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Mayhem at Clay-Liston Weigh-In

Feb. 25, 1964 - Cassius Clay turned the weigh-in ceremony into a tumultuous prelude to his heavyweight title challenge tonight against Sonny Liston. His ranting and jumping about brought punitive action from the Miami Beach Boxing Commission. Clay was fined $2,500 for his noisy pre-fight weigh-in at the Cypress Room in Convention Hall.

The examining physician, Dr. Alexander Robbins, said: “Clay is nervous and scared, and he’s burning up a lot of energy.” It came as a surprise when Clay’s weight was announced at 210½ pounds. This was considered low, and Liston’s 218 was about three pounds heavier than expected. Clay’s pulse rate was high, 120 beats a minute compared with his normal rate of 54.

While the 22-year-old contender was yelling at Liston, “You a chump, you a chump,” Morris Klein, the chairman of the commission, stepped to the microphone and shouted: “Cassius Clay is fined $2,500!” The money, he added, would be withheld from Clay’s purse. Clay was expected to gross about $600,000 and Liston about $1,360,000.

At precisely 10:30 a.m., the scheduled weigh-in time, Clay burst into the crowded room at the head of his entourage. He was flanked by Sugar Ray Robinson and Drew (Bundini) Brown, an assistant trainer and spiritual adviser. Clay was wearing a blue denim work jacket with “Bear Huntin’” written in red script on the back. He thumped the floor with a heavy wooden cane.

As Bundini and Robinson guided the challenger through the crowd, Clay kept shouting: “I’m ready to rumble! I’m the champ!” over and over again. Clay paused at the steps of the platform and turned to the throng. “You can tell Sonny I’m here with Sugar Ray!” he screamed. “Liston is flat-footed, and Joe Louis is flat-footed, but me and Sugar Ray are two pretty dancers!” Sugar Ray seemed to smile with embarrassment. Louis was not present. Clay had always seemed resentful of Louis’s alliance with Liston.

“Round eight to prove I’m great!” screamed Cassius. A few minutes later, when Liston entered, Cassius began jumping up and down, gesticulating madly. Sugar Ray and Bundini patted him on the shoulders as if trying to calm a skittish colt. As the champion stepped off the scale and replaced his robe, Cassius yelled from the other end of the platform: “Hey sucker, you a chump, you a chump! Are you scared?” Liston, who seemed placid and under control, made no response.

After the ceremonies, Clay was reunited with the rest of his entourage outside Convention Hall. It included four teenage girls in a convertible, waving signs. The signs read: “Bear season opens February 25” and “Momma, can we little girls go to the fight?” Cassius was still yelling, in the back seat of his Cadillac Fleetwood, as the motorcade pulled away.

Later, Angelo Dundee, Clay’s trainer, disputed the notion that Clay was scared. “With that kind of fear, I’d face a cage of lions,” he said. “Cassius will win.”


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