The fix was in: FBI suspected Ali-Liston bout in '64 was rigged

Cassius Clay fights Sonny Liston in 1964.
Cassius Clay fights Sonny Liston in 1964. (Getty Images)

One of the most iconic boxing matches in history may have been rigged by the mob.

According to an in-depth piece from the Washington Times citing decades-old FBI documents, the Feds suspected that the 1964 fight between Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay, and Sonny Liston was rigged.

Clay won in a six-round bout after Liston retired due to a shoulder injury -- a fact that has since been questioned. Still, the fight was regarded as a seminal moment in boxing's history, and was named the fourth-greatest sports moment of the century by Sports Illustrated.

The FBI suspected that a mob connection, Ash Resnick, set up the fix. The paper cites the report, which published information provided by a gambler named Barnett Magids and his dealings with Resnick, the latter being known to have engaged in such dealings before.

Here's the most substantive FBI evidence, from a report in 1966 obtained by the Washington Times.

"On one occasion, Resnick introduced Magids to Sonny Liston at the Thunderbird, [one of the Las Vegas hotels organized crime controlled]," the memo states. "About a week before the Liston and Clay fight in Miami, Resnick called and invited Magids and his wife for two weeks in Florida on Resnick. Magids‘ wife was not interested in going, but Magids decided to go along, and Resnick was going to send him a ticket.

"Two or three days before the fight, Magids called Resnick at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami to say he could not come," the memo states. "On this call, he asked Resnick who he liked in the fight, and Resnick said that Liston would knock Clay out in the second round. Resnick suggested he wait until just before the fight to place any bets because the odds may come down.

"At about noon on the day of the fight, [Magids] reached Resnick again by phone, and at this time, Resnick said for him to not make any bets, but just go watch the fight on pay TV and he would know why and that he could not talk further at that time.

"Magids did go see the fight on TV and immediately realized that Resnick knew that Liston was going to lose,” the document states. “A week later, there was an article in Sports Illustrated writing up Resnick as a big loser because of his backing of Liston. Later people 'in the know' in Las Vegas told Magids that Resnick and Liston both reportedly made over $1 million betting against Liston on the fight and that the magazine article was a cover for this."

Of course, nothing of consequence came of the investigation, and likely never will.

Ironically, conspiracy theorists have long suspected that the rematch between Liston and Clay was fixed, as evidenced by the highly-controversial "phantom punch" that dropped Liston in the first round.

Most of the major players involved in the alleged fix are now deceased, and Ali refused to speak with the paper.

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