Covers.com: 5 Greatest Sports Conspiracies

Scott Cooley of Covers.com put together a top five of greatest sports conspiracies, including Muhammad Ali’s “phantom punch” on Sonny Liston in the boxers’ rematch in 1965.

The rematch of the Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston world heavyweight championship was highly anticipated after the first fight ended abruptly when Liston tapped out because of a shoulder injury.

But the viewing audience barely got a chance to settle into their seats for Ali-Liston II that May evening of 1965. Midway through the first round, Ali threw a jab and Liston dropped to the floor.

That glancing blow has become known as the “phantom punch” because Liston went down nearly unscathed. Conspiracy theorists contend Liston was on the take, like so many boxers have been accused of in the ring.

Some say Liston took a dive because he owed the Mafia money so he bet against himself while others believe he was being threatened by Nation of Islam extremists who had recently converted Cassius Clay.

Even Ali himself was skeptical about the effortless knockdown. While towering over Liston in one of sports’ most recognized moments, The Louisville Lip was apparently screaming at his opponent, “Get up and fight, sucker!” And a more detailed footage of the fight shows Ali asking his corner, “Did I hit him?”.

Liston actually claimed in an interview with Mark Kram for the book Ghosts of Manila that he intentionally lost because of his fear of retaliation from the Black Muslims. Of course, he could have just said that to cover up for taking a dive to erase his Mafia debt.

Be sure to check out the rest of the list, which also includes the 1985 Draft Lottery, “Spygate,” and the 2006 NBA Finals.

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Decade Debate: 8 Greatest Comebacks

The word comeback is defined as “a return to a former position or condition (as of success or prosperity).” In the world of sports it refers to the act of wrenching victory from the jaws of defeat. As part of our ongoing Decade Debate series, here are the top eight comebacks of the last ten years. Keep in mind that, to us, the actual size of the comeback isn’t quite as important as the size of the stage. In other words, the “greatest” comebacks happened in big games.

8. Capriati over Hingis at 2002 Australian Open

Jennifer Capriati and Martina Hingis led very similar careers. Both set several “youngest-ever” records before a combination of drug charges and nagging injuries challenged their potential. While Hingis chose to bow out at the height of her turmoil, Capriati soldiered onward. In 1994, Capriati was busted for marijuana possession. After a feeble return to the game, she retreated for 15 months. But never say die. By February of 1996, she finally meant business. Over the next two years, Capriati would earn three Grand Slam championships, blossoming into a dominant player during a particularly competitive era in women’s tennis. Of those wins, her match against Martina Hingis in the 2002 Australian Open final is a shoe-in for any list of ultimate comebacks. Down 6-4, 4-0, Capriati miraculously saved four match points, a Grand Slam record. The merciless sun blaring, Capriati kept fighting and fighting. As her opponent wavered, Capriati capitalized, eventually winning the match 4–6, 7–6, 6–2. – Christopher Glotfelty

7. Kings over Red Wings in 2001 Stanley Cup Playoffs

This was a great series comeback as well (Detroit led, 2-0), but the Kings’ rally in Game 4 was one for the ages. Trailing in the series, 2-1, and down 3-0 with just six minutes to play in the third period, the 7th-seeded Kings didn’t look long for the playoffs. But goals by Scott Thomas and Jozef Stumpel trimmed the Red Wings’ lead to one, and Bryan Smolinski’s game-tying goal with 0:53 remaining sent the Staples Center into a frenzy and the game into overtime. There, the rookie Eric Belanger capped off the “Stunner at Staples” with the game-winning goal. The Kings went on to win the series, 4-2. – John Paulsen

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