lame shoulder. Despite Liston carrying an injury and being undertrained, Clay stated in 1975 that the first fight with Liston was the toughest of his career.
Liston trained hard for the rematch, which was scheduled to take place November 13, 1964, in Boston. Time magazine said Liston had worked himself into the best shape of his career. However, there were again rumors of alcohol abuse in training. The extent to which Liston's heavy drinking and possible drug use may have contributed to his surprisingly poor performances against Ali is not known. Three days before the fight, Ali needed emergency surgery for a strangulated hernia. The bout would need to be delayed by six months. The new date was set for May 25, 1965. But as it approached, there were fears that the promoters were tied to organized crime and Massachusetts officials, most notably Suffolk County District Attorney Garrett H. Byrne, began to have second thoughts. Byrne sought an injunction blocking the fight in Boston because Inter-Continental Promotions was promoting the fight without a Massachusetts license. Inter-Continental said local veteran Sam Silverman was the promoter.
The ending of the fight remains one of the most controversial in boxing history.
On May 7, backers of the rematch ended the court battle by pulling the fight out of Boston. The promoters needed a new location quickly, whatever the size, to rescue their closed-circuit television commitment around the country. Governor John H. Reed of Maine stepped forward, and within a few hours the promoters had a new site: Lewiston, Maine, a mill town with a population of about 41,000 located 140 miles (230 km) north of Boston. The ending of the fight remains one of the most controversial in boxing history. Midway through the first round, Liston threw a left jab and Ali went over it with a fast right, knocking the former champion down. Liston went down on his back. He rolled over, got to his right knee and then fell on his back again. Many in attendance did not see Ali deliver the punch. The fight quickly descended into chaos. Referee Jersey Joe Walcott, a former world heavyweight champion, had a hard time getting Ali to go to a neutral corner. When Walcott got back to Liston and looked at the knockdown timekeeper, Francis McDonough, to pick up the count, Liston had fallen back on the canvas. Walcott never did pick up the count.
The fight ranks as one of the shortest heavyweight title bouts in history.
He said he could not hear McDonough, who did not have a microphone. Also, McDonough did not bang on the canvas or motion a number count with his fingers. McDonough, however, claimed Walcott was looking at the crowd and never at him. After Liston arose, Walcott wiped off his gloves. He then left the fighters to go over to McDonough. Walcott said after the fight. Walcott then rushed back to the fighters, who had resumed boxing, and the fight-awarding Ali a first-round knockout victory. Strict interpretation of the knockdown/count rule states it is the referee's count and not the timekeeper's that is the official count. Furthermore, that count cannot be started until the fighter scoring the knockdown goes to and remains in a neutral corner. Ali did neither. Walcott never began a count in the ring because of Ali's non-compliance and his physical struggle with getting Ali to go to that neutral corner. The fight ranks as one of the shortest heavyweight title bouts in history. Many in the small crowd had not even settled in their seats when the fight was stopped. The official time of the stoppage was announced as 1:00 into the first round, which was wrong. Numerous fans booed and started yelling, "Fix!" Many did not see the punch land, and some who did questioned that it was powerful enough to knock Liston out.
Still, some found it hard to believe that the punch could have floored a man like Liston.
Skeptics called the knockout blow "the phantom punch." Ali called it "the anchor punch." He said it was taught to him by comedian and film actor Stepin Fetchit, who learned it from Jack Johnson. There were some, however, who believed the fight was legitimate. Still, some found it hard to believe that the punch could have floored a man like Liston. Hall of Fame announcer Don Dunphy said, "Here was a guy who was in prison and the guards used to beat him over the head with clubs and couldn't knock him down." But others contend he just was not the same Liston. Dave Anderson of the New York Times said Liston "looked awful" in his last workout before the fight. Liston dismissed in less than two rounds a full three years later. Former champions Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Floyd Patterson and Gene Tunney, as well as contender George Chuvalo all declared they considered the fight to be a fake. Some felt the knockdown was real but the knockout was fake. Ali biographer Wilfrid Sheed wrote, in his Muhammad Ali: A Portrait in Words and Photographs, that Liston planned to throw the fight for reasons unknown and used the legitimate first-round knockdown for that end.
Ali clearly did not think he knocked Liston out. The fact that Liston did not complain about the clear breach of boxing rules (being declared knocked out without a count) and Ali's obvious state of bewilderment, shouting at Liston "Nobody will believe this" and asking his handlers "Did I hit him?", confirmed most people's belief that Liston had taken a dive. There have been a number of unproven theories as to the background to the purported dive including that Liston was threatened by the Muslims, or agreed to lose in return for a share in the more marketable Ali's future purses. Credence to the latter theory is provided by the fact that Liston, immediately after his fight with Chuck Wepner, seemed more concerned about supporting the proposed Ali-Frazier bout and Ali's claims to be champion than promoting his own career. After the second loss to Ali Liston stayed out of the ring for more than a year. He returned with four consecutive knockout victories in Sweden between July 1966 and April 1967, all four co-promoted by former world heavyweight champion Ingemar Johansson. One of the victories was over Amos Johnson, Liston's former sparring partner, who had recently defeated British champion Henry Cooper.