Lamestream Press Gets Fooled Again

By Paul Gallender on March 4, 2014
Lamestream Press Gets Fooled Again
The fact is that anyone can say anything they want about someone who has passed.

Who would dare question the credibility of a memo “so sensitive that it was addressed directly” to J. Edgar Hoover? What a story! What a joke…

Oh, the power of a declassified 48-year-old FBI memo! It can turn rumor into truth and journalists into dupes. After all, who would dare question the credibility of a memo “so sensitive that it was addressed directly” to J. Edgar Hoover? What a story!

What a joke.

A mini-journalistic earthquake was caused last week when the Washington Times acquired a declassified FBI memo that suggested that Sonny Liston threw his 1964 title fight with then Cassius Clay, and won $1 million by betting against himself. According to people “in the know,” Las Vegas casino executive, Ash Resnick, engineered the fix and he, too, made $1 million by betting on Clay.

The story spread like wildfire, picked up by CNN,,, and other mainstream outlets. Apart from the already beleaguered reputations of Liston and Resnick, the main casualty was the truth.

There’s not even a hint that any of the writers actually watched the fight or did any research into it. I did, which is why I know the story is bogus.

Sonny Liston was a very proud man who valued his title as much as any other titleholder ever did. He would never have surrendered his title for money. Nor did he have the kind of money needed to bet and win a million dollars on the fight.

Ash Resnick lost money betting on the fight and his Las Vegas friend Lem Banker, took the bet. There may have been other bets by Ash. His widow, Marilyn, remembers her husband’s reaction after the fight. “Ash was like ashen white,” she told me. “I know Ash lost a lot of money on that fight. He had a habit of biting his lower lip when he had done something like that. That was a giveaway.”

A four-week investigation of the bout by the Florida State Attorney’s office revealed no evidence that the fight had been fixed and found no fluctuation in the betting odds anywhere in the country. Every cent Sonny made on that fight was kept from him until the investigation was concluded.

Now I’ll tell you the four reasons why Liston lost that bout.

1. Sonny trained for a two or three round fight because he, his handlers, and most everyone else thought Clay did not belong in the same ring with him. Cassius did everything he could to further that belief.

2. Clay insulted and humiliated Liston so badly that the champ entered the ring wanting to kill the Louisville Lip. Sonny fought angry and looked more like an amateur than the force of nature he really was. Clay’s campaign of psychological warfare was responsible for eliciting that reaction, too.

3. Liston suffered from bursitis in both shoulders and had injured his left shoulder so badly that he secretly underwent two weeks of heat and ultrasonic treatments from a physiotherapist named Barney Felix. On the day of the fight, Felix was selected as the referee. During the bout, he said to himself, “He’s going to tear his shoulder to pieces.” Later, Felix said, “And he did.”

The Athletic Commission’s eight-person medical team unanimously concluded that Liston’s injury prevented him from using his left arm to defend himself. The muscle damage had swollen the circumference of his arm by almost four inches and his fist was swollen as well. “There is no doubt in my mind this fight should have been stopped,” said the lead physician, Dr. Alexander Robbins. One of the other seven doctors who treated Sonny described him as being sad and depressed.

4. Liston was old enough to be Clay’s father. All eight doctors concluded that Sonny’s true age was between 38 and 41. There’s evidence that suggests he was even older.

The narrative of Sonny Liston’s life is almost totally negative. It’s been set in stone since May 25, 1965, when he threw the second Ali fight. Ash Resnick had nothing to do with that either, though the FBI memo suggests that he did. I know why Sonny threw that fight, but that’s another story.

Resnick’s narrative has also been set in stone. Shortly after Ash died in 1988, Sports Illustrated wrote that he was rumored to have ordered the death of his friend Sonny Liston. This year’s “revelation” will probably serve to confirm the earlier rumor in the minds of a lot of people.

