That time I was a total jerk and cheered for Sonny Liston to beat Cassius Clay


By Steve Newton

So, one of the greatest men who ever lived dies and CTV News Channel, in its FOX-like rush to be first with the BREAKING NEWS, can’t even get his name right.

Not even close.

“Muhamed Ali”.

That’s bloody embarrassing, I must say.

I’ve got my own embarrassing Ali story to tell, mind you. Then again, I was only six at the time of my faux pas. Pretty sure the red-faced graphics person at CTV had a few years on me.

I don’t remember that many things from February of 1964–apart from the Beatles’ invasion of America–but I vividly recall listening to the radio broadcast of the World Heavyweight Championship bout on February 25, ’64. Challenger Cassius Clay was taking on defending champ Sonny Liston, my dad was a big boxing fan, and we were listening to it live on the light-blue (maybe it was green) radio perched on top of the kitchen fridge.

I’d seen some TV footage of Clay leading up to the bout, and I got turned off by his arrogance and boasting. It rubbed my skinny little Cub Scout ass the wrong way, I guess. And also I was football crazy at the time, and my gridiron hero was Sonny Homer–who would help lead the B.C. Lions to the Grey Cup that year.

So I really loved the name Sonny. What the hell kinda name was “Cassius”? I was cheering for Liston.

While Howard Cosell’s colourful commentary blasted from our tinny receiver, one of the greatest upsets in boxing history unfolded. Clay whooped the ex-con’s ass. Then he really started bragging.

The next day Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali, and the rest is history.

Eventually my pea-sized brain grew to nearly the size of a penny and I came to realize that it’s okay to brag and be brimming with confidence when you truly are, without a doubt, the greatest of all time.

R.I.P. Muhammad Ali.



One thought on “That time I was a total jerk and cheered for Sonny Liston to beat Cassius Clay

  1. Very fitting tribute to the greatest. When I was 9, (it was early 1971) some older boy asked me who I would root for in a fight between Muhammad Ali and Cassius Clay. I confessed I never heard of Ali. Then he very amusingly told me they were the same person. I guess he thought it was a funny joke.

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