1972 Canada-Soviet Hockey Goal

Behind the camera: Frank Lennon
Where: Moscow, Russia at the Luzhniki Arena
Photo Summary: Paul Henderson being embraced by team member No 12, Yvan Cournoyer. Soviet goalie Vladislav Tretiak can be seen on the ice with No. 25 of the Soviet Team, Yuri Lyapkin, looking crushed to the right
Picture Taken: September 28, 1972, with 34 seconds left in the third period

The Canadians battled with the ferocity and intensity of a cornered animal
-Soviet coach Anatoli Tarasov

In the 60s and 70s the European teams, especially the Soviets, came to dominate amateur hockey, a sport that previously had been a strictly Canadian domain. In the Olympics, the Soviets could stack its team with elite players while in Canada elite players were excluded as at that time only amateur athletes could compete in the Olympics. As such Canadians disregarded these amateur defeats as empty foreign victories because everyone knew that Canada’s best wasn’t playing. The Soviets sought to break what they saw as the “Invincible Canadian” myth and so the 1972 Summit Series, officially named The Friendship Series was born. Pitting the best of both nations against each other, the summit was to be played in arenas of both countries to see who was really the number one in Hockey. It was in the final of the series that Frank Lennon snapped this iconic picture, taken just after the “goal heard around the world”.

Summit Series




Most people in the professional hockey league and most Canadians thought that the series would be an easy victory for Team Canada. The idea that high-level hockey was played outside of North America, was a concept that the hockey establishment could not comprehend. They were in for a rude awakening when on Game 1, Sept. 2, 1972, the Soviets surprised everyone by crushing the Canadians, 7-3 in Montreal. Holding on by their fingertips the Canadians were able to snatch a few wins out of the jaws of the Soviet Hockey machine but by game 5 the Soviets lead by 2. Amazingly and to the relief of Canada, the Canucks were able to come back winning the next 2 on the Soviet ice.
Game 8, the final, was held at Moscow’s Luzhniki Arena. Each team had three wins and three losses, in addition to a tie, game three resulted in a 4-4 tie. Only a win in Game Eight would deliver victory in the series. The score was 2-2 after the first period, but the Soviets pulled ahead 5-3 after the second. Things looked grim for Team Canada but in the third, they came out roaring with Phil Esposito and Yvan Cournoyer scoring to even it up. At that point, with the score tied 5-5 and the series tied 3-3-1, a member of the Soviet delegation unexpectedly informed Canada that, if the score and the series remained tied, the Soviets would claim victory as throughout the series they had scored the most goals.
Then, with just 34 seconds remaining in the game, Paul Henderson in perhaps the most famous moment in Canadian sports history scored! Jamming in a rebound behind Soviet goaltender Vladislav Tretiak Henderson’s goal became known as “the goal heard around the world”. Team Canada held out for the next 30sec to win the final and the series.

Colorized version

The last game I was so tired because I played all eight games. Ken Dryden played four games and Tony Esposito played four games, but I played all eight games. It was bad luck for me. On the last goal, Yvan Cournoyer gave a pass to Paul Henderson. Henderson shot at me, I made the save, but the second time he scored on me. Unbelievable. –Soviet goaltender Vladislav Tretiak

Capturing Victory

He scored on me. Unbelievable
-Soviet goaltender Vladislav Tretiak

Frank Lennon came to the Soviet games as part of the official Canadian fan contingent of over 3000 people. As the last seconds of Game 8 ticked down Lennon knew if the Canadians were to win they would score in the last then. As the timer counted down Lennon snuck down to the rink edge and choosing the spot that he thought most likely to get a good picture of the winning goal, focused his camera on the Soviet net. He was not disappointed and on film caught one of the greatest moments in Canadian sporting history. Henderson later talked to Lennon and remembered that “Everybody around him jumped up and (Lennon) would (later) say to me that he was amazed he had the presence of mind to keep shooting … Everything within him wanted to jump up and shout.”

The picture earned Lennon numerous awards including, a National Newspaper Award, Canadian Press Picture of the Year and even ‘Sports Picture of the Century’ by one magazine. His paper, The Toronto Star, gave him a bonus for shooting the picture and through a mistake at the syndication department also allowed him to copyright the picture. The picture became hugely popular and Lennon who now owned the copyright got royalties from the shot. Frank continued working at the Toronto Star until he retired in 1990. Once in 1969, Frank Lennon was assaulted by John Lennon, after following the Beatle member into the Toronto airport in an effort to get a photo. Frank died on August 21, 2006, at the age of 79.

