By the time of
the weigh-in, he had managed to get everyone on edge. He had heckled Liston at
the airport and at his training quarters. He had turned McDonald gray, and he
had made most of the writers forget the image of Liston as the unbeatable
monster. The scene at the weigh-in was his own idea, and I was as surprised as
everyone else when he brought it off. I knew when it started that it wasn't
serious, though. He was yelling and screaming and trying to get at Liston, and
I was holding him back—with one finger. He believes his own scenes after a
while, and when they took his pulse rate and blood pressure both of them were
way up. For a little while the commission doctor threatened to call off the
fight, but I had Dr. Ferdie Pacheco check him at his house later in the
afternoon and everything was normal. He laughed and said, "Did I have
Liston shook up? I shook him up, didn't I?" He shook up Liston and a lot of
The night of the
fight he was ice-cold. He came in a little early and stood in the aisle and
watched his brother in a preliminary. The photographers were shooting pictures
of him, with the flashes going off in his face, and I wanted them to stop. But
he said it didn't bother him. Nothing really bothers Ali. He can be the most
completely undisturbed man I have ever known.
After he reached
the dressing room, Sugar Ray Robinson came in to wish him luck. He was
loosening up by then, dancing around and shadow boxing, and he was relaxed and
happy. He went into the shower room, and he stopped a minute and said his
prayers, the way you see him do it now before a fight. That was the first time
I ever noticed him doing this.
When I started
wrapping his hands, Reddish came in to watch. Willie put in his little bit to
psych Muhammad, but it didn't work.
"My man is
going to get you," he said.
Ali laughed at
get him," he said.
really present that much of a problem. I was confident from the time the bout
was made that we could take him. I told Ali to dance and move and make him
miss, and he did that and Liston didn't reach him at all in the first three
rounds. Ali would feint a punch and then not throw it. Sonny would react and
Ali would give him a target to shoot at and he'd shoot and miss. Liston had to
plant himself to punch, and in those first few rounds he was throwing his left
hand so hard that his fist turned when he missed. When you punch that hard and
miss you wear yourself out, and that's what happened to Liston. He found out he
couldn't hit Ali, and that made him mad and tired him even more.
Sonny also found
out that Ali could hit him and dance away, and he turned desperate after that.
Ali throws punches that break people up. He turns his hand just as it lands,
and it punishes. He was breaking Liston up. I always thought that Liston was
made to order for Ali, and he showed it in Miami Beach. Liston had to be able
to hit you with the left jab. If he could do that and set and punch, he could
take you. But he was big and slow, and I knew if he missed many punches he
would get tired and discouraged.
The only real
problem in that fight was in the fourth round, when some of the coagulant they
put on a cut near Liston's eye got on Ali's forehead and then into his eyes
from the sweat coming down. He came back to the corner and said that his eyes
were burning, that he wanted to take off his gloves and stand up and tell
everyone that there was foul play, but I wouldn't let him. "This is a
championship," I told him. I shoved him into the ring at the bell.
"Stay away from him," I hollered. "Run!"