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Back to Lewiston. Liston rests on his back, momentarily looking up into another world. The referee moves in to start his count—but wait, several factors that have been overlooked now come to light and have a terrific meaning in this travesty. First, the referee is Jersey Joe Walcott, the old champ. Nice as a celebrity; wrong as a referee. He had never handled a fight of this magnitude. Referees are true professionals, and there is no such thing as a good amateur celebrity referee. And so it happened that Walcott let this fight slip away from him.
When Liston fell, Ali was supposed to go to a neutral corner. Until he did so, no count could begin. But Ali was as skeptical as the spectators, and he stood over Liston in disbelief. He waved him up with his gloved hand and snarled at him repeatedly, "Get up, you bum! No one will believe this!"
Walcott made some desperate effort to wave the wild-eyed Ali to a neutral corner while trying to keep a count going. He looked with desperation at the timekeeper, whose job it was to count the seconds by the clock, but the timekeeper was an aged citizen, and he was every bit as flustered as Walcott.
Liston rolled over like a beached whale, keeping his eyes on Ali all the while. Ali was glowering over Liston. Liston was looking sheepishly up at him but not getting up. Walcott was doing a comic head-wagging bit, looking to the timekeeper, to Ali, to Liston and back. Nothing much was being resolved, and Liston looked like he was down for the month when out of the press section came a voice of authority.
A small, thin man, aged but clear of voice, strode forward and announced to Walcott, "The fight is over! Liston is out! Ali wins!"
The man was the late, redoubtable Nat Fleischer of The Ring magazine, the boxing historian and beloved old man of fight journalism. I respectfully submit that he was in somewhat less than an authoritative position and had no say-so, but both the timekeeper and Walcott were so relieved to see an end to their immediate problem that they gratefully concurred.
To recap, Liston, desperate to put a good one on Ali, overextended his long jab. Ali, bouncing off the ropes, threw a short right over the jab, which momentarily stunned Liston, and he fell down, but not out. Ali stood over him. Walcott could not control Ali. Stop there. The count should not have continued until Ali went to a neutral corner. He never did go to a neutral corner. The fight was stopped by a non-official. The fight should have continued. Liston could have gotten up, but didn't. Why...?
A few years later Liston petitioned the California Boxing Commission to reinstate his license. Now he is being questioned in the commissioner's office in Oakland.
A commissioner: "Mr. Liston, have you ever heard the word fix used in connection with a fight?"