In 1972, nobody lost … Who won? Hockey won” -Soviet goaltender Vladislav Tretiak

Canada Celebrates

Most of Canada shut down that day to watch the game. Workers called in sick and schools herded their students into gyms to listen or watch the series finale. As the clock clicked down most feared the worst but when Henderson scored the Country erupted in celebration. Henderson’s mother who was watching the game from her home in Lucknow, Ont. said: “When Paul scored that goal it was like an atom bomb going off”. While the country exploded around her Mrs. Henderson, to celebrate, sat down and had a cup of tea.

Lesson Learned

While the Canadians were overjoyed at winning the series the Hockey establishment saw that European hockey had caught up to the Canadian game. The almost defeat at the hands of the Soviet team saw the Team Canada get a complete overall in their training regime. Where before they would meet only a few weeks before playing now they met months before to start training and getting back to shape. The NHL teams also had their eyes opened. Before the series having a European player was unthinkable but now they saw a real talent pool across the Atlantic. Tretiak who went on to become a goaltending coach for the Chicago Blackhawks believes: “In 1972, nobody lost. Everybody won. Now we could see that the best players in Russian could play with the NHL. It opened the door for the European players in the NHL today. Now, it’s the best league in the world. Who won? Hockey won.”

Game Info

The eight-game series consisted of four games in Canada and four games in the Soviet Union, all of them held in the Moscow’s Palace of Sports, Lenin Central Stadium.

Team Score Team Score City and Venue
Game 1 USSR 7 Canada 3 Montreal (Montreal Forum)
Game 2 Canada 4 USSR 1 Toronto (Maple Leaf Gardens)
Game 3 Canada 4 USSR 4 Winnipeg (Winnipeg Arena)
Game 4 USSR 5 Canada 3 Vancouver (Pacific Coliseum)
Game 5 USSR 5 Canada 4 Moscow (*Luzhniki Arena)
Game 6 Canada 3 USSR 2 Moscow (*Luzhniki Arena)
Game 7 Canada 4 USSR 3 Moscow (*Luzhniki Arena)
Game 8 Canada 6 USSR 5 Moscow (*Luzhniki Arena)

*Luzhniki Arena used to be known in 1972 as the, Palace of Sports, Lenin Central Stadium

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Black Power

Behind the camera: AP Photographer
Where: 1968 Mexico City Olympics
Photo Summary: Tommie Smith on the gold medal platform, John Carlos on the bronze raising their fists in salute with silver medalist Peter Norman looking on
Picture Taken: October 17, 1968 Mexico City Olympics

The AP called it a Nazi-like salute, and Chicago columnist Brent Musburger called them “black-skinned storm troopers”, yet black America saw them as heroes. For many outside of America, Tommie Smith’s and John Carlos’s protest was their first introduction to “Black Power” and the clenched fist raised arm Black Power salute. Media editors denounced them as unpatriotic, and un-American yet Smith thought that was the point saying, “If I win I am an American, not a black American. But if I did something bad then they would say ‘a Negro’. We are black and we are proud of being black.”

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Symbolism

Being Black, and facing the racism they and other Black Americans felt was what the protest was all about. Smith and Carlos each wore a black glove on opposite hands, and Smith’s raised right fist represented Black Power, while Carlos raised left fist represented Black Unity. Together, the raised black, gloved fists formed an arch of Unity and Power. Along with the gloves, the men wore black socks with no shoes to protest black poverty. Smith wore a black scarf that stood for black pride, and Carlos wore beads which he described, “The beads were for those individuals that were lynched, or killed that no-one said a prayer for, that were hung and tarred. It was for those thrown off the side of the boats in the middle passage.” Having such an elaborate statement many people assumed that Carlos and Smith were close, yet they barely talked before and after the protest. They only worked out their statement during the two-hour wait for the medal ceremony. Smith comments on the relationship has said, “I don’t think John Carlos likes me, even now, [but] I don’t think Carlos likes very many people. That’s just his demeanour.”

