12-28-2005, 10:57 PM
Sonny Liston: The Tools of Terror
By Gary Pino from Dog House Boxing

Sonny Liston
Charles ‘Sonny’ Liston was the most fearsome heavyweight figure in boxing history. Liston was a career felon. He was charged with armed robbery in the early 50’s and while in prison he began boxing. Sonny was devastating in prison and was soon discovered and signed by Frankie Carbo and Blinky Palermo whom had serious mob ties. Liston turned pro in 1953 and with his first devastating swing knocked out Don Smith and proceeded to win 14 of his next 15 fights before going back to jail for assaulting a police officer. It was said Liston picked up an officer in St Louis and dropped him in a dumpster. Sonny was no stranger to the police departments no matter where he lived.

Liston was 6’1” 220 pounds and had maybe the best jab in heavyweight history. Liston could knock guys out with his jab. Something most guys used as a set up for the right hand. Known for his scowl, one look at Sonny before the bell rang for round 1 and fighters would wilt before the fight even started; this was a tactic Sonny used his whole career. Liston was also an enforcer out of the ring. He collected money on the streets for the mob and did all the street work for Frankie Carbo and Blinky Palermo, so guys knew Liston was “one mean son of a bitch” to begin with.

As Sonny began his assault on becoming champion, the press and fans labeled him as “The Champion nobody wanted” which was also the title of a biography done on him. Sonny was anti everything the current champion Floyd Patterson was. Patterson was perceived as the people’s champion. A friendly and nice guy who carried himself with class and dignity in and out of the ring. As Liston moved ever so close to challenge Patterson, things became crazy. Cus D’Amato, who managed Patterson, wanted no part of Liston and did whatever he could to keep Liston out of the ring with his fighter. It got to the point that one day Sonny walked into D’Amato’s office and begged for a shot at the title. Cus didn’t budge so Liston took his case to the people. He posted wins over top contenders such as Cleveland Williams, Nino Valdes, Zora Folley and Eddie Machen to position himself for a title fight and, being the gentlemen he was, Patterson gave Sonny a shot. Floyd said it was the right thing for him to do even if it was against Cus’s wishes.

Nobody on the planet gave Patterson a chance against Sonny. Liston was bigger and stronger than Patterson, and with the fight finally set on September 25, 1962, Liston made quick work of Patterson with a crushing first round knockout. This sent the press and boxing world into a tailspin having Sonny Liston heavyweight champion. After the fight Liston returned home to Philly and expected to have a bunch of people, press, and new fans waiting to speak with the new champion when he got off the plane. This never happed as everyone was a no show and Sonny became bitter towards the press and people. Sonny wanted to be accepted in the worst way. He felt he fought his way to the top and when he got there, there was nothing but hatred for him and his accomplishments.

Liston continued to defend his title and 10 months later granted Patterson a rematch. Why he did this nobody knows, but Sonny felt since Patterson gave him a shot, he should give him a shot. This fight lasted a bit longer but the result was a devastating KO and a total of 4 minutes in 2 fights with the former champion. During this time Cassius Clay was climbing the ranks at a rapid pace and started to irritate Liston on a regular basis. Clay boasted he “would fight Sonny in a phone booth” if he had to just to get a shot at Liston. Finally the two came together in a media circus campaigned by Clay leading up the fight in 1964. Most diehard Liston fans claim Sonny threw the first fight, but I think Liston just ran into a kid who was brash, and a tremendous athlete. From the opening bell everyone expected Liston to knock Clay’s head off but Sonny couldn’t hit Clay and chased him for seven rounds, eating Clay’s lightning jab and right hand leads. Finally, a battered Liston quit on his stool before the eighth round claiming he separated his shoulder. It’s possible this happened, because if you view the fight and watch closely, Liston was swinging and missing so badly that he could have damaged his rotator cuff. The once invincible and fearsome Liston was humiliated by Cassius Clay. The Liston camp insisted Sonny couldn’t go on but had he continued he would have been stopped within the next round or so.

