1960sBoxingMuhammad Ali

SONNY LISTON VS CASSIUS CLAY – FEBRUARY 25, 1964

A Historic Event That Changed The Landscape Of Sports Forever

 

The fight known as THE CHAMPIONSHIP was officially announced on November 6, 1963….was to take place on February 25, 1964 in Miami, Florida between “The Champ” Charles “Sonny” Liston and “The Challenger” Cassius Marcellus Clay for the undisputed Heavyweight Championship of the World. Absolutely no one outside of Clay’s camp thought the young Olympic Champion had even a “snowball’s chance in Hell” of succeeding in dethroning the meanest…. baaaaadddest….most feared heavyweight champion in years.

I have decided today to give you a complete verbatim detailed account of the entire recorded dialog that went on in all of the events leading from the announcement of the fight on November 6, 1963 up to the night of the fight on February 25, 1964. This unparalleled and completely accurate account of the dialog enclosed herewith came from BD’s video sports library….a taping of the live closed circuit broadcast of the fight that historic night. This dialog and commentary tells the real story surrounding all things leading up to the two combatants stepping into the ring on that truly historic night in South Flori

DOG ASIDE:

Before I get into the fight night dialog….it is important for me to share with you the fact that BD has one of the most extensive private video library of world championship fights that I have ever heard of.  Now we’re not talking anything like the collection of fight footage that the late Jimmy Jacobs had….heck….I’d bet 40% of BD’s library leads back to original footage owned by Mr. Jacobs….and I want to give him credit for his love and devotion to the sport of boxing. When Jacobs and Gus D’Amato teamed up to manage and train Mike Tyson years after THE CHAMPIONSHIP….he really shined in his knowledge of the beautiful art of boxing. I will definitely write about these three men and how they created magic in their own right. Bone Daddy’s boxing library consists of over 680 professional fights from every weight division ever conceived in boxing….including some 525 Championship Title Fights.  I’m gonna share a lot of these fights with you folks as I continue to expand the boxing section of exhibits and stories throughout this web page….so, if you love boxing….stay tuned.

For today’s journey down memory lane….I am going to share another verbatim display of the audio portion from a program that begins with a live interview with Sonny Liston and Cassius Clay….along with their opening remarks the day the fight was officially announced on November 6, 1963.

Interviewer:
When will you start training for Cassius Clay?

Sonny:
I’ll start training for this fight about five days before the fight.

Interviewer:
How do you expect the fight to go?

Cassius:
Sonny may be great….but he will leave in eight….If he wanna go to heaven….I’ll get him in seven. He’ll be in a worser fix….if I cut it to six. If he keeps talkin jive….he’ll go in five. If he make me sore….he’ll go like Moore. He keeps talking about me….I’ll get him in three.  If that don’t do….he’ll fall in two. And if he run….he’ll go in one. And if he don’t want to fight….he should keep himself home that night.

:

The fight was happening at a time when The Beatles had reached America….LBJ was President….the war looming in Vietnam dominated the headlines….Martin Luther King had touched our conscience ….there was Warhol and Bonanza….and in Miami….two men met to decide the World’s Heavyweight Champion….dubbed THE CHAMPIONSHIP….an event that would shock the world by the night’s end.

To which his co-host Dr. Ferdie Pacheco….who was in Clay’s camp and corner in 1964….noted that Ali did not exist at this time….and went on to say:

Sonny Liston
Sonny Liston

Charles “Sonny” Liston was a brooding enigmatic champion….his background was clouded by prison time and alleged links to organized crime. His age was also a question mark….listed officially at age 31….some felt he was closer to 50. His public image was intimidating but private. He preferred to let his actions in the ring do his talking.

Back to the original footage of Liston’s and Clay’s opening remarks at the announcement of the fight as follows:

Liston:
My prediction is that Clay will run….and I don’t think he can beat me by running.

Miami Herald Reporter Edwin Pope:
I thought Liston was the best fighter in the world….a complete thug….a killer.

Clay:

I’m young….I’m handsome….I’m fast….I’m pretty….and can’t possibly be beat.

Liston:
You might be young and handsome….but you won’t be after I’m finished with you.

You too old to be in the ring with Cassius Clay
You too old to be in the ring with Cassius Clay

Clay:
You’re forty years old if a day….and you don’t belong in the ring with Cassius Clay.

