Connect with us

Featured Articles

Deontay Wilder’s New Nuances Almost as Startling as His Trademark Right Hand

Bernard Fernandez

Published

on

Wilder

How much improvement can a fighter, any fighter, demonstrate in only 137 seconds? How many sandpaper-rough stylistic edges can be smoothed in that comparatively brief snippet of time?

Before WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder entered the ring at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn Saturday night, the one thing everyone knew he had was a booming right hand that had accounted for virtually all of his previous 39 knockout victories, 19 of which were one-round quickies. At first glance it appeared another case of the same devastating stuff when Wilder (41-0-1, 40 KOs) landed his signature shot with less than a minute remaining in the opening round. Semi-conscious challenger Dominic Breazeale (20-2, 18 KOs) crashed onto his back, his arms and legs outstretched as if he were being spread-eagled, with referee Harvey Dock going through the formality of counting him out after an elapsed time of 2 minutes, 17 seconds.

But it was in those two-plus minutes prior to an ending that everyone in the live turnout of 13,181 and a Showtime audience should have expected that Wilder, at the relatively advanced age of 33, revealed that he might be more than a one-trick pony. This Wilder didn’t just use his boarding-house-reach of a jab as a range finder; he snapped it out with some authority. He threw and landed an early left hook to the body, notable because the Wilder with whom fight fans were familiar was almost exclusively a headhunter. And, most telling of all, the two big right hands that did find the mark – he got Breazeale’s attention prior to the putaway blow with one that didn’t quite land flush – weren’t his typical roundhouses.

“The quickest point from A to B is always that straight line, that right hand straight down the middle,” color analyst Paulie Malignaggi said of what would appear to be a new and improved version of Wilder’s weapon of choice.

“I’m an intelligent fighter. I’m very smart in the ring with the way I set these guys up,” Wilder said at the post-fight press conference. But if that were so, these additional wrinkles or nuances would have been unveiled earlier in a career that hasn’t always been as appreciated as it might have been. He is still trained by Jay Deas and Mark Breland, so the logical conclusion is that what they likely have been telling him all along in the gym must finally have sunk in. If that is indeed the case, then Wilder, whose startling power when unleashed in any form made him an omnipresent threat, had in those 137 seconds transformed himself into an even more dangerous dude.

They say history has a way of repeating itself. Another large heavyweight of considerable renown, Lennox Lewis, fought much like the unpolished Wilder in the formative stages of his Hall of Fame career. But after Lewis relinquished his WBC title to seemingly no-hope challenger Oliver McCall, who dropped and then stopped him in the second round on May 13, 1995, in London, he fired trainer Pepe Correa and replaced him with Emanuel Steward, who had worked McCall’s corner the night “The Lion” became an ex-champ. Steward, a brilliant tactician, radically retooled Lewis, especially his jab, which was upgraded from pawing range-finder to the instrument that made the big Briton’s overhand right even more effective. Following perfunctory TKOs of Lionel Butler and Justin Fortune in his next two bouts, the best of Lewis was revealed on Oct. 7, 1995, in Atlantic City, N.J., when he floored a bloodied Tommy Morrison four times en route to winning via a sixth-round stoppage.

“I really feel like I have one of the superior jabs in the heavyweight division right now,” a beaming Lewis said after that fight, in which he showcased not only his spiffy new jab but a left hook that the pre-Steward version seldom dared to employ. “I wanted to see how Tommy Morrison would contend with it. The first couple of rounds, he contended with it. But as the rounds went by, I found my jab started to get to him.”