This loss Sonny took personally. His integrity was tarnished and he wanted to literally kill Clay if he got a rematch. Both camps had set on a date less then a year later. Liston got into the gym and trained like he had never trained before. Sonny was in the best shape in his entire career and ready for the rematch. Clay’s trainer Angelo Dundee got wind of Liston’s training camp and how sharp Sonny looked. Dundee (always the protector of his kid) stopped by Liston’s training camp to hear Night Train (Sonny’s favorite song to train to) on the record player and Sonny looking 10 years younger and sharp as a tack. Angelo was very disturbed to see this and there is speculation that this was why the first date was cancelled. Upon hearing what Dundee reported back at the Clay/Ali camp, mysteriously Ali developed a hernia and the fight was postponed. Upon hearing this Sonny was devastated and returned to drinking, staying out late and getting into trouble, totally losing focus on his goal of dethroning the master boxer formerly known as Clay. By the time they fought in the second fight Liston was a shell of what he was for the first fight date. Frankie Carbo reportedly told Sonny to fall at some point during the match and financially Liston would make more money taking a dive than if he had won. Well word was Sonny didn’t wait for the first punch and figured why chase Ali for five rounds? So he went down in the first round and saved Ali from the trouble of working up a sweat for the evening. The fight was a joke, and went down in history as a fix.

It was dubbed the ‘Phantom Punch’ and as Liston took the count everyone in the arena believed he could have gotten up. Liston watched the referee throughout the count and rolled around on the canvas as Ali motioned for him to get up. The fact is there was a punch, a short right hand lead called an anchor punch that hit Sonny clean on the chin. Ali, never noted for his knockout power, looked as stunned as anyone when Liston crumpled to the canvas. Sonny Liston was a tough guy who could take a shot, and as clean as that punch was and as quick as it happened, it couldn’t have dropped Sonny like that in the first minute of the fight. Liston’s wife Geraldine said “Sonny threw the fight because he was afraid of the black Muslims who were moving up into power at the time.” But I think Liston cashed in on that fight.

Why would big bad Sonny Liston, who was property of the mob, be afraid of the black Muslims? It just doesn’t make sense to this day. It made more sense to take the 17 count by referee Jersey Joe Walcott for the money than fear of the Muslims. If Sonny was afraid for his life, why not consult with Palermo or Carbo and have it taken care of before the match? My opinion being an historian and knowing the circumstances the way this fight came off is that Sonny dove, and that Sonny drove away with the money. Geraldine claims she never saw any money and maybe she is telling the truth. But Liston did what he was told that night. Maybe the Muslims made Palermo an offer they couldn’t refuse? I doubt the mob would fear the Muslims would burn them of all people.

After the fight Liston took time off and then returned to the ring for four fights in Sweden and fourteen fights in the States, hoping to get another shot at the title. But Liston’s former sparring partner Leotis Martin KO’d Sonny and dashed his hopes of ever winning back the world title. Sonny did return for one bout with the ‘Bayonne Bleeder’ Chuck Wepner, and after he knocked out Wepner that was the last time Sonny would ever be seen again. On Jan 5, 1971 Sonny was discovered dead in his Vegas home by his wife Geraldine. The cause of death was an overdose, heart failure and lung congestion. But Sonny had no needle marks on his arms, so it’s anyone’s guess how he died and what day he died. Sonny’s birthday was unknown and history says his birthday is carved on a tree somewhere in Cleveland. Nobody actually knew the day he died either as he was found weeks after he had passed away. On Sonny’s grave stone it says ‘A Man’ because his life was as much a mystery as his death.

For all the horrible things in Sonny’s life, it was again the sport of boxing that helped turn a career thug into a champion. Boxing has saved many from possible lives of crime and prison. I feel though this was a sad ending for Liston as there are still a lot of unanswered questions in this man’s life we will never know. In all the bios and stories Geraldine still maintains Sonny dove for Ali, but was never paid for it. My question is after Sonny’s untimely death, who took care of Geraldine financially? And sure Sonny partied hard, but unless he was unconscious it would have taken on hell of an effort to beat down Liston and ultimately kill him. In the end, Sonny got what he always wanted. He was driven down the main strip in Vegas and all eyes were on him. He was finally excepted for what he accomplished when he was alive. It is sad it took his death for people to finally embrace ‘A Man’, Charles ‘Sonny‘ Liston.

