The Vault

May 31, 2009

EXCERPT | June 7,1965

Ascent of aKing

In Ali-Liston II,the Greatest shocked the world again

While fewer than2,500 fans were in a small auditorium in Lewiston, Maine, to see MuhammadAli—referred to below by his former name, Cassius Clay—fight Sonny Liston in arematch of Ali's 1964 upset, the bout was much anticipated. Writer Jim Murraychronicled what would turn out to be among the most memorable (andcontroversial: Did Liston take a dive?) fights of all time.

Sonny Liston hitthe floor like a guy slipping on a cake of soap getting out of the bathtub.This is the second time this fight has ended with several thousand peoplelooking at each other and asking: "What happened?"

I'll tell you whathappened. Sonny Liston got the hell beat out of him is what happened. This timeI was looking for it and I saw it: an old man groping his way into a speedyinsolent reckless kid. He was like a guy braving a barrage of rocks. He hasn'thit Cassius Clay yet. And he never will.

I counted threetimes when Cassius staggered Liston. The first was when the bell echo hadn'tdied down yet. Cassius is an ad-lib fighter, and he thought up a beaut to getthis dance under way—a right cross. Nobody ever started a heavyweight titlefight with a right before. But Cassius messed up Liston's unpretty featureswith a crazy right that he started to throw when he left his corner. Listonshould have known right then that his ploy was to find a soft place toland.

Two years ago wewere saying this guy was the best heavyweight in history. Now, he's not eventhe best heavyweight in Lewiston. And if you think that isn't a comedown,you've never been to Lewiston.

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PHOTOPhotograph by GEORGE SILK/TIME & LIFE PICTURES/GETTY IMAGES GLANCINGBLOW Liston avoided a direct hit on this right cross from Ali but was unable toduck the punch that dropped him later in Round 1. PHOTOHERB SCHARFMAN (FOREMAN) PHOTOMANNY MILLAN (TYSON) PHOTOJOHN IACONO (KLITSCHKO) PHOTOROBERT BECK (PEAVY) PHOTOJOHN BIEVER (HARRISON) PHOTOBOB ROSATO (GRIFFIN) PHOTOBOB ROSATO (JAMES) PHOTOSIMON BRUTY (DOG) PHOTOBRETT DAVIS/US PRESSWIRE (HAMILTON) PHOTOLOU CAPOZZOLA (CROSBY) PHOTO

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)