Monday, August 19, 2013

The Louisville Lip

In the summer of 1963, the boxing world was buzzing over Sonny Liston's recent knockout of Floyd Patterson, by which Liston retained the heavyweight championship of the world.  Louisville's own Cassius Clay, now the number 1 heavyweight contender, insisted that he could beat Liston.  In its episode for August 5, 1963, Sports Illustrated strongly disagreed:

Clay's style is made to order for another massacre.  He carries his hands too low, he leans away from a punch and he cannot fight a lick inside.  He will face in Liston an opponent with endurance, highly developed skills, deceptive speed and strength enough to stun an elephant with either hand.  Yet Cassius loudly insists that he is going to whup "that big ugly bear" when they meet, most likely in Philadelphia this September.

The oddsmakers do not think much of Clay's chances.  James (Jimmie the Greek) Snyder, handicapper emeritus, figures that Liston should be an overwhelming 8-to-1 favorite.  The only way a Liston backer can get any kind of odds is to pick one of the first six rounds for the knockout.  "It's impossible," says Jimmie the Greek, "for Clay to last six rounds."

On February 25, 1964, Clay beat Liston, and became the world heavyweight champion, when Liston refused to answer the bell for the seventh round.

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