History | Mar 13 2018

On This Day: Cassius Clay survives huge scare against Doug Jones

Doug Jones threatened Clay's transformation into the all-conquering Muhammad Ali, writes Matt Christie
Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali  |  Action Images

CASSIUS CLAY was still two years away from becoming Muhammad Ali when he was matched with the gifted Doug Jones on March 13, 1963.

Clay had raced to 17-0 since turning professional three years before and his habitual bragging was starting to grate on the nerves of the wise old boxing fans. It had also frustrated former world light-heavyweight champion, Archie Moore, who felt he could teach the young pup a lesson when they were matched in 1962. He couldn’t, of course, and was thrashed in four rounds in Clay’s most noteworthy win to date.

But in Jones, the Olympic champion was matched with an opponent far closer to his peak. The gifted New Yorker was fresh off a win over Zora Folley, and was ranked No.3 in the world – one place below Clay. It was declared that the winner would earn the right to challenge the fearsome king, Sonny Liston.