Fifty years ago today, on March 6, 1964, the cover of LIFE Magazine showed a sweaty, smiling Cassius Clay. We all know today why: Clay had just beaten Sonny Liston in the world heavyweight championship, held a few days prior in Miami Beach, Fla. The fight was named the fourth greatest moment of the twentieth century by Sports Illustrated.
Liston held the title, and was the most intimidating fighter of his day. Clay was a spotlight-loving, quick on his feet 22 year old, and went into the fight an underdog with 43 of the 46 ringside sports writers picking Liston to win.
We know that’s not what happened.
“Eat your words!” Clay shouted to the writers, “I’m the greatest!”
Breaking late last week, however, were speculations that the 1964 Miami fight was fixed. That Sonny Liston threw it by ducking out before the last round. That he gave up the title for something in the range of $1 million by betting against himself. Through a Freedom of Information Act request, FBI memos were recently obtained suggesting that Las Vegas gamblers and mob connections had been in on the fix, and that J. Edgar Hoover had investigated.
No evidence has surfaced that Clay was in on the scheme. Within a few days he had his new name: Muhammad Ali.
Last week, on Feb. 25, Muhammad Ali stepped into a new ring: the Twitterspehere. His first tweet read: “I shook up the world against Liston, now 50 years later I’m taking it to Twitter.” Follow him @MuhammadAli.