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Clay Invasion of Liston Training Quarters Repulsed

Feb. 7, 1964 - Cassius Clay launched an unsuccessful invasion of Sonny Liston’s training quarters today in Miami Beach, Fla. Clay and nine muscular members of his entourage attracted a crowd of more than 500 in front of the suburban Surfside Auditorium where Liston, the heavyweight champion, was upstairs training for their Feb. 25 title bout. One member of the group did get upstairs but was quickly ousted.

“I’m ready to go to jail if I’m breaking the law, but I’m not doing a thing,” Clay told the Surfside police chief, Wiley Barefoot. “This is a public place, and I have a right to pay to go inside.” But the chief refused Clay admission and told him to “keep your voice down and don’t block the sidewalk” or the fighter would be jailed.

Clay, clad in a black tuxedo and brandishing a hand-carved cane, said he wasn’t “bothered a bit” by his father’s charges that he became a member of the Black Muslims shortly after he won the Olympic light-heavyweight championship at Rome in 1960. “I have nothing to say about what he said,” declared the 22-year-old challenger. Clay’s brother and sparring partner, Rudy, was also identified by their father, Cassius Clay Sr., as a Black Muslim.

After today’s tempest, Clay went to city hall to seek a permit to picket Liston’s training quarters. “He was told there is no provision in our ordinance for such a thing,” said Town Manager Frederick Bowen. Bowen said, however, that he didn’t believe Clay would need a permit “for just standing around or quiet marching in front of Liston’s camp. Our main concern is that there be no disorder or incitement of disorder.”

Liston, who appeared annoyed by all the fuss, later sparred three rounds with Leotis Martin and, by all accounts, looked terrible. “It’s the worst he’s looked since we got here,” said one Liston man.


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