Liston’s Cornerman Milt Bailey:
Sonny thought he was a loudmouth kid….trying to build his ego up….cuz we figured he was scared to death….and it would only be a matter of time before Sonny stopped him from talking.

Liston:
If they don’t put a mouthpiece in his mouth to keep him from talking….I’m gonna kill him.

Pacheco:
Liston trained at the Surfside Auditorium in South Beach. During every training session….he’d workout to the song “Night Train”

Bailey:
Sonny could play that whole record and never miss a beat on the speed bag. He was so powerful….when he jabbed you….it was like someone else punching you with a hook or overhand knockout punch. The best sparring partner Liston had was a guy named Amos Lincoln….and one day in training….Sonny hit Amos with a jab so hard that his helmet flew off….and we all thought it was his head had flown off with the helmet.

Original Book "The Greatest Muhammad Ali" written by Walter Dean Myers
Original Book “The Greatest Muhammad Ali” written by Walter Dean Myers

Clay:
I am the greatest….I’m gonna shake up the world in 1964….and gonna talk no more.

Pacheco:
I had been Clay’s doctor since he first started fighting….but THE CHAMPIONSHIP was the first time I was in his fight corner in the ring. I was struck by his athleticism….by his charisma….and by his blinding faith that he had….that he could not be beat.

Clay:
For those of you who won’t be able to see the fight….here’s the 8th round exactly as it will happen:

Clay comes out to meet Liston….and Sonny starts to retreat. If Liston goes back to his corner….he’ll end up in the ring side seats.

Clay flings with his left….Clay flings with his right…. Look at young Cassius carry the fight….

Liston keeps backing….but there’s not enough room. It’s a matter of time…b’fore Clay’s punch sends him toward the moon.

Now listen to the person’s view….as the crowd’s getting frantic But by the time radar picks him up…. He’ll be over the Atlantic.

Liston’s still risin….and the ref is seen to frown…. Why he can’t start countin….Til Sonny comes down. Who woulda thought when they came to the fight…. That they’d witness a launchin…. Of a human satellite.

Yep….the crowd did not dream….When they put down their money….That they all would see…. A total eclipse of the Sonny.

The total eclipse of the Sonny
The total eclipse of the Sonny

Clay’s Trainer Angelo Dundee:
Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) was the greatest fighter that ever lived….in and out of the ring. He changed the whole innovation of boxing….he was the first available super star.

Miami Herald Reporter Edwin Pope:
I thought he was very promising….sorta of a puffed up light heavyweight at the time. I had no dreaming idea that he could win the fight….I didn’t give him a chance in Hell.

With Liston sitting two seats away from Clay at the Pre Fight Dinner….all of a sudden in a loud and excited voice….Clay begins to go off on Liston.

Clay:
Let’s get it on….wanna go right now?….I’ll whup you right now….right here. Floyd Patterson was so scared of you….Man, he couldn’t even walk in the room with you. I ain’t scared….I’ll come to your house at 2am in the morning lookin for you. It’s gonna take a good man to whup me….you can see that I am more than confident….I’ve had 100 amateur fights….20 professional fights….and I’m pretty as a girl. I don’t get hit….I’m so pretty.

Liston:
How pretty you are….that’s about all that I am afraid of.

Pacheco:
In South Beach at the 5th Street Gym where Clay trained….this place was like a zoo….with wall to wall celebrities and entertainers like Sam Cook….writers like Norman Mailer….and painters like LeRoy Neiman….and from across the Atlantic….The Beatles. Any and all of these celebrities who showed up at Clay’s training camp would wait patiently for Clay to finish his workout….cuz that’s when Clay would seek out Drew Bundini Brown….his confidant, corner man and cheerleader….and they’d begin to chant….begin to joke around….and before you knew it….it was full blown show time for all those waiting to see,touch and be up close to Cassius Clay.

AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH........
AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH……..

Clay:
You all know how great I am….I don’t have to tell you about my strategy….I’ll let my trainer tell you….Bundini, what are we gonna do?

Bundini:
We gonna float like a butterfly….and sting like a bee….

And they would both get face to face and open their mouths real wide and in unison say…..AAAAHHHHH.

Bundini:
Rumble young man….Rumble….AAAAHHHHHH

Clay:
That’s what we gonna do….you heard it….that’s my trainer….he told you what we gonna do.

