A single moment in sports history made Muhammad Ali a bonafide legend, impossible to ignore.
On this day in 1965, Ali, with bravado well beyond his 23 years, stepped in front of an audience that wanted nothing more than to see his confidence taken down a notch. He’d quietly shed his birth name a year prior, shortly before beating Sonny Liston for the first time, but his affiliation with the Nation of Islam would not be made public until after the famed fight. After that, nothing was the same. Gone were the days of the quiet Black athlete flying under the radar, just “happy to be there.”
You would take notice of Muhammad Ali.
In the first bout, the boxer then-known-as Cassius Clay snatched the reigning champ’s belt after he refused to go a seventh round due to his sore shoulder. Liston’s exact date of birth is unknown, but he was believed to be at least 10 years his opponent’s senior.
Gone were the days of the quiet Black athlete who’d fly under the radar, just ‘happy to be there.’ You would take notice of Muhammad Ali.
The two met for a long-awaited rematch on May 25, 1965, and it was called in Ali’s favor almost instantly. After entering the ring to a chorus of boos, Ali dominated Liston, who essentially chased “the Butterfly,” trying to land even one body shot. In less than two minutes, Liston was knocked out cold by a right hook, which became known as “the phantom punch.”
An undeniable star in Ali was born that night, and true to form, his star was shrouded in controversy. Did he really land that unbelievably swift silencer punch? Or was he so smooth with it, as fast as he said he was, as pretty as he’s always been?
On this day in 1965, the GOAT was born.
Relive the Ali vs. Liston rematch below.