Goulet remembered for mangling Ali-Liston anthem

10/31/2007 - Boxing

LEWISTON, Maine -- Robert Goulet is being remembered in this
former mill city for mangling the lyrics to the national anthem
before the Muhammad Ali-Sonny Liston heavyweight championship fight
more than 30 years ago.

Goulet, 73, died Tuesday in Los Angeles while awaiting a lung transplant.

Goulet's May 25, 1965, performance at the Central Maine Youth
Center was described as being off-key and out of synch with the
organ accompaniment.

"He finally managed to slur his way through it," fight
spectator David Bernier, then a 15-year-old high school freshman,
told the (Lewiston) Sun Journal.

Newspaper stories at the time said he sang "dawn's early
night'' and "gave proof through the fight."

Interviewed years ago by online boxing writer Barry Lindenman,
Goulet only admitted his mistake on the opening line.

"Even though I had never sung the national anthem, I said OK
because I wanted to see the fight," Goulet said. "So I went and
had dinner with the governor [John Reed] that night. I left the
table three times to go to the porch and practice."

"The fight lasted a minute and a half. They blamed me, and I
walked out of town a bum," he lamented.

Goulet's rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" wasn't the
only aspect of the fight that came into question. Referee Jersey
Joe Walcott mishandled the count when Liston hit the canvas, and
skeptics complained that Ali toppled his challenger with a
"phantom punch."