FBI suspected first Ali-Liston fight was rigged, documents show

Was one of the most iconic fights in boxing history rigged?

Newly-released documents show that the FBI suspected that the first fight between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston may have been fixed by a Las Vegas gambler with ties to organized crime, according to The Washington Times.

On Feb. 25, 1964, Ali, fighting as Cassius Clay at the time, defeated Liston at the Miami Beach Convention Center. After the fight was called, Ali ran around the ring, yelling “I’m king of the world! I’m king of the world!” Sports Illustrated ranked it fourth on its list of the greatest sport moments in the 20th century.

The documents, which were released following a Freedom of Information Act request, show no evidence that Ali was in on a scheme or even knew about one. And nothing suggests that the FBI was able to back up their suspicions that the fight had a rigged outcome, the newspaper reported.

The FBI had suspected that Ash Resnick fixed multiple boxing matches, including the first Ali-Liston fight.

Among the documents were sensitive memos, addressed to then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, which detail an interview with Houston gambler Barnett Magids, who had discussions with Resnick before the fight.

The memos state that Magids had predicted that Liston would win the bout, but Resnick – without providing further details -- told him to hold off on making any bets and to watch it on television.

“Magids did go see the fight on TV and immediately realized that Resnick knew that Liston was going to lose,” a memo said, according to The Washington Times. “Later people ‘in the know’ in Las Vegas told Magids that Resnick and Liston both reportedly made over $1 million betting against Liston on the fight...”

A report from Philadelphia’s FBI office, dated 1968, said Resnick “was investigated in the alleged fixing of the first [Ali]-Liston fight in Miami.”

The Miami Beach Boxing Commission investigated the outcome as well, with chairman Morris Klein concluding that officials found “no wrongdoing” in the result.

Three months of U.S. Senate subcommittee hearings also found no evidence of a fixed fight, the newspaper reported.

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