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50 Years Later: Was Muhammad Ali’s Title Victory Over Sonny Liston Fixed?

Was something sinister at play during the fight that created Muhammad Ali?


(Photo: The Ring Magazine/Getty Images | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2014)


In Miami Beach in 1964, Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay) took his first claim to being “The Greatest” with a win over the much-feared Sonny Liston, who quit in his corner before the eighth round, citing a shoulder injury. It was just the beginning of the boxer’s long reign on top.

But yesterday, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest moments in sports history, the Washington Times released documents that reveal that the FBI was suspicious about a crime conglomerate that may have tampered with the results of the fight. Even though the files were expedited to the desk of J. Edgar Hoover himself, the results were never made public. Not that there were many results to publicize; their suspicions were never entirely confirmed.

To be clear, Ali was never suspected of having anything to do with the alleged shenanigans. Liston and his people were the involved parties, and the shoulder injury that claimed his title belt is the suspected culprit. New Yorker head honcho and user of very big words, David Remnick, interviewed one of Liston’s cornermen for his book on Ali, and came upon this tidbit.

“[The shoulder] was all BS. We had a return bout clause with Clay, but if you say your guy just quit, who is gonna get a return bout? We cooked up that shoulder thing on the spot.”

Not exactly an admission of guilt, but - at the very least – evidence of some fishiness in the Liston corner. With the doubt that has already been cast over the result of their rematch a year later, the new allegations don’t bode well for Liston’s legacy.

As for Ali and his legacy, whether this fight was fixed or not, we believe that he said it best.
 


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