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Tag: muhammad ali

FBI Spent Year-Plus Investigating Muhammad Ali-Sonny Liston Fight

Muhammad Ali in 1966

Muhammad Ali in 1966

By Steve Neavling

Soon after boxing great Muhammad Ali defeated Sonny Liston in a 1965 championship fight, the FBI launched an investigation into rumors that the fight was fixed.

The investigation lasted more than a year and found no evidence to substantiate the allegations, according to newly released documents by the FBI.  

Two days after the fight, the FBI sent an internal memo about dedicating resources to investigate the rumors:

As you know, the Liston-Clay (Muhammad Ali) fight has received wide publicity by all forms of news media. Included in the publicity have been what appear to be unsubstantiated allegations by sports writers and persons long associated with the fight game that this fight was “fixed.”

Since we have received no information or allegations indicating improprieties in connection with this fight, no open investigation is being conducted. It is felt, however, that appropriate confidential informants and sources located in logical offices should be discreetly contacted for information on this matter.

Despite a lack of evidence, J. Edgar Hoover’s office insisted that the investigation continue into one of boxing’s most storied fights. Ali defeated heavyweight champion Liston from what some believed was a “phantom punch” that couldn’t have possibly knocked out Liston.

The FBI chased rumor after rumor until closing the investigation about 13 months after it began.

Ali was the subject of constant FBI scrutiny because of his ties to the Nation of Islam.

FBI Records: Agents Spied on Muhammad Ali Because of Ties to Nation of Islam

Muhammad Ali in 1966

Muhammad Ali in 1966

By Steve Neavling

The FBI spied on late boxer Muhammad Ali in 1966, keeping tabs on his divorce and a speech at a Miami mosque, while agents investigated the Nation of Islam, according to newly released documents by the bureau.

The documents were released on the FBI’s website and first reported but the New York Times on Thursday.

The FBI stressed in documents that Ali was not personally under investigation, but his connection to the Nation of Islam made him an interest “from an intelligence standpoint.”

The documents, which refer to Ali by his birth name Cassius Clay, show agents monitored his divorce.

“The Miami (FBI) office is requested to follow the divorce action between Cassius and Sonja Clay with particular emphasis being placed on any NOI (Nation of Islam) implication being brought into this matter,” one memo stated.

The bureau also alluded to a speech at a Miami mosque, where Ali talked about efforts to remove his heavyweight title.

Ali was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, leading to the stripping of his boxing title in 1967.