|Caricatured summary of the first prize fight between |
Sonny Liston versus Muhammad Ali, and how the latter's
nigh-casual domination of the former champion is the
proper lens to judge whether Liston took a 'dive' in the sequel.
Mike Gonzales - Did Sonny Liston take a dive in his 2nd fight with Muhammad Ali?
Muhammad Rasheed - I’ve studied the Ali vs Liston II ‘dive’ controversy a lot over the years, and the one thing that baffles me about it is this:
What was supposed to have happened in the first fight that would make me think that Liston even needed to take a dive in the sequel?Perhaps if the first fight was super close and Ali barely won a contested split decision or something similar, then the ‘dive’ rumors would actually make sense. But other than the ‘ointment in the eyes’ blip, the former Cassius Clay completely dominated Sonny Liston, dancing around him like the big man was standing still, each desperate counter-punch attempt catching nothing but the empty air where Ali used to be. Using his awkward, very non-traditional signature style, Ali made easy work of all of that previous generation’s fighters, and even if Liston had taken his brash young challenger as seriously as he should have and put in the gym work, it wouldn’t have gone any differently. Ali embarrassed Liston in that first fight, and if Liston was in top notch shape for the sequel, Ali was MORE so — he wasn’t giving up that belt.
So the idea that Sonny Liston ‘took a dive’ so he wouldn’t win—as if he stood more than a fluke puncher’s chance at all— is so divorced from the reality of the two competitors’ skill levels, it can never be more than just a silly rumor no matter how much the faux-controversy persists through the annals of boxing gossip legend.
Jeanne Pitt - That punch wouldn’t have knocked down a welterweight, of course he took a dive
Muhammad Rasheed - Ali had a 66% KO percentage over-all, which was much higher in those Cassius Clay years when he was calling the rounds (“Liston is great, but he’ll fall in eight!”). Even though he never had the reputation of a devastating knockout artist, the smooth ‘bee sting’ punching style Ali demonstrated was clearly deceptively harder than it looked from the outside. Watch how much Cleveland William’s head forcefully snaps back throughout that fight from jabs alone.