Exactly 15 months after Muhammad Ali defeated Sonny Liston for the Heavyweight Championship, he made his first title fight defence against the former champion, who he’d called “the bear.” This was on May 25th 1965. Today, marks the 50th anniversary of this great occasion.
There was plenty of controversy in the period between the two fights. To begin with, upon receiving his belts Ali announced that he was a Muslim and denounced the original name he was once called, which was Cassius Clay. His claim was that it was a name given to him by his former slave masters.
This was not good publicity in the eyes of the authorities in regards to the rematch. They saw problems ahead for hosting the event.
Secondly, there were many who believed that Liston had thrown the first fight, and claiming it could have been mafia controlled, creating the need for a rematch. The first fight was also remembered for Ali screaming and showing emotions of pain to his eyes, stating that the gloves that Liston was wearing were laced with something to blind him.
Thirdly, it was only three months prior to the rematch that Malcolm X, was assassinated, creating a huge rift amongst others in this new found religion of Ali’s.
In any event the contest took place at Lewiston’s Central Maine Youth Center, as oppose to another place in Boston where it was initially planned. If my memory serves me correctly ( it was soooo long ago), the fight lasted only 64 seconds, becoming one of the fastest first round knock outs in history at that time. The punch, landed by Ali, was known as “The Phantom Punch.” It brought about even more controversy due to no one actually seeing it strike Liston, hence believing that Liston, once again had thrown the fight. But after several slow motion reruns, everyone was able to see how it was done, though there were many still not convinced it was hard enough to send the former champ toppling on the canvas. But this was the start of a new era for boxing. An era of witnessing an unusual speed and agility from a heavyweight.
Anyway, fans please excuse me for not posting this sooner. Travelling got the better of me. In the meantime please try and enjoy the painting that I just started of this incredible individual. Muhammad Ali: