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Sonny Liston, a Black boxer, was born on this date in 1932.
He was born in Sand Slough, Arkansas, the tenth of eleven children born into an impoverished family.
He moved to St. Louis with his mother in 1945. Unable to read or write, Liston was a juvenile delinquent, serving 19 months in prison in 1950 for robbing a gas station. A priest in prison directed him to boxing and in 1953, he won the national Golden Gloves championship. Liston turned professional, went 14 and 1, but assaulted a police officer and returned to prison in 1956. After his release he won 16 bouts in a row, became the number one heavyweight contender in 1960, and took the championship on September 25, 1962, from Floyd Patterson with a first-round knockout.
Because of his underworld connections, the New York State Boxing Commission refused to license him, though he won his rematch with Patterson again with a first-round knockout in 1963. Liston had a remarkable physical presence as a boxer; a crushing left hook and a great ability to take punches. He lost his title to Cassius Clay in 1964 on a TKO (unable to answer the bell in the seventh round), losing again in a rematch by a first-round knockout to Clay (who had changed his name to Muhammad Ali).
His career record was 54-4 (with 39 knockouts). Sonny Liston died of natural causes in 1970, six months after his last fight.
Boxing Album: An Illustrated History
by Peter Brooke Bell
Smithmark Publisher, 1995