Out of the golden age of boxing it is just Ali who is left standing. A man who has spent a lifetime in the boxing ring and has been fighting physical challenges in his twilight years.
Gone is Angelo Dundee his mentor and father figure; Joe Frazier passing a few months ago who took him to his athletic limits time and time again and the “Mouth that Roared” Howard Cosell who built a career in the verbal sparing ring with the fighter.
I grew up in an Italian household where the only fighter known was the “Rock” Rocky Marciano and anyone else other than Joe Lewis was not even worth a mention.
I remember it like it was yesterday, I was nine and it was the eve of the first Liston-Ali fight on February 25, 1964 fight but of course he was Cassius Clay in those days and the days leading to the fight were filled with interviews and press much like today’s Super Bowl.
There were phrases like ” Fight like a Butterfly, Sting like a bee.”; brief interviews with the famous Dundee and poetry by Ali on the fight’s outcome…
Clay comes out to meet Liston and Liston starts to retreat,
If Liston goes back an inch farther he’ll end up in a ringside seat.
Clay swings with a left,
Clay swings with a right,
Just look at young Cassius carry the fight.
Liston keeps backing but there’s not enough room,
It’s a matter of time until Clay lowers the boom.
Then Clay lands with a right, what a beautiful swing,
And the punch raised the bear clear out of the ring.
Liston still rising and the ref wears a frown,
But he can’t start counting until Sonny comes down.
Now Liston disappears from view, the crowd is getting frantic
But our radar stations have picked him up somewhere over the Atlantic.
Who on Earth thought, when they came to the fight,
That they would witness the launching of a human satellite.
Hence the crowd did not dream, when they laid down their money,
That they would see a total eclipse of Sonny.
The fight was on cable in those days and we neither had nor could afford cable but I did know that the neighbor who had just moved out of the apartment a few doors down had it as I could see the looping connection curled on the empty apartment floor as I passed the open window each day.
With military precision the night of the fight my friend Bruce and I packed up the portable black and white TV which was about a forty pound, metal cased, zenith with a small pair of pliers where the channel changer should have been and rolled it down the sidewalk to the empty apartment where Bruce made quick entry through the window and we settled in for what would be the most awesome fight of the golden age of boxing.
It was the start of my love for the sport of boxing and the end of my career as a first story man.