Bios


John Wesley Carlos was born June 5, 1945 in Harlem, New York. One of five children he spent a lot of time across the road from his apartment at the Savoy Ballroom. The Savoy was a hot spot on the big band and jazz circuit. Carlos and his friends were always helping people out of cabs, singing dancing outside the club, “we were out there hustling,” he said. As a promising high school athlete, he was able to get a full track and field scholarship at East Texas State University (ETSU). His presence is attributed to ETSU winning their first Lone Star Conference Championship. After one year, he was lured to San Jose State College where he was trained by Lloyd (Bud) Winter a future National Track & Field Hall of Fame coach.
Tommie Smith was born in Clarksville, Texas on June 5, 1944. One of 12 children born into a farming family, Smith would often spend up to 10 hours a day helping in the fields. After his family moved to California he attended Lemoore High School where he set many track records, some of which still remain unbroken. His skill as a runner won him a scholarship at San Jose State. At San Jose State he won the national collegiate 220 yd title in 1967, and the AAU furlong as well. In 1968 he again won the AAU furlong getting him a spot on the Olympic team.

While both Smith and Carlos attended San Jose State, another former black athlete was teaching Sociology, Harry Edwards. Edwards noted that, “…the same social and racial injustices and discrimination that had dogged [his and other Black student’s] footsteps as freshmen at San Jose were still rampant on campus – racism in the fraternities and sororities, racism in housing, racism and out-and-out mistreatment in athletics, and a general lack of understanding of the problems of Afro-Americans by the college administration.” Edwards and others through protest were able to change a lot of conditions on campus. Through his results, he released the power Black Athlete’s held over America’s unofficial religion, sports. Edwards had been able to organize black players to boycott a football game forcing it to be cancelled, even though then-governor Reagan was willing to bring in the National Guard. The boycott became nationwide news because it was the first time in a 100 years of NCAA Division I history that a football game had been cancelled because of a campus protest. More threats against other sporting events were able to force change, including more Black faculty, desegregated school dorms and more Black student enrollment.

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Olympic Project for Human Rights

It was this power in mind that Edwards, other Black athletes, and Civil Rights activists created the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR). The OPHR was originally created to boycott the 1968 Mexico City Olympics unless key demands where met:

  • 1) Return Muhammad Ali title which was stripped from him due to his anti-Vietnam War stance
  • 2) Remove Avery Brundage the President of the International Olympic Committee due to his supposed racist views
  • 3) As a show of solidarity with international black freedom struggles ban Rhodesia and South Africa due to their apartheid governments
  • South Africa and Rhodesia not showing up to the 1968 games and the attitude of most black athletes took the wind out of the boycott. Many athletes did not want to give up an event that they had been training their whole lives for. John Carlos recounted, “We first tried to have a boycott (of the games) but not everyone was down with that plan. A lot of athletes thought that winning medals would supersede or protect them from racism. But even if you won the medal, it ain’t going to save your momma. It ain’t going to save your sister or children. It might give you fifteen minutes of fame, but what about the rest of your life? I’m not saying that they didn’t have the right to follow their dreams, but to me the medal was nothing but the carrot on a stick.” OPHR decided to abandon the boycott plan, although some black athletes decided not to come, and called on black athletes to protest in their own ways.

    When the American athletes arrived in Mexico the media pressed them hard to reveal what type of protest they had planned. The US track coaches sought to assure reporters that there would be “no trouble whatever” and “there will be no demonstrations”. Carlos while pledging that he had no intention to disrupt the games also said, “But that does not mean we will not do something to accentuate the injustices that have been done to the black man in America. . . . If I win a gold medal, I will be up there to get it. I may throw it away afterward, but nothing is going to keep me from getting it.” The world didn’t need long to figure out what “something to accentuate the injustices” meant.

    Even before the medal ceremony, the black athletes caused a stir over when it became known that they didn’t want the Brundage to present any medals to them. It was thought to be an honor for the American president of IOC to present the medals yet the OPHR still detested him for his past actions that many thought were racist. When sprinters Jim Hines and Charlie Greene made it clear that they didn’t want Brundage to present their medals Brundage seeking to avoid controversy stayed away from the ceremony. British official Lord David Burghley instead handed Hines his gold medal and Greene his bronze. Tommie Smith also told the press that if he won a medal he didn’t want to get it from Brundage. Smith’s wife bought a pair of black gloves in case Brundage did show up.

