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Charles Liston

Titles: Heavyweight Champion 1962-1964 

Record: 50-4 

Born: May 8, 1932 in St. Francis Co., Arkansas (USA)

Years active: 1953-1970

Nickname:  "Sonny" and "Old Stoneface"  

If you want to describe the life of Sonny Liston in one word it would mysterious. 
Was Sonny Liston a Mob fighter? Did Liston take a dive in one or both Ali fights? 
Did Liston commit suicide or was he killed? How old was he really? When he fought 
Ali he was supposedly 31 years old, yet he had a 17 year old daughter? All questions 
still remain open to interpretation. Liston was a icon of sorts who carried a aura 
of dread around him much the same as Tyson does. His career was strange as he only 
fought 54 times over a 16 years and although he is rated very high by some on their 
all time heavyweight rankings he only had a 17 month title reign. Thought to be 
unbeatable by most after he gained the championship from Floyd Patterson because 
of his brute power and a ram rod jab. The jab of Liston has been really underrated 
and I believe was on a par with Holmes or Joe Louis. Liston only stood 6 foot 1 
inches but he still had a amazing 84 inch reach to stick his jab out with, his 
large fists was measured as 15 inches. At his peak condition he weighed 215 pounds. 
In the ring Liston possessed everything needed for greatness a powerful left hook 
was actually secondary to his straight right hand. His powerful right hand was the 
finishing punch to many a fight and along with Max Baer's must be thought of a one 
of the best of all time. If his punches were not his best weapon than perhaps it 
was his intimidating stare which would often beaten before the bell even sounded. 
If he lacked in any area it might have been handspeed but only the great Ali take 
advantage of it...... so was it a real weakness? But like Foreman who many thought 
was also unbeatable Ali was to be his downfall. Liston was born in a Shanty town 
in Arkansas as one of 25 children, he ran away at the age of 13 heading for the 
big city of St. Louis where trouble seemed to find him easily. At age 18 after a 
conviction for armed robbery he was sent to the penitentiary where he was introduced 
to boxing by the prison Chaplain, boxing would vent his aggression and channel 
his energies. When paroled he fought as a amateur and won the heavyweight Golden 
Gloves championship and immediately turned pro in search of much needed money. 
In his first 34 fights Liston suffered only one loss when his jaw was broken. This 
was in his 8h fight against veteran trialhorse Marty Marshall, yet he finished the 
fight only to loose on points. The loss was twice avenged in rematches. Those first 
34 fights were spread over nine years as in between fights Liston was plagued by 
run ins with the law that ended up with Liston spending several months in prison. 
After his 15th fight almost two entire years (1956-57) were lost when Liston was 
convicted of hitting a police officer and sentenced to nine months in prison. He 
and other maintained that Liston was the victim of constant police harassment which 
led to this arrest. He might be correct since he was arrested 19 times by the St. 
Louis police for minor violations, that is hard to do even if you are a bad crimial! 
When he was released from prison Liston went back to boxing and winning. In 1958 
Liston was ranked by The Ring magazine as the ninth rated contender, within two 
years he would be listed as the number one contender by the same unbiased magazine. 
Liston made his claim to being the number 1 contender by ripping through all the 
contenders. He knocked out Cleveland Williams (twice), Nino Valdez, Zora Folley,
Roy Harris and only Eddie Machen could last the distance with this boxing machine. 
In the Machen fight Liston proved he could box as well as slug, he won on points 
against a Machen who was a skilled counterpuncher. In 1962 Liston was finally given 
a title shot by Floyd Patterson who was man enough to veto the decision of his 
trainer Cus D'Amato to avoid Liston. The result was a forgone conclusion to most 
as Patterson was giving away 25 pounds to Liston at Chicago's Cominsky Park. It 
was over quick, two left hooks were followed by a straight right hand that dropped 
the champion for the count. The boxing insiders were right as Liston destroyed 
Patterson in 2 minutes and 6 seconds establishing his myth of invincibility. A 
rematch 10 months later ended in the same fashion but Patterson was able to last 
4 seconds longer this time. The menacing appearance of Liston along with his past 
criminal record made Liston a anti hero to most Americans but still they flocked 
to see the man they thought to be unbeatable. His time as a champion should have 
been joyous but the editorial pages of the newspapers derided him as a bad example 
to the youth and touted his supposed mob connections. Still he was made a 7 to 1 
favorite against a brash young challenger named Cassius Clay (later changing his 
name to  Muhammad Ali) and many feared for the challenger who purposely angered 
the champion. In Miami on fight night Ali proved he knew what he was doing when 
he confused and was simply to fast for the lumbering champion. After six rounds 
of fighting Liston remained on his stool at the start of the 7th round refusing 
to come out stating a shoulder injury as the reason. Many believed the fight was 
fixed thinking Liston to be unbeatable, his past mob connections and the fact no 
one knew how great Ali would become. X-ray's did show some damage to his shoulder 
but most think not enough to make Liston quit, most believe he was demoralized by 
Ali's speed and countering tactics. The fight destroyed the Liston myth of 
invincibility. Still when the two men stepped into the ring again it was Liston 
who the odds favored once again. The rematch would end in a even more controversial 
manner as the famous "Phantom Punch" which many say never landed while other stated 
they clearly saw, knocked Liston down in the first round. Referee Jersey Joe Walcott 
was confused to the extent to which he gave Liston 30 seconds to reach his feet 
and had to be told Liston did not beat the count. The bout was stopped when it 
became clear Liston would not have beaten the original 10 count, many still claim 
Liston took a dive and it hurt his chances of ever getting another title shot. A 
inglorious 4 years of comeback fights ensued and covered 14 wins yet he was never 
considered for a title shot. His first 4 fights back were held in Sweden far away 
from American crowds and newspapermen. A knockout at the hands of Leotis Martin 
for the NABF title ended any chance Liston had over ever getting another title 
shot and Liston retired. One last fight a 1970 knockout of Chuck Wepner would send 
Liston of in a winning fashion. The death of Liston is surrounded be mystery and
most think he was killed (though the motive and person remain a mystery) and did
not commit suicide as the coroner report states. It is said a overdose of heroin 
thorough intervenious injection killed Liston, but Liston had stated to many persons 
and was reported in various magazines as having a intense fear of needles. Liston 
died as he lived, under confusing and mysterious circumstances.  



