Sonny Liston was an American professional boxer who competed from 1953 to 1970. Sonny Liston, by name of Charles Liston, also called the Bear. He was born on 8 May 1932 in St. Francis County, Arkansas. Unfortunately, any official record of Liston’s birth is non existent. Birth certificates were not mandatory in Arkansas until 1965. His family, but not one Charles ‘Sonny’ Liston, can be found in the 1930 census. In the official 1940 census, Sonny Liston was listed as a 10 year old. Sonny Liston himself did not know about his exact date of birth. He believed his date of birth to be 8 May 1932 and used this for official purposes. However, by the time, he went on to win a world title, his older appearance made people question the credibility of his claimed date of birth. Based on census records and statements from his mother during her lifetime a writer concluded that Liston’s most plausible date of birth was July 22, 1930. Sonny Liston was a famous American boxer who is best known for his toughness, intimidating look, and punching power. On 5 January 1971, he was found dead by his wife at his Nevada, residence. The date of death listed on his death certificate is 30 December 1970, at the age of 38. Charles ‘Sonny’ Liston’s life and death began and ended in the same manner : as a mystery.
|Nick Name||The Big Bear|
|Also known As||Charles L. Sonny Liston, Charles L. Liston|
|Date of birth||8 May 1932|
|Birthplace||St. Francis County, Arkansas, USA|
|Date of death||30 December 1970|
|Death place||Las Vegas, Nevada, USA|
|Age (at the time of death)||38 years|
|Cause of death||ue to Heroin overdose and Heavyweights|
|Grouping of people||Black Men|
Sonny Liston Family –
Charles ‘Sonny’ Liston was born into a sharecropping family who farmed the poor land of Morledge Plantation near Johnson Township, St. Francis County, Arkansas. His father’s name is Tobe Liston and mother’s name is Helen Baskin. Helen had one child before she married Tobe, and Tobe had 13 children with his first wife. Tobe and Helen had 12 children together. Sonny was the second youngest child.
Sonny Liston Relationship and More –
|Marriage Date||10 June 1950|
Sonny Liston Net worth –
Sonny Liston net worth or net income is estimated to be between $1 Million – $5 Million dollars. He has made such an amount of wealth from his primary career as Boxer.
|Net worth||between $1 Million – $5 Million|
|Source of Income||Boxer|
- He was convicted of robbery and larceny.
Sonny Liston Early Life and Childhood –
Sonny Liston was born on 8 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. He was born in St. Francis County, Arkansas, to Tobe Liston and Helen Baskin. His father was 30 years older than his mother. His father was a tenant farmer. Together with his 24 siblings and half siblings, Sonny grew up in the local cotton fields. 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.
Sonny Liston tried to go to school, but he quickly left due to his illiteracy. Shortly after leaving school, 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.
Sonny Liston Personal Life –
On June 10, 1950, Liston married Geraldine Clark. His wife had a daughter from her previous relationship. Liston later adopted a boy. Liston biographer Paul Gallender claims that Liston took care of many children, though none with his wife. Geraldine remembered her husband as, “Great with me, great with the kids. He was a gentleman.”
Sonny Liston About Death –
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 a 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.
Following an investigation, In ‘The Murder of Sonny Liston: Las Vegas police, concluded that there were no signs of foul play and declared Liston’s death due to Heroin overdose and Heavyweights. “It was common knowledge that Sonny was a heroin addict”, said Caputo. “The whole department knew about it.” The date of death listed on his death certificate is 30 December 1970, at the age of 38.
Sonny Liston 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 Schreiber of Germany to win the ‘International Golden Glover’ competition. He also won a bronze at the ‘European Championships.’
After a rough upbringing, with little formal education, Liston found himself in trouble with the law. He served brief prison terms and on one occasion was introduced to boxing by a prison chaplain. Liston excelled in his newfound love, boxing, and, after a short amateur career, turned professional. At 6 feet 1 inch and 217 pounds, Liston had devastating punching power, an iron chin, and lightning reflexes, along with a powerful jab. He quickly destroyed all the leading heavyweight contenders–Roy Harris, Zora Folley, Cleveland Williams–to earn a title shot against Floyd Patterson. 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.
Sonny Liston Inspirational & Motivational Quotes
- A boxing match is like a cowboy movie. There’s got to be good guys and there’s got to be bad guys. And that’s what people pay for – to see the bad guys get beat. – Sonny Liston
- The only thing my old man ever gave me was a beating. Sonny Liston. …
- A boxing match is like a cowboy movie. There’s got to be good guys and there’s got to be bad guys. …- Sonny Liston
- Newspapermen ask dumb questions. …- Sonny Liston
- Come over here and sit on my knee and finish your orange juice. …- Sonny Liston
- How would you like to find out how good my right is?- Sonny Liston