Monday, June 6, 2016

Tribute: Watch Muhammad Ali Vs. Sonny Liston II Fight (1965)

Arguably the most iconic moment in sports happened 51 years ago.We've all seen the epic photo. Muhammad Ali's intense bicep thrust after knocking out Sonny Liston to retain his heavyweight crown. Ali actually beat Liston for the heavyweight title in 1964, but a rematch was demanded. It was this second time around that cemented Ali's legacy.The famous knockout happened just 132 seconds into the fight.

Ali won 56 times over his 21-year professional career and was actually the first boxer to claim the heavyweight title three times. His first 15 of 19 fights as a pro were knockouts. And as a teen, he went 100-8 as an amateur. Both Muhammad Ali and his father, Cassius Marcellus Clay, Sr., were named after a white abolitionist named Cassius Marcellus Clay, a 19th century Kentucky senator who is credited with helping gain Russia's support for the Union during the Civil War. Despite the senator's abolitionist mindset, he actually owned more slaves at the time of the abolition than when he inherited slaves from his father. Ali later denounced this "slavemaster's name" when he joined the Nation of Islam in 1964.
Inspired to join the Muslim community by Malcolm X, Clay initially called himself "Cassius X" before switching it to Muhammad Ali. He would later convert to Sunni Islam during the 70s. Ali took up boxing at the age of 12 after someone stole his new bicycle he had recieved for Christmas. A Louisville policeman named Joe Martin took the crime report from Ali, who bragged about what he would do to the suspect if caught. Martin suggested Ali learn how to fight first, becoming Ali's first instructor.                              
                         
Upon returning to Louisville from the Olympics with his gold medal, legend holds that Clay threw his medal into the Ohio River following a series of racial harassment in his home city, including being denied to eat in a local restaurant. Although Ali denied the narrative simply saying the medal was "lost," he did receive a replacement medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

Ali had a long fight with Parkinson's Disease. But what you may not know about is all All the good Ali did despite his debilitating medical conditions. Not only did The Champ constantly make humanitarian and charitable contributions, he also met with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in 1990 to negotiate the release of American hostages, and in 2002 traveled to Afghanistan as a United Nations Messenger of Peace.
*Get an inside look at the Muhammad Ali Center right here as we report from Louisville, Kentucky next month.