A fight that changed boxing history

Fifty years ago, an upstart American boxer who later became known as Muhammad Ali “shook the world” when he dethroned Sonny Liston to claim the heavyweight championship of the world in Miami Beach.

That victory on Feb 25, 1964 was the last time Cassius Clay fought under his real name, announcing after that he was joining the religious black power movement, the Nation of Islam, and changing his name to Muhammad Ali.

The six-round bout laun­ched Ali to international fame, giving him the stage to successfully protest everything from racial segregation to the Vietnam War, while declaring himself to be “The Greatest.” 

To mark the 50th anniversary of the fight the downtown HistoryMiami museum is celebrating the event with a month-long art and photo exhibition opening this week.

Most observers at the time argued Clay's style and lack of experience would doom him to lose to the fearsome Liston. Clay eschewed traditional boxing techniques. He leaned back to dodge punches, which left him off balance and susceptible to a knockout punch.

He also bounced and skipped around the ring, later coining the phrase, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can't hit what his eyes can't see.”

After the fight a jubilant Clay declared, “I'm the greatest thing that ever lived ... I shook up the world.”

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