They wound up the Cassius Clay doll Friday night at the Sports Arena and it fought like a champion.
The strutting, 20-year-old Louisville Lip, as good as his prediction, erupted with two knockdowns and a full 10-count knockout over Argentine Alejandro Lavorante in the fifth round of the 20th annual Fight for Lives.
A colorful crowd of 12,000, which started out booing the unbeaten 1960 Olympic Games king, wound up electrified by his blazing speed and clever skill.
Clay in Command
Clay, the heaviest of his young career at 199, dominated the fight nearly from the opening bell, staggered Lavorante in the second, opened a cut in the corner of the baffled Argentine’s left eye in the fourth, and finished the onslaught with his two blazing knockdowns at 1:48 of the fifth with Lavorante haplessly sprawled on his back in a neutral corner.
It was Clay’s 15th straight triumph as a professional and his 12th knockout — and it was by far his greatest performance.
Lavorante, 208, won only the first round with two digging left hooks to the body, and it temporarily appeared Clay might decide to spend the evening dancing in retreat.
It was a cruel illusion.
Proves Two Points
Clay merely was taking his time and enjoying it. Midway through the second round he lashed out with a lead right to the jaw that wobbled the bigger but much slower Lavorante.
From that moment on, it was Clay’s night.
In the process, he proved two big points that could carry him onto the heavyweight championship — a goal he insists he will reach before his 22nd birthday.
1 — Clay can take a punch. Early in the second he and Lavorante traded right hand haymakers, and it was large Lavo who gave ground.
2 — Clay has the finishing dynamite of a great one. Once he had Lavorante going in the fifth he didn’t waste a punch as he put two, three, maybe four combinations together directly on target.
Bill Faversham, head of Clay’s 10-man managerial team, said it was Clay’s greatest fight.
“He fought like a real pro in this one,” enthused Faversham.
Lavorante, the 25-year-old wild bull who was ranked No. 3 title contender until he was also stopped by Archie Moore March 30 in this same ring, had no excuses.
He trained for more than a month and was in the finest shape of his career. But he didn’t have the speed or craft to cope with Cassius, the new flying tiger of the heavyweight division.
Lavorante said it would be back to the minors if he didn’t win, and that’s probably the proper place. It reduced Lavo’s record to 19 wins, four losses, and was the second time he’s been stopped in two starts this year.
From now on when Clay speaks, listen.
The two fighters went off at even money, but there the similarity ended.
The gross gate was announced as $64,000.
Note: This article was originally published on July 21, 1962.