The year is 1964, and a lanky 22-year-old contender is facing the world heavyweight champion, who had knocked out his previous three opponents in the first round. Few would give a fast-talking and speedy on-foot contender the chance. But what followed next was the biggest upset of the century. Muhammad Ali stood tall as Sonny Liston retired on the stool after the sixth round. How did Ali pull that off?
Liston had dominated the boxing world with sheer muscle power and unwavering faith in his skills. Meanwhile, Ali came as an underdog and deployed psychological warfare to pull off an upset that is now in the history books. UFC commentator Joe Rogan lauded the American boxer’s psychological acumen as he detailed how Ali broke into Liston’s head.
Joe Rogan lifts veils on Muhammad Ali’s psychological strategy
The UFC color commentator sat down with Steve Sweeney on Ep. #1257 of JRE. While discussing one of the greatest fights in boxing history, the guest pointed out Liston was afraid of Ali and scratched his head as he looked for answers. Following this, the famed podcaster revealed, “Ali did this on purpose.”
The 56-year-old mentioned Ali acted like a crazy person. Ali believed only a crazy person could make Liston afraid. He said, “‘Cause he’s like, Sonny Liston was a bully and Sonny Liston was a big, scary man.”
“And what he felt like Sonny Liston would be afraid of is a crazy person. Someone who wasn’t afraid of him.” But how did Ali make the heavyweight champion fear him?
Ali made Sonny Liston believe he would never stop
The standup comic disclosed, “So when all the press conferences and all the different things leading up to the fight, he would scream at him.” Further, Ali would show up at Liston’s house and honk the horn in the middle of the night.
“Get on his lawn and scream and yell at him,” Rogan added. “He did a lot of sh*t things to Sonny Liston to f*ck with him psychologically. He wanted Sonny Liston to think he was a crazy person and that he would never stop.”
Lastly, the TV presenter pulled a clip leading up to Ali and Liston’s fight. Ali remained stoic in the faceoff and made sure he didn’t look scared. “He let him know he wasn’t scared of him,” Rogan declared. Following their fateful first match, they squared off inside the square circle again in 1965.
However, the fight proved a sharp contrast to their previous meeting, as Ali knocked out Liston in the first round via what some labeled a ‘phantom punch’. Despite this, the Liston fights paved the way for Ali’s reign at the top as a champion and eventually his greatness.