On May 25, 1965, at the Central Maine Youth Center in Lewiston, Maine, 34-year-old Sonny Liston and a 23-year-old champ named Muhammad Ali faced off in a fight for the ages.
Just one minute and 44 seconds into the match, Ali smacked his right fist against Liston's chin. Liston went flat on his back. And as cigar smoke swirled in the area above the ring, photographers all around the small arena leapt to immortalize the scene. Many of them captured images that were very similar, but only a couple made it into widespread circulation. One of the most famous depicts Ali standing over Liston, with his right arm cocked, muscles rippling with power [source: Araton].
The images from the fight seem to tell a tale of triumph by jaw-shattering blows, but the truth is more involved. Fight spectators say that Ali landed one rather minor blow, which sent Liston to his back. "Get up and fight, sucker!" Ali taunted. Liston rose and began throwing more punches [source: Emmert].
But Liston's persistence was futile, as the referees had already called the match in favor of Ali, who'd enter the event as a slight underdog. The fight lasted all of two minutes and 12 seconds, with people wondering if Ali really knocked Liston out or whether it was a "phantom punch" and Liston took a dive. Thanks to his unexpected win, and the powerful image, Ali's legend quickly gained momentum, eventually turning him into one of the 20th century's most famous sportsmen.