When Clay got back to his stool, he was, for the first time in his boxing career, scared. He told his trainer, Angelo Dundee, "I can't see! Cut the gloves off!"
History -- that of boxing, and that of American culture -- hung in the balance at that moment. Everything this 22-year-old boxing contender would become, and everything he would mean to anyone, might not have happened.
Dundee saw a white powder on Clay's glove, from where he'd wiped it out of his eye. Dundee washed Clay's eyes out, and, acting as "bad cop" to cornerman Drew "Bundini" Brown's "good cop," told him he was too close to the title to give up now. He told Clay to use his great footwork to stay out of Liston's way until his eyes cleared, and then go after him again.
He did. The film shows Clay pretty much dancing away from Liston's blows in the 5th and 6th rounds. Late in the 6th, Clay's eyes cleared, and he resumed his methodical demolition of Liston's face.
The bell rang for the 7th round, and Clay was ready to finish the job. Liston decided that, his cheat unsuccessful, the job was finished. He quit on his stool. Cassius Clay was the Heavyweight Champion of the World.
Certainly, he'd thrilled the world. But the shakeup was yet to come.
"I'm young, I'm handsome, I'm fast, I'm pretty, and can't possibly be beat!"
As it turned out, there was one man who could beat Cassius Clay. He even wiped him out of existence. And his name was Muhammad Ali.