Interview with Edwin Pope

All right now, describe the fight, as you remember it.


Fights are hard to describe because they, they happen so fast. They're unlike anything else in sports. The only thing you get a, a real sports writer gets nervous ab- at in sports is a big championship fight. You don't get nervous at the World series, you don't get nervous at the Super Bowl, you don't get nervous at the Masters' Golf, you don't get nervous at Wimbledon. The only thing you get nervous at would be the Kentucky Derby that much, but a big fight where sometimes you really think you might have a heart attack. And, that night I remember I was completely calm because I saw no likelihood of anything untoward happening. And I sensed this lack of tension all the way down, ah, the press row. Whereas in so many other fights, Patterson, Johannson, ah, many, many other fights, you'd feel almost as though you were about to faint before the opening bell because unlike a football game, there were no parameters. There's no nine innings or four quarters. It can be over just like that. But that night, ah, when Cassius Clay who'd just become Muhammad Ali, went in against Sonny Liston, I didn't feel any tension at all with the writers. But as the fight went on, Clay came out dancing and jabbing and it became apparent pretty soon that Liston had his hands full. I think Liston might have been the last person to realize it. Then Cassius Clay tried to quit in about the 4th or 5th round after getting some sort foreign substance in his eyes, probably some, ah, grease that, ah, had come off of Sonny Liston's eyebrows and around his mouth that his trainer had put on. Ah, Cassius Clay tried to stop right here and his trainer Angelo Dundee said, "Look big boy, this is for the championship. Get back in there." Ah, he didn't push him out there as, as people have reported, but he did, ah, berate him until Clay went on back out there. Then Clay took command of the fight and, ah, Sonny Liston quit after the 7th round just before the 8th round I believe, started sitting in his corner, holding his shoulder, saying he couldn't lift his shoulder, um, everyone was absolutely electrified, stunned, stunned. I remember I had a s- I saw a picture later of it and I had a, a cigarette just dangling from my lips, that obviously I had started to light and I was so, ah, shocked when it was all over and Cassius Clay went leaping up into the air, that I never even lit the cigarette. I was just standing there staring in stupefaction at this scene and then Cassius Clay grabs Bundini Brown, his, one of his trainers and he grabs Angelo Dundee then, ah, grabs his, another one of his old trainers, Louis Sarea, and he's leaping up and down hysterically. He runs over in front of the reporters, "I told you. I told you I was going to win. You didn't believe me. I'm the greatest. I'm gorgeous. See? see? see what I am? I'm the greatest, I'm the greatest." And we were just sitting there slack jawed and, ah, there was Liston. Nobody ever figured out whether he, ah, really had a hurt shoulder, whether, some people thought the fight was fixed. I never felt that way. But it was a stunner.