One of the Most Iconic Ali Images Ever Taken May Have Been Based on a Lie

Sonny Liston allegedly took a dive.
IMAGE Neil Leifer

Muhammad Ali gave the world more iconic images than perhaps any other sportsman in historybut a fresh claim suggests one of the most famous could have been a lie all along.

In 25 May 1965, the Greatest took on Sonny Liston for the second of what would prove their only two bouts. The previous year their first meeting had been clouded in controversy after Liston threw in the towel during round seven, leading to rumors of a fix that has been debated ever since.

Ali won the much-anticipated follow up again, this time by a knockout in the first roundthe first of Liston's careerwhen he landed the famous 'anchor punch', leading to the image above of Ali apparently at the peak of his powers that has adorned the walls of teenagers and boxing fanatics ever since.

At the time, no onenot even the FBIcould find a shred of evidence that Sonny took a dive in either fight. Until now.

A book last year by ESPN writer Shaun Assael called The Murder of Sonny Liston: Las Vegas, Heroin, and Heavyweights argued that the troubled heavyweight not only took a dive but did so in exchange for a piece of Ali's future earnings.

The quote reads:

It is based on the never-before-heard recollections of a former NAACP president in Las Vegas, who told me that he was a young man when he heard Liston drunkenly boast that he was going to get a piece of Ali's purse with Joe Frazier in 1971 as a result of the 1965 fight.


If true, i means one of the most exhilarating images of Ali taken loses some of his power to say the least, though don't worryhe has plenty of others.

This story originally appeared on

*Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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