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Clay: “It Is Impossible for Me to Lose”

Feb. 21, 1964 - Cassius Clay finished the sparring phase of his preparations for Tuesday’s fight for Sonny Liston’s heavyweight title. Then, in the presence of his parents, his manager, his trainer, and reporters from three continents, he expressed more fervently than ever his belief in his invincibility. “It is impossible for me to lose,” he declared in low, slow-spoken words that conveyed a sort of evangelical passion. “It is written for me to be successful. It was a prophecy for me to be successful.”

“This is going to be the biggest upset in the history of boxing,” he continued. “I’m actually tired of talking about it — I’m ready to shake up the world. Liston’s not a champion; I am. He’s got my job. He’s too ugly to be champion. He’s not even colorful. If it wasn’t for me, he wouldn’t be talking, even as much as he has. If it wasn’t for me, he wouldn’t have no fans. It’s impossible for me to be beaten, and he knows it, and he’s scared stiff. I’m gonna outpoint him in the first seven rounds and knock him out in the eighth.”

“Mrs. Clay, how do you think the fight will come out?” a reporter called out. “I think Cassius will win,” she said gently.

“How do you feel when he’s in the ring?” “She doesn’t worry,” Cassius broke in. “She hasn’t seen all my fights, but she’ll see this one — at ringside.”

Clay’s flair for the absurd, however, couldn’t be suppressed, even in this relatively intense mood. He was asked whether he thought he was at his best in the workout just completed — four rounds in which he had practiced moving away from sparring partners. “That’s my strategy,” said Cassius. “To hit and not be hit. But today, I wasn’t even one-quarter at my best.” Why not? “Because of all the Liston spies around here. I was holding back. Joe Louis was here, right?”

In fact, he was. Thoroughly unimpressed by Clay’s workout, the former champion said: “He’s got to be kidding! He can’t be that bad!” Louis, who is attached to Liston’s camp, predicted that Liston “will kill him” in their fight Tuesday night “if that boy keeps pulling back from punches and making a lot of other mistakes.” Liston quit public boxing sessions last Tuesday, but he may have had a secret drill or two in the mornings. He confined his public workout today to another session of gym work without sparring.


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