12-29-2005, 01:59 AM
Cyber Boxing Champion
Charles "Sonny" Liston

Record: 50-4 (39 kayos)
Born: May 8, 1932, St. Francis Co., AK
Died: Dec. 30, 1970, Las Vegas, NV

Oct 31 Paroled from prison

Feb St. Louis Golden Glove Heavy Champ
Feb Midwest Golden Glove Heavy Champ
(beat Olympic Gold Medalist Ed Sanders)
Mar National Golden Glove Heavy Champ
Jun International Golden Glove Heavy Champ

Professional Record
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

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
(televised, Summerlin was 22-1, disputed decision)
Aug 10 John Summerlin Detroit, MI W 8
Sep 7 Marty Marshall Detroit, MI L 8

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

Mar 6 Marty Marshall Pittsburgh, PA W 10

Jan Begins 9-month sentence for beating up cop in May 1956
Aug 24 Paroled from jail

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

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

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

Mar 8 Howard King FL KO 3
Jul 14 Suspended by PA Athletic Comm'n after being arrested
Nov 6 Ernie Terrell Chicago, IL Exh 4
Dec 4 Albert Westphal PA KO 1

Apr 17 Applies for license to box in New York
Apr 26 NY Commission denies license

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

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

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

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

[May] Opponent Anchorage, AK Exh
[May] Opponent Anchorage, AK Exh
May 29 Gerhard Zech Sweden KO 7
Aug 19 Amos Johnson Sweden KO 3

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

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 Juarez, MEX KO 2
Nov 12 Roger Rischer PA KO 3
Dec 10 Amos Lincoln MD KO 2

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

Jun 29 Chuck Wepner K0 10

12-29-2005, 11:24 AM
Anyone that thinks Ali's KO of Sonny in the second bout is legit is gullible as hell.

First of all there was so much political , illegal and acial sh-t going on behind the scenes, I believe Sonny really did not want to get into the ring...everyone was threatening everybody...there were all sorts of threats of assasinations gong down that everyone was a little nervous...it was a highly tension charged time.

Whatever the reason, Sonny took the first opportunity to lay down. Besides the fact that Liston had an iron chin that took the best bombs of a monster hitter like Cleveland Williams and besides the fact it was not even a solid , flush shot that nailed him, there is far better evidence that cannot be disputed. The evidence was Ali himself.

Watch Ali scream at Liston to get up. He was clearly screaming at Liston to get up and not take a dive. Ali was the first to know Liston was taking a dive since he threw the punch and knew it was a tap. When you ad Walcott's blunder and thirty seconds of Liston rolling on the floor with an eye on the ref waiting for the count to end, it becomes so obvious it is absurd.

Liston was already an old fighter by the time of the Ali bouts. He had to be at least about 35 for the first bout, 36 for the rematch. Odds were he was not going to beat a 23 year old Ali anyway. Too young, wrong style. However, throwing the fight the way he did forever tarnished his image.

12-29-2005, 06:24 PM
"however throwing the fight forever tarnished his image".

That's true enough, Evan. But don't you think that in a weird sort of way that fight added to Liston's mystique? I'm not condoning it at all but it's part & parcel of the legend of one of the most feared fighters ever.


12-29-2005, 07:15 PM
His mystique, without question. He is a shady figure..you want to like him but know that deep down your not really sure if he was a good guy or a bad guy...

I mean as a fighter...

Sonny was a top all time guy...I don't care about the rhetoric...if you had to bet your last dollar, you'd take the 220 pound, 84" reach Liston over a Dempsey or a Marciano in a minute...there were really only a handful of guys that might have beaten him and Sonny came across the best of them when the kid was just touching his prime while Sonny was past his own...

I personally think for a number of reasons that Liston is the most underated heavyweight champ of all to by most people...the reason for that is the Ali fights...

12-29-2005, 07:50 PM
I agree with you, Evan. How 'bout that? It must be Christmas!

