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Joe Louis: Liston “Too Strong For Clay”

Feb. 15, 1964 - Former heavyweight champion Joe Louis, still a popular figure in boxing, doesn’t think too much of Cassius Clay’s chances against Sonny Liston on Feb. 25. “You can’t make mistakes against Liston and survive,” said Louis today. “Sonny is too strong for Clay, and Cassius makes too many mistakes with his hands. Liston will corner him on the ropes. Clay will make a mistake, and that will be it. I think Clay will get knocked out within four rounds.”

Louis recognizes the fact that Clay’s strategy will include running, but he doesn’t think it will take too long for Sonny to catch up with him. One of the memorable boxing quips was attributed to Louis before his second fight with Billy Conn. Louis was told that Billy would get on his bicycle and pedal away. “He might run, but he can’t hide,” said Louis. He was right. Louis caught up with Conn in the eighth, and that was it.

Today, Louis insisted that his views on the Clay-Liston fight were not influenced by the fact that he is in Miami as an unofficial adviser to Liston. “Liston punches about as hard as anybody I’ve seen,” Louis said. “He’s a little clumsy yet, and he doesn’t use his right hand properly. He throws a long right hand. He doesn’t quite judge just right when he lets it go, and he’s not close enough when he does. He should wait until he gets in close.”

In the other camp, Angelo Dundee, who trains Clay, was told today that Liston took yesterday off and flew to Freeport to “shoot craps.” “Sonny needs more exercise for his hands than he’ll get doing that,” quipped Angelo. Two weeks ago, Dundee said flatly that Clay will beat Liston for the championship. Asked if he was sticking to that prophecy, he replied emphatically, “Yes, sir. I say Clay will knock Sonny out in the 11th or 12th.”


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