Fifty years ago after the man that would soon become Muhammed Ali “shocked the world” by winning the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston with a seventh round TKO. On its fiftieth anniversary, declassified documents reveal that the FBI had supported suspicion that the fight was fixed.
According to documents released to The Washington Times, the FBI launched an investigation into the allegation of Las Vegas gambler Ash Resnick fixing the first between Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston. The FBI alleges Resnick had connections to the mafia and mobsters such as Meyer Lansky.
The FBI’s most intriguing piece of evidence is a memo of a Houston gambler named Barnett Magids describing two phone conversation he had with Resnick days before the fight. Days before the fight, Resnick informed Magids he believed Liston would knock out Ali in the second round, but cautioned Magids to “wait until just before the fight to place any bets because the odds may come down” according to the FBI memo. Resnick’s advice turned prophetic on the day of the fight:
At about noon on the day of the fight, [Magids] reached Resnick again by phone, and at this time, Resnick said for him to not make any bets, but just go watch the fight on pay TV and he would know why and that he could not talk further at that time.
The memo states that Resnick introduced Magids to Liston at the Thunderbird, a Las Vegas hotel believed to be controlled by organized crime groups in the 60s. The memo alleges that Resnick and Liston made $1 million each from Liston losing and Ali had no knowledge of, or involvement in the fix.
Resnick died in 1989 at the age of 72 from heart failure after suffering from cancer for years. Liston was found dead at home by his wife on January 5th, 1971 from a reported heroin overdose.