On May 25th, 1965, in Lewiston, Maine, Muhammad Ali faced Sonny Liston for the second time after having beaten him once before. In the first round, Ali flicked out a short chopping straight right that knocked Liston down for somewhere between 12 and 17 seconds. During his time, the referee flapped around losing control as Ali stood over Liston shaking his fist. After the referee was informed of the time Liston had spent on the mat, he stopped the fight and declared Ali the winner by knockout.
Because most people did not see the punch occur, it was termed the “‘phantom punch” and caused many to believe the fight was fixed. Even the ones who saw the punch did not believe it was hard enough to knock Liston out. In slow motion, it is clear that the short right hit Liston on the jaw as he is regaining balance from a lunging jab and jarred his head with enough force to knock him out.
A knockout occurs when the reticular activating system, responsible for controlling consciousness is disrupted by the violent rotation of the brain on the brainstem. In most cases, this rotation is obvious, whether it occurs through twisting, moving side to side, or by the head being violently snapped backward. The movement does not have to be great; a short, quick movement is sufficient.
In 1965, some believed Ali was unable to punch that hard and that Ali was retreating when he threw the punch. Ali said the punch, which he called the “anchor punch,” was too quick for the eye to see.
The same thing happen on August 10, 2009, at UFC 101, when Anderson Silva knocked out Forrest Griffin in the first round with a backpedaling jab.
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