cassius-clay

In one of the most iconic and controversial moments of his career, Muhammad Ali stands over Sonny Liston and yells at him after knocking the former champ down in the first round of their 1965 rematch. Skeptics dubbed it “the Phantom Punch,” but films show Ali’s flashing right caught Liston flush, knocking him to the canvas. Refusing to go to a neutral corner, Ali stood over Liston and told him to “get up and fight, sucker." Ali, the heavyweight boxing legend who fought opponents in the ring and on behalf of social justice outside of it, has died at 74 years old. (Neil Leifer)

GALLERY: SI’s 100 Greatest Photos of Muhammad Ali

MUHAMMAD ALI (born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr) 

1942 - 2016  

When this provocative Esquire cover image was released in 1968, Muhammad Ali had been stripped of his title for refusing to be inducted into the U.S. Armed Forces and serve in the Vietnam War. As a result, he was arrested, tried and found guilty of draft evasion. 

The case would later be overthrown in the Supreme Court.

Art director: George Lois  

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Muhammad Ali’s reflexes were out of this world.

He (Muhammad Ali) used to ask me to throw rocks at him. I thought he was crazy, but he’d stand back and dodge every one of them. No matter how many I threw, I could never hit him.” - Rahaman Ali (Muhammad’s brother)

People said I held my hands too low and did other things wrong, but when I was young, my defence was my legs. My style in the ring was to keep my distance, don’t get too close, stay just out of range, get in just enough to punch, and get out.” - Muhammad Ali

In the beginning, a lot of people criticised Ali for not being able to take a punch. That’s why he danced around the ring, they thought. Those guys didn’t know what they were talking about. Ask any fighter and he’ll tell you, you don’t get hit because it’s fun. You get hit because sometimes you can’t avoid it, and if you can avoid it, more power to you.” - Angelo Dundee (Muhammad’s trainer)

50 years ago today, 22-year-old challenger Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) battered the heavily favored heavyweight champion Sonny Liston in a bout that shook the boxing world. The fight ignited the career of one of sports’ most charismatic and controversial figures, whose bouts often became social and political events rather than simply sports contests. (Neil Leifer/SI)

GALLERY: Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston I

GALLERY: SI’s 100 Greatest Photos of Muhammad Ali