Cassius Clay began taunting and provoking Liston almost immediately after the two agreed to fight….as he purchased a bus….and had it emblazoned with the words “Liston Must Go In Eight”….when on the day of the contract signing, he drove it to Liston’s home in Denver…..and woke up the champion with the press in tow at 3:00 a.m. shouting, “Come on out of there. I’m gonna whip you now.” Liston had just moved into a white neighborhood and was furious at the attention this caused. Clay took to driving his entourage in the bus to the site in Surfside, Florida….where Liston (nicknamed the “Big Bear“) was training….and repeatedly called Liston the “big, ugly bear”. Liston grew increasingly irritated as the motor-mouthed Clay continued hurling insults….“After the fight, I’m gonna build myself a pretty home and use him as a bearskin rug. Liston even smells like a bear. I’m gonna give him to the local zoo after I whup him … if Sonny Liston whups me, I’ll kiss his feet in the ring, crawl out of the ring on my knees, tell him he’s the greatest, and catch the next jet out of the country.”…..as Clay insisted to a skeptical press that he would knock out Liston in eight rounds. Former Light Heavyweight Champion José Torres, in his 1971 biography of Ali, Sting Like a Bee, said that as of 1963, Ali’s prophetic poems had correctly predicted the exact round he would stop an opponent 12 times.
Clay’s brashness did not endear him to white Americans, and, in fact, even made Liston a more sympathetic character. In The New Republic, the editor Murray Kempton wrote, “Liston used to be a hoodlum; now he is our cop; he was the big Negro we pay to keep sassy Negroes in line.”
It has been widely stated that Clay’s antics were a deliberate form of psychological warfare designed to unsettle Liston by stoking his anger, encouraging his overconfidence and even fueling uncertainty about Clay’s sanity. As Clay himself said, “If Liston wasn’t thinking nothing but killing me, he wasn’t thinking fighting. You got to think to fight.” Former World Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis said, “Liston is an angry man, and he can’t afford to be angry fighting Clay.” Clay’s outbursts also fed Liston’s belief that Clay was terrified….which was something Clay’s camp did little to disavow. Clay said later, “I knew that Liston, overconfident that he was, was never going to train to fight more than two rounds. He couldn’t see nothing to me at all but mouth.” In contrast, Clay prepared hard for the fight, studying films of Liston’s prior bouts and even detecting that Liston telegraphed his punches with eye movement.
Sometimes, especially in sport, a picture is indeed worth a thousand words…..as this 2.5 minute video provides proof enough as to the fact that Clay / Ali beat many of his opponents with “psychological warfare” long before he demolished them in the ring….as seen in this video herewith….for this is CLASSIC!