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[IN MY LIFETIME] Henry Louis Gates on Muhammad Ali Beating Sonny Liston

It was when he fought Sonny Liston. He was saying he was the greatest and everybody predicted that Liston would kick his butt and knock him out any minute.

Then when [Ali] beat him in the seventh round, knocked him out on the ropes and said, “I am the greatest!” And then he became a Muslim almost the next day and that flipped people out.

I thought he was cool. I loved him. We weren’t eating. We were in my living room in my house in Piedmont, W. Va., on the little black and white TV set. My father, my mother, my brother and me waiting to see if Sonny Liston was gonna pulverize Cascious Clay! I was 14.

— As told to Shantell E. Jamison


Follow the social media hashtag #EBONYBHM for more of our Black History Month content including our monthlong “In My Lifetime” narratives. Click here for other entries in the series.

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