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Articles of 2004

Sonny Liston: The Facts



Sonny Liston is best remembered by newer boxing fans as “the guy Ali beat to win his first heavyweight title.”

What a lot of fight fans don’t know is that Sonny Liston waited two years in the number one contender spot before he was given the chance to fight for the heavyweight championship. Liston won the title by facing Floyd Patterson when Patterson was making his 9th title defense. That fight took place on September 25th, 1962. Patterson had inherited the title when it was vacated by Archie Moore in 1956. And don’t think for a minute that Floyd Patterson didn’t defend the title tooth and nail for the six years he held it, facing opponents like undefeated Ingemar Johansson three times.

When they met in the ring for the first time in 1959, Johansson defeated the heavyweight champ by KO, taking the crown from Patterson. A year later Patterson won it back by way of 5th round KO in a rematch. Patterson again defended the title against Johansson the following year, this time stopping him in the 6th round. Later in 1961, Patterson floored the undefeated Tom McNeeley eleven times before stopping him in the 4th round.

Floyd Patterson had grown accustomed to battling tough guys to defend the heavyweight title, but never had he run into anyone like The Great Sonny Liston. In their first fight, which took place in September of 1962, at 212 lbs. Liston outweighed Patterson by 25 pounds and he had a 13 inch reach advantage. Liston was in control of the fight from the opening bell, pounding Patterson to the body with both hands and using his devastating jab to stop Patterson at 2:06 of the first round. The next day the Chicago papers described the 18,894 fans in attendance as stunned, having witnessed the 3rd fastest knockout in boxing history. Patterson was given a re-match a year later on July, 22 1963 in Las Vegas, where he again was outweighed by 21 lbs. This time Patterson was counted out at 2:10 of the first round.

Charles “Sonny” Liston was born on May 8th 1932 in St. Francis County, Arkansas, one of 25 brothers and sisters. At the age of 13 Liston ran away from home in rural Arkansas to St. Louis where the street life soon turned him to a life of crime. He joined a crowd that in his words was, “just always lookin’ for trouble.” After a conviction for armed robbery, Liston was sentenced to two concurrent five-year terms in the Missouri State Penitentiary. While in prison Liston participated in a formal boxing program under the direction of the prison chaplain. Liston was paroled in 1952 and started boxing as an amateur, winning the National Golden Gloves title in 1953. Liston later turned pro in September of 1953. In his nine year pursuit of the heavyweight championship, Liston fought 34 fights, winning 23 by knockout and losing only once — to Marty Marshall in an eight round split-decision in his eighth pro fight.

By this time Sonny Liston was a household name. He was also the most disliked heavyweight in the United States since Jack Johnson won the heavyweight title in 1919. Liston was just shy of 6 feet 2 inches tall, weighed 220 pounds, had a 17 and a half inch neck, a 14-inch fist, and he usually wore a surly look on his face. Coupled with his crime-ridden past, it led to him being cast as “the bad guy.”
Liston’s brutal style of fighting also contributed to his reputation as one of the most feared boxers to step in the ring. Liston has been called, “One of the most formidable heavyweights in history, a powerfully muscled former convict who oozed menace.” It was also noted that, “Liston’s fighting was so impressive that it was difficult to find a weakness. Sonny had a “pole-like” left jab, hit heavily with both hands, and seemed impossible to knockout due to his tremendous neck muscles.” He’s been compared to Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano, with Louis predicting, “Liston would be champion as long as he wanted to be.” Marciano once said, “I would not relish being in the same ring with Liston.”

Liston was known as, “A big, mean, intimidating brute.” Among other things journalists at the time wrote, “No man in his right mind wants to fight Sonny Liston.” When Liston fought his title fight against Floyd Patterson, “He took Patterson’s best punches without blinking.” Before his title fight with Patterson Liston twice stopped the veteran Cleveland Williams in less than three rounds. Between 1958 and 1960, it took Liston fifteen rounds to stop the following top eight contenders: Billy Hunter, Julio Mederos, Wayne Bethea, Frankie Daniels, Nino Valdes, Roy Harris, Zora Folley, and Albert Westphal. Then on February 25, 1964 along came the impetuous talking Cassius Clay. Many things have been said and written about the two legendary fights between Liston and Ali.
Muhammad Ali himself said, “He was everything they said he was, a mass of muscle, power and force.”

