Sonny Liston: His Life, Strife and the Phantom Punch


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Liston, who was known for his intimidating scowl, destroyed most opponents with brute strength and a left hand from hell. In he knocked out all four of his opponents, including the tough Cleveland Williams and Nino Valdez, in three rounds each. In he stopped the highly regarded Roy Harris after toppling him three times in the first round and then knocked out Zora Folley before having to settle for a decision over the crafty Eddie Machen.

By Liston was the top contender for the heavyweight crown held by Floyd Patterson. Patterson's wily manager, Cus D'Amato, however, forestalled any encounter with the dangerous Liston by claiming a mobbed-up ex-con was unfit to fight for the championship. Many Americans who viewed Liston as an unrepentant thug agreed. Under mounting pressure, however, the two eventually met on 25 September at Chicago's Comiskey Park, where Liston knocked Patterson out with a crippling left hook to the head in two minutes and six seconds to win the championship.

Sonny Liston

On the return flight to Philadelphia, Liston felt confident that Americans would forgive his unsavory past. He fully expected a hero's welcome, but when the plane landed, the airport was empty. Liston was crushed. These stunning victories reinforced Liston's reputation as an invincible ring predator. Outside the ring he maintained his menacing aura. Despite numerous arrests he continued drinking heavily, driving recklessly, and allegedly assaulting a number of women, mostly prostitutes.

Liston seemingly reveled in the notoriety and once observed, "A prizefight is like a cowboy movie. There has to be a good guy and a bad guy. Only in my cowboy movies, the bad guy always wins. The brash young boxer Cassius Clay later Muhammad Ali baited Liston as the "ugly old bear" for months and finally taunted him into a bout on 25 February in Miami Beach, Florida. The quicksilver Clay deftly out-boxed the plodding Liston, peppering him with explosive jabs.


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The fight ended in controversy and a new champion when a bloodied Liston refused to answer the bell for the seventh round, complaining of a shoulder injury. Liston and Ali fought again in Lewiston, Maine, on 25 May The rematch ended as abruptly and mysteriously as the first fight when Liston succumbed in the first round to Ali's infamous "phantom punch," a blow unseen by many viewers or deemed not powerful enough to knock out the hulking Liston. Rumors of a fix quickly ensued, and Liston's reputation was ruined.

He nevertheless resumed boxing, knocking out four opponents in and in Sweden where he and Geraldine adopted a son and winning his next ten fights, nine by knockout, before being stopped by a former sparring partner, Leotis Martin, in the ninth round of a grueling battle in Back in Las Vegas, where he had settled in , Liston was rumored to be involved in peddling narcotics and possibly loan-sharking. In , after serving two years in prison, he was paroled to a team of boxing handlers with ties to John Vitale, a St.

Louis underworld figure. Carbo was later indicted on conspiracy, multiple counts of undercover management of prizefighters and unlicensed matchmaking. Liston fought 12 fights under their control. Liston's questionable character was at the forefront of most observers' minds as the fight unfolded, but it was hardly the only controversy plaguing the bout.

The day after winning the title in the first fight, Ali, then still known as Cassius Clay, officially announced he was joining the Nation of Islam. Confusion turned to outrage when Clay abandoned his given name , calling it his "slave name," in favor of a name chosen by the Nation's leader, Elijah Muhammad: Muhammad Ali. But this is the first time it has been turned into an instrument of hate. I pity Clay and abhor what he represents.

Amateur boxing career

When the champion stormed out of the arena rather than be introduced as Cassius Clay, boos showered him. The World Boxing Association went as far as stripping Ali of world-title recognition. Widespread criticism met Ali's conversion outside of boxing circles as well.

Even Dr.

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And that's what we are fighting against. As this battle raged in the mainstream, internal strife also plagued the Nation of Islam. When Malcolm was assassinated on February 21, , it was feared Ali would be a target for those looking for payback. Nation of Islam bodyguards were everywhere. Every major player in boxing, from New York to Nevada, passed on the bout.

