May 25, 1965 – Muhammad Ali – Sonny Liston Fight – Mutual Broadcasting – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
May 25, 1965 – One of the shortest fights in history and one loaded with controversy. Muhammad Ali, transformed from his conversion to Islam from Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston, who had already lost his title of Heavyweight champion to Ali in 1964. This was an attempt to regain his title. But it didn’t turn out that way.
The fight lasted less than one full round, with Ali knocking out Liston at the 1:44 mark. It was a shocking result, not only because Liston was favored in the match, but because hardly anybody saw the punch that took him down. Liston had thrown a jab with his left arm and, leaning forward, took a right hook from Ali right to the skull. He sunk to the canvas, and as he was down, Ali stood over him, taunting and demanding his stunned opponent get back up. The photo captures the champion’s exhortations, with all the fire and passion and dynamic physicality that made him such a phenomenon.
Liston did eventually rise from the mat, but soon after, the referee broke up the two boxers once again — the former champion had been down for more than 10 seconds, ending the fight.
Ever since theories have abounded as to what exactly transpired. Films show that Ali did connect with a chopping counter right hand to the side of Liston’s head — he later dubbed it his “Anchor Punch” — and the challenger then toppled forward before rolling onto his back. But while a punch did land and appeared to precipitate a flash knockdown, the blow hardly seemed powerful enough to incapacitate the durable Liston. Indeed, Sonny later stated to more than one writer that the reason he didn’t get to his feet was because 1. Ali was hovering over him, and 2. he didn’t hear a count. But his swooning after getting to his knees suggests that either he was legitimately dazed and confused, or he decided “To hell with it” and quit.
In case you missed it – here is that fight as it happened on May 25, 1965 as broadcast over Mutual.
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