Boxed In: Ali's Phantom Punch

Did Ali actually land the famous knockout punch on Liston? Terez Paylor breaks down why he feels this is the best sports conspiracy of all-time.

Video Transcript

TEREZ PAYLOR: OK, so after Ali Liston I, which was a hard fought win by Ali, in which he yelled at the iconic I am the greatest line, this Ali Liston II was one of the most controversial fights of all time, arguably the most controversial of all time. Remember, to this point, remember, Sonny Liston had lost two fights his whole career. And the previous time he faced Ali, he was six rounds with him, despite having a bum shoulder and being undertrained, OK? And then, in this fight, he goes down in round one, making this one of the shortest heavyweight title bouts in history? How?

Liston was 6-1, 218, and he had never been knocked out. He had, a granite-- to this point, he'd never once been knocked out. He also had a granite chin. In 54 career fights, I was able to find, he was only knocked down three times in his career. Once in this fight, very, very early in his pro career, against a guy named Marty Marshall, who-- look. Listen's a tough guy. And that fight, he thought the whole thing with a broken jaw, and then beat the guy up so bad, by the end, Marshall had stepped out of the ring. He was done. And in Ali Liston II, obviously, and then later in his career against Lee Otis Martin, when he was 40.

So not a long history here of Sonny Liston being, having a glass-- no. It's the complete opposite. He's a hard guy to knock down, let alone knock out. So wrapping this up here, let's talk about a couple of things here, we got to keep in mind.

Number one, he got knocked out on Ali's third punch of the night. So a man who was only knocked down in his career a few times, and only knocked out a few times over 20 years, went down on Ali's third punch of the night? People hadn't even settled down into their seats yet. Please.

Secondly, Liston was also sponsored by the mob early in his career. And there's lots of history involving guys having to take dives, OK? So people were connecting that. Also, Liston didn't even complain about the clear breach of boxing rules after the match. And Ali couldn't believe that he was down. He yelled at Liston when he was down, that nobody will believe this. And he kept asking his handlers, did I hit him? Even Ali didn't know he knocked him out. How can [INAUDIBLE]?

The last thing I'll say-- if you want to say he was, that Sonny Liston was washed up at this point, remember this. He fought lots-- he fought many more fights over the next five years. And he only lost once. And his last fight came against Chuck Wepner, who went on to fight for the heavyweight title. And by the end of that match, Wepner needed 72 stitches, and he had a broken cheekbone and nose. He was done.

So you will never convince me Sonny Liston didn't take a dive in that fight.