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Main > Sports > Charles L. "Sonny" Liston

Charles L. "Sonny" Liston (May 8, 1932-December 30, 1970) was a formidable boxer who became world heavyweight champion in 1962 by knocking out Floyd Patterson in the first round. Liston was one of the most powerful punchers in the history of the heavyweight division.

Liston made his professional debut on September 2, 1953, knocking out Don Smith in the first round in St. Louis, where he fought the first five bouts. In his sixth bout, in Detroit, Michigan, he faced John Summerlin (22-0) on national television.

In 1960, Liston won five more fights. In 1962, Liston and Patterson met and Liston became world champion by knocking out Patterson in the first round.

Liston did not box again in 1963, but in 1964 he faced a young contender named Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali). Liston lost his title when he quit in his corner before the start of the 7th round. Liston was scheduled to fight a rematch with Clay and less than two minutes into the fight, it was over. While he was pulling away from Liston, Ali hit Liston with what came to be known as a "phantom punch," and Liston went down.

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