I concur that Liston has been denigrated unfairly in the all-time pantheon of heavyweights. In my book he ranks no lower than 6th but in reality maybe should be ranked 4th.

The Ali fights really blemished his standing. You can't say that it was unfair because he did give us two miserable performances in those fights.


Dragnet 69
12-29-2005, 07:55 PM
"I personally think for a number of reasons that Liston is the most underated heavyweight champ of all to by most people...the reason for that is the Ali fights..."

I absolutely concur. Liston was a very powerful fighter who had good all around skills plus ring intelligence. Sonny was extremely strong but didn't expend excess energy with his strength he was very relaxed in the ring. You don't see many big strong heavyweights exhibit patience, bob and weave and use other skill tactics like Liston did and yet have the kind of power he did. Liston was able to outbox excellent boxers as well as outslug big punchers. His versitility is overlooked in this regard. Very very underated heavyweight in terms of overall ability. People I think underate him because of his short term title reign. He probably was the best heavyweight from about 55-56 on to the Ali loss in 64 and the second best until his loss to Martin in 69.

walsh b
12-29-2005, 08:04 PM
As Ali or Clay said to Dundee and his camp......Liston is a bully and all bullies are quitters.....how right he was.....

12-29-2005, 08:37 PM
There definitely is some truth to that Walsh. Though in the 2nd fight there were external socio-political elements that came into play.

But I also remember Liston going 10 rounds & winning against Marty Marshall after having his jaw broken in I believe the 2nd round. I also remember his hellacious war with Cleveland Williams in their first fight which rivals Hagler-Hearns for intensity.

Up until the Ali fights he NEVER showed any quit. & hell, after the Ali fights he never quit either. I'm not excusing him for the Ali fights but he did face adversity with courage before those bouts. To just flat out label him a quitter is unfair in my view.

I think Tyson is the poster boy for bully/quitter. He crumbled EVERY time he faced adversity.


12-30-2005, 01:10 AM
I'll tell you something interestin...a year ago I saw Wepner speak at a dinner...he was very entertaining, he has his act down pat...he was open for questions and I think I was the only serious boxing fan ...he was very surprised and lit up when I asked him about Sonny Liston...he said, flat out, that Liston hit him harder than anyone ever hit him, including Foreman...I found that interesting !

walsh b
12-30-2005, 01:11 PM
Fair enough Gor, Tson I agree too was a quitter. But Liston was competitive in the fights you mentioned, he was not against Clay or Ali...he knew that and as most bullies actually all bullies, he couldn't take it....

12-30-2005, 02:23 PM
Until after the Lewis fight, Tyson never quit in a fight...the fights he lost, he hung tough to the end and took terrific punishment. He did not sit on a stool like Sonny did.

Tyson was a bad guy and did terrible things time and again in his life. However, he was not a quitter in the ring.

12-30-2005, 04:44 PM
Whenever anybody fought back & made him face adversity Leg-Iron Mike lost EVERY time. BUT ...Evan's right that up until the Williams fight he took his beatings like a man & never flat out quit.


Roberto Aqui
12-30-2005, 05:52 PM
[[[[Whenever anybody fought back & made him face adversity Leg-Iron Mike lost EVERY time.]]]]

I disagree with that assessment, but at any rate, the same thing would apply to Sonny.

Dragnet 69
12-30-2005, 07:04 PM
Liston steps into the ring over 50 times professionaly against the best of his time and is a quitter cause he sits on the stool once and throws a fight? Thats not much evidence to lable someone a quitter especially when theres so much to the contrary. Tyson may have mentally fallen apart in some of his fights but I wouldn't label him a quitter. One might have an argument for Golata especially against Grant, but to call a fighter a quitter is a huge statement especially when it takes a lot of courage to even get in the ring. If Liston and Tyson are quitters based on the criteria layed out here than there has been been a great number of boxers that have been quitters throughout history.

12-30-2005, 07:21 PM
Great point, Dragnet. No man who enters the ring is a coward. But sometimes shit happens ...