Is Wilder going to continue to utilize more of the tools in what would appear to be an expanded tool box? Difficult to predict. As sample sizes go, 137 seconds isn’t much. Even his destruction of the limited Breazeale may not be conclusive proof that he has matched or supplanted Anthony Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) atop the heavyweight heap. The Englishman has three bejeweled championship belts (IBF, WBA, WBO) to Wilder’s one, and he is a wide favorite to retain them when he takes on late substitute challenger Andy Ruiz Jr. (32-1, 21 KOs) in Joshua’s U.S. debut June 1 in Madison Square Garden. There also are those who are convinced lineal champ Tyson Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs) is superior to Wilder, despite the fact Wilder dropped him twice in their Dec. 1 bout last year that ended in a split draw.  Unless or until Wilder again faces Fury, or Joshua, he will be obliged to continue convincing however many doubters remain unswayed by his string of exclamation-point knockouts.

“I display greatness when I step in the ring,” Wilder said. “I put fear in any man. I know I have tremendous power. That’s no secret. At this point I think I’ve proved myself, with the record that I have and many a body that done hit the canvas.”

Truth be told, it is becoming more and more difficult to dismiss Wilder as a crude, wild-swinging brawler who was absent the day fundamental boxing skills were being taught. You want to say that some of the nine title defenses he’s made were against fringe contenders that didn’t exactly constitute a Murderer’s Row? Fine, but he went toe-to-toe with Luis Ortiz and weathered a few sticky moments before winning on a 10th-round stoppage, and he came ever so close to knocking out Fury in the 12th round, a rare late bolt of lightning that likely preserved his undefeated record. Oh, and don’t forget that he was willing to go to Moscow to defend his title against Russia’s Alexander Povetkin, a bout which was scrapped when Povetkin tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

“Deontay will fight anyone,” said his co-manager, Shelly Finkel, who previously worked with, among others, Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson. “He was willing to fight Joshua for very little comparative to what he was worth. When someone wants to make a fight, they make it. When we wanted to get Fury, we overpaid him. We gave him anything he wanted in order to make the fight.”

There almost certainly will be more concessions made by Team Wilder to procure a date with Joshua, not the least of which will be the requirement to travel to the United Kingdom, where Joshua sells out soccer stadiums. Joshua, who had handed Breazeale his only previous defeat, by seventh-round TKO on June 26, 2016, had publicly stated that he hoped Breazeale would last at least until the eighth round against Wilder, if only to keep up appearances.

Maybe he isn’t the least flawed of heavyweights, but with his ninth consecutive heavyweight title defense – matching the number for sixth place all time shared by Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Vitali Klitschko, Lewis and Tyson – he has entered the conversation for being one of the hardest-punching of big men. It is not yet where he wants to be, but as a launching pad for bigger and better things, it ain’t half-bad.

The Real Godzilla is 5-foot-5 and 118 pounds

As impressive as the bomb Wilder detonated on Breazeale’s jaw, the top performance of the day came half a world away, in Glasgow, Scotland, where Japan’s Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16 KOs), whose nickname is “The Monster,” looked like the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world with his second-round knockout of Puerto Rico’s Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-1, 12 KOs), the IBF bantamweight champion, in the semifinals of the World Boxing Super Series. Until Inoue floored him three times with left hooks Joe Frazier would have been proud of, Rodriguez, his face contorted in agony on each trip to the canvas, had never been knocked down as a professional.

Inoue’s victory moves him into the WBSS 118-pound final against veteran Nonito Donaire (40-5, 26 KOs), the WBA and WBC Diamond titlist who also has a pretty good left hook.

So dominant has the 26-year-old Inoue been that there were immediate suggestions he move up – way up – in the pound-for-pound ratings, maybe far enough up to supplant Vasiliy Lomachenko or Terence Crawford at No. 1, depending on which list you choose to believe. It’s a reason for legitimate discussion, because Inoue really is that good. Maybe he already has done enough to rise above the great Hall of Famer Fighting Harada as the best ever from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

To comment on this story in The Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Featured Articles

Abel Sanchez Had a Very Pleasant Trip to Paris

Arne K. Lang

Published

on

Abel-Sanchez-Had-a-Very-Pleasant-Trip-to-Paris

Abel Sanchez, the veteran trainer best known for his nine-year run with Gennady Golovkin, was in Paris this weekend and had a very enjoyable time. Abel wasn’t there to sight-see, although for all we know he took a few selfies at the Eiffel Tower; he was there to see two of his fighters, junior middleweight Michel Soro and cruiserweight Arsen Goulamirian, win important fights and they accommodated him with impressive showings.

