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Cassius Clay vs. Sonny Liston

February 25, 1964 (Convention Center, Miami, Florida)


Cassius Clay talked a good game. He wasn’t nicknamed “The Louisville Lip” for nothing.

On February 25, 1964, at the Convention Center in Miami, Florida, heavyweight champion Sonny Liston accepted the challenge to fight a mouthy youngster from Lexington, Kentucky. Liston was status quo. He won the title fair and square, but was champ no one wanted. With Liston, you knew what you got. Cassius Clay was a different story. He was enigmatic. One minute he was the life of the party, the next he was reflective. He certainly talked a good game. He wasn’t christened “The Louisville Lip” for nothing. But no one knew for sure if he could fight. The reigning and defending champion came up the hard way. He thought Clay was soft, the pampered fair-skinned momma’s boy from the other side of the tracks. But Clay was near or at his physical prime when he fought Liston, and it was a fight. It was before the Nation of Islam. It was before Malcolm, the assassination, before the collision of events that Ali rode like a master surfer at the tip of a tsunami. Cassius Marcellus Clay, soon to be Cassius X, soon to be Muhammad Ali, lived life as few lived it. He wanted to shock Sonny Liston. He wanted to shock the world.

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