LEWISTON — The city of Lewiston wasn’t the original destination for the second meeting between Muhammad Ali (then known to many as Cassius Clay) and Sonny Liston, but as Paul Marcotte of the Lewiston Evening Journal wrote in a stop-the-presses, breaking news story on May 7, 1965, Lewiston would become “the fight capitol (sic) for the Clay-Liston heavyweight championship bout on May 25.”

Eighteen tumultuous days later, the city and its Central Maine Youth Center, now the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, were etched into sports lore.

Fifty years later, the fight, won by Ali after what many have dubbed his “phantom punch,” is still a hot topic of conversation in boxing circles, and certainly among those in the Twin Cities of Lewiston and Auburn — and the surrounding towns and cities — who recall firsthand what happened.

There was little doubt the Sun Journal — central Maine’s paper of record since the merger of the Lewiston Daily Sun and Lewiston Evening Journal in 1989 — would do, well, something, to commemorate the event.

“Something” turned into a mammoth project, a collaboration across several departments, including sports, photography, news, digital and design, culminating in a 10-page commemorative print edition and accompanying digital display online.

We’ve looked at the circumstances surrounding the fight’s relocation, the controversy surrounding the fight itself and the aftermath. We’ve spoken with Marcotte, who broke the news that yes, definitively, the fight was going to happen in Lewiston. We’ve tracked down dozens of people who were at the fight, all of whom recall in their own special way what that night — and that time — was like. Some have special memorabilia. Some played roles in the fight or in the training camps. Others were blessed to be there as fans. But they all share a common bond: They were all affiliated with one of the defining moments in boxing, and THE defining moment in Lewiston sports history.


One of the defining moments of this project came late in the process, when Chief Photographer Russ Dillingham unearthed four tan, tattered, vertical envelopes, each with a typewritten date and description near the top crease.

Minds. Blown.

These never-before-printed negatives are the perfect punctuation mark to an already stellar lineup of memories we will share with you in this series. They provide a glimpse into what training was like for these two giants of the sport of boxing, two fighters converging for the second and final time, Ali on his way up and Liston, sadly, on his way down.

On Sunday, May 17, look for your copy of this special edition, inserted in every Sun Journal newspaper, and browse our interactive digital display at sunjournal.com/phantompunchat50.

The Phantom Punch at 50

Interactive guide to our stories, photos, audio and video | Audio: Listen to the radio broadcast from the fight | Video: Can you see the punch? | Interactive timeline of the fighters’ careers | Newspaper coverage & readers’ memories from 1965

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.