    Even before their medal podium display, Smith and Carlos were making the news. Reporters took note of their unusual long black socks. Newsweek described them as ghetto pimp socks. Jesse Owens the famous black sprinter who beat the Nazi sprinters at the 1936 Olympic games was commentating at Mexico City. Labelled an “Uncle Tom” by the OPHR, he still had advice for Smith and Carlos: they should have shorter socks, below the calves, so as to not affect circulation. At the next race when he noticed that Carlos had indeed switched to shorter socks Owens remarked, “Maybe they’re listening to their uncle. I’m old enough to be their uncle, but I’m not their Tom. We don’t need this kind of stuff. We should just let the boys go out and compete.”

    The race

    Black Power Olympic Salute 1968

    Another angle the salute is pictured


    Curiosity on how black athletes would protest assured a huge TV viewing audience. Smith made it even bigger when in his first heat he tied the Olympic record, 20.3. The bar was raised a few heats later when Australian Peter Norman broke that record with his best print ever 20.2. Smith matched that time in another heat but also pulled a groin abductor muscle. Commentators worried that Smith might not be able to run in the final but in the final race, showing no pain, Smith crushed the world record with an unbelievable time of 19.83. The 20-second mark was not broken at the Olympics again until Carl Lewis at the 1984 LA Olympics. The upstart Aussie Peter Norman bested John Carlos to take the silver but Carlos would later say that he let Smith win because the gold was more important to Smith. Despite the excitement of the race it was at the medal ceremony where the real show would take place.

    As the American and Australian flags were raised with an estimated audience of 400 million looking on Smith and Carlos walked out to the medal podium wearing socks and holding one shoe in their hands. While the Star-Spangled Banner played they each raised their black, gloved fists into the air. Silver medalist Peter Norman, in solidarity, wore an OPHR badge that he took from Paul Hoffman in the stands (US rowing team member that supported the OPHR. For giving the badge he was almost kicked out of the Olympics). Smith recounted:

    “My whole life flashed in my face. I had two minutes to see everything. Oh man, I never felt such a rush of pride. Even hearing the Star-Spangled Banner was pride, even though it didn’t totally represent me. But it was the anthem which represented the country I represented, can you see that? They say we demeaned the flag. Hey, no way man. That’s my flag . . . that’s the American flag and I’m an American. But I couldn’t salute it in the accepted manner, because it didn’t represent me fully; only to the extent of asking me to be great on the running track, then obliging me to come home and be just another nigger.”

    In the stands Mrs. Smith laughed with her friends, “Wait, until Avery sees this, He’ll die.” Not everyone in stands was as supportive, while The Star-Spangled Banner played the audience booed and heckled the two. The Olympic officials never ones to break protocol never turned from the flags to see what all the fuss was about. As the athletes left the stadium the catcalls from the audience grew and Smith and Carlos raising their fists again in defiance.

    Aftermath

    The IOC wanted them Smith and Carlos out of the games. At first, the US Olympic Committee refused to ban but when the IOC said the whole US track team would be kicked out, the USOC complied. The two were withdrawn from all future races and kicked out of the Village. Many of the athletes tried to show solidarity with the two. Wyomia Tyus upon taking the gold in the women’s 4×100 team said, “I’d like to say that we dedicate our relay win to John Carlos and Tommy Smith.” The all white Olympic Crew Team from Harvard even issued this statement “We -as individuals- have been concerned about the place of the black man in American society in their struggle for equal rights. As members of the US Olympic team, each of us has come to feel a moral commitment to support our black teammates in their efforts to dramatize the injustices and inequities which permeate our society.” More surprising was the actions of fellow Olympian, boxer George Foreman. Foreman, who won the gold, waved an American Flag on the podium and then bowed to the stadium crowd, actions seen by many as a show of anti-solidarity with Smith and Carlos.