It’s been reported that 220 different languages are spoken in California. Sometimes it seems that all of them are spoken at The Summit, the name of Sanchez’s pine-scented compound in Big Bear Lake, California. Michel Soro is a Frenchman by way of the Ivory Coast where French is the official language. Arsen Goulamirian speaks French too — he resides in France when he’s not in Big Bear — but his native tongue is Albanian.

Soro (35-2-1, 24 KOs) was pitted against countryman Cedric Vitu, a solid pro who had won 47 of his 50 pro fights. Vitu was known as a durable sort, but it didn’t take long for Soro to break him down. Vitu was out on his feet when the referee waved it off in the fifth round.

Soro’s lone defeats came on the road in Croatia against Zaurbek Baysangurov who retired with a 29-1 record and to Argentina’s Bryan Castano who won a split decision over Soro in July of 2017 and then declined a rematch. The win over Vitu positions Soro for a match with Cuban-American veteran Erislandy Lara who shares a version of the WBA world title with Julian “J Rock” Williams.

Arsen Goulamirian (25-0, 17 KOs) had a less daunting assignment against 37-year-old Australian Kane Watts. Goulamirian dominated Watts from the get-go and brought the fight to a finish in round four when he put the Aussie down for the count with a left hook to the body.

Goulamirian was making his first start in 13 months. A fight with Denis Lebedev fell out when Lebedev retired (he would subsequently un-retire) and a fight with Beibut Shumenov fell out when Don King, who won the purse bid, wasn’t able to lock in a satisfactory venue.

The WBA, which throws around titles like confetti, recognizes Goulamirian and Shumenov as their world cruiserweight title-holders. A match between them may yet get re-kindled, but a more attractive option for Goulamirian would be a match with the winner of the forthcoming unification fight between Maris Breidis and the KO Doctor, Yunier Dorticos. Although not official yet, they will reportedly meet on Dec. 14 in Breidis’s hometown of Riga, Latvia. The fight will close the curtain on the second season of the World Boxing Super Series.

Whomever Soro and Goulamirian fight next, Abel Sanchez, who keeps his passport handy, will be there. Sanchez lost a lot of dough when Golovkin flew the coop, but he remains in heavy demand and is as busy as ever.

_ _ _

While we’re talking cruiserweights, a fighter to keep an eye on is Jai Opetaia. The handsome 24-year-old Australian improved to 19-0 with his 15th knockout today, stopping countryman Mark Flanagan (24-8) who was down twice before retiring after the eighth round. A six-foot-two southpaw of Samoan extraction, born in Sydney, Opetaia qualified for the 2012 Olympics at the age of 16, making him the youngest Australian boxer ever to achieve this distinction.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in The Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Continue Reading

Featured Articles

From Womb to Tomb, Sonny Liston’s Fate Was Seemingly Preordained

Bernard Fernandez

Published

on

From-Womb-to-Tomb-Sonny-Liston's-Fate-Was-Seemingly-Preordained

In Pariah: The Lives and Deaths of Sonny Liston, a remarkable 90-minute documentary on the rise and fall of former heavyweight champion Charles “Sonny” Liston, viewers are apt to discover that any preconceived notions they might have had about the baddest man in boxing history are, by turns, both legitimate and misinformed.

