Let’s take a moment away from the horrifying headlines to dive into what happened on May 25, 1965.
In the heart of Maine, nestled along the Androscoggin River, lies the town of Lewiston.
While it might not be a household name for many, Lewiston, Maine, has a remarkable claim to fame that transcends its tranquil ambiance.
This small town etched its name into history when the boxing world descended upon its unassuming streets in May 1965, for what would become one of the most controversial and memorable matches of the sport.
Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali in Lewiston
That fateful day marked the rematch between the brash, 23-year-old boxing champion known as Cassius Clay, who was making his debut as Muhammad Ali, and the former heavyweight champ, Sonny “the Bear” Liston.
The stakes couldn’t have been higher; it was a battle for the heavyweight championship of the world, and all eyes were on Lewiston.
The boxing ring, a no-frills arena, was set up in the middle of a hockey rink within a modest residential neighborhood.
Originally built by a parish in 1958 for high school hockey games, this unassuming venue would soon become the epicenter of the boxing world.
The rematch was expected to bring glory and fame to Lewiston, but instead, it became known locally as “the fiasco” or “the debacle.”
The fight’s official ticketed attendance was a mere 2,434, the lowest for a heavyweight title fight in modern history.
However, the total crowd was estimated to be over 4,000, including fans who scored free tickets, media and reporters, and those who managed to slip in thanks to the lax security in place.
Ali’s iconic knockout
According to records, the fight began around 10:40 p.m.
Near the 1-minute-40-second mark, Sonny Liston threw a slow left jab, and that’s when Muhammad Ali, who appeared to be in retreat, countered Liston’s jab with a short, chopping right hook.
In the blink of an eye, Liston was on the canvas and Ali stood over his fallen opponent, taunting him with the infamous words, “Get up and fight, sucker!”
A legend was born.
This fight was more than just a spectacular knockout.
It became marred in confusion and controversy as the referee, Jersey Joe Walcott, the knockdown timekeeper, Francis McDonough, and Nat Fleischer, the editor of Ring Magazine, struggled to determine the exact time of Liston’s fall and the conclusion of the match.
Walcott initially announced one minute as the official time, but a review of the tape revealed Liston falling at 1:44, rising at 1:56, and the fight being officially stopped at 2:12.
Lewiston, Maine, had witnessed a historic event that would forever be etched into the boxing history books.