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Photos: On this day – February 25, 1964 – Cassius Clay defeats Sonny Liston for the heavyweight boxing title

Posted Feb 25, 2013

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On this day – February 25, 1964 – Cassius Clay defeats Sonny Liston for the heavyweight boxing title. Sports Illustrated magazine named the February 25, 1964 Clay – Liston fight (Clay had not yet changed his name to Ali) as the fourth greatest sports moment of the Twentieth Century.

By fight time, Clay was a seven to one betting underdog. Of the 46 sportswriters at ringside, 43 had picked Sonny Liston to win by knockout.

Clay was only 22 when he won the world heavyweight championship from Sonny Liston. He subsequently changed his name to Muhammad Ali after joining the Nation of Islam in 1964, converting to Sunni Islam in 1975.

In 1967, three years after Ali had won the heavyweight championship, he was publicly vilified for his refusal to be conscripted into the U.S. military, based on his religious beliefs and opposition to the Vietnam War. Ali was eventually arrested and found guilty on draft evasion charges; he was stripped of his boxing title, and his boxing license was suspended. He was not imprisoned, but did not fight again for nearly four years while his appeal worked its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it was eventually successful.

Ali would go on to become the first and only three-time lineal World Heavyweight Champion.

Considered a cultural icon, Ali has both been idolized and vilified.

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