A MULTI-talented fighter, it could be said that Sonny Liston's best weapon was intimidation. He had one of the best jab's in boxing and knockout power in each hand, but Liston's balefull scowl often had opponets defeated before the first bell.
Born one of 25 brothers and sisters, Liston led a troubled life and learned boxing while serving time in prison for armed robbery. He turned pro in 1953 and rapidly ascended the heavyweight ranks, leaving a stream of knockout victims in his wake.
He posted wins over top contenders such as Cleveland Williams, Nino Valdes, Zora Folley and Eddie Machen to position himself for a title fight. He became heavyweight champion of the world on September 25, 1962 when he kayoed Floyd Patterson in one round. He granted Patterson a rematch 10 months later but the result was the same: Liston by knockout in the first round.
Liston's reputation as an invincible champion was shattered when he quit on his stool between the seventh and eigthth rounds against challenger Cassius Clay 1964. A rematch was staged a year later and Clay -- known then as Muhammad Ali -- scored a first-round knockout. Some say Ali landed a "phantom punch," and Liston's reputation was forever tarnished.
In his last bout, Liston stopped a young heavyweight named Chuck Wepner in 1970. Unfortunately, when he retired from the ring his life remained schrouded in controversy. On December 30, 1970, Liston was found dead in his Las Vegas apartment. The apparent cause of death was an overdose of drugs.
Born: May 8, 1932
Died: Dec. 30, 1970