May 25, 1965: In a bout lasting little more than two minutes, Muhammad Ali (1942-2016) defeats Sonny Liston (about 1930-1970) in the only world heavyweight championship fight ever fought in Maine.

The lightly attended match at what then was known as the Central Maine Youth Center, in Lewiston, is notable for accusations by many witnesses that the outcome was rigged in favor of Ali.

The two boxers had faced each other the previous year in Florida, when Ali – then still using his birth name, Cassius Clay – took the crown away from Liston.

Ali fells Liston with a punch to the chin, which seems to some observers so minor that it becomes known as the “Phantom Punch.” Even so, Liston lies sprawled on the canvas for the first time in his career.

In the absence of a count from referee Jersey Joe Walcott, Liston eventually stands up and resumes fighting. Walcott then breaks up the fight and declares Ali the winner.

The Lewiston venue was an emergency backup that was used because of legal problems in Massachusetts, where the fight originally was scheduled to be held.

“Phantom Punch” is also the name of a Sonny Liston biographical film released in 2008.

Presented by:

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at islandportpress.com. Tune in as he’s interviewed by Bill Nemitz in our Maine Voices Live series Tuesday, May 26, at 7 p.m. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]


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