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burning Question
January 07, 2002
Q In Muhammad Ali's first bout with Sonny Liston, in 1964, did Liston doctor his gloves in order to blind Ali, as depicted in the movie Ali?
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January 07, 2002

Burning Question

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Q In Muhammad Ali's first bout with Sonny Liston, in 1964, did Liston doctor his gloves in order to blind Ali, as depicted in the movie Ali?

A That Ali temporarily lost his vision in the fourth round is well documented; Ali returned to his corner after the round and told trainer Angelo Dundee that "dirty work [was] afoot." But Liston, who died in 1970, never admitted cheating. Dundee believes the blinding was accidental and that either medication applied to a cut on Liston's cheek or liniment rubbed on Liston's shoulder got into Ali's eyes.

Conspiracy theorists are plentiful, however. "There's a general belief that doctoring did happen," says boxing historian Bert Sugar. In David Remnick's 1998 Ali biography, King of the World, Philadelphia Daily News reporter Jack McKinney says Liston's cornerman Joe Pollino admitted applying something—Pollino never said what—to his boxer's gloves. "Immediately after the fight Joe, who was very close to me, unburdened himself to me," McKinney says in the book. "He told me Sonny had told him to juice the gloves, and he went ahead and did it." What is evident, at least, is that Ali's eyes cleared in the fifth round, and two rounds later he was heavyweight champion of the world.

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