My mother and I had this special time when we’d listen to the radio together in the kitchen. I miss that.
We listened to music and the news and even the odd earth-shattering thing, like that morning when we heard about four fellows in Liverpool who wore their hair down on their foreheads, and who could sometimes sing high notes like women. The announcer, on Orillia’s CFOR, then played a record, and suddenly the Beatles were now in our lives.
We listened to something else pretty darn big too. The two Cassius Clay – Sonny Liston fights, when Clay was young and over the top motor-mouthed, and who was probably going to be smashed to smithereens by the big, strong ex-con Liston.
Liston was mean, powerful, and the World Champ, and he looked like he’d done his share of dumping bodies into deep lakes. Clay was gonna be in big trouble, like the Russians would be in the 1972 Summit Series.
I suppose it was Howard Cosell telling us through the radio that Clay was quick, how he danced and confused the big thug, and we realized that the young fighter was basically putting his money where his mouth was. It was a huge surprise.
Just like that, the young fellow who bragged, “After the fight I’m gonna build myself a pretty home and use him (Liston) as a bearskin,” had skinned the big bear, like he said he would, in February of 1964, the same month the Beatles played the Ed Sullivan Show.
A year later, in the rematch, with mom and I back at the radio, Liston refused to come out of his corner in the first round after the phantom punch, when he may or may not have been tagged by Clay and which kept him in the corner, and which officially made the guy a bum and Clay a hero.
Two big fights, the legend of Cassius Clay/Muhammed Ali was born, and now it’s sad to hear of his passing. He was larger than life, a great boxer, a great man.
But it’s also bittersweet to hear this news. Because remembering the kitchen table with my mom and the radio makes me happy.