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Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) wins Olympic Gold – September 5, 1960

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The brilliant Shirley Povitch did not overlook the amusing coincidence of a man named Cassius, competing for a gold medal at the Rome Olympics. He wrote “Cassius has come back to Rome. He is an esteemed member of the U.S. compound in the Olympic Village. But ‘yon Cassius is not out of Shakespeare. He is out of Louisville, Kentucky, and on him the lean and hungry look looks good.”

Before he won his ticket to Rome, Clay TKO’d Allen Hudson in the third round in the finals of the Olympic trials at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. The bout was not a cakewalk for Clay. Hudson knocked him down earlier in the round. But Clay came back and nailed Hudson with a pair of rights to the head, and the referee stopped the fight.

On September 5, 1960, Clay won the gold medal defeating Zbigniew Pietrzykowski of Poland in the final. On the way to facing Pietryzykowski, Clay had to win three fights in the qualifying rounds.

For a good part of the fight for the gold medal, it appeared that Clay, and not Pietrzykowsi would be the footnote to history. Povitch wrote that Clay “was taking a beating from Ziggy, a good puncher who has 292 fights, and Clay was seemingly the most over-rated of all the U.S. finalists…Clay could salvage this fight only by a knockout, or close to it, and that last is exactly how he did so. All of a sudden Ziggy had a bloody nose, and it seemed that Clay could hit harder than it appeared, and then the Pole had a bloody mouth, because Clay had hit him again, and then Ziggy’s whole face was a bloody mask.”

The Pole managed to stay on his feet until the final bell, but when the judges announced their decision, it was 5-0 in favor the 18-year-old Cassius Clay.


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