No matter what fight fans think they know of Liston, it’s a fairly safe bet more opinions will be shaped by watching the Nov. 15 premiere of Pariah (9 p.m EST and PST) on Showtime. While questions about how and why Liston died remain a source of speculation, the disparate elements of his conflicted, turbulent life suggest that much of the actual truth about him, good and bad, is forever destined to be a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

Inspired by The Murder of Sonny Liston: Las Vegas, Heroin and Heavyweights, a book authored by Shaun Assael, the documentary examines the pros and cons of the oft-arrested, twice-incarcerated, mobbed-up wrecking machine who did not so much defeat opponents as to eviscerate them. Viewers – especially white people old enough to be familiar with the era in which he rose to prominence — are left to decide for themselves if Liston really was or deserved to be representative of their deepest fears, or a frequent victim of circumstance who wanted nothing more than some positive acceptance instead of the widespread loathing to which he had become accustomed.

But the journey from villain to hero is never smooth for someone with Liston’s checkered background, and especially so given the social unrest of the late 1950s and early ’60s. Hasan Jeffries, a black assistant professor of history at Ohio State University, said that Liston, a product of the Jim Crow South, was widely considered to be “America’s worst nightmare” and a “literally dangerous Negro,” someone who was “unafraid of white people as demonstrated by his consistent encounters with police.”

When he returned to his adopted hometown of Philadelphia after his title-winning, one-round blowout of popular but hopelessly outclassed champion Floyd Patterson, and discovered that there was no one at the airport to celebrate his triumph or to finally recognize him as something more than a glowering bully with a lengthy rap sheet, an increasingly bitter Liston decided that he might as well settle for being who and what the masses thought he was instead of trying to change millions of minds that had long since been made up.

Liston’s sudden embrace of his malevolent reputation reminded me of a line of dialogue from The Vikings, a 1958 movie in which a fierce Norse warrior, played by Kirk Douglas, is unable to win the affection of a captured British beauty played by Janet Leigh. “If I can’t have your love,” Douglas, as Einar, defiantly tells Leigh’s Morgana, “I’ll take your hate.”

Not that Liston, the 24th of 25 children born to an Arkansas sharecropper who was less a father than a tyrannical family overseer, ever chose to be hated. But neither was he apt to be idolized in the manner of, say, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano or the man who would ultimately succeed him upon the heavyweight throne, Muhammad Ali. Liston, who could neither read nor write, lacked the basic communication skills that might have gained him a bit more favorable press, and his personification of danger was accentuated by a withering glare that left more than a few opponents frozen with fear before the opening bell rang.

“He was a real badass, a real menacing force,” Mike Tyson, a future heavyweight champion with a similar gift for intimidation, said of Liston. “Sonny could pull it off. I could pull it off. Not a lot of people could pull it off.”

It would be a disservice to Liston, however, to say that the main weapon in his arsenal was a gift for winning staredowns. Scary as Liston was simply by standing there, he was so much more so when he began whaling away at flesh and bone as might a burly lumberjack chopping down a thin tree. Forget so-called experts’ arbitrary rankings of the hardest punchers ever to lace up a pair of padded gloves; Liston’s knockouts were spectacular for their savagery, toppled foes crashing to the canvas as if they would never again get up. He needed only 69 seconds of the first round to put a decent journeyman, Wayne Bethea, down and motionless, in the process dislodging 16 of Bethea’s teeth. Nobody in the fight game supplied oral surgeons with more patients in need of emergency treatment than Sonny Liston.

By reputation, Liston, who compiled a 50-4 record with 39 KOs from 1953 to 1970, was a huge heavyweight for his era, but he stood just 6-foot-1 and weighed in around 215 pounds during his prime. Then again, Liston’s unextraordinary height and heft were not his measurements of consequence. His 86-inch reach, those incredibly long arms extending down to massive fists the size of a catcher’s mitt, were. Liston might have had the most devastating jab ever, as accurate as Larry Holmes’, only harder. Sonny could use that jab as a range-finder when necessary, but its concussive force was such that the numbers-crunchers at CompuBox today would be obliged to categorize it as a power punch. He could knock a man down and even out with that jolting jab, and sometimes did.