Liston’s tie to the mob was no secret. It was obvious the timing of Liston winning the heavyweight title was not good. It was the beginning of the civil rights era in this country, and the start of the FBI’s crusade to remove the mobs strangle-hold on labor unions, entertainment, Las Vegas gambling and sports. Liston was immediately labeled an undesirable “Black man” by the NAACP and it was a very important time during the civil rights movement to have a good role model as heavyweight champion. Cassius Clay was young, handsome, light skinned and Olympic golden.

Everyone knows the outcome of the two fights between Liston vs. Ali. It was written that in Miami Clay was too fast for Liston, who was unable to avoid Clay’s “lightening fast” punches. Liston did not answer the bell after the 7th round. Then there were the allegations of ointment Liston’s handlers had applied to his gloves that ended up in Clay’s eyes, impairing his vision. There were also unanswered questions about Liston’s poor performance in both fights — stories about the “Phantom punch” in the second fight, and the long count by the referee.

Those are the facts about Sonny Liston, the man some call the greatest heavyweight of all time. A man whose life remained shrouded in controversy even after his retirement. Three months after his last fight his wife found him in his apartment in Las Vegas, dead from an apparent drug overdose at the age of 38.

Articles of 2004

2004 Boxing Pound for Pound List



The final boxing pound-for-pound list of the year for 2004.

1. Bernard Hopkins: The top guy from beginning to end, Hopkins took care of Oscar De La Hoya with a body shot in the biggest fight of 2004. Now, he'll wait for Jermain Taylor to progress a little further, or he'll go the rematch route with Felix Trinidad. Either way, Hopkins stands to earn a lot of money in 2005 and extend that all-time middleweight reign.

2. Floyd Mayweather: How long has it been since we've seen Mayweather in a meaningful fight? Certainly not in 2004, when he outpointed the difficult DeMarcus Corley. He's slated for a January outing against a no-name. Enough stalling, already, “Pretty Boy”. Fight someone we care about (preferably Kostya Tszyu), or you'll lose your #2 position sometime in 2005.

3. Felix Trinidad: “Tito” stormed back with a magnificent knockout of Ricardo Mayorga in 2004, and now hopes to capitalize on it with big money fights. He'd like nothing more than a rematch with his only conqueror, Hopkins, but he may also opt for old nemesis Oscar De La Hoya. Either way, Trinidad is sure to fight a big fight sometime in the coming year.

4. Kostya Tszyu: What a difference one fight makes. As recently as late October, the boxing world was wondering whether Tszyu was even serious about the sport anymore. We found out with a second round demolition of Sharmba Mitchell. And that made the junior welterweight division very attractive. Tszyu has several options now, including Arturo Gatti and Mayweather or even a hop up to welterweight to challenge Cory Spinks. Let's hope one of them happens in 2005.

5. Manny Pacquiao: Pacquiao fought twice in 2004, and what a fight the first one was. His thrilling war with Juan Manuel Marquez was the best brawl of the year, and there is a chance that the two rivals will go at it again in 2005. If not, Pacquiao has a list full of options: Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, etc. Pacquiao will fight one of them in the next year.

6. Marco Antonio Barrera: Another guy thought to be washed up when the year started, Barrera resurrected his career for the second time with a masterful victory over Paulie Ayala and a close decision over rival Erik Morales in another great fight. Barrera is obviously shooting for a return with Pacquiao, who decimated him in November 2003. Barrera says it was an off-night. Hopefully, we'll find out if that was the case.

7. Winky Wright: Winky entered the “superstar” realm in 2004 with a pair of decision victories over Shane Mosley. The first was very impressive, as Wright practically shut Mosley out. The second was closer, but proved once again that Winky was the superior fighter. He'd like a shot at Trinidad or Oscar De La Hoya, but neither will happen. He'd probably be best off shooting for a name like Fernando Vargas or Ricardo Mayorga.

8. Juan Manuel Marquez: After several years on the outside looking in, Marquez is finally in a position to make some money after his courageous performance against Pacquiao. He rose from three first-round knockdowns to wage the fight of his life in a fight that was ruled a draw. It would also be interesting to see Marquez against countrymen Barrera and Erik Morales.

9. Erik Morales: “El Terrible” fought another great fight against Barrera, but, again, it was in a losing cause. He has now lost two of three to his fierce rival, and probably wants nothing to do with him anymore. But, eventually, talk of Barrera-Morales 4 will come up again. In the meantime, Morales could shoot for Pacquiao or Marquez.

10. Glencoffe Johnson: The newest entry, Johnson pumped some life into boxing in 2004 with a pair of upsets of Roy Jones Jr. and Antonio Tarver. Now, he's set to make some really big money in rematches with either, or a shot at old conqueror Hopkins. Either way, Johnson is better than anyone imagined.