Sonny Liston

Career Record: 50 W, 4 L (39 KO's)

                                              1953

          Sep 2     Don Smith             St. Louis, MO     KO 1
          Sep 17    Ponce DeLeon          St. Louis, MO     W4
          Nov 21    Ben Thomas            St. Louis, MO     W6

                                              1954

          Jan 24    Martin Lee            St. Louis, MO      KO 6
          Mar 31    Stanley Howlett       St. Louis, MO      W 6
          Jun 24    John Summerlin        Detroit, Mi        W 8
          Aug 10    John Summerlin        Detroit, Mi        W 8
          Sep 7     Marty Marshall        Detroit, Mi        L 8

                                              1955

          Mar 1     Neil Welch            St. Louis, MO     W 8
          Apr 21    Marty Marshall        St. Louis, MO     KO 6
          May 5     Emil Brtko            PA                KO 5
          May 25    Calvin Butler         St. Louis, MO     KO 2
          Sep 13    John Gray             IN                KO 6
          Dec 13    Larry Watson          E. St. Louis, MO  KO 4

                                              1956

          Mar 6       Marty Marshall        PA           W 10


                                              1958

          Jan 29      Bill Hunter           IL           KO 2
          Mar 11      Benjamin Wise         IL           KO 4
          Apr 3       Bert Whitehurst       MO           W 10
          May 14      Julio Mederos         IL           KO 3
          Aug 6       Wayne Bethea          IL           KO 1
          Oct 7       Frankie Daniels       FL           KO 1
          Oct 24      Bert Whitehurst       MO           W 10
          Nov 18      Ernie Cab             FL           KO 8
   
                                             1959

          Feb 18       Mike DeJohn         FL            KO 6
          Apr 15       Cleveland Williams  FL            KO 3
          Aug 5        Nino Valdes        IL             KO 3
          Dec 9        Willie Bermanoff   OH             KO 7

                                              1960

          Feb 23        Howard King        FL          KO 8
          Mar 21        Cleveland Williams TX          KO 2
          Apr 25        Roy Harris         TX          KO 1
          Jul 18        Zora Folley        CO          KO 3
          Sep 7         Eddie Machen       WA          W 12

                                              1961

          Mar 8         Howard King       FL           KO 3
          Dec 4         Albert Westphal   PA           KO 1

                                              1962

          Sep 25        Floyd Patterson    Chicago      KO 1
                      (Wins World Heavyweight Championship)

                                              1963

          Jul 22       Floyd Patterson      Las Vegas    KO 1
                      (Retains World Heavyweight Championship)

                                              1964

          Feb 25       Cassius Clay     Miami Beach    KO by 7
                      (Loses World Heavyweight Championship)

                                              1965

          May 25       Muhammad Ali     Lewiston, Me    KO by 1
                      (For World Heavyweight Championship)

                                              1966

          May 29        Gerhard Zech      Sweden        KO 7
          Aug 19        Amos Johnson      Sweden        KO 3

                                              1967

          Mar 30        Dave Bailey       Sweden        KO 1
          Apr 28        Elmer Rush        Sweden        KO 6

                                              1968

          Mar 16        Billy McMurray    NV            KO 4
          May 23        Billy Joiner      CA            KO 8
          Jul 6         Henry Clark       CA            KO 7
          Oct 14        Sonny Moore       AZ            KO 3
          Nov 3         Willie Earls     Mexico         KO 2
          Nov 12        Roger Rischer     PA            KO 3
          Dec 10        Amos Lincoln      MD            KO 2

                                              1969

          Mar 28    Billy Joiner          MO            W 10
          May 19    George Johnson        NV            KO 7
          Sep 23    Sonny Moore           TX            KO 3
          Dec 6     Leotis Martin         NV            KO by 9

                                              1970

          Jun 29    Chuck Wepner           NJ            KO 10