Sunday, June 5, 2016
My Dad was a soldier during World War 2 and a middleweight boxer before the war. After the War he went to work for a chain of grocery stores that eventually opened a three-acre warehouse in Charlestown, Mass. Dad was a driver and a warehouseman for Purity Supreme Grocers making about $150 per week in 1964, not bad money at the time.
Dad played poker a couple of nights a week and confined his gambling to cards, except for an occasional bet on boxing. In January and February of 1964, the talk among the Teamsters where my Dad worked was all about the Cassius Clay vs. Sonny Liston fight. Most everyone he worked with was sure that Liston was going to pummel the loudmouth Clay. My Dad was equally sure Clay was going to knock out the older fighter.
In the weeks before the fight, bookies were giving ten-to-one odds in favor of Liston. Dad had a savings account he called his "Swiss Bank Account" where he kept his poker winnings. He told me after the fight that he had withdrawn several hundred dollars to bet on Ali.
We listened to the fight on the radio, I don't remember why we could not watch on TV. But Dad was right. Ali KOed Liston and Dad won enough money to buy the only brand new car he ever owned. One of his poker buddies owned a Chrysler dealership in Reading, Mass. He had a new car on the lot for more than a year that nobody wanted. It was a blue 1962 Chrysler Newport sedan, the absolute basic model. It had hub caps instead of wheel covers and it had a three-speed manual transmission with a stick shift. My Dad bought the car with his winnings from the fight. Dad never said how much he won, but it was clearly more than $2,000--the biggest payday he ever had.
Shortly after that fight, Clay changed his name to Muhammed Ali. My Dad remained a fan. "He's a loudmouth, but he is not all talk. He can fight," was my Dad's view of the Ali.