Dundee:
Cassius Clay said to me….Angelo….I have a surprise for you. I am gonna bring Drew Brown into camp….I said…don’t do that….the guy will drive me up a wall….don’t do that. I begged him not to do that.

Clay:
Don’t worry….he’s a nice guy….lotta fun….he won’t get in the way.

Dundee:
And he was right….Drew was great….he added a new dimension to Clay….kept him loose as a goose and most important….Drew added something else….he was an important facet of Cassius Clay’s life.

Interviewer:
Ladies and gentlemen….Mr Cassius Marcellus Clay….He’s young….He’s handsome….

Clay:
They know that….

Interviewer:
He’s a poet and many people believe he is going to be the next heavyweight champion of the world. Cassius, can I ask you how you are feeling now that you are in training?

Original Picture May 25, 1965 World Heavyweight Boxing Championship-2nd Fight between Champ Muhammad Ali vs Sonny Liston from Central Maine Youth Center after Ali knocked out The Bear with the phantom punch while exhorting Liston to get up and fight
Original Picture May 25, 1965 World Heavyweight Boxing Championship-2nd Fight between Champ Muhammad Ali vs Sonny Liston from Central Maine Youth Center after Ali knocked out The Bear with the phantom punch while exhorting Liston to get up and fight

Clay:
I’m feeling great….I’m ready to go to war right now.

Interviewer:
Well, when you say you’re ready to go to war right now?….do you really mean that?

Clay:
Man, if I were to see that bum on the street today….I’d just have to go ahead and beat him before the fight.

Interviewer:
You’d actually take him on before the fight?

Clay:
Beat him like I’m his Daddy…..

Interviewer:
I saw Sonny Liston yesterday….

Clay:
Ain’t he ugly….he’s too ugly to be the world champ….the world champ should be pretty like me.

Interviewer:
He told me to bet my life savings that you wouldn’t make it past 3 rounds!….

Clay:
Well if you want to lose your money….then bet on Sonny.But I’ll never lose this fight….it’s impossible…tell um the next time you see him.

Bundini:
Born a champ in the crib…..AAAAHHHH

Dundee:
Let’s face it….look at the fun….pure fun….this kid created. Fun is what make you excel at what you do. If you don’t have fun it turns ugly….and I don’t like to be involved in any situation where you don’t have fun.

Pacheco:
The media loved Clay….but they didn’t like his chances in the fight.

Liston was massive and he could punch.
Liston was massive and he could punch.

Mike Tyson:
Liston basically depended on intimidation when he fought. He basically intimidated opponents before they ever got in the ring for the fight. He was a massive guy….and on all circuits…he was just totally awesome….plus he could punch hard.

Washington Post Reporter Shirley Povich:
I like Liston in the fight….the 1st time he hits him….could be round one….perhaps two….but I don’t think it will last past one.

Sports Illustrated Writer Morton Sharnik:
I look for Liston to win in three rounds….however, if Clay gets beyond the 3rd….his chances of winning improve with each succeeding round.

Los Angeles Times Writer Jim Murray:
I like Liston in about 1 – 3 rounds….as I think the problem is whether Cassius can hurt Sonny or not.

At the weigh-in….there were over 1000 reporters covering the weigh-in.

Pacheco:
If the training was a rehearsal….then this weigh-in was a dress rehearsal for the plan that young Cassius Clay had in his mind.  The serious citizens of the boxing establishment descended on the little boxing camp….and they said to Clay….stop all the playing around….stop all the nonsense….get serious….and preserve the dignity of the weigh-in for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Clay agreed and abided by his agreement until he hit the door at the weigh-in.

As Clay moved to the microphone and before he goes to speak….he and Bundini do their AAAAHHHH routine…smiling all the way through the process.  As Clay steps to the scales….he begins to go off….shouting at Liston….

Ali hovers over Sonny Liston after delivering "the phantom punch" in their 2nd fight on May 25, 1965
Ali hovers over Sonny Liston after delivering “the phantom punch” in their 2nd fight on May 25, 1965

Clay:
I’m the greatest….you tell Joe Louis and Sonny Liston that I’m here with Sugar Ray….Joe Louis is flat footed….Sonny Liston is flat footed…while Sugar Ray and I are two pretty dancers….we can’t be beat….I’m ready to rumble.

