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ABC-Radio Prepared for Early Knockout in Clay-Liston Fight

Feb. 21, 1964 - Even if the Sonny Liston-Cassius Clay fight in Miami Beach Tuesday ends in a first-round knockout, the four sponsors of the radio broadcast have a guarantee that no commercials will wind up on the canvas. Unlike each fighter who thinks of how to rid himself of his opponent at the earliest moment, ABC plans to keep the boxing ballyhoo going until it has fulfilled a quota of 12 commercials. Because the plugs are spaced at least three minutes apart, ABC will stall for time by using ring interviews, interviews with celebrities invited to the ringside microphone, and other devices. The technique was disclosed today by Maury Benkoil, producer of the broadcast.

Mr. Benkoil learned much about how to avoid rebates to advertisers in the last two heavyweight championship fights, both of which were abruptly terminated in the first round. “I have 11 different formats ready for anything that may happen,” the producer said. “In case of a knockout, we switch to our knockout format. Howard Cosell [pictured with Les Keiter, who will call the fight] jumps in the ring to interview the winner. And if the loser can talk, he is interviewed too. Then we’ll go to ringside interviews. Joe Louis has promised to come by. While we talk to Joe, we’ll do one or two commercials. And Irv Kupcinet, the Chicago columnist, has also promised to come by. He’s close to the fight game.” Some commercials are keyed to the action. There is one with this lead-in: “Wow! What a knockout!”

While ringside interviews are in progress, Mr. Cosell will hasten to the dressing rooms of the fighters for further reporting. “But we have learned that Liston is a slow dresser,” Mr. Benkoil said. “Even in a short fight, he wants time to unwind. So, we have to find something to fill time while we are waiting for him to dress.”

Mr. Benkoil is also concerned with a radio problem in case a new champion is crowned. “If Clay wins,” he said, “we might have to stay on the air all night before he shuts up.”


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