Muhammad Ali

Sonny Liston fired gun at Muhammad Ali in Las Vegas casino before returning to blackjack game

Before Jake Paul, Conor McGregor, Naseem Hamed or even Floyd Mayweather began to disparage their rivals, Muhammad Ali was the trash talking king of combat sports.

The ‘Louisville Lip’, as he was known, earned himself a reputation as being a boisterous talker outside of the ring and a flashy fighter inside it.

Ali was the master of psychological warfare
Ali was the master of psychological warfare

Thanks to the influence of the legendary wrestler Gorgeous George, Ali began to promote himself in a way which the sport had never seen before – mocking opposition fighters whilst giving himself the moniker of ‘The Greatest’.

While it may seem ordinary for fighters to act in this manner now, Cassius Clay (as he was known in his formative years) was revolutionising the world of sport one insult at a time.

After winning Olympic Gold at the 1960 Games in Rome, Clay went on a 19-fight winning run against the likes of Henry Cooper and Archie Moore to out himself in contention to fight heavyweight champion Sonny Liston.

A fearful character with dark ties to the mob and certified dynamite in his hands, Liston was one of the most intimidating characters in all of sport and few crossed him. That was until Clay signed to fight him.

Clay was an American hero after the 1960 Olympics
Clay was an American hero after the 1960 Olympics
The youngster may have overstepped the mark by harassing Liston on his doorstep at 1am
The youngster may have overstepped the mark by harassing Liston on his doorstep at 1am

As well as pestering the champ at literally every opportunity when a microphone was in his face, Clay even turned up to Liston’s house with a bullhorn and a bus in the early hours of the morning.

Tensions reached a head when Clay approached Liston at the Desert Inn casino in Las Vegas as the champion was playing a game of blackjack.

In no mood due to his bad luck with cards, Liston pulled a gun on Clay and his entourage and fired twice at the cocky challenger to strike fear into the hearts of the nearby crowd.

Thankfully, the gun was filled with blanks but Clay still recalled the fear he felt in that moment.

Clay bullied Liston
Clay bullied Liston
But the heavyweight champion literally fired back with interest
But the heavyweight champion literally fired back with interest

“I ducked,” he wrote in his autobiography ‘The Greatest, My Own Story Muhammed Ali’.

“A chill went through my spine. BANG! BANG! He was still aiming at me.

“I leaped over the blackjack table, then the dice table, scattering chips and cards all over the floor, ducking and dodging all the way out in the streets, and behind me the pistol: BANG! BANG!”

“When I got back to my hotel room, I threw myself on the bed, panting. My heart was beating fast, my hands were shaking. I was thinking maybe I should leave Liston alone.

Clay beat Liston twice in 1964 and then in 1965
Clay beat Liston twice in 1964 and then in 1965

“They said the joke was on me. Liston’s gun was loaded with blanks. Willie had set it up he told Liston I was coming and prepared him with a blank pistol.”

The two men share the ring on two occasions, with Ali prevailing twice to cement his reputation as the best heavyweight of his era.

George Foreman, Joe Frazier and many more would feel the wrath of Ali’s silver tongue and quick wit, thankfully none were trigger happy like Liston.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button