Known as “The Big Bear”, Sonny Liston was one of the earliest versions of George Foreman. Big, nasty, mean, and full of power. With a nearly 80% knockout rate in his career, at first only Marty Marshall found a way to escape the bombs that Liston dropped, winning an eight-round decision in just the eighth fight of Liston’s career. Liston would fight Marshall twice more, stopping him with a sixth-round TKO in 1955 and then winning a 10-round decision a year later.
Once he knocked out Marshall in the rematch, Liston began taking down opponents. The next four opponents were victims of a TKO and then after Game 3 with Marshall, two more knockouts followed. Liston would accumulate a 33-1 record when he finally received a title shot against then-champion Floyd Patterson. The result was brutal. In just one round, Liston froze Patterson and then in a rematch of that 1962 fight on July 22, 1963, it was the same result.
Liston’s reign was not that long because, on February 25, 1964, Big Bear accepted the challenge of a young upstart named Cassius Clay. Later, for being Muhammad Ali, many of Clay’s handlers were a little scared of the aggressive and tough Liston. But as we all know, Muhammad Ali was not afraid of anyone and had the highest self-confidence ever seen in a professional boxer.
Ali had predicted that he would knock out Liston in eight rounds, but he did so in six when the champion failed to answer the bell for the eighth round. In a rematch just over a year later, this time Ali took him over in a round with an ending resulting in what many have dubbed a “phantom punch.” The word correction came, but this discussion has been going on forever. as as to whether there was a solution or was it a real hit that landed. Ali, not known as a knockout puncher, made this more suspicious.
Aside from Ali’s losses, Liston had an easy time with just about every other opponent. When it came to Ali’s fight, Liston had such a terrorist reputation that even actor Hal March went public with his prediction saying, “I think the fight will end in the dressing room. I think Clay is going to pass out before he comes out. “Well, that wasn’t the case, but if you discount Ali’s fights, Sonny Liston is still one of the most intimidating fighters of all time.