12-30-2005, 08:18 PM
Golata is a quitter. He was a front runner.

He flat out quit in the second round against Tyson. He had a better second round than first but would not come out. He quit.

Golata quit against Michael Grant.

I don't buy that any man in the ring B.S. They are trained professionals. Golata was thr furthest thing from a balls to the wall athlete I have ever seen.

Dragnet 69
12-30-2005, 09:44 PM
I wouldn't argue against the idea that Golata isn't a balls to walls fighter . However, it may have been a good idea to quit against Tyson according to this article.

Golota hospitalized for injuries sustained in Tyson fight
By Ed Schuyler Jr. / Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Andrew Golota remained hospitalized Sunday after suffering a concussion and a neck injury in his fight against Mike Tyson, which he refused to continue after the second round.
"He got hurt, he got injured and it's probably the smartest thing he did," Mariola Golota said Sunday of her husband's refusal to go out for the third round Friday night at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Michigan.
Golota was taken by his wife to Resurrection Medical Center on Chicago's Northwest side after they returned home Saturday morning.
Dr. Wesley Yapor, a neurosurgeon treating Golota, said the fighter sustained a concussion, a fractured left cheekbone and a herniated disc between the fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae.
Yapor, who shared a conference call Sunday with Mariola Golota, said the 32-year-old fighter was fitted with a cervical collar and will need therapy.
"If the symptoms persist, he might need surgery," said Yapor who indicated Golota could be released early in the week.
After an MRI, it was thought there was a little bleeding in the brain, but that does appear to be the case, according to Yapor.
"It's not uncommon for people who sustain serious head injuries to have a cervical injury," said Yapor, explaining that all head injuries are considered serious.
Numbness in Golota's left arm led to an MRI that disclosed the herniated disc. An EEG was normal.
Asked if Golota could fight again, Yapor said, "That's a difficult question to answer. My goal is to get him to where he would have no restrictions."
"Everybody just assumed, well here you have a winner and a quitter," Mariola Golota said. "There was more involved."
"There's no question he sustained a concussion from head blows," Yapor said.
Golota was knocked down by a right to the head late in the first round. He also complained of several head butts by Tyson, one of which apparently opened a cut over his left eye.
"If he had sustained another serious blow to the head he could have become paralyzed," Yapor said. "There's no way I would have allowed him to enter the ring for the second round."
Golota, however, did not complain to a ringside physician about being in distress.
"There's no way I'm blaming the physician who was there," Yapor said.
After the fight Golota, who had a seizure and was hospitalized after being knocked out in one round by heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis on Oct. 4, 1997, became disoriented and nauseous.
Golota, however, held his own with Tyson in the second round. Yapor said effects of a concussion are not always immediately apparent but had Golota continued to fight.
"There's no doubt the first episode of vomiting would have occurred in the ring," Yapor said.
Golota appeared coherent in a couple of brief television interviews immediately after the fight, but his wife said when she got to the dressing room, "He was pretty incoherent. He was stuttering. Then after about 15 minutes Showtime came in and got a few sentences out of him."
Golota was taken to a hospital near the arena to have the cut stitched. Yapor said he refused to be admitted there and he and his wife returned to Chicago.
"A friend drove us," she said. "We still have friends."
She said eggs were thrown at her law office in a Polish section of Northwest Chicago and that garbage was dumped in front of it, but that it was cleaned up before she saw it. Her husband was peppered with popcorn and showered with beer and soda when he left the ring.
"He does not wish to talk too much about what has happened," she said.
Golota had headaches and was nauseous and "He was very lethargic. I tried to keep him awake," she said.
When she told him he needed "to go to the hospital, he replied ăNo, No, I'm all right."' She finally got him to the Resurrection emergency room about 3 p.m. CDT Saturday, and he was then admitted.
"Andrew wanted to win the fight," she added. "He wanted to show everybody he could fight clean and he could win."

11-03-2006, 08:52 PM

11-05-2006, 02:15 PM
i imagine liston is not a great in the true sense. he may be more in the middle --a near great. not as bad as some think-not quite as good as others may think--just opinion--thanks.