WATCH: Muhammad Ali Knocks Out Sonny Liston In Lewiston, Maine
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One of the most anticipated and controversial rematches in sports history took place in Lewiston, Maine. Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay) took on Sonny Liston for the second time, with Lewiston, Maine being the destination for the fight because almost every other state in the country who had a boxing commission, wouldn’t allow the two fighters to battle.
Leading up to the rematch, Cassius Clay had announced he was joining the Black Muslims and wanted to be referred to as Cassius X. One month after that announcement, he was given the name Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, Sonny Liston had trouble of his own, being arrested going nearly 60mph over the limit in a residential zone while also possessing an unauthorized firearm. This led boxing commissions around the country to avoid putting a stamp of approval on a Ali/Liston rematch. Massachusetts agreed to hold the fight first, but a last minute injury from Muhammad Ali caused a cancelation. When a new date was chosen for the fight, Lewiston became the destination.
The Central Maine Youth Center (now the Androscoggin Bank Colisee) hosted the fight, which should have been a guaranteed sell-out. However, there were strong rumors that severe violence could erupt due to Muhammad Ali’s political ties, which left the Youth Center at a little over half capacity for the bout.
And what a short, but memorable bout it ended up being. Ali delivered what is now known as the “phantom punch”, knocking Sonny Liston out in the 1st round. Liston appeared to be getting up from that punch but then fell back down. Ali stood over Liston in defiance, launching one of the most recognizable sports photographs in history. Confusion arose as the referee and the knockdown timekeeper couldn’t or didn’t communicate. Liston eventually got up and had intentions of continuing the fight. The timekeeper then instructed the referee that Liston had been counted out the fight was over. The crowd erupted with anger.
After the fight, many felt it had been fixed. “Fixing” fights due to sports betting had become a known and unfortunate problem within the boxing community. Ali claimed after the fight that there was no fix, and that he had landed a devastating punch to Liston’s chin to end the fight. Either way, that moment in time, straight from Lewiston, Maine, lives as one of the greatest sports memories in history.
Rest in peace Muhammad Ali.