On this day, February 25th, 1964, sports and American society where irrevocably changed.
What initially seemed like a simple story of a brash underdog winning a fight against a fearsome champion morphed into something so much bigger as the years unfolded. But today was the starting point of one of the most incredible sports and societal narratives that the world would ever see.
Today was the day that Muhammad Ali thrust himself onto the national stage and toward an exalted space that no other athlete could ever quite duplicate.
Cassius Clay, as he was known then and at the tender age of 22, defeated champion Sonny Liston in a technical knockout to win the world heavyweight boxing crown. Most boxing experts gave Clay little chance against the rugged Liston, and the buying public dismissed the former Gold medal-winning Olympian and any chances he might have.
But Clay came out blazing with his fists and dancing with his feet and prior to the seventh round, Liston, with cuts and bruises under his eyes, did not rise from the stool in his corner. He was done.
And the rise of Muhammad Ali was on like hot cheddar popcorn with his famous announcement, “I shook up the world!“
He went on to author one of the most incredible life stories, rising from a controversial and polarizing figure to becoming one of the most significant and celebrated figures, icons and activists of the 20th century. And it was on this day, 53 years ago, when the world truly began to take notice.