By Nick Scelsi: He may be the only person on the planet who understands exactly…

Written by on February 18, 2018

By Nick Scelsi:

He may be the only person on the planet who understands exactly what it was like to be as famous as (and perhaps even more universally recognized than) the Beatles. He was still known as Cassius Clay, the undefeated 22-year-old #1 ranked contender for Sonny Liston’s heavyweight crown when, on February 18, 1964, he met the Beatles.

Clay was in Miami, training for his upcoming February 25th title fight against the seemingly invincible Liston, who had knocked out Floyd Patterson in each of his two previous fights, both times in the first round. The Beatles, nearing the end of their first, brief visit to the United States, were in town having just made their second appearance, two days earlier, on the Ed Sullivan Show.

It was Scottish photographer Harry Benson, traveling with the Beatles on their inaugural visit to the U.S., who arranged the meeting, and in doing so, helped to create a new template for global celebrity; photographing the five men who most represented a new kind of superstar for the 1960s and beyond; young, outspoken, and able to capture the global imagination.

Ironically, it was the reigning champion Liston who the Beatles had actually wanted to meet. They popped in on Clay only after Sonny, who was not exactly known for his outgoing and playful disposition, said that he would not pose with “sissies.” It is somewhat perplexing then, that on the cover of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, released three years later, it is a wax figure of Sonny Liston, not Muhammad Ali, that appears alongside all of the other images of famous people the Beatles said they admired.

We wonder who would have won if Ali took on all four…. ah never mind…..

(For those of you who might be interested, there is a copy of this picture, autographed by Ali, in an auction in Las Vegas today. McManus Auctions)

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