“Sonny’s left jab was a nose-cracking, teeth-busting experience,” offered Randy Roberts, a boxing buff and assistant professor at Purdue University who serves as one of the documentary’s talking heads. “They said getting hit with his jab was like getting hit with a pole.”

Liston’s penchant for destruction inside the ropes, had he not come along when he did, might have made him as rich and celebrated as Tyson would become 50 years later. So why wasn’t he? Liston had so many brushes with police that fibers from their blue serge uniforms clung to him like permanent lint. Not only was he arrested 19 times and did two prison stretches, but cops in St. Louis and Philly, cities that for a time served as his home bases, tracked his movements as a meteorologist would an impending storm. Perhaps all that extra attention was justified at times, but Liston’s freedom of movement was so inhibited that he often felt as if he were somehow encased in an invisible jail.

“There was nothing they didn’t pick me up for,” Liston once complained. “If I was to go into a store for a stick of gum, they’d say it was a stick-up.”

It was to Liston’s benefit and detriment to have turned his career over to organized crime figures Frankie Carbo and Blinky Palermo, boxing manipulators who had enough clout to not only advance his career but to get him sprung earlier from prison sentences that would surely have been longer were he not a possible future heavyweight champion. The downside of the arrangement is that the Feds spent a lot of time looking into the nefarious activities of Carbo and Palermo, which meant they also had a thick dossier on Liston. It did not escape the FBI’s attention that the non-boxing “jobs” for Liston lined up by his influential backers to gain him early release were something less than fully above board.

“He’s a leg-breaker for the mob, he’s an alley-dweller,” Roberts noted. “Sonny never walked on well-lit streets. Sonny lived in darkness.”

Maybe so, but there are more than a few boxing historians who have tried to determine what made Liston tick. A case can be made that inside those shadows in which he was obliged to exist there was a better, brighter version of himself almost desperate to break out.

“I don’t think the general public ever knew the real Sonny Liston,” opined Nigel Collins, former editor of The Ring magazine. “They knew the persona, the thug-like guy who just knocked everybody out, was associated with the mob and had been in jail. He wasn’t really that. That was a front. That was what he needed to protect himself, and also to intimidate his opponent. He was a very sensitive person. He could be hurt easily.”

That description of Liston was seconded by his wife, Geraldine, who described her husband as “a good man and a kind man, and worthy of a chance to contribute to society.”

To Sonny’s way of thinking, his ticket to validation as a human being was to gain the heavyweight championship then held by Floyd Patterson, a nice guy but lesser fighter whom Roberts called the “Sidney Poitier of boxing.” It wasn’t necessarily a compliment. Patterson’s shrewd manager-trainer, Cus D’Amato, had managed to supply Patterson with a steady stream of marginally qualified and eminently beatable challengers, but D’Amato wanted no part of Liston. The first of the two title bouts between Patterson and Liston came about only because Floyd, embarrassed by the spreading public perception that he was more protected than the gold in Fort Knox, demanded that Liston be given the chance at the title he had earned with those ham hock fists.

Jerry Izenberg, the esteemed sports columnist for the Newark Star-Ledger, visited Patterson’s well-manicured rural training camp before checking in on Liston’s, which was urban, grittier and unquestionably better suited to a reformed leg-breaker on a mission.

“He’s got two chances – slim and none,” Izenberg said in recalling his impressions of Patterson’s preparations for a fight few gave him a chance to win, or even to finish in an upright position. After Izenberg got a glimpse of Liston’s laser-beam focus, he amended his original assessment. “I’m saying those two chances for Floyd, slim and none? Slim just went out the door.”

The fight, such as it was, took place on Sept. 25, 1962, at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. Custer had a better chance at the Little Bighorn than Patterson did against Sonny. The annihilation required only 2 minutes, 6 seconds to complete, whereupon the humiliated Patterson snuck out of the arena in disguise, and Liston returned to Philadelphia, foolishly expecting the hero’s welcome he believed to be his reward for all those hard years of poverty and dues-paying.

