Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston. Ali knocked him out. May 25, 1965. It’s one of the most famous photographs in the history of sports. There was controversy about it because nobody saw the punch landed. Even the referee was confused as he watched Ali stand over the fallen Liston and yell, “Get up and fight, sucker!”
This was the second fight between the two boxers. The first took place on February 25, 1964. After the 4th round Ali returned to his corner, after he had clearly taken it easy that round, and declared he couldn’t see. Something was burning his eyes. Perhaps it was something Liston’s cut man used to prevent bleeding – and had transferred to Liston’s gloves. Perhaps it was something intentionally put on Liston’s gloves. Who knows? This much we do know, Ali wanted to quit.
According to fight reporters, Angelo Dundee refused to let Ali quit. “This is the big one, daddy . . . we’re not quitting now!” He washed Ali’s eyes (then known as Cassius Clay) with a sponge, then pushed him off his stool to begin the fifth round. Witnesses said Dundee hollered at Ali, “Get out there and run.”
By round six Ali’s sight had cleared. Liston went to the corner at the end of round six complaining he’d hurt his shoulder. He didn’t answer the bell for the seventh round. Ali was declared the winner by technical knockout. Victory for Ali occurred just two rounds after he wanted to quit.
I have no idea how hard it is to fight for the world championship in boxing’s heavyweight division. I sure don’t know what it would be like if you were unable to see clearly. Ali did it.
He only had to do it for two rounds, but do you suspect he could have gone longer if needed? Sure. His will to win was evident. His cockiness and confidence were unquestioned, but even “The Greatest” needed the voice of a coach, Angelo Dundee, telling him to keep going. Don’t quit.
Today, I’m going to play the role of Angelo Dundee. You be Ali.