5 Greatest Sports Conspiracies

Scott Cooley of 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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