Back in May of 1965, a young and confident boxer named Cassius Clay had upset champion Sony Liston in February, 1964. A rematch was planned to be held at the Garden in Boston the following year.
But at the 11th and a half hour (only 18 days before), the fight had to be moved. Maine boxing Promoter Sam Michaels jumped at the opportunity and brought the event to Lewiston, not far from the Almanac headquarters.
I was 14 at the time but the local media reported what was going on every day at the two training camps. Clay, who renamed himself Muhammad Ali, wouldn’t stop talking, and Liston would utter only a couple words along with a snarl. Quite literally, nothing else mattered – this was the Big Time coming to Small Town USA.
On May 25, 1965, my father and older brother had tickets and we dropped them off for the match of a lifetime. As soon as my mother and I got back home, we were called to pick them up. That was it – one minute and one punch. They were just getting to their seats when it happened. One gent who flew in from Australia arrived to the match a few minutes late, only to realize that he, too, missed it. I guess almost everyone missed the blow that ended Liston’s career.
Fast forward a few years: When I started publicizing the Farmers’ Almanac in 1979, if I mentioned Lewiston, Maine during any interviews, a reporter would excitedly say, “Oh, the Ali – Liston fight!” While all the publicity wasn’t flattering, Lewiston was on the map for true sports fans.
From there Ali went on to immortality. He was clearly one of the most gifted and entertaining athletes of our time.