*Throughout the late 1960s, the FBI kept an eye on Muhammad Ali and monitored his ties to the Nation of Islam, according to newly released documents posted on the FBI’s website.
Some of the documents were previously classified, and they were released after conservative group Judicial Watch sued to obtain them. They refer to the Nation of Islam as an “all-Negro, semireligious, antiwhite” organization.
In the documents, the FBI insisted that only the Nation of Islam was under investigation and Ali was of interest because of his involvement with the group, the New York Times reports.
Also included in Ali’s 142-page file were newspaper clips, information about his divorce, traffic tickets he received, and a memo on Ali’s refusal to be drafted into the military, which led to his heavyweight title being stripped from him. There was also another memo about the captain’s uniform from the Nation of Islam’s paramilitary wing that Ali wore. Additionally, the FBI kept tabs on disputes between Ali and Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad.
The bureau also spent more than a year unsuccessfully searching for evidence of “fight fixing” in the 1965 championship bout between Ali and Sonny Liston. Rumors of a fix spread soon after skeptics labelled Ali’s knockout blow a “phantom punch” rather than a real hit, per Deadspin.com. There was never any hard evidence of a fix, but because a Black man in America can’t be great, the FBI felt it necessary to dedicate resources to uncover evidence of a fix, sending this internal memo two days after Ali’s victory:
As you know, the Liston-Clay fight has received wide publicity by all forms of news media. Included in the publicity have been what appear to be unsubstantiated allegations by sports writers and persons long associated with the fight game that this fight was “fixed.”
Since we have received no information or allegations indicating improprieties in connection with this fight, no open investigation is being conducted. It is felt, however, that appropriate confidential informants and sources located in logical offices should be discreetly contacted for
Overall, the hundred-plus pages of records show the FBI simply monitored Ali for his religion.