    Peter Norman


    The other man on the podium, Peter Norman, also faced a storm when he returned to his home country of Australia. While he didn’t raise his fists he did wear a badge supporting Smith and Carlos’ actions. Even though he was a world-class athlete the Australians didn’t send him to the following games and he was treated like a sports pariah. Even during the Sydney Olympics, he was the only VIP sportsperson to be banned from taking the lap of honor at the 2000 Games. The Americans at the games, however, embraced his place in history and allowed him to use their facilities. In an interview in 2012 John Carlos said that:

    There’s no-one in the nation of Australia that should be honoured, recognized, appreciated more than Peter Norman for his humanitarian concerns, his character, his strength and his willingness to be a sacrificial lamb for justice. That’s what I would say to the people of Australia.

    The Australian Olympic Committee has had a decades-long policy of officially denying that it took part in any harsh treatment to Peter Norman as a result of his actions at the 1968 games but in August of 2012 the Australian government issued an official apology to Peter stating:

    “That this House; Recognises the extraordinary athletic achievements of the late Peter Norman, who won the silver medal in the 200 meters sprint running at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, in a time of 20.06 seconds, which still stands as the Australian record;

    Acknowledges the bravery of Peter Norman in donning an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge on the podium, in solidarity with African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who gave the black power salute;

    Apologises to Peter Norman for the wrong done by Australia in failing to send him to the 1972 Munich Olympics, despite repeatedly qualifying; and Belatedly recognises the powerful role that Peter Norman played in furthering racial equality. — Australian statement

    Unfortunately, Peter was no longer around to hear of his redemption. In 2006 he underwent triple bypass surgery and then while mowing his lawn a month later was hit with a fatal heart attack on October 3, 2006. Morning his loos were his second wife, Ruth, their three children, and his first wife, Jan, and their two children.

    Return Home

    The two returned to the States to death threats and attacks on their homes. Smith visited his father who as always was working the fields. His dad couldn’t read, but people told him that his son had gotten into trouble in Mexico. Smith remembers how, “He kind of looked at me, looked up and down, and said in his southern drawl: ‘You know, I’ve been hearing a lot of things about you. Everybody been telling me you did something wrong. You stuck a hand up or hit somebody or something.’ I said that’s not truthful. He said: ‘Well, you’re telling me that and I’m going to believe you. You’re my son.’ First time I shook hands with him in my life.”

    With the death threats and attacks came a mixed blessing when after graduation Smith was given an honorable discharge from the army for “un-American activities”. Saving him from having to go and serve in Vietnam. “I was going to ‘Nam, I could see myself in rice paddies. I believe there’s a God. Sixty-eight had its downfall, but it had its protection for me. I might not be alive.” Carlos who had two brothers in service and they two were discharged after his protest.

    Carlos went on to have his best year in ’69 when he equalled the 100-yard record of 9.1, won the AAU 220-yard run and lead San Jose State to its first NCAA victory in the 100 and 220 4×110-yard relays. After track, he tried the NFL playing with the Philadelphia Eagles until a knee injury forced him out. He tried again in the Canadian Football League before retiring from football after two years. After a number of jobs in 1985, he became the Track & Field Coach, at Palm Springs, California High School.

    Tommie Smith track career saw him setting several world records and he also tried football, playing with the Cincinnati Bengals for three years. He went on to become a professor of sociology and track coach at Oberlin College in Ohio. He is now a faculty member at Santa Monica College in Santa Monica, California.

    “None of these kids know who I am,” Smith says of his young track protégés at the Santa Monica College. “They don’t have the slightest idea. To them, I’m just ‘coach’.” At a ceremony at San Jose State to honor their protest Smith comments, “What’s so surprising about it is, on a positive note, it’s the brainchild of a 23-year-old white student,” Smith said. It’s been almost 40 years since the two made their stand, made history. Thirty-five years have passed since two sprinters made a stand, made a difference, made history. “We still have a way to go,” Carlos said, “but we can see some distance for where we were.”

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    Muhammad Ali vs Sonny Liston

    Behind the camera: Neil Leifer
    Where: Central Maine Youth Center in Lewiston, Maine, the state’s second largest city
    Photo Summary: Muhammad Ali screaming for Sonny Liston to get up off the ring
    Picture Taken: Liston was knocked down 1 minute and 42 seconds into the first round on May 25, 1965

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    Muhammad Ali vs Sonny Liston title match is still one of the most controversial boxing matches in the world. The second match only lasted 1 and 42 seconds before Muhammad Ali knocked done Liston with what would become known as the “phantom punch”. While Liston laid on the ground Ali stood over him screaming to get up while photographers snapped this now famous photo of the scene.