“There are people who don’t want me to be there (as champion),” Liston upon attaining the title. “Regardless of them, I intend to stay there and I promise everyone that I will be a decent, respectable champion.”

Jack McKinney, then the Philadelphia Daily News boxing writer and the only media person in town who had earned Liston’s trust, called City Hall to see if a group of dignitaries could be on hand to greet the new champ. But there was no brass band at the airport, no cheering fans, no smiling politicians to pat the not-favorite son on the back and say that all had been forgiven. Nor was the reaction to his seemingly improved lot in life any warmer elsewhere.

“I didn’t expect the President to invite me into the White House, but I sure didn’t expect to be treated like no sewer rat,” Liston grumbled.

The chip on his shoulder now the size of a log, Liston showed up for the July 22, 1963, rematch at the Las Vegas Convention Center more determined than ever to cruelly demonstrate his superiority over Patterson and any other heavyweight that might be foolish enough to share the ring with him. Like Kirk Douglas’ Einar, if he was unable to win the public’s love, he would revel in its hate. Again Patterson was destroyed in the first round, the fight a virtual replica of the original.

“The only difference,” Collins said of the do-over, “is that it lasted four seconds longer.”

No one could have known it at the time, but the second demolition of Patterson would be Liston’s only winning defense of the title he had so relentlessly sought and, many figured, would hold in a vise-grip for at least the next five years. But even before Liston left the ring, a conqueror beyond compare, an audacious young upstart entered his space and loudly berated the newly crowned champion. His name, at least at for the time being, was Cassius Clay.

“I want you! I want you! You ugly!” Clay yelled at a seemingly bemused Liston, who regarded the impudent kid as he might a Martian who had just stepped off a spaceship. But Clay kept up his campaign to force a showdown with Liston where it counted. In the weeks that followed, he repeatedly demeaned Liston in newspapers and on TV. And if those affronts weren’t enough to produce the desired effect, Clay went so far as to physically confront the man he had dubbed the “big, ugly bear” in Vegas, a mob town to which Sonny had relocated and enjoyed a level of tolerance he had been unable to find in St. Louis or Philly. Clearly Liston would have no peace of mind until he did unto this loudmouth what he had twice done unto Patterson. He was a 7-to-1 favorite to do just that when the fight took place on Feb. 25, 1964. Some media members were concerned that Liston was determined to, and quite capable of, literally beating Clay to death.

But on a night where one legend died and another was birthed, Clay fought through a tense fourth round in which an astringent that had gotten into his eyes and made it difficult for him to see. Flashing the speed of hand and foot for which he would become renowned, Clay, his vision cleared, increasingly took control of the contest until Liston, gashed below the right eye and with a large mouse under his left eye, declined to come out for the seventh round. He cited a shoulder injury as the reason he was unable to continue.

In boxing, it is one thing to lose. It is quite another for a fighter, especially a champion of Liston’s magnitude, to surrender. Author Robert Lipsyte was among those who took him to task, saying, “If you’re heavyweight champion, you die trying. But he just kind of sat there. He gave up. Why did he give up? This, of course, is the mystery at the heart of it all. Did he give up because he was in such terrible agony he couldn’t move? Did he give up because he suddenly realized he couldn’t win this fight? Did he give up because he’d been paid to dump it? Who knows?”

But the plot, as the saying goes, soon thickened. Cassius Clay announced the following day that he was a member of the Nation of Islam, more commonly known as the Black Muslims, and now wanted to be known as Cassius X, a stopover on the way to a more permanent identification as Muhammad Ali. It was as if he had become the bad guy, at least to a segment of the American populace, with the disgraced Liston now viewed as the possible savior and re-capturer of a championship that had fallen into presumably radical hands. The rematch was to take place on June 25, 1965, in Lewiston, Maine, a sleepy outpost (the town was mostly known for its factory that manufactured bedspreads) near the Canadian border which stepped up when Boston, the originally announced site, bailed.

