Sonny Liston - Fear ᴴᴰ

Charles L. "Sonny" Liston (unknown – December 30, 1970) was an American professional boxer who competed from 1953 to 1970. A dominant contender of his era, he became world heavyweight champion in 1962 after knocking out Floyd Patterson in the first round, repeating the knockout the following year in defense of the title; in the latter fight he also became the inaugural WBC heavyweight champion. Liston was particularly known for his toughness, formidable punching power, and intimidating appearance.

Although widely regarded as unbeatable, he lost the title in 1964 to Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay), who entered as a 7–1 underdog. Controversy followed with claims that Liston had been drinking heavily the night before the fight. In their 1965 rematch, Liston suffered a shocking first-round knockout which led to unresolved suspicions of a fix. He was still a world-ranked boxer when he died under mysterious circumstances. Underworld connections—along with his unrecorded date of birth—added to the enigma. The Ring magazine has ranked Liston as the seventh greatest heavyweight of all time.

Liston signed a contract in September 1953, exclaiming: "Whatever you tell me to do, I'll do."[12] The only ones who had been willing to put up the necessary money for him to turn professional were close to underworld figures, and Liston supplemented his income by working for racketeers as an intimidator-enforcer. The connections to organized crime were an advantage early in his career, but were later used against him.[15]

Liston made his professional debut on September 2, 1953, knocking out Don Smith in the first round in St. Louis, where he fought his first five bouts. Though not particularly tall for a heavyweight at 6 ft 0.5 in (1.84 m), he had an exceptionally powerful physique and disproportionate reach at 84 inches (2.13 m)[1][2] Liston's fists measured 15 inches (38 cm) around, the largest of any heavyweight champion. Sports Illustrated writer Mort Sharnik said his hands "looked like cannonballs when he made them into fists." Liston's noticeably more muscular left arm, crushing left jab and powerful left hook lent credence to the widely held belief that he was left-handed but utilized an orthodox stance.[citation needed]

Early in his career, Liston faced capable opponents. In his sixth bout, he faced John Summerlin (18-1-2) on national television and won by an eight-round decision. In his next fight, he had a rematch with Summerlin and again won an eight-round decision. Both fights were in Summerlin's hometown of Detroit, Michigan.[16]

Liston suffered his first defeat in his eighth fight on September 7, 1954, losing against Marty Marshall, a journeyman with an awkward style. In the third round, Marshall nailed Liston—reportedly while he was laughing—and broke his jaw. A stoic Liston finished the fight but lost by an eight-round split decision. On April 21, 1955, Liston defeated Marshall in a rematch, dropping him four times en route to a sixth-round knockout. They had a rubber match on March 6, 1956, which Liston won by a lopsided ten-round unanimous decision.[citation needed]

Liston's criminal record, compounded by a personal association with a notorious labor racketeer, led to the police stopping him on sight, and he began to avoid main streets. On May 5, 1956, a policeman confronted Liston and a friend about a cab parked near Liston's home. Liston assaulted the officer, breaking his knee and gashing his face. He also took his gun. Liston claimed the officer used racial slurs. A widely publicized account of Liston resisting arrest—even after nightsticks were allegedly broken over his skull—added to the public perception of him as a nightmarish "monster" who was impervious to punishment. He was paroled after serving six months of a nine-month sentence and prohibited from boxing during 1957. After repeated overnight detention by the St. Louis police and a thinly veiled threat to his life, Liston left for Philadelphia.[17]

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