Monday, January 14, 2013

What About Frazier? And Foreman?

Last night, as we left the restaurant, the common areas of the truckstop were crowded with people, mostly men, hanging out in groups, talking, watching the news, playing quarter-per-play video games, shooting pool, and so forth. We passed by a threesome of black men, the two elder men were seated; the younger man in his twenties standing and waving his arms about animatedly. "It was the fight of the century!" he exclaimed. "Muhammed Ali and Sonny Liston? The fight of the CENTURY!!"

For a fraction of second, I considered stopping and correcting him. But as we were in a teeny tiny minority of white people in the area, and I the only female, I decided better of it. I did, however, allow myself a slight shake of the head and an unmistakable smirk.

There were, you see, two Liston-Ali fights - rather, there was one Liston-Clay fight, and one Liston-Ali fight, but to avoid confusion, everyone refers to them as the Liston-Ali fights. Entering the first, Liston was the heavyweight champ with a fierce reputation and the clear favorite to win; Ali was many years younger and far less experienced, but still an Olympic gold medalist with an undefeated record in the pros. The public expected Ali to either get pummeled to unconsciousness early on or back out of the fight altogether. 

Instead, Ali won by TKO when Liston failed to leave his corner at the 7th round bell. The official story was that he'd torn a shoulder tendon. His corner men later revealed that Liston was woefully out of shape and simply wanted to quit, but with a future rematch virtually guaranteed, they had to come up an injury on the fly. Torn tendon, it was then.

A rematch occurred the next year (by then, Cassius Clay had taken the name Muhammed Ali). Although the vast majority of the public wanted Liston to achieve revenge, he took a rather awkward and obvious dive, in the first minute of the first round, no less.

Soooo, which of these, exactly, was the fight of the century?

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