    Taking the photo


    Ali vs. Liston - May 25, 1965 - Lewiston, Maine. - Neil Leifer  5-22-07

    In 2012 Wired.com did a series of photos of photographers and their iconic pictures


    Photographer Neil Leifer recounting taking the picture:

    Well, I was lucky. I don’t want to sound like I’m just being modest … The photographer you see between Ali’s legs is Herbie Scharfman, the other Sports Illustrated photographer. It didn’t make a difference how good he was that night. He was obviously in the wrong seat. What the good sports photographer does is when it happens and you’re in the right place, you don’t miss. Whether that’s instinctual or whether it’s just luck, I don’t know.

    To capture the color, Leifer had rigged special flash units over the ring, but this led to a bigger challenge: Leifer had one shot. The other photographers brandished the equivalent of semi-automatics whilst he held a sniper rifle. Leifer’s strobes needed time to recharge, which meant he couldn’t click and click. Whenever a fighter fell, the other photographers could quick-twitch their shutters, but Leifer had to pick one moment, artistically aping the sniper’s motto: one shot, one kill.

    Nonetheless, Leifer managed the risks and got the great shot—got it, knew it—but couldn’t get it to stick. Not in the minds of his editors, at least. Eventually, many months after that issue of Sports Illustrated had been consigned to the stacks, an editor espied the image again and thought it worth consideration. He submitted it to the prestigious “Pictures of the Year” contest—the Oscars for photographers. But there, too, the photo failed. What would later be voted as the best sports photo of the century couldn’t conjure an honorable mention. — Iowa Review:How Things Break

    Cassius Marcellus Clay

    Muhammad Ali (Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. on January 17, 1942) was born in Louisville, Kentucky. He was named after his father, Cassius Marcellus Clay, Sr and would grow to stand 6’3″ (1.91 m) tall. It wasn’t until March 6, 1964, Malcolm X when Elijah Muhammad the leader of the Nation of Islam stated that Cassius Clay was to be renamed Muhammad (the prophet of Islam) Ali (fourth rightly guided caliph). As an amateur Clay won boxing gold at the 1960 Rome Olympics. Turning pro he won his first fight against Tunney Hunsaker in Louisville, October 29, 1960. Over the next three years, he defeated a string of boxers including, Tony Esperti, Jim Robinson, Donnie Fleeman, Alonzo Johnson, George Logan, Willi Besmanoff, Lamar Clark (who had won his previous 40 bouts by knockout), Doug Jones, and Henry Cooper. By 1963 Clay was ready to take a stab at the World Heavyweight Boxing championship title held by the much-feared Sonny Liston.
    Sonny Liston

    Charles L. “Sonny” Liston (May 8?, 1932 – December 30?, 1970), was born into incredible poverty of a shareholder farmer family in Johnson Township, St. Francis County, Arkansas. As a young man, he was arrested and sent to jail which he found he actually enjoyed. The food in prison was better than any he had on the outside and while in he was discovered by a prison Chaplin who encouraged and taught him to box. Outside the prison, he soon gained a fearsome reputation as a professional boxer taking the championship title from Floyd Patterson on 25 September 1962. He and everyone in the boxing world expected Liston to crush the fast-talking Clay.
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    The First Match



    The bout was held on February 25, 1964, in Miami, Florida. Clay launched a physiological campaign against Liston, dubbing him “the big ugly bear” and showing up and taunting him while Liston trained. When the fight opened Liston almost ran across the ring to shut up with his fists the fast-talking Clay. When talking to the press about his strategy for fighting Liston Clay and fellow street-poet Drew Bundini Brown coined the now famous quotes about he would, “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee,” and “Your hands can’t hit what your eyes can’t see.” Which is exactly what Clay did as he slowly tired down Liston while landing a few blows himself. By the third round Clay was in control but in the forth a mysterious substance found its way into Clay’s eyes blinding him. While half blind he was able to avoid Liston’s punishing blows until the burning substance was washed away from Clay’s sweat and tears. Eyes cleared by the fifth round Clay landed a number of combinations and by the sixth Liston seemed pushed to the limit. Then Liston shocked the world when he threw in the towel in 7th claiming to have an injured shoulder and giving Clay the World Heavyweight Boxing championship.

