Re: The Sparring Partners - 'Talk About Cassius Clay vs Sonny Liston II'
Ali vs. Liston 2: What Really Happened?
For some 47 years now, fight fans around the world have debated endlessly whether or not the rematch between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston, fought at St. Dominic’s Hall on May 25th, 1965, in Lewiston, Maine was on the level.
There are people who were there and witnessed the fight first hand and still to this day, claim that it was a fixed fight. On the other hand, there are an equal number of live attendees who claimed that Ali caught Liston on the chin with a solid, short, counter right hand over a lazy left jab, causing Liston to crumple to the canvas. There are some well-known facts about the fight. There are also some facts that the public may not be very familiar with but nonetheless heavily influenced the outcome of the fight.
The controversial outcome of their second fight was directly rooted in the controversial outcome of their first encounter. When Cassius Clay defeated Sonny Liston to win the undisputed world heavyweight title on February 25th, 1964, at the Convention Hall in Miami, Florida, there were many fans and boxing insiders who thought that fight was fixed.
Fans and media were certainly stunned into incredulity by Cassius Clay’s surprise upset victory over Liston in their first fight. More so it was the manner in which Clay won that left veteran writers and boxing insiders stupefied. It is still not perfectly clear to this very day why Liston, an overwhelming 10 to 1 favorite, simply quit on his stool in his corner after the sixth round, dejectedly spitting out his mouthpiece, while giving up his title. World heavyweight champions are supposed to go out on their shields.
Liston surrendered the world heavyweight title, because he had torn a muscle in his left shoulder during the bout and thus could no longer raise his left arm, or so he claimed. At the hospital later on, a doctor confirmed that Liston did indeed have a slight muscle tear in his left shoulder. The other theory that still remains to this day is that Liston quit on his stool to avoid being knocked out cold. This is believable when you consider how out of shape and slow Liston looked during the fight.
It seemed utterly farfetched that a little muscle tear could make a human threshing machine like Liston call it quits in his corner like a spoiled brat. Just a few years earlier, in Philadelphia, it took 25 police officers with billy clubs to subdue a drunken and enraged Liston. It just didn’t seem plausible at the time that a minor shoulder injury could cut short the title reign of perhaps the hardest puncher in heavyweight history.
The truth of why he quit on his stool goes a lot deeper than a torn shoulder muscle. For starters, Liston had not really trained much for Clay because Clay was not really regarded back then as a legitimate title challenger. He was looked on as something of a buffoon.
Liston genuinely believed he was going to KO Clay in a single round. Liston often said during training camp leading up to the fight, “I don’t know why I am training so hard for this punk kid. I am going to kill him in one round.” Liston was promised $1.2 million dollars for his title defense against Cassius Clay.
Although Clay’s team had full confidence in his abilities, they still had an ambulance and a neurosurgeon on standby in case Liston caught him with a big shot and did some serious damage. Once the fight began, it soon became apparent that Clay’s dazzling footwork and scintillating hand speed was just too much for the older (rumored to be in his early 40’s), out of shape Liston. Just before the end of the opening round, Clay caught Liston with a thudding right hand, opening a substantial cut just over the champion’s left eye. In just under three minutes, Clay had destroyed the invincibility myth that surrounded Liston.
Clay staggered the champion numerous times in the opening rounds with blistering combinations. As the fight progressed, Liston became very tired and quite discouraged. Clay was beating the hell out of him in front of the world. Liston’s title was slipping away. So was his self-respect.