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Clay Beats Liston: February 25, 1964 Essay, Research Paper

“Clay Beats Liston: February 25, 1964″

From the accounts of various Kentucky newspapers, I was able to learn a few

facts about Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali, as well as the attitudes

of his fellow Kentuckians. The first thing I noticed in all the newspapers that

I viewed was that almost all the articles written about the fight were written

by writers from either the Associated Press (AP) or United Press International

(UPI). This displayed three things about the Kentucky press, first the belief

that Clay’s fight was not important enough to cover themselves, secondly that

the newspapers probably did not make enough money to send their own reporters

down to Miami Beach, and finally the localization of the newspapers’ audiences.

Another aspect of the fight is the effect it had on Kentucky society, especially

the sports scene.

I primarily noticed that almost all the papers used reports from the

Associated Press and the United Press International, even the (Louisville)

Courier-Journal, one of Clay’s hometown newspapers, used reports from the

Associated Press. The only articles that were not written by a member of the

Associated Press were the very rare editorials written about the fight. The use

of reports from the AP and the UPI shows that most newspapers did not think the

fight was very newsworthy. Only one newspaper published an article that was not

written by a member of the Associated Press or the United Press International,

however that one article was an editorial about Cassius Clay’s new found wealth

and not the actual fight. The lack of coverage also proves that even though

blacks were supposed to be equal to whites, that in reality achievements by

blacks and whites were treated differently. None of the newspapers that I read

displayed a large picture or headline proclaiming that Cassius Clay was the new

heavyweight champion of the world. Most newspapers had an average sized

headline stating that Clay was the new champion, but none had an article about

him on the front page. This further illustrates that achievements by blacks

were believed to be less important than the achievements of whites. I saw

almost the same amount of articles on high school basketball, as I did on the

fight. Although I am not surprised by the fact that high school basketball

received almost a page of coverage, I am alarmed by the fact that this one page

of coverage on basketball was the same amount of coverage for the boxing match.

The stories by Associated Press and United Press International illustrate

two more facts about Kentucky during the 1960’s, primarily that most of

Kentucky’s newspapers were too poor to send their own reporters to Miami Beach,

and furthermore that the audience was very localized to events either in their

own city or the state of Kentucky. Although I am not surprised that newspapers

such as the Paducah Sun-Democrat or Bowling Green’s Park City Daily News did not

send reporters to Miami, I was surprised that newspapers like Louisville’s

Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald, which have a much larger circulation,

did not send even one reporter from their staff to cover the fight. The absence

of reporters from the (Louisville) Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald

proves that even the newspapers from the major cities in Kentucky had a very

localized audience. The localization of news often prevented readers from

learning about the world that surrounds them, especially from affairs of other

towns. For example, if the Lexington Herald only wrote reports about the events

effecting the city and a few major events that would effect the entire state, it

would be possible that something occurred in Paducah that might not be reported

in Lexington for several days, even months. The localization in rural areas

such as Paducah and Bowling Green is not surprising, but when urban places like

Louisville and Lexington localize their news many important events in other

areas of the state could not be reported for an extended period of time.

The most important effect of Cassius Clay defeating Sonny Liston is the

placement of Kentucky, and specifically Louisville on the map of boxing. For

many years there were numerous boxing gyms in and around Louisville that

produced great amateur fighters. Unfortunately, they were ignored by the

national media until Cassius Clay, who was a product of such gyms, defeated

Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship. When Clay won the gold medal in

the 178-pounds division in the 1960 Rome Olympics Louisville’s gyms gained some

recognition for producing Clay, however they were not fully recognized until

1964 when Clay beat Liston. Clay’s victory made the gyms in Louisville more

popular as more and more youths flocked to the gyms in the hopes of one day

becoming heavyweight champion of the world. Although none of these kids would

ever win the heavyweight championship, their efforts in the ring made Louisville

one of the centers of amateur boxing.

Overall from my research I learned about the different attitudes of people

in the 1960’s versus the 1990’s. I also realized that Kentucky newspapers

almost always localize their news and hardly publish national or international

news articles that do not come from the Associated Press or some other news

agency. I now understand why Kentucky is so far behind the other states, it is

because Kentuckians are only exposed to news that affects them and nobody else.

Most Kentuckians could not care about what is occurring in Bosnia, nor do the

newspapers report what is occurring there, which isolates Kentucky from the rest

of the world.

(1) Courier-Journal, [Louisville], Feb. 26, 1964, p. 3.

(2) Lexington Herald, Feb. 26, 1964, p. 9.

(3) Paducah Sun-Democrat, Feb. 26, 1964, p. 10-B.

(4) Park City Daily News, [Bowling Green] Feb. 26, 1964, p. 9, 20.

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