Sonny Liston - 1970s Heavyweights
Before George Foreman and then Mike Tyson came along terrifying the heavyweight division, in his prime, Sonny Liston was considered the scariest fighter ever in the heavyweight division. Leading up to his first championship bout with Muhammad Ali, Sonny Liston had knocked out 24 of his first 35 opponents and was coming off two successive first-round knockout victories over Floyd Patterson, the first to win the belt and the second to defend. Many thought given those results, Liston was going to kill Ali in the ring who was then known by his birth name, Cassius Clay. But the then Clay feared none and was a young and brash 22-year-old coming off a gold medal in the 1960 Rome Olympic games just four years earlier. Ali took Liston to school and forced him to retire in his corner after the sixth round. In a rematch a little over a year later, the “phantom punch” took place when Ali knocked out Liston in the first round to defend his belt a fight in which some believe Liston took a dive. Despite winning the remainder of his fights the rest of his career minus his next-to-last bout against Leotis Martin when Liston got knocked out, he never got another title shot retiring with a record of 50-4. The downside to Sonny Liston’s life was that he was involved with many shady characters and he developed a bad drug abuse problem. When he died in 1971, his wife found him in the bedroom slumped over and by police estimation, he had been deceased for nearly a week. Heroin overdose was listed as the cause of death but rumors of foul play quickly followed.