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YouTube Gold: A Panel Discussion Of Muhammad Ali’s Phantom Punch

A fascinating time capsule on many levels

Mohammed Ali Vs Sonny Liston. 1965.
Muhammad Ali looms over Sonny Liston after knocking him down
Photo by: EyeOn/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

When Muhammad Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, first fought champion Sonny Liston, it resulted in a great upset as Clay knocked off one of the most feared boxers in history. Liston failed to come out for the bell after the sixth round.

It was immensely controversial with many people believing that the fight was fixed. After the fight, Ali publicly embraced Islam and Elijah Muhammad, which, in 1964, was hugely controversial.

The rematch was first to be in Boston but for various reasons, it was moved to Lewiston, Maine, a town of about 40,000.

The rematch didn't last two minutes and ended with even more controversy: many people believed that the punch Ali threw to knock Liston down either didn't connect or never connected at all.

It became known as “The Phantom Punch” and is part of the Ali myth.

In this clip, Howard Cosell, who was born in Winston-Salem incidentally, has a panel discussion with sportswriter, Jimmy Cannon, boxing legends Jack Dempsey and Rocky Marciano, and someone named Bill Hinds, who filmed the fight.

None of them buy the fight, with one saying he didn’t think it was a classic fix but that Liston, essentially, took a dive.

It’s pretty fascinating to hear these guys discuss it, particularly Dempsey and Marciano, who knew so much about the sport.