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A moment for the ages

Sixty years ago, 22-year-old Cassius Clay shook the world. His victory over Sonny Liston on February 25, 1964 was the birth of Muhammad Ali, the greatest of all time

Cassius Clay is unstoppable, no chance. He screams, his sentences coming fast and hard like his jabs before on the body of Sonny Liston, who sits powerless in his corner, hard hit, badly humiliated.

“I’m the greatest fighter who ever lived. I don’t have a scratch on my face, and I beat Sonny Liston, and I just turned 22 years old, I must be the greatest!!!” yells Clay, he screams at the reporter holding a microphone under his nose, and he finishes his yell by saying, “I shook the world, I know God, I know the true God.”

It is February 25, 1964. Sonny Liston, world heavyweight champion, has given up before the seventh round, thrashed by a presumably hopeless loudmouth, a 22-year-old outsider who had been Olympic champion in Rome four years earlier – and who converts to Islam and henceforth calls himself Muhammad Ali.

Muhammad Ali: With a big mouth to victory over Sonny Liston

The world already knows at this point that he considers himself the greatest. Even before the first bell, before the fight in Miami Beach, Clay, blessed with an unshakeable self-confidence and an unbelievably big mouth, loudly proclaimed himself the “fairest” and the “greatest”.

Clay – whose fearlessly offensive self-promotion was inspired by former wrestling star Gorgeous George – taunted and insulted 31-year-old Liston, the “Black Bear”, who had a criminal past and contacts with the mafia, for weeks. Clay turns up for his weigh-in wearing a jacket labeled “Bear Hunt.”

When the bell sounds, Clay dominates the fight, which, he has toned, he will end in the eighth round at the latest. He is flamboyant, lets his guard down, dances light-footedly through the punches of the stolid-looking, obviously untrained favorite. In the fourth round, the fight seems to be tipping over, Clay can’t see anything – Liston’s gloves have been treated with a cleaning agent. Clay wants to give up, his coach Angelo Dundee sends him out of the corner again

Liston is beaten up in round six. After that he’s had enough.

“The biggest sensation in boxing history “

Clay shook the world, he, the 7-1 underdog, about whom one of the journalists wrote the legendary sentence that the best Clay could do was beat the illiterate Liston in a spelling bee. “This is the biggest sensation in boxing history,” mumbles the great Joe Louis, who is up close and personal as a TV pundit.

Clay is the greatest – but once he has left the ring, he switches gears. At the side of civil rights activist Malcolm X and famous football star Jim Brown, he first peacefully spooned up a vanilla ice cream. The rematch takes place on May 25 of the following year

Muhammad Ali knocks Sonny Liston down in the first round, resulting in this iconic photo of Ali shouting at Liston on the ground.



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