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THE TRUE PICTURE
The handling of the Clay-Liston fight in Lewiston, Me. was, in a word, bush; its coverage by much of the press, TV and radio has verged on the hysterical.
Many of those watching the fight in the arena failed to see the short, fast right to the jaw that nailed Liston, and among them were numerous reporters. But when a reporter does not get a good look at something that happens he is supposed to go out and question someone who did. Instead of which, in this case, a number of reporters either wrote the first and most sensational thing that came into their heads, or they wrote in a way they thought would please the people who had made Liston the sentimental favorite, or they twisted the facts to justify their own mistaken prefight pick.
Television was no better. With a chance to provide more than half a million closed-circuit viewers with the best seat in the house, TV's unimaginative camera placement was almost guaranteed to shut off the punching action of both men except when they were broadside to the camera. Unfortunately, at the moment of the knockout, Liston's back and head virtually obliterated Clay's right. This led many viewers to jump to the conclusion that there had been no action, no punch. And if someone who saw the punch with his own eyes tried to convince one of these viewers he was apt to be met with the unbelieving stare reserved for those who foolishly challenge Article I, Section I of the New Faith: "If it ain't on TV, it ain't so."
As for the radio broadcast of the fight, it can be briefly dismissed as merely unintelligible.
Of course, a predictable assortment of publicity seekers, nuts and opportunistic politicians quickly got into the act, one as badly informed as another. Those who previously had wanted abolition of boxing as being too brutal now want it outlawed because the Clay-Liston affray proved boxing too soft. Ignorant and pompous statements fill the air between Gene Tunney and the halls of Congress.
We find much of the reaction to the fight more depressing than the official blunders in the Lewiston ring.
The Soviet Union, which has handed out ultimatums of its own in years gone by, got one handed to its tennis team late last week. The trouble began earlier in the week at the French tennis championships where two Soviet players, Tomas Lejus and Anna Dmitrieva, acted disgracefully to avoid meeting South Africans. Their purpose was protest against South Africa's racial policy, but in the manner of it the Russians only succeeded in advertising the flaws in their own society.