The Title Fight

In 1962, the boxing heavyweight champion, Floyd Patterson, finally met with one of the toughest heavyweight contenders on the circuit, Sonny Liston.

Liston was one of the most disparaged and reviled figures, not only in the fight game, but in American popular culture. His criminal rap sheet and background as an impoverished, sullen brawler was in stark contrast to the salubrious notoriety of Patterson, who was the epitome of respectability and professionalism – in the words of Norman Mailer, Patterson was ‘a liberal’s liberal.’

The press certainly did not differ from the general consensus in their view that a win for Liston heralded something greater than the heavyweight title. A Liston title augured frightful ripples for American society – a victory of the marginalised elements of society over the respectable, a transcendence of the usual order of things.

That was at least the way in which the showdown was presented. Whatever Liston’s history and hopes, he would not escape the prison of scorn.

Liston, resigned to this caricature of the pending title fight, would strike a defiant tone, stating ‘a prizefight is like a cowboy movie…There has to be a good guy and a bad guy. People pays their money to see me lose. Only in my cowboy movie, the bad guy always wins.’

In the same way, a football game is never a football game when Collingwood is involved, but a morality play, and a pantomime. The usual banter and irrational fears come out of the woodwork when the Pies are on the verge of greatness.

The idea of Collingwood winning a Grand Final is too much for many to bear, but this year the prospect of victory is as luminous as it was for Liston in 1962. The words used to describe the spectre of a Liston win have some resonance for the Magpie faithful. While Liston was ‘the big black negro in every white man’s hallway, waiting to do him in (and) deal him under’, the black and white army are waiting to exact some terrible retribution for years of scorn and derision as the most hated club.

While the overwhelming weight of the football world conspires against a Collingwood victory, the Magpie faithful are now anticipating a day of reckoning and redemption – the well skilled Saints versus the hungry and disparaged Pies.

When Liston’s moment came, he destroyed Patterson in the 1st round. Will we see a knock-out in the first quarter when the Pies meet the Saints. It’s the great fear of every opposition supporter and the great hope of the Magpie zealots.

About Dave Latham

Dave Latham has recently finished a history thesis on class and Australian Rules football in Melbourne between the years 1870 and 1920.


  1. Mahammad, Mahammad Ali, he floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee’

    Mahammad, the black superman, he calls to the other guy, I’m Aaaarleee catch me if you can.

  2. David

    Did you read Anson Cameron’s article in the Age a few weeks back on his hatred for Collingwood? He also used a boxing analogy to describe the feeling he would experience if Collingwood beat Geelong (which I guess he’s feeling now). He referred to the Leon Spinks/Ali fight in 1978 (with Leon cast as Collingwood) and his utter devastation at witnessing his boyhood hero, Ali, being destroyed by a “crack-eyed kid from a dumpster”.

    Anson’s tongue in cheek point is that when such a dreadful result occurs, it strips away the glory of the sport itself. “If this kid from the dumpster could wear the belt then wasn’t the whole sport debased?…I speak for the millions when I say the same shadow will fall across football if Collingwood wins the flag. For what sort of sport allows an ignorant, gap-toothed vandal to be its champion?”

    Brilliant stuff!

  3. Sydney Malakellis says

    I think it’s more Sonny Liston versus Mike Tyson. Because, as a neutral you gotta hate Collingwood for being, you know, Collingwood. And St. Kilda has Stephen Milne in the team. Who to boo harder?!

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