Sonny Liston (Charles L. Liston)

Sonny Liston

Sonny Liston

Sonny Liston was born in 1932 to an immense family of 25 brothers and sisters. In his youth he was arrested for Armed Robbery and learned how to box in prison. He was paroled in 1952 and had a short amateur career winning the St. Louis, Midwest, National, and International Golden Gloves titles. He turned pro in 1953 and stormed through the ranks defeating the likes of Zora Folley and Cleveland Williams with devastating knockout power. He eventually earned a shot at Heavyweight Champion Floyd Patterson on September 25th, 1962. Liston made the most of his opportunity by knocking out Patterson in the first round to win the Championship. He defended the Championship against Patterson in a rematch 10 months later with another first round KO. On Februrary 25, 1964, Liston faced a former Olympic Light Heavyweight Champion named Cassius Clay. The brash talking Clay proclaimed he would defeat Liston but few reporters gave Clay much of a chance to compete with the Champion. Clay’s blinding hand speed and footwork completely befuddled Liston and in the 6th round, Liston injured his shoulder and did not come out for the 7th round and Cassius Clay shocked the world with a stunning upset to win the Championship. Liston got another shot at the title on May 25th, 1965 in Maine but Clay (now Muhammad Ali) scored a first round KO. Liston would continue to box for 5 more years and was shockingly found dead on December 30, 1970 of an apparent drug overdose. His career record was 50-4 with 39 KO’s In 1991, 21 years after his death, he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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  • May, 08, 1932
  • Sand Slough, Arkansas


  • December, 30, 1970
  • Las Vegas, Nevada

Cause of Death

  • died of lung congestion and heart failure


  • Paradise Memorial Gardens
  • Las Vegas, Nevada

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