On this day in 1964, Cassius Clay defeated Sonny Liston in their first or two meetings. Clay, now known as Muhammad Ali, admits to being nervous about Liston’s punching power in that fight. However, Clay managed to slip and move past most punches Liston was throwing.
After a first round that went to Clay, Liston regrouped and came out in the second round pinning Clay up against the ropes and hurting him with a left hook. Clay later admitted he was hurt by that punch but Liston never took advantage of that opportunity. In the third round, Clay went to work. About 30 seconds into the round he lit up Liston with a combination that put a cut under his eye that later would require eight stitches to close up. This was the first time in Liston’s career he had suffered a cut during a fight. After Liston’s knees buckled almost sending him the floor, Les Keiter, who was broadcasting at ringside, shouted “This could be the upset of the century!”
An angered Liston finished the round strong by taking advantage of a tired Clay. As the bell rang in Clay shouted to Liston, “you big sucka, I got you now!”
During the fourth round of that fight Clay coasted, keeping his distance. When he returned to the corner of the ring he started complaining that something was burning his eye. Clay was telling his team to cut his gloves off, he wants to prove to the world there’s dirty work afoot. Clay’s trainer calmed him down and put his pinkie in Clay’s eye and then put it in his own and it burned like crazy as well.
Clay wasn’t able to fully regain his sight until about the sixth round where he went at Liston and gave him everything he had. Clay twisted and looked at the reporters saying “I’m gonna upset the world!” As the bell sounded for the seventh round, Clay was the first to notice Liston had spit his mouth guard out and immediately began dancing which eventually became known as the “Ali Shuffle.” Clay has won by technical knockout and was the first time since 1919 a heavyweight champion quit sitting on his stool.
On February 27th, Cassius Clay announced that he was a member of the Nation of Islam. Shortly there after on March 6, 1964, Elijah Muhammad announced in a recorded statement played over the radio that Cassius Clay would be renamed Muhammad Ali. Muhammad means “worthy of all praises”, and Ali means “most high.”