11. Jose Luis Castillo: Castillo made some comeback noise of his own in 2004, beating Juan Lazcano for his old vacant title and decisioning Joel Casamayor for another big win. He says he wants Kostya Tszyu next, and if that materializes, boxing fans will be in for a treat. If not, Castillo vs. Diego Corrales is a great fight.

12. Oscar De La Hoya: Hard to erase that picture of De La Hoya grimacing in agony courtesy of a Hopkins shot to the ribs, but the “Golden Boy” had no business fighting at 160 pounds. He should drop down to junior middle or even welterweight again if he has any hope of regaining his past form. But 2005 could be the final year for one of boxing's all-time great attractions.

On the brink: Antonio Tarver, Diego Corrales, James Toney

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Articles of 2004

Heavyweight Joe Mesi Bringing Lawsuit




As reported by the Buffalo News, Joe Mesi is suing the New York State Athletic Commission and the MRI center that conducted tests on the heavyweight boxer after his bout with Vassiliy Jirov. Mesi reportedly suffered brain injuries in the Jirov bout, which has left his boxing status uncertain.

The lawsuit alleges Mesi's medical records were improperly released to the NYSAC. The records, the lawsuit goes on to allege, were then released to the media, prejudicing Mesi's right to have his status reviewed by the appropriate boxing authorities.

The lawsuit does not seek specific monetary damages, as the extent of damages will be affected by whether Mesi is able to resume his career as a leading heavyweight contender.

Mesi hopes to have his status reviewed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission within the coming month. The ruling of the NSAC promises to be key in whether Mesi will be able to resume his boxing career.

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Articles of 2004

The Best in Chicago Boxing Returns




Dominic Pesoli's 8 Count Productions and Bob Arum's Top Rank Incorporated along with Miller Lite presents SOLO BOXEO DE MILLER, THE ARAGON RUMBLE, another installment of The Best in Chicago Boxing on Friday, January 14th, broadcast live internationally as part of Telefutura's Friday night professional boxing series.

The newly remodeled Aragon Ballroom is located at 1106 W. Lawrence Ave. near the corner of Lawrence and Broadway in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood and is easily accessible, just 4 blocks west of Lake Shore Drive and just 4 miles east of the Kennedy expressway. There are three large parking lots located within a 1/2 block of the Aragon Ballroom. Additionally, the Howard Street Blue Line stops just across the street. Doors will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

Headlining the action packed card is the American debut of super-bantamweight Ricardo “PIOLO” Castillo, 12-2 (6KO's) of Mexicali, Mexico as he squares off in a scheduled ten rounder against WBO Latino Champion, Edel Ruiz, 24-12-3 (13KO's) of Los Mochis, SI, Mexico. Castillo will be accompanied to the ring by his brother, World Lightweight Champion Jose Luis Castillo.

In the co-main event of the evening, one of Chicago's most popular fighters, middleweight “MACHO” Miguel Hernandez, 14-1 (9KO's), battles hard swinging local veteran “MARVELOUS” Shay Mobley, 7-4-1 (2KO's), of One In a Million a scheduled eight rounder.

The huge undercard bouts include;

Carlos Molina vs TBA, six rounds, junior middleweights
Frankie Tafoya vs TBA, four rounds, featherweights
Ottu Holified vs. Allen Medina, four rounds, middleweights
Francisco Rodriguez vs. LaShaun Blair, four rounds, bantamweights
Rita Figueroa vs. Sarina Hayden, four rounds, junior welterweights

Said Dominic Pesoli, President of 8 Count Productions, “it was a terrific evening last month and our fans were thrilled to be at the Aragon to watch David, Speedy and Luciano. David Diaz's fight against Jaime Rangel was a fight people will talk about for a long time. Our commitment to our fans is to make every event of ours better than the last one. This main event is terrific, both guys are very tough Mexicans who won't take a step back.

The fans love Miguel and Mobley figures to be a very tough opponent. Him and David Estrada had a six round war last June at our show. And the undercard showcases a lot of new, younger talent that is coming out of Chicago right now. Tafoya and Holifield have both had very successful beginnings to their careers and Francisco Rodriguez comes with fantastic amateur credentials and David Diaz says he has all the talent to be a great pro.”

“We've got big plans for 2005 and this show should take up right where last months show left off. The huge crowd loved the action last time and I'm sure they'll say the same thing this time.”

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