By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent
On May 25, 1965, in Lewiston, Maine, Charles ‘Sonny’ Liston took a dive in the first round of his rematch with Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay). Often missing from the postfight ring footage is the brouhaha between top contender George Chuvalo and Ali in the ring.
Ali’s tap punch did not knock Liston out, and Ali screamed at the ‘yellow’ cowardly Liston to get up. Chuvalo was to fight Liston for the title if Liston won the rematch. Ali was to fight Floyd Patterson if Ali won. Chuvalo rightly felt he had been cheated out of his world title opportunity because of Liston’s dive. Liston, in the postfight press conference, still expressed his desire to fight Chuvalo.
What actually happened in Maine?
Ali versus Liston II at St. Dominic’s Hall in Lewiston, Maine, on May 25, 1965, set the scene for a really bizarre boxing situation of contradiction. On the one hand, it was alleged Malcolm X’s people had a hit out on Muhammad Ali, because Ali sided with the rival Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam, from which Malcolm X had departed. Elijah’s Black Muslims kidnapped Geraldine Liston and Liston’s son Bobby. Sonny was told to lose the fight to Ali, or he would never see his family again. The fight lasted one round with Liston going down from the now infamous ‘phantom tap punch’.
By fall 1963, Malcolm X, with his own words, had had his suspicions confirmed. The honorable Elijah Muhammad, spiritual leader of the Nation of Islam, had impregnated eight teenage secretaries and had their babies, who were in a state of neglect. The Nation of Islam was in a state of denial. According to Malcolm X, one secretary had a second baby with Elijah Muhammad, while another secretary had three babies with Muhammad. The video revelation came in the black and white interview with Malcolm X now on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnGnO23nxTg The Malcolm X video commentary provides the factual justification for the disillusionment and departure of Malcolm X from the Nation of Islam to form a rival Islamic spiritual group, the cause of his assassination at the Audubon Ballroom. Ali remained loyal to the Nation of Islam, avoiding the Vietnam draft, losing his right to box, and later regaining it in the United States Supreme Court.
“Turning my back on Malcolm X,” wrote Ali in his 2004 autobiography ‘The Soul of a Butterfly’, “was one of the mistakes that I regret most in my life. I wish I’d been able to tell Malcolm I was sorry. He was right about so many things. He was killed before I got the chance.” Among the things the Nation of Islam taught Ali was ‘The White Man is the Devil’. Malcolm X learned during his Haji Pilgrimage to Mecca, this was not so, making many genuine friends who of white ethnic background. Malcolm X had concluded rightly Islam was a religion for all people. On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated as he gave a speech at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem. There would be no reconciliation between the boxer and the man who recruited him into the Nation of Islam.
On October 3, 1974, Muhammad Ali knocked out George Foreman to win the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ in Kinshasa, Zaire. Afterwards, in the postfight press conference, Ali was still ranting and raving about his faith within the Nation of Islam, and the honorable Elijah Muhammad. Elijah Muhammad died on February 25, 1975. Ali postfight interview with David Frost in Kinshasa, Zairehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHGgemFj8Qk
Half a century after the Black Muslim wars which were embedded beneath Muhammad Ali versus Sonny Liston II, it is interesting to note after the second Liston bout, Ali would get divorced three times and ultimately marry four times, producing seven daughters and two sons. Ali also adopted a son with his fourth wife, giving him ten children. In addition, Ali had a 20 year relationship with a woman named Barbara Mensah, from whom Kiiursti Mensah-Ali claims to be Ali’s biological daughter, which would give Ali eight daughters and three sons overall. While Ali was ultimately sorry his relationship with Malcolm X soured, the differences, in the end, between Ali and Elijah Muhammad are noteworthy. Ali had either 10 or 11 children, 9 or 10 biological, by four wives and perhaps one mistress, and he died with a Last Will and Testament. Elijah Muhammad had eight children by his wife, and 21 overall, and no Will. How much love or neglect were these children subjected to? Were Muhammad Ali’s and Sonny Liston’s and their families lives in serious jeopardy before their title rematch in Lewiston? The answer lies on the dark side of the moon.