The Independent's photo-history of the 20th century moves on to 1964 with the help of the Hulton Getty Picture Library. "I am the greatest!" screamed Cassius Clay after his seventh-round victory over the world heavyweight boxing champion Sonny Liston, and he had every right to feel pleased with himself: the abrasively self-confident Clay had started the fight a 7- 1 outsider.

Clay's surprise defeat of Liston in the ring followed the young boxer's customary victory in the war of words that preceded the fight. The British heavyweight champ, Henry Cooper, had humbled - though not defeated - the American with a left hook a year earlier, but in taking the world title the irrepressible Clay once again displayed that his boxing skills more than matched his rhetorical upper cuts.

In Britain, the pugilistic arts seemed to be flourishing at grass roots level. Throughout the summer, gangs of Mods and Rockers clashed on the beaches of South Coast resorts in a series of violent confrontations. The worst of the brawls took place in Margate, Hastings and Brighton. Numerous stabbings and hundreds of arrests testified to the ferocity of the encounters, which became something of a fixture at weekends and bank holidays.

Twenty years after he first took up the black nationalist cause, Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment for sabotage and plotting to overthrow the South African government. His incarceration on Robben Island off Cape Town took place against a background of ever-more-voluble protest against South Africa's apartheid regime. Later this year, South Africa were forbidden from taking part in the Olympic Games and the British government imposed an arms embargo.

Following the doubts raised in the US Congress the previous year regarding American support for South Vietnam's hard-line regime, the actions of Communist North Vietnam turned American attention to South East Asia once again. A US destroyer repulsed a North Vietnamese torpedo attack in the Gulf of Tonkin, and President Johnson ordered an immediate retaliatory strike against four naval bases and an oil installation.

Though Johnson's aggressive response won the support of a Congressional declaration to take "all necessary action" against North Vietnam's Communist regime, members of both houses expressed unease that the resolution could be used to commit US servicemen to an unwanted war.

The very serious implications of American intervention in Asia were made clear by the subsequent Russian demand at the United Nations that the US cease her actions against North Vietnam "or bear the heavy responsibility for the consequences of such acts". Such unequivocal statements took on yet darker proportions when it became clear in October that Khrushchev - who for years had tried to sell the Soviet Union as a peace-loving world power - had been ousted in a bloodless coup by Leonid Brezhnev.

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