Great Boxers - Sonny Liston

Born May 8th, 1932, fighting from 1953 to 1970, Sonny Liston was one of 25 brothers and sisters. He had a difficult life and became interested in boxing whilst serving a prison sentence for armed robbery.

After turning pro in 1953, Liston defeated top contenders such as Eddie Machen and Cleveland Williams, positioning himself for a title fight. He became heavyweight champion on September 25th, 1962, winning the title from Floyd Patterson, knockout him out in the first round. Although Patterson was granted a rematch 10 months later, the result didn't change; again Patterson was knocked out in the 1st round.

Liston lost his title however, on February 25th, 1964 to Muhammad Ali by knockout in the 7th round. He was knocked out a year later by Ali in a rematch.

Sonny Liston was one of the most powerful heavyweights of all time, a ferocious puncher and at his peak, he is seen as the closest thing to Jim Jeffries in the last 100 years, due to his raw strength. He possessed a terrific jab and vicious hooks from both sides. Exceptional for a man of his size, he could take a solid rap on the chin without flinching.

When he won his title from Patterson, Liston was close to 30 years old. If he had gained his break earlier, he may have been unbeatable. His reign as champion was short lived, but may have been longer, possibly from 1958 to 1964 if he had fought Patterson in the mid-fifties as intended. Patterson avoided Liston as an opponent as he was seen as undeserving of a title because of his background and character.

Sonny Liston is rated by many as one of the best heavyweights ever, possibly more than Ali. Although it is hard for him to be determined as better than Ali, as defeated by him twice, Ali's victory was surrounded by suspicious circumstances, where Liston's true abilities still remain a question mark. In fact until Liston was defeated by Ali, he was seemingly indestructible, the biggest enigma among heavyweights.

However, it was not only Liston's career that was surrounded by controversy, but also his sudden death in January 1971 as drugs such as heroin and marijuana were found where his body was discovered a week after his death. He had been in the middle of a comeback.

Sonny Liston's last professional fight gave him a victory over a young Chuck Wepner. With 50 wins, 4 losses and 39 knockouts, Liston was certainly one of the greatest heavyweights of all time.