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Among the few observers who had a clear view of the fight as well as its implications was Jim Murray, one of America's most trenchant—and acerbic—sportswriters. Murray, formerly with SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, now writes a syndicated column for the Los Angeles Times. The following are excerpts from the story he filed immediately after the fight.
King Kong got knocked off the Empire State Building. Cassius Marcellus Aladdin Mulligan Montmorency O'Toole Clay took only 60 seconds of Sonny Liston's time to knock him kicking in a setting as improbable as the fight.
Sonny Liston hit the floor like a guy slipping on a cake of soap getting out of the bathtub. This is the second time this fight has ended with several thousand people looking at each other and asking: "What happened?"
Well, I'll tell you what happened. That's what I'm here for. Sonny Liston got the hell beat out of him is what happened. This time I was looking for it and I saw it: an old man groping his way into a speedy insolent reckless kid. He was like a guy braving a barrage of rocks. He hasn't hit Cassius Clay yet. And he never will.
The closest he ever got to the world's foremost Arabian fistfighter was the weigh-in. When he didn't hit him then he was volunteering for an evening of catching. He should have worn a catcher's mitt on his face.
I counted three times when Cassius staggered him. The first time was when the bell echo hadn't died down yet. Cassius is an ad-lib fighter, and he thought up a beaut to get this dance under way—a right cross. Nobody ever started a heavyweight title fight with a right before. That's the kind of dirty trick your wife would try. But Cassius messed up Liston's unpretty features with a crazy right that he started to throw when he left his corner. Liston should have known then and there that his ploy was to find a soft place to land.
We all knew Sonny was slow, but we didn't think he'd need to call a cab to get to center ring. Actually, he should have called a cab to take him home. Two years ago we were saying this guy was the best heavyweight in history. Now, he's not even the best heavyweight in Lewiston. And if you think that isn't a comedown, you've never been to Lewiston.
Sonny fought as if his feet hurt. If he was a horse they would have scratched him. Cassius could have beat him in high heels.
They tried to drum some strategy into Sonny that was Napoleonic in concept. He was counseled on how to cut off Cassius' retreat in mid-ring. The only trouble was Sonny always got there after Cassius left. His problem seemed to be he had to surround Clay.
The closest Liston ever got to Clay was the same ring. In my fight notes, if you care, I have "CC stops L with a right" and later "CC staggers him" and then "L leaped at him." That was the trouble. To get at Cassius, Liston would have had to set-the broad-jump record.