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Mohammed Ali

Becoming Muhammad Ali : Title fight 50 years ago launched icon, marked change far beyond ring

Nobody knew quite what to make of the handsome young boxer whose mouth seemed to be his greatest weapon. What they did know was that Cassius Clay didn't stand a chance.Not against Sonny Liston, the fearsome pug and ex-con with mob ties who wore a perpetual scowl as he knocked out almost everyone put in front of him in the ring. Not even when Clay predicted in verse that a new heavyweight champion would be crowned that February night 50 years ago in Miami Beach."The crowd did not dream when they put up the money," he roared, "that they would see a total eclipse of the Sonny."Oddsmakers thought the fighter known as the Louisville Lip was as crazy as his poems. They ignored the 22-year-old's boast that he would win in eight; they made Liston a 7-1 favorite."I'm the champ of fightin'," Liston sputtered to Clay, "but you the champ of talkin'."They met as the nation was on the eve of massive change, which few could foresee and even fewer could understand. Still deep in mourning over the assa...

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