Chapter Thirteen-Muhammed Ali and the Sixties The Nineteen Sixties: The most important era of social change since the Roaring Twenties. President John F Kennedy promised us a New Frontier. Dynamic, smart, charismatic and relatively youthful, Kennedy was as much of a pop star as any President since Teddy Roosevelt, sixty years before. America bought into it enthusiastically, and a wild ride of a decade began. The changes were dramatic. The Baby Boomers, the kids born in the aftermath of World War II, were now adolescents chafing at the bit for change from the old order. The new Decade really started on November 22, 1963, two years into President Kennedy’s first term. That day, a President was shot and died. The second Lee Harvey Oswald pulled the trigger, the 1950’s ended and the Sixties began. On February 8, 1964 a British rock band called The Beatles, performed on the Ed Sullivan variety television show and was seen by an estimated 73,000,000 people and The Beatles took over music and culture forever. The Sixties had arrived. Floyd Patterson, having regained the heavyweight crown, was the champion. But a dark malevolent force was casting a shadow on Patterson's crown. His name was Sonny Liston, an ex-con and mob "enforcer" who had gone through the ranking heavyweights like so much cannon fodder. He easily dispatched Patterson in one round both times they fought. It looked like he would be champion for the next ten years at least. Even Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammed Ali, seemed woefully unprepared to face Liston despite an undefeated record. Clay, a 7-1 underdog defeated Liston and boxing passed into a new era.
Clay knocked out Liston in a questionable fight in 1965, then beat Floyd Patterson, Henry Cooper, Brian London, Ernie Terrell and Cleveland Williams and then got into a heck of a lot of trouble for Draft Evasion. That ended his boxing career for the decade. Archie Moore who had held the light heavyweight crown since 1952, made a final defense of the title in 1961 before being stripped of all his titles. Harold Johnson then became the new light heavyweight champion. That title then passes to Willie Pastrano, Jose Torres, Dick Tiger and finally to the great Bob Foster.
The lineal middleweight crown passed from Sugar ray Robinson to Paul Pender to Terry Downes back to Paul Pender who then retired. Dick Tiger became undisputed champion and in series of loss and regains, the title see-sawed between Joey Giardello, Tiger, Emile Griffith, Nino Benvenuti, Griffith again, Benvenuti again and finally to Carlos Monzon. The lineal welter title passed from Benny Kid Paret to Emile Griffith, back to Paret and back to Griffith in a nationally televised bout that saw Paret kayoed by an enraged Griffith. Paret lapsed into a coma and died a few days later. After a couple of successful defenses, Griffith the lost and regained the title from Cuban boxer Luis Rodriguez. Upon winning the middleweight crown, Griffith vacated the crown which Curtis Cokes the solidified until losing it to the great Jose Napoles. More excerpts from this book coming soon! Stay tuned.