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The Day in Sports | COUNTDOWN TO 2000 / A day-by-day
recap of some of the most important sports moments
of the 20th Century: APRIL 23, 1962

Clay Proved to L.A. He Was on the Way

April 23, 1999|EARL GUSTKEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The early 1960s were the years boxing followers couldn't make up their minds about the 1960 Olympic light-heavyweight champion-turned pro heavyweight, young Cassius Clay.

He was big, fast, athletic . . . but without a drop-dead punch. Could he take a punch? No one knew, because what everyone did agree on was that Clay was a superb defensive boxer.

He talked a lot, made predictions and seemed to go out of his way to make the boxing public dislike him.

Thirty-seven years ago tonight, he was doing what all talented young heavyweights do--building a record by fighting tomato cans.

He had been a pro only 18 months when he came to Los Angeles as the ninth-ranked heavyweight, with a 12-0 record.

He was matched against Idaho journeyman George Logan, who was bleeding so badly in the fourth round from both brows and his nose, it was stopped.

The card also featured the No. 2 heavyweight, Eddie Machen, who won his 41st fight by stopping Bert Whitehurst in the sixth round.

Making his debut as matchmaker was former champion Joe Louis. The show was not exactly a box office smash. The Sports Arena crowd was only 7,500 and the live gate $57,000. The show was televised on close-circuit in 23 cities.

Promoter John Horn didn't seem very impressed by Clay, when asked afterward about a possible Machen-Clay fight.

"As fast as he is, Clay still has a lot to learn," he said.

"He still isn't in Machen's league."

Maybe so. But it didn't take Clay long to get there. Twenty-two months later, he defeated Sonny Liston in Miami to win the heavyweight championship. And 15 months after that, then known as Muhammad Ali, he retained the title against Liston in Lewiston, Maine.

Also on this date: In 1952, in his first major league at-bat, pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm hit a home run at New York's Polo Grounds. Wilhelm pitched for another 20 years and never hit another home run. . . . In 1954, Hank Aaron, who would go on to hit 754 more, hit his first major league home run in St. Louis.

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