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Fact Check: Powerful Lucchese Mafia Family Fixed 1st Muhammad Ali Fight Against Sonny Liston

Fact Check: Powerful Lucchese Mafia Family Fixed 1st Muhammad Ali Fight Against Sonny Liston

Liston

Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay), right, and Sonny Liston in Miami Beach, Florida on Feb. 25, 1964. (AP Photo)

On Feb. 25, 1964, in Miami Beach, Florida, two of boxing’s greats met up for a historic bout. Up-and-coming Cassius Clay (who had yet to convert to Islam and change his name to Muhammad Ali) got into the ring with boxing legend Sonny Liston, considered one of the toughest boxers around.

In the end, underdog Ali came out victorious, with the champion Liston refusing to continue on at the opening of the seventh round due to a shoulder injury. Their second fight was in May 1965 in Lewiston, Maine, which Ali won with a first-round knockout. But their first fight has been forever tainted with speculation that Liston took a dive on behalf of the mob.

After his 1964 victory, Clay gave a now-famous postfight speech.

Liston, who started boxing while in prison for armed robbery, was allegedly in deep with the mob, who reportedly controlled his finances, The Daily Mail reported.

An investigation by the Washington Times in 2014 cited decades-old Federal Bureau of Investigation documents in which the Feds suspected that the 1964 fight between Ali and Liston was rigged. The feds had been tracking Liston and his connections with the Lucchese mob crime family for some time.

The Lucchese crime family is an Italian-American Mafia crime family and one of the “Five Families” that dominate organized crime in New York City. The family can be traced back to the early 1920s, and they dominated the Bronx and Manhattan in New York as well as parts of New Jersey.


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Paul John “Frankie” Carbo was a soldier in the Lucchese crime family, and he was also one of the most powerful promoters in professional boxing.

Carbo is one of the central figures in the book “Jacobs Beach: The Mob, The Garden & The Golden Age of Boxing” by Kevin Mitchell. Carbo was a top gun for the Lucchese crime family and for Murder Inc.

While Carbo was running things in boxing, the FBI investigation focused on Ash Resnick, who had ties to some of the biggest names in organized crime, including Meyer Lansky and members of the Genovese family. In one report, the FBI stated that Resnick “is the fix point of two heavyweight title fights — both Liston, Deadspin reported.

Despite the extensive investigation by the FBI, “nothing of consequence came of the investigation, and likely never will,” CBS Sports reported. The “rigged” fight will remain an unproven conspiracy.

Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay), right, appears to be boxing the ears of Sonny Liston during championship fight in Miami Beach, Florida on Feb. 25, 1964. Ali won the heavyweight crown when Liston, suffering a strained shoulder and a severe eye cut, failed to answer the bell for the 7th round. (AP Photo)