    Cassius Clay becomes Muhammad Ali

    The day after the fight Cassius Clay held a press conference where he announced that he was a Muslim and member of the Nation of Islam or Black Muslims. The American public was shocked at this news as the Nation of Islam was viewed with suspicion if not outright hostility. Soon Cassuis Clay announced that like Malcolm X he would be giving up his last name, his slave name and would like to be called Cassius X. Then on March 6, 1954, the leader of the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad, announced that Cassius X’s new name would be Muhammad Ali.

    Second Fight


    Muhammad Ali (Vs. Sonny Liston) Sports Poster Print
    Due to the highly irregular fight where the now Muhammad Ali had won the title the boxing commission scheduled a new fight for 16th of November 1964. Three days before the fight Ali suffered a hernia that required an operation and recovery time so the fight was delayed for six months. During those months was a fire at Ali’s apartment, Malcolm X was assassinated and the Nation of Islam’s offices in New York was bombed. The fight was to be held in Boston either due to fears of an attack on Ali or Liston’s mob connections one Garrett Byrne, on May 5, 1965, filed an injunction to block the fight. When word broke out that Boston was out Sam Michael the director of economic development in the small town of Lewiston, Maine sent word that his town could host it. Lewiston was well off the beaten path of boxing and Sam had to basically build up the fight from scratch. He had to find an arena, print tickets, get the necessary permits, find a ring but he was able to do it even calling the governor to help. By May 7 Sam Michael had everything in order and announced that the title ship match would be held in a small town about 150 miles north of Boston, Lewiston.

    With the assassination of Malcolm X and Liston’s mob connections rumors abound that either boxer could be killed that night. The TV broadcasters of the fight, Sports Vision, Inc, put out a $1,000,000 insurance policy in case Ali was murdered and the fight called off. Ali’s camp knew the dangers and security were tight a New York bomb squad was brought in to sweep the building and some 200 extra police brought into search people coming into the arena. Prices soared for tickets and due to the location, security fears, and the hysteria surrounding the fight only 2,434 fans attended the fight.
    Ali had changed in many ways since the last fight and so had Liston but where Ali pushed forward Liston seemed to crumble. Black activist Dick Gregory remembered visiting Liston expecting a man of steel eager to retain his title but found a defeated man slumped in front of the TV. He would tell his friends, “his mind is blown. He’s gonna lose fast.”

    Ali Liston fight AP Photo by John Rooney

    AP Photo by John Rooney


    Gregory couldn’t have been more right as 1min and 40 seconds into the fight Ali threw what would become the “phantom punch” knocking Liston down. The ref, Jersey Joe Walcott, a former world Heavyweight champion himself couldn’t keep Ali in the corner. Ali perhaps confused himself on why Liston was on the ground screamed for Liston to get up. It was at that second that ringside photographers snapped one of the most famous pictures of Ali. It was also in that confusion that the ref forgot to count out Liston. After what was determined to be around 14sec Walcott actually allowed Liston to get up and continue the fight. Ali quickly resumed his beating before a publisher, Nat Fleischer of Ring Magazine started yelling at Walcott that Liston was down on the mat longer than 10sec. So one of the important fights of the time was called not by a ref, ringside judge or boxing official but a journalist who just happened to be there. Walcott quickly separated the boxers and declared Ali the defender and still world heavyweight champion.

    What’s my Name?

    Pictures of this famous pose are often confused with another fight of Ali’s February 6, 1967, Muhammad Ali vs Ernie Terrell. Terrell had infuriated Ali by calling him by his former name, Clay. Muhammad Ali pummeled Terrell throughout the fight screaming, “What’s my name, Uncle Tom … What’s my name.” He would beat Terrell unmercifully but hold back from actually knocking him out. Many sports writers at the time said that the fight only went the full 15 rounds because Ali wanted it to. After the fight Sports Illustrated writer, Tex Maule wrote, “It was a wonderful demonstration of boxing skill and a barbarous display of cruelty.”

    [apimages picturetitle=”Muhammad Ali vs Sonny Liston” aplink=”http://www.apimages.com/metadata/Index/Associated-Press-Sports-Maine-United-States-Box-/ee01835b9be5da11af9f0014c2589dfb/12/1″]

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