Sonny Liston

Sonny Liston - Professional Boxer, Birthday and Family

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Sonny Liston's Personal Details

Sonny Liston was an American professional boxer

InformationDetail
BirthdayMay 8, 1932
Died onDecember 30, 1970
NationalityAmerican
FamousSportspersons, Boxers, Professional Boxer
Group of peopleBlack Men
City/StateArkansas
Nick namesThe Big Bear
SpousesGeraldine Clark
Known asCharles L. Sonny Liston, Charles L. Liston
Birth PlaceSand Slough, Arkansas
Height185
GenderMale
FatherTobe Liston
MotherHelen Baskin
Sun SignTaurus
Born inSand Slough, Arkansas
Famous asProfessional Boxer
Died at Age38

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Sonny Liston's photo

Who is Sonny Liston?

Sonny Liston was an American professional boxer often viewed as ‘the invincible one’ in the ring. His deadly record of 54 wins out of 58 bouts clearly supports the aforesaid statement. His journey toward becoming a professional boxer began in ‘Missouri State Penitentiary,’ where he was sentenced for five years. He began his professional career in 1953. Known for his hard hits and punches, Sonny became the ‘World Heavy Weight Champion’ in 1962, after knocking out his opponent, Floyd Patterson, within three minutes. He remained the champion for 17 months before he was defeated by Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali, in 1964. A year later, he had a rematch with Clay where he was knocked out in the first round again. However, he made a comeback with 11 consecutive knockout wins. Sonny was found dead on January 5, 1971 at his Nevada residence. Heart failure and congestion in lungs were cited as cause of his death in the official report.

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Childhood & Early Life

Charles L. “Sonny” Liston was born in St. Francis County, Arkansas, to Tobe Liston and Helen Baskin. His father was 30 years older than his mother.

There is no official record of his date of birth but a writer claimed that he was born on July 22, 1930. However, Liston settled on May 8, 1932, as his official birth date.

His father was an alcoholic and used to beat Liston brutally. His mother moved to St. Louis, Missouri, with some of the children, leaving Liston behind with his abusive father.

After saving enough money, he travelled to St. Louis to be with his family again. His attempt to attend school failed and soon, he joined muggers and robbers of St. Louis for survival.

The policemen of St. Louis called him ‘Yellow Shirt Bandit’ because of the shirt he used to wear during robberies. For his crimes, Liston was arrested more than 20 times by the police.

In 1950, he was arrested and sentenced to ‘Missouri State Penitentiary’ for five years. Rev. Alois Stevens, the athletic director at the Penitentiary, saw in him a great potential to be a boxer.

Stevens arranged a match between Liston and Thurman Wilson, a heavyweight, who, after two rounds, stepped out of the ring claiming that Liston will kill him.

Early Career

On October 31, 1952, Liston was released from jail, and a year later had his first match as well as win against the ‘1952 Olympic Heavyweight Champion,’ Ed Sanders. In April, he lost the quarter final to Jimmy McCarter in the ‘National Amateur Athletic Union.’

On June 23, Liston defeated Hermann Schreibauer of Germany to win the ‘International Golden Glover’ competition. He also won a bronze at the ‘European Championships.’

Career

On September 2, 1953, Liston made his professional debut against Don Smith in St. Louis. He knocked his opponent out in the first round.

After winning more than five bouts in St. Louis, Liston faced and defeated John Summerlin in Detroit, Michigan. It was his first match to be broadcast on national television.

After nine straight wins, Sonny lost to Marty Marshall by an eight-round split decision. However, he defeated Marshall in the rematch via sixth-round knockout.

Along with his boxing pursuits, Liston’s criminal record also became a talking point for the media that often wrote about his aggressive nature. One such incident happened on May 5, 1956, when Liston was accused of assaulting a police officer.

While Liston claimed that the officer passed racist comments on him, it was widely publicized that he stole the policeman’s gun and turned into a ‘monster’ at the time of his arrest.

He was sent to a nine-month sentence in 1957, but was released on parole after six months. In 1958, he made a comeback with eight straight wins.

In 1959, he faced Cleveland Williams, known to be the ‘hardest-hitting heavyweight in the world.’ Liston changed the world’s opinion about Williams, after he defeated him in the third round.

By 1960, Liston had become the No.1 contender for ‘World Heavyweight Championship,’ which was then held by Floyd Patterson. He defeated top contenders like Roy Harris, Zora Folley, and Eddie Machen to challenge Patterson for the title.

During this time, Liston became a victim of racism when whites, including President J.F. Kennedy, didn’t want Patterson to face Liston. After a lot of media pressure by Sonny’s management, Patterson finally agreed to face him on September 25, 1962.

For the first time in the history of heavyweight boxing, a reigning champion was knocked out in the first round and that too, within three minutes of entering the ring. Sonny had a rematch with Patterson on July 22, 1963, in Las Vegas, where he defeated Patterson within five minutes by knocking him down three times.

Liston remained the ‘World Heavyweight Champion’ for 17 months; he lost the title to Cassius Clay, who later came to be known as Muhammad Ali, on February 25, 1964, in Miami Beach, Florida.

Liston lost to Clay via technical knockout when he failed to get up on the seventh bell. His reason to quit was a shoulder injury, as told by him later.

His rematch with Clay on May 25, 1965, was said to be fixed since Liston went down within two minutes after receiving, what came to be known as the infamous ‘phantom punch,’ from Clay. Liston remained away from boxing for a year after this loss.

He made a comeback with four consecutive wins in Sweden. In 1968, he returned to America and won a total of 14 bouts, including one against the fifth-ranked Henry Clark. His winning streak was broken by third-ranked Leotis Martin in 1969, who defeated Liston in the ninth round, after almost losing to him.

