Tuesday, February 25, 1964: Cassius Clay

Jabbing, jabbering Cassius Clay ruled as heavyweight champion of the world today in an unbelievable upset at Miami Beach because of one punch -- and he didn't even throw it. Sonny Liston, the supposedly unconquerable "killer," threw the punch and when it missed the follow-through, twisted a tendon in his massive left shoulder.
     -- The Miami News (link: @)

Tuesday night was the night that was for Cassius Clay. He became heavyweight boxing champion of the world -- just like he said he would. He didn't do it so much with his fists, or his fast talk for which he is noted, but with an "injury" to his opponent, Charles "Sonny" Liston. 
     -- United Press International (link: @)

Cassius Clay, a 7-1 longshot, scored one of the major upsets in boxing history Tuesday night when Sonny Liston gave up the world heavyweight title in his corner because of a strained left shoulder.
     -- Associated Press (link: @)

Incredibly, the loud-mouthed bragging, insulting youngster had been telling the truth all along. Cassius Clay won the world heavyweight title tonight when a bleeding Sonny Liston, his left shoulder injured, was unable to answer the bell for the seventh round.
     -- The New York Times (link to PDF: @)

Like the Lord High Executioner getting ready for another payday, Sonny Liston fixed a fresh victim with his famous full-whammy stare. Cassius Clay didn't pay much attention. Taunting, jabbing and above all, staying out of range of the champ's left hook, Clay simply kept his mind on proving that, as he had so often noted, "I am the greatest!"
     -- Life magazine (March 6; link: @)

There is no terror, Cassius, in your threats.
-- Julius Caesar, Act IV, Scene 3
     But there was. In Miami Beach last week, Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. acted out a scene that was worthy of the Old Bard himself -- or maybe P.T. Barnum. Just as he said he would, he took the heavyweight championship of the world away from Charles ("Sonny") Liston, thereby proving that the mouth is faster than the eye.
     -- Time magazine (March 6; subscription-only link: @)

It was, no matter what you have read or heard, an enormously exciting fight. It matched the classic contenders for a heavyweight championship of the world -- a beautiful, controlled boxer against a man who could hit with deadly power. The fight -- Clay against Liston -- restored balance and intelligence to the concept of boxing. The boxer, using his skills with aplomb and courage and forethought, confounded and defeated the slugger.
     -- Sports Illustrated magazine (March 9; link: @)

The February 25 midnight "Victory Party" planned for Sonny Liston at Miami Beach's luxurious Fontainebleau Hotel was canceled due to the lack of a guest of honor. 
     -- Jet magazine (March 12; link: @)

     -- Photo by Associated Press

January 27
"Fighter Cassius Clay Has Keen Interest in Muslims" (New York Herald Tribune): @

February 28
"Cassius Clay Admits Adoption of Black Muslim Membership" (Associated Press): @
"Cassius Clay Admits He's a Black Muslim" (Associated Press): @
"Clay Admits Joining Black Muslims Sect" (United Press International): @

March 7
Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Black Muslims, Friday night bestowed upon heavyweight champion Cassius Clay the name "Muhammad Ali." (Associated Press): @

* Video of fight: @
* Excerpt from "Bert Sugar on Boxing" (2003): @
* "Ali and Liston: The Boy Who Would Be King and the Ugly Bear" (Bob Mee, 2011): @
* "The Devil and Sonny Liston" (Nick Tosches, 2000): @ 

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