Ali vs. Liston, 1964: An icon is born

BY MATTHEW COLLINS - FEBRUARY 25, 2015

On this day in 1964, Muhammad Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, laid claim to the Boxing Heavyweight Title when he defeated defending champion, Sonny Liston, in what was an iconic match in sporting history.  

From the moment that the match date was set, namely the 25th of February 1964, Clay was determined to become the new heavyweight boxing champion, a determination which he was very vocal about.

At age 22, his goal was to “become the youngest heavyweight champion in history.” His “new-year resolution” was to defeat “that big-ugly bear”, Liston, and to “shake up the world in 1964 and talk no more.” “I’m the champ, he’s no champ, he’s a tramp,” as Clay once stated in the pre-fight stages.

Cassius Clay would often stir up many emotions around his claims to superiority, so much so that he would be labelled as borderline crazy by some.

However, when match-day came, Clay would shine through and put his money where his mouth was.

Clay’s reflexes and movements, which were only paralleled by lightning, were too much for Liston. The match dragged on for seven rounds, with blows being given and received on both ends, before an exhausted Liston, having hurt his shoulder and sustained a cut under his left eye, ended the fight.

With Liston unable to continue, Clay would be crowned the new Heavyweight Champion, a title which would, from that moment onwards, place him as one of the greatest sporting icons in history.

Liston would seek a rematch which would take place in May of 1965. By that time, Clay had joined the Nation of Islam, an African-American Islamic movement, taking on the new name, Muhammad Ali. Liston would go to ground in the first round, with Ali standing tall.

Ali has now become a name synonymous with his famous phrase: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” It is a name that symbolises sporting greatness.

Image courtesy of: boxingmemories.com