In June 1970, Liston dominated Chuck Wepner, who had to leave the bout after the ninth round due to injury in his eyes and cheekbones. This was also Liston’s final fight.

Personal Life & Legacy

On June 10, 1950, Liston married Geraldine Chambers. His wife had a daughter from her previous relationship.

Liston later adopted a boy. It is said that Liston took care of many children.

Liston’s life had a tragic ending. He was found dead by his wife on January 5, 1971, at his Nevada residence. Geraldine couldn’t reach him for 12 days. When she returned home, he was found dead.

It was said that the police discovered syringe and packets of heroin in his home, and needle marks on his arm. However, it was officially announced that he died of heart failure and lung congestion.

In ‘The Murder of Sonny Liston: Las Vegas, Heroin, and Heavyweights,’ a book by Shaun Assel, published in 2016, it was claimed that his death could have been a murder.

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Sonny Liston biography timelines

  • // 22nd Jul 1930 To 8th May 1932
    There is no official record of his date of birth but a writer claimed that he was born on July 22, 1930. However, Liston settled on May 8, 1932, as his official birth date.
  • // 1950
    In 1950, he was arrested and sentenced to ‘Missouri State Penitentiary’ for five years. Rev. Alois Stevens, the athletic director at the Penitentiary, saw in him a great potential to be a boxer.
  • // 10th Jun 1950
    On June 10, 1950, Liston married Geraldine Chambers. His wife had a daughter from her previous relationship.
  • // 31st Oct 1952
    On October 31, 1952, Liston was released from jail, and a year later had his first match as well as win against the ‘1952 Olympic Heavyweight Champion,’ Ed Sanders. In April, he lost the quarter final to Jimmy McCarter in the ‘National Amateur Athletic Union.’
  • // 2nd Sep 1953
    On September 2, 1953, Liston made his professional debut against Don Smith in St. Louis. He knocked his opponent out in the first round.
  • // 5th May 1956
    Along with his boxing pursuits, Liston’s criminal record also became a talking point for the media that often wrote about his aggressive nature. One such incident happened on May 5, 1956, when Liston was accused of assaulting a police officer.
  • // 1957 To 1958
    He was sent to a nine-month sentence in 1957, but was released on parole after six months. In 1958, he made a comeback with eight straight wins.
  • // 1959
    In 1959, he faced Cleveland Williams, known to be the ‘hardest-hitting heavyweight in the world.’ Liston changed the world’s opinion about Williams, after he defeated him in the third round.
  • // 1960
    By 1960, Liston had become the No.1 contender for ‘World Heavyweight Championship,’ which was then held by Floyd Patterson. He defeated top contenders like Roy Harris, Zora Folley, and Eddie Machen to challenge Patterson for the title.
  • // 25th Sep 1962
    During this time, Liston became a victim of racism when whites, including President J.F. Kennedy, didn’t want Patterson to face Liston. After a lot of media pressure by Sonny’s management, Patterson finally agreed to face him on September 25, 1962.
  • // 22nd Jul 1963
    For the first time in the history of heavyweight boxing, a reigning champion was knocked out in the first round and that too, within three minutes of entering the ring. Sonny had a rematch with Patterson on July 22, 1963, in Las Vegas, where he defeated Patterson within five minutes by knocking him down three times.
  • // 25th Feb 1964
    Liston remained the ‘World Heavyweight Champion’ for 17 months; he lost the title to Cassius Clay, who later came to be known as Muhammad Ali, on February 25, 1964, in Miami Beach, Florida.
  • // 25th May 1965
    His rematch with Clay on May 25, 1965, was said to be fixed since Liston went down within two minutes after receiving, what came to be known as the infamous ‘phantom punch,’ from Clay. Liston remained away from boxing for a year after this loss.
  • // 1968 To 1969
    He made a comeback with four consecutive wins in Sweden. In 1968, he returned to America and won a total of 14 bouts, including one against the fifth-ranked Henry Clark. His winning streak was broken by third-ranked Leotis Martin in 1969, who defeated Liston in the ninth round, after almost losing to him.
  • // Jun 1970
    In June 1970, Liston dominated Chuck Wepner, who had to leave the bout after the ninth round due to injury in his eyes and cheekbones. This was also Liston’s final fight.
  • // 5th Jan 1971
    Liston’s life had a tragic ending. He was found dead by his wife on January 5, 1971, at his Nevada residence. Geraldine couldn’t reach him for 12 days. When she returned home, he was found dead.
  • // 2016
    In ‘The Murder of Sonny Liston: Las Vegas, Heroin, and Heavyweights,’ a book by Shaun Assel, published in 2016, it was claimed that his death could have been a murder.

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Sonny Liston's FAQ

  • What is Sonny Liston birthday?

    Sonny Liston was born at 1932-05-08

  • When was Sonny Liston died?

    Sonny Liston was died at 1970-12-30

  • Where was Sonny Liston died?

    Sonny Liston was died in Las Vegas, Nevada

  • Which age was Sonny Liston died?

    Sonny Liston was died at age 38

  • Where is Sonny Liston's birth place?

    Sonny Liston was born in Sand Slough, Arkansas

  • What is Sonny Liston nationalities?

    Sonny Liston's nationalities is American

  • What is Sonny Liston nick names?

    Sonny Liston's nickNames is The Big Bear

  • Who is Sonny Liston spouses?

    Sonny Liston's spouses is Geraldine Clark

  • How tall is Sonny Liston?

    Sonny Liston's height is 185

  • Who is Sonny Liston's father?

    Sonny Liston's father is Tobe Liston

  • Who is Sonny Liston's mother?

    Sonny Liston's mother is Helen Baskin

  • What is Sonny Liston's sun sign?

    Sonny Liston is Taurus

  • How famous is Sonny Liston?

    Sonny Liston is famouse as Professional Boxer