After Now-Legendary Ali-Liston Bout, Boxer Turned Down Politics

The gloves that Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston wore in their 1965 match realized $956,000 at a February 2015 auction.

By Jim O’Neal

In 1960, Cassius Clay won the Olympic Gold Medal in Rome in the light heavyweight division. On this date, Feb. 25 in 1964, he scored a TKO over Sonny Liston and became the undisputed World Heavyweight Champion.

Two days later, he announced he had joined an African-American Muslim group, the Nation of Islam, and became Muhammad Ali.

On May 25, 1965, I agreed to drive three of my friends to the Anaheim, Calif., “Theater in the Round” to see the big-screen TV rematch between Muhammad Ali and Liston. They were fighting in Lewiston, Maine. Traffic was bad and we were running a little late.

I volunteered to get four beers at the concession stand while they secured our seats. The service was also a little slow.


Ali knocked out Liston in the first round (officially 2:12), which is still the fastest in heavyweight championship history. I did not get to see the knockout live, but the replays were interesting and the beer was cold. We may have had a second round.

Later, someone suggested to Liston he should try politics due to his high name recognition. His reply is still one of my favorites: “I would rather be a lamppost in Denver than the mayor of Philadelphia.”

Classic Liston.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

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Hector Cantu

Hector Cantu was the editor of The Intelligent Collector magazine.

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