Considering the two wildly unpopular fighters, the fear of a fix and the looming violence , it was little wonder no one wanted the fight. Originally scheduled for Boston, it was moved less than three weeks out when Suffolk County District Attorney Garrett Byrne sought an injunction to stop the contest. The state of Maine had no such moral compunctions, so the fight ended up in little Lewiston. But few people forgot just how the most prestigious championship in sports found itself up for grabs in what boxing historian Nigel Collins called "a drab textile center.

Collins sides firmly with those who believe the fix was in.

Sonny Liston: His Life, Strife and the Phantom Punch by Robert Steen

The question for Liston, he ponders in his book Boxing Babylon , is why: " The answer is fear. One of the great figures of the 20th Century, Muhammad Ali born Cassius Clay first became heavyweight champion of the world when he defeated Sonny Liston in The robe Muhammad Ali wore on the night of his world-famous "phantom punch" fight against Sonny Liston is about to hit the auction block -- but it ain't gonna come cheap! It ain't hard to see why -- Ali's rematch vs. Before Rocky Balboa , there was Chuck Wepner. Feeling inspired after watching the Muhammad Ali vs. Wepner heavyweight boxing fight, a young Sylvester Stallone went home and wrote a script for a movie that would later become Rocky.

In theaters May 5th. He was the pride of Bayonne, New Jersey, a man who went fifteen rounds in the ring with Muhammad Ali , and the real life inspiration for Rocky Balboa. But before all that, Chuck Wepner Liev Schreiber was a liquor salesman and father with a modest prizefighting career whose life changed overnight when, in , he was chosen to take on The Greatest in a highly publicized title match.

Driven by a committed performance from Liev Schreiber ,. When Muhammad Ali passed away on June 4th, , those who knew him, admired him, fought him and loved him attested to his singular skill as a boxer, his fleet footwork and his way with words especially of the trash-talking variety.


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  8. What was often emphasized the most in these tributes, however, was how Ali was as much a political firebrand as a gamechanging pugilist — both the 20th century's consummate athlete and a social activist willing to sacrifice his career by standing up for what he believed. This was the heavyweight champion. Few film festivals in the world double as an acquisitions marketplace quite like the Toronto International Film Festival, which will screen more than movies between September 8 and September Most of these films have yet to land a U.

    Which movies are likely to be swarmed by buyers at Tiff ? Here are nine hot titles from the lineup that could be prime targets for acquisition execs. In one of those strange confluences of life, death and documentary art, last week the world lost Muhammad Ali , humanitarian, devout Muslim and near inarguably the greatest boxer of all time even if that assignation was initially self-proclaimed , just at the moment when the discussion about the life of yet another celebrity athlete, O.

    Sonny Liston: His Life, Strife and the Phantom Punch

    Simpson , is about to heat up yet again. Tonight ABC airs the first of the five-part documentary O. The first two hours of O. Simpson was shaped. Edelman illuminates a crucial contrast between Simpson, the popular USC running back living it up on a primarily white, moneyed campus, and the reality of the more typical African- American experience in Los Angeles in the s which was taking place only a few blocks from where Simpson was being groomed for NFL stardom.

    Economic and racial prejudice, police brutality during the William H. Yet O. Simpson emerged from being surrounded by it all and deftly protected from it all , early on largely achieving acceptance in white world of celebrity. He was the first African-American advertising spokesman for a major company—Hertz rental cars—who was perceived as being effective not just with blacks but across the racial board. Lipsyte was one of a large entourage surrounding Simpson that night and talked to Simpson about his plans, including his negotiations with the Buffalo Bills, his upcoming entrance into the advertising world and his hopes for the TV and movie roles that would come as a result of his career as a football pro.

    Simpson and some niggers.

    Sonny Liston: His Life, Strife and the Phantom Punch Sonny Liston: His Life, Strife and the Phantom Punch
    Sonny Liston: His Life, Strife and the Phantom Punch Sonny Liston: His Life, Strife and the Phantom Punch
    Sonny Liston: His Life, Strife and the Phantom Punch Sonny Liston: His Life, Strife and the Phantom Punch
    Sonny Liston: His Life, Strife and the Phantom Punch Sonny Liston: His Life, Strife and the Phantom Punch
    Sonny Liston: His Life, Strife and the Phantom Punch Sonny Liston: His Life, Strife and the Phantom Punch

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