After the weigh-in the Closed Circuit Promoter Murray Goodwin:
The weigh-in was a sham….Clay put on a show that was unbelievable….and if you look back at the clips….you’ll find that’s what happened.

Sonny’s trainer Milt Bailey:
He (Sonny) thought Clay was crazy….Sonny had a violent side to him that everyone knew about….but Cassius was smart….he was clever….and he could get under Sonny’s skin more so than anyone ever had before.

Dundee:
Liston didn’t know what to expect….what came into play in this pre-fight was a reality of the street that tough guys are afraid of guys who are a little goofy….crazy….guys that fly over the cookoos nest. Tough guys don’t know where to go with that….and Liston was a tough guy. So Liston was kinda lookin at him like this….as Clay was screaming at him while standing on the scales….he’s screaming and he’s hollering….all the while Dr. Robbins was giving him his blood pressure test. And Liston’s handlers are saying to me that my guy is scared to death….he’s scared….and it ain’t going to make the fight go long. I’m listening to the guy and thinking that my guy is playing….and we’re just having fun.

Clay was fined $2500 for his antics at the weigh-in….and the amazing thing above all which was documented throughout the entire weigh-in process…..was the fact that Dr. Robbins blood pressure test was taken of Clay at the very moment of his screaming at Liston….and it measured at rest….not even at an aerobic state….IT WAS ALL AN ACT.

Miami Herald Writer Edwin Pope:
Clay said later….everybody is afraid of a crazy man….and that’s why I was acting crazy.

Pacheco:
It was all part of young Clay’s master plan….to give the appearance of being crazy….therefore rendering himself immune to Liston’s bullying tactics.

Interviewer Question to Clay:
What percentage of the people will be coming to you?

Clay:
Well, 100% of the people coming to the fight will be coming to see me….but 99% of them….are coming to see me get beat cuz they think I talk too much.

Pacheco:
As if Clay hadn’t already put enough pressure on himself….the morning of the fight….he announced he had joined the Black Muslim organization….an unpopular militant group….and it threatened the entire fight.

Fight Promoter Chris Dundy:
Oh my God….it killed the whole fight….we all of a sudden end up with two bad guys….when we had one good guy and one bad guy…. kinda like Russia vs. the USA….and we wind up with two bad guys.…it was terrible.

The Loudmouyh is The Champion
The Loudmouth is The Champion

Angelo Dundee:
Cuz the fight got butchered….with that bad guy / good guy routine….the bad guy is an unknown….the unknown scares people….What is a Muslim?….heck….I thought it was a piece of cloth. Who the heck knew what a Muslim was?

Miami Herald Writer Edwin Pope:
I thought it was a complete non-issue….because I thought that Sonny Liston was going in and smash the boastful kid like an ant….and it would immediately become a non-issue.

Despite the uproar…..9,000 people including celebrities from sport and entertainment jammed Convention Hall on the evening of February 25, 1963….as millions more watched closed circuit television in movie theaters around the world. Just before 10 pm Eastern time….Cassius Marcellus Clay and his entourage entered the ring on February 25, 1964….and “THE WORLD OF SPORT CHANGED FOREVER.”

 

DOG ASIDE:

If you never have gotten to see THE CHAMPIONSHIP in its entirety….today is your lucky day. After watching the Video Feature below….I think you will agree with me….that young man did indeed SHOCKED THE WORLD.  Also, as a matter of interest….LeRoy Nieman, the painter….of whom Bone Daddy has multiple of his serigraphs and prints in his collection….was actually in the ring after the conclusion of the fight….so this is a good time to show you BD’s LeRoy Nieman collection….including my favorite….a signed Nieman oil in BD’s collection that is titled “Introduction at Madison Square Garden”….fitting wouldn’t you agree since Bone Daddy’s sports bar carried the same name.

LeRoy Neiman signed oil painting titled Introduction at Madison Square Garden
LeRoy Nieman signed oil painting titled Introduction at Madison Square Garden

This particular Nieman depicts a World Heavyweight Championship Fight with Joe Louis being introduced….as there are 109 recognizable faces in the fight crowd at MSG of this painting….we’re talking Richard Nixon,Frank Sinatra, LBJ and Lady Bird, Truman Capote and so many more….it is really cool.

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