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Today in Sports History: 2/25 – Cassius Clay Defeats Sonny Liston

Today in sports history (1964), 22-year-old Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) defeated the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Sonny Liston.

Liston was at the top of his game in 1964, beating Floyd Patterson twice before the match. Being 22 years old, Clay guaranteed a win, something the boxing fans have been become accustomed to over Clay’s career. Clay told everyone to “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee,” before guaranteeing an eighth-round knockout.

Cassius Clay Muhammad Ali Sonny Liston Boxing
Credit: Tony Triolo/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

Cassius Clay Shocks the World With KO Win

Liston came into the fight with 8-1 odds to win. A crowd of 8,300 people packed the Convention Hall in Miami Beach to see if Clay could back up his mouth. At this point in Clay’s career, many thought that he was all bark and no bite. Clay’s incredible dancing and defense immediately proved to be difficult for Liston to handle. He danced and backpedaled before continuing to hit Liston’s head with powerful punches.

In the first round, Liston hurt his shoulder, trying and missing a power swing as Clay continued to dodge. The rest of the fight continued how the first round began, with Clay dancing, Liston missing and Clay countering with shots to the head and the body.

Then, in the third round, Clay started to control the match. He was the one that was chasing Liston around. Liston was able to fight back though, hitting Clay with a couple of punches. It was nothing that hurt Clay, though. Clay retaliated, hitting Liston with a right and three left hands. This opened a cut under Liston’s left eye and created a welt under his right eye. Blood was starting to rush from Liston’s nose. The fourth round continued the same way the majority of the fight went with Liston chasing Clay. When the fifth round began, Liston hit Clay with 15 unanswered punches, leading many to believe that he was out of the funk. However, Clay shook off these punches like it was nothing. Clay eventually got his legs back and started hitting Liston back.

In the sixth round, it was all Clay, slowing Liston down and dictating the pace of the fight. Due to Liston’s injured shoulder, his side called the fight and both fighters did not get the opportunity to head out for the seventh round. Cassius Clay had won the fight by technical knockout and the legend of Muhammad Ali was born.

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