Burns’ project ‘Ali’ brings up memories of 1965 Maine fight

For me, the Muhammad Ali-vs.-Sonny Liston Lewiston fight, covered in Part 2 of Ken Burns’ new documentary series “Ali”, holds a personal memory.

Heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali is lifted by Happy Handlers on May 25, 1965, as referee Joe Walcott comes between them and challenger Sonny Liston after Liston was knocked out in the first round of their title fight in Lewiston. Associated Press, Dossier

On the Sunday before the May 25, 1965 fight, my father crammed us into the family car and headed for the Poland Spring Resort, the site of Liston’s training camp. The fierce fighter would hold a public meeting and greet his fans.

We arrived at the resort and followed the signs for designated and vacant parking. We stood near the taped area and waited for the boxer to arrive.

Sonny Liston and one of his training partners slowly approached and asked the attendant if “that was it”. The attendant looked around, shrugged and called us.

Liston said very few words, looking like a giant at the boy in front of him. He reached out his mammoth hand and I reached out with mine to try to squeeze it. At that time my mom picked up a Polaroid with her new camera.

He reached into his coat pocket and retrieved a pencil and paper. He slowly took out his name and handed it to me. Without a word, Sonny looked around, then returned to his enclosure. We got into our car and drove off.

All that’s left of that moment in time is the faded photo of Sonny Liston, my dad and me. And, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about soft science, no fighter will take a beating in the ring if no one cares.

Lew kingsbury

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