FBI Files: Ali Win May Have Been Fixed
Documents reveal man with mob ties suspected in iconic Ali-Liston battle
By Kevin Spak, Newser User
Posted Feb 25, 2014 2:14 PM CST
Updated Mar 1, 2014 7:01 PM CST
In this May 25, 1965, photo, heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali stands over fallen challenger Sonny Liston. This was the second of their two fights.   (AP Photo/John Rooney)

(Newser) – Could the fight that put Muhammad Ali on the map have been a sham? The FBI had reason to believe that 22-year-old Ali's first bout against heavyweight champ Sonny Liston was rigged, and that the mob may have been involved, according to decades-old documents obtained by the Washington Times under the Freedom of Information Act. The fight, which occurred 50 years ago today, is regarded as a classic. Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, came in as an 8-1 underdog, according to Sports Illustrated's retelling, but he emerged as the youngest heavyweight champion ever, after Liston failed to answer the bell in the seventh round, complaining of a hurt shoulder.

But in memos to J. Edgar Hoover, FBI agents said a Houston gambler had told them that Vegas gambler Ash Resnick had introduced him to Liston, and that on the day of the fight Resnick warned him not to bet on it, saying he'd know why when he saw the fight on TV. Resnick was allegedly friends with Meyer Lansky, among other notorious mob figures. Liston was said to have ties to Lucchese family figures, and rumors have long swirled that his mysterious death years later was a mob hit. The FBI was never able to prove anything, and a Florida post-fight investigation ruled the win legitimate. But in a 1998 book on Ali, one of Liston's corner men said the shoulder injury "was all BS," and that Liston had simply quit. Two things the Times points out: The documents at no time indicate Ali was party to the alleged scheme, and nothing in them "suggests the bureau ever fully corroborated the suspicions."

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Showing 3 of 85 comments
ddhartma
Mar 3, 2014 6:51 AM CST
Even as an eleven year old, listening to the fight on the radio, it was very obvious that Liston took a dive. I'm very proud of our FBI that it only took them 50 years to determine that he "may" have taken a dive.
magic3400
Mar 2, 2014 7:08 PM CST
I think people know that as soon as Sonny hit the canvas. Even Ali told him to get up.
Big Al
Mar 2, 2014 4:25 PM CST
A boxing match that was fixed? I'm shocked, perfectly shocked.