It seems unfair that it’s not a crime to slander a dead person. The fact is that anyone can say anything they want about someone who has passed, no matter how preposterous it sounds. That means I could say that J. Edgar Hoover was a heterosexual without having a shred of evidence to prove it. Lest anyone think I’m a kook, I’ll withdraw the statement.

Paul Gallender is the author of Sonny Liston – The Real Story Behind the Ali-Liston Fights.

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Was Ali vs. Liston fight fixed?

Cassius Clay aka Muhammad Ali v Sonny Liston 1964

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  1. bikermike 04:46am, 04/07/2015

    There has always been some ‘fog’ surrounding LIston’s age…as he came from a time and place where many children didn’t get a birth certificate.

    I honestly believe the first fight between Clay and Liston was legit.

    ....the second fight between Liston and Clay/Ali…...not so sure

  2. Paul Gallender 10:34am, 03/06/2014

    Sorry, David. My mistake. My dad was born a day after your dad in 1916.

  3. David Jones (The Kid) 10:28am, 03/06/2014

    My dad died in 1989!! Thanks for bringing a bit of light to this story. Happy Birthday Pops!!

  4. Paul Gallender 06:51pm, 03/04/2014

    Matt - No. But Tex Maule wrote that he saw tears on Sonny’s cheeks after the fight was stopped. One of the 8 examining physicians at the hospital said Sonny looked sad and depressed. Also, in his hotel room, he was basically disconsolate.
    Frankie - I guess you haven’t read my book. So I’ll tell you what I discovered. Nation of Islam members loyal to Ali (but I’m certain without Ali’s knowledge), held Sonny’s wife and son hostage and told Sonny he had to lose the fight if he wanted to see them alive again. I can’t imagine anyone doing anything different than Sonny did if faced with this terrible situation. I doubt that you’ll believe this is what happened, given the way you prefaced your question, and so be it.
    Clarence - Prior to the fight, Fleischer had enormous respect for Sonny’s ability. I’m sure he did not like the way the fight ended and I can see it being named Fight of the Year if only because it was such a huge upset. Fleischer really began to hate and disrespect Sonny after the Lewiston fight. After all, he took it upon himself to illegally stop the fight.
    As far as how much Sonny valued being heavyweight champ, I have a story in my book that was written about when Liston was training for the first Patterson fight. On the way was a poster with pictures of all the heavyweight champs. Sonny told his handlers that when he became champ, he wanted a big picture of himself in the middle of the poster and that he wanted stars all around it. Even after he lost to Clay, he would talk about the title as his title and how good he was going to feel when “I get my title back.” But for Ali’s hernia three days before the scheduled rematch, I’m confident he would have gotten it back.

  5. Clarence George 02:38pm, 03/04/2014

    Interesting tidbit about Felix.  Maybe the Florida State Boxing Commission didn’t know of his physiotherapeutic relationship with Liston, but Felix knew.  A clear conflict of interest, and he never should have accepted the ref job.  A moot point, as it turns out, but Felix didn’t know it would be.  Anyway, let’s say he didn’t.

    Bit curious why “Ring” deemed it Fight of the Year.  Did Nat Fleischer hate Liston so much that he wanted to rub it in?  Worth noting that Emile Griffith, not Ali, was named Fighter of the Year.

  6. Matt McGrain 12:23pm, 03/04/2014

    My take, Frankie, was always that Liston valued his title as much as any man that ever held it until that disastrous non-victory parade after he picked up the title.  Like anyone else who looks outside themselves for fulfilment, Liston was disappointed.  When the title let him down (as he saw it), he let it down.

  7. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 12:18pm, 03/04/2014

    Paul Gallender-“Sonny was a very proud man who valued his title as much as any other titleholder ever did.” If that is the case then please tell us once again what that revolting, shameless, vile, loathsome, and disgusting charade in Lewistown was all about.

  8. Matt McGrain 11:36am, 03/04/2014

    Paul, did you ever find anything corroborating or disproving Kram’s claim that Liston was seen crying just before/just as he entered the ring for the first fight?

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