The most iconic photograph in boxing history documents the knockout that practically nobody witnessed happen.

You are watching: Cassius clay v sonny liston

Even before the an initial punch to be thrown, the might 25, 1965 bout between Muhammad Ali and also Sonny Liston, throughout which the photograph was snapped, was already shaping approximately be the stuff of legends.

Ali very first fought Liston in 1964 together Cassius Clay

The complement had an ext storylines than a soap opera. Boxing’s brightest young star was again squaring off versus a famous bruiser in a return of your thrilling and controversial heavyweight championship hit one year prior, a fight that was complied with by 14 months of international intrigue and the combustible politics of the 1960s.


In the an initial fight, in Miami, a 22-year-old Cassius Clay danced approximately the ring, taunted Liston, promised reporters he’d shock the world, and also then ceded on the promise through a blistering late strike that motivated Liston to toss in the bath towel after the 6th round. It made a champion out of Clay, who asserted that he’d “shook up the world.”

That would prove to it is in an understatement. According to a report in the Miami Herald a couple of weeks prior to the 1964 fight, Clay was consorting through members of the nation of Islam, that Clay’s father asserted had “brainwashed” his son. Clay brought Malcolm X along with him come Miami, and also amid the controversy, the struggle was almost canceled. He available no discuss the matter, however his win would soon turn it right into an global story.


Suddenly, the world had to pertained to grips v a brand-new kind the heavyweight champion. Follow to a New York Times report the day after the fight, Clay was without doubt an official member of the country of Islam. The company was seen as an extremist anti-white civilization hate group and opponents that desegregation and Martin Luther King Jr. Clay’s propensity for self-promotion and controversy appeared to to the right in with the group’s inflammatory rhetoric.

The rumors swirling practically canceled the struggle the night prior, and also when a reporter that morning broke tradition and asked if Clay was a member the the “Black Muslims,” as the team was frequently called, the boxer shown his new religion. He supplied the communication to expound top top the political concept that to be so reviled in white America, defending Malcolm X and also condemning gyeongju oppression — this was still months before President lindon B. Johnson signed the Civil civil liberties Act the 1964.

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“I don’t have to be what you desire me to be,” Clay called agitated reporters. “I’m totally free to be that I want.”


Soon, the was well-known as Cassius X, eschewing the critical name given to his enslaved household by your owners. Less than 10 days later, he was Muhammad Ali, a name offered him to Elijah Muhammad, the head that the country of Islam.


Muhammad Ali litter a punch during the very first round of his rematch with Sonny Liston

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Sonny Liston throw a beat at Muhammad Ali in your 1965 rematch

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Sonny Liston litter a jab at Muhammad Ali throughout their heavyweight title rematch

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Sonny Liston laying ~ above the ground after ~ Muhammad Ali threw the "phantom punch"

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Muhammad Ali stands over Sonny Liston after dropping Liston v a quick hard appropriate to the jaw on might 25, 1965, in Lewiston, Maine

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Muhammad Ali was standing over opponent Sonny Liston together referee Jersey Joe Walcott actions in

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Sonny Liston top top the canvas together Muhammad Ali raises his arms in triumph after just a minute that the very first round of their title bout

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Muhammad Ali is lifted in jubilation ~ his back again Sonny Liston

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Muhammad Ali raises his fist in triumph together he provides his way through the push from the ring after beating Sonny Liston

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Muhammad Ali after his fight through Sonny Liston

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The fight and 'phantom punch' shook the world

People around the people tuned in via satellite to clock the match, i m sorry was battled in former of 2,434 paying ticket-holders, the smallest crowd in heavyweight championship struggle history; world there said the crowd was an ext like 4,000, yet nonetheless, it to be a very small in-person audience. And it was probably for the finest — ticket-buyers didn’t precisely get their money’s worth.

The fight lasted much less than one full round, with Ali knocking the end Liston at the 1:44 mark. It was a shocking result, no only because Liston was favored in the match, but because hardly anybody experienced the punch that took him down. Liston had thrown a jab with his left eight and, leaning forward, took a appropriate hook indigenous Ali right to the skull. That sunk come the canvas, and also as he was down, Ali stood end him, taunting and also demanding his stunned foe get earlier up. The photo catches the champion’s exhortations, v all the fire and also passion and also dynamic physicality the made him together a phenomenon.