3. Ali vs. Liston 2 – May 25, 1965
Raise your hand if you’ve ever owned a poster of Muhammad Ali standing over his opponent. It’s become the most iconic image in sports history, but a lot of people don’t know who he’s standing over.
That would be Sonny Liston, who in the first contest, was the heavyweight champion and considered a massive favorite, but Ali – then Cassius Clay – stunned the boxing world when he stopped Liston in the seventh round.
Prior to the rematch, Cassius Clay announced that he joined the Black Muslim movement, and changed his name to Cassius X, in the same style as Malcolm X. A month later, he renamed himself Muhammad Ali and received the praise of the highest order from Martin Luther King Jr.
Even though Liston was a 13-to-5 favorite heading into the rematch, Ali wanted to prove that his first win was no fluke, and he did just that when he stopped him at just 2:12 into the first round.
His knockout has widely been called a “phantom punch” since it looks like the left hook he throws doesn’t even touch Liston. But if you look closely, he catches Liston with a counter-right jab, and the left hook was used to disguise that. Many people in the audience didn’t see the punch land, which led to people booing at the end, and claims of the fight being fixed.
When Liston hit the canvas, Ali stood over him and yelled: “Get up and fight, sucker!” That moment was captured on camera and has been immortalized countless times over. Perhaps the best tribute to it was the one that Mad Men did. This fight proved to be the beginning of the Ali era, while Liston – even though he only lost once after this fight – was regarded as an overrated champion.
Next: 2. The Rumble in the Jungle