"A disgrace!" bellowed Cassius Marcellus Clay, who had just become the No. 1 heavyweight contender while sitting safely out of range of Sonny Liston's bludgeoning fists. It wasn't just Floyd Patterson (see page 27) who was a disgrace, Cassius allowed, but Sonny too. "Liston," he shouted for all to hear, "is a tramp! I'm the champ!"
Cassius must be kidding. If he isn't, he's crazy. It is one thing to anticipate meeting Liston with financial gain in mind and quite another to consider entering the ring against a virtually indestructible and demonstrably deadly fighting machine. Remember: Cassius had just seen in person what the pictures on the following pages show so graphically.
Clay's style is made to order for another massacre. He carries his hands too low, he leans away from a punch and he cannot fight a lick inside. He will face in Liston an opponent with endurance, highly developed skills, deceptive speed and strength enough to stun an elephant with either hand. Yet Cassius loudly insists that he is going to whup "that big ugly bear" when they meet, most likely in Philadelphia this September.
The oddsmakers do not think much of Clay's chances. James (Jimmie the Greek) Snyder, handicapper emeritus, figures that Liston should be an overwhelming 8-to-1 favorite. The only way a Liston backer can get any kind of odds is to pick one of the first six rounds for the knockout. "It's impossible," says Jimmie the Greek, "for Clay to last six rounds."
Sonny Liston fires for effect. His punches are not carefully aimed; he depends on their generalized brutality and debilitating force. But, as these pictures show, they explode from an extraordinary muscular structure and they follow classical patterns. At left, Liston jars Patterson with a jab. Below, he clubs Floyd with a left hook, the ultimate weapon in his arsenal. And, finally, an overhand right nearly doubles up the flat-footed ex-champion.
Threatened by Liston's great loom, Patterson stands erect, but his hands are down and his face displays a foreboding of quick and painful loss