“Liston got more cheers than Ali,” recalled journalist Don Majeski of the fighters’ respective ring walks. “They finally said, `Well, between these two, the lesser of the two evils is Sonny Liston,’ so we’ll cheer this ex-convict who lost his title on his stool rather than to root for a guy who says he’s a Black Muslim separatist. (Liston) enjoyed that. He sort of basked in that kind of glory for the first time in his life.”

Or he did, for a fleeting moment.

“But then what happened was the Kennedy assassination of boxing,” Majeski continued. “Everyone has an idea, but nobody knows the truth.”

What happened was that Ali landed (or missed) with a flicking right hand in the first round that sent Liston careening to the canvas, where he floundered around like a reeled-in fish tossed onto the bottom of a bass boat. To this day there are those who are convinced that Liston, for reasons unknown, took a dive, an argument countered by Ali loyalists who insist that the punch was legitimate and powerful enough to fell even a big, ugly bear.

Assael straddles no fences on the issue. His position is that Liston purposefully went into the tank.

“Why fix the fight?” Assael asks, rhetorically. “That’s where the secret percentage theory comes in, which is that Sonny had agreed to an under-the-table deal to get a cut of Ali’s future earnings if he went down. It’s exactly what a mobster would have done, and it’s exactly what I think Sonny did do.”

In any case, Liston – whom former fight fixer Charles Farrell insists was “the greatest heavyweight who ever lived … a bonafide monster” – had taken a downward turn from which there could be no recovery. He would fight 16 more times over the next five years, winning 15, but he was, as the documentary’s title attests, a pariah.

“After the second fight (with Ali), Sonny’s a dead man,” Assael said. “He’s not only just reviled, he can’t even get a job. Boxing commissions won’t license him … Sonny was toxic. I mean, really radioactive.”

The mystery of Sonny Liston took an even more tragic turn when his decomposing body was discovered at his Las Vegas home on Jan. 5, 1971. An autopsy indicated his death might have owed to an overdose of heroin, which those who knew him well insist could not have been the case because Liston was almost paranoid in his fear of being stuck by a needle.

“The medical examiner called it natural causes, but nobody around Sonny believed that,” Assael said. “Everybody believed he was murdered. So many people wanted Sonny dead. The only question was, who got to him first?”

Larry Gandy, a Vegas cop, was among those who saw the body. “It didn’t even look like Liston, he’d been dead for so long,” Gandy said. “He’d been dead four or five days. He was bloated, full of methane gas. It really made me sick to my stomach because he’d been such a predominant figure in the sports world. It was a terrible, disrespectful way for him to go.”

Gandy’s expression of compassion might or might not be genuine since the documentary hints at the possibility of his having some measure of culpability in Liston’s demise, in mob retaliation for Liston’s final fight, on June 29, 1970, in which he defeated Chuck “The Bayonne Bleeder” Wepner on a ninth-round stoppage brought about by numerous and severe cuts to Wepner’s well-sutured face.

“Liston was not brought into that fight to win,” said Farrell. “I believe the Wepner fight was a deal that went terribly, terribly wrong.

“As the rounds went by, Liston couldn’t find a place to fall, Wepner’s increasingly beat up and eventually the fight gets stopped because of the cuts. Liston won the fight. It’s a series of miscommunications where nobody does exactly what they’re supposed to do. The mob lost a lot of money and there were dire circumstances.”

In the end, all that is left of Sonny Liston is a headstone in a Las Vegas cemetery and a raft of recriminations and might-have-beens. For every boxing historian who includes him among the greatest and most fearsome heavyweight champions of all time, there is another who sees only the warts and blemishes of perceived transgressions committed both inside and outside the ring. The International Boxing Hall of Fame seemingly leans more toward the former, as evidenced by Liston’s 1991 induction.

“You can always make a case for someone’s exclusion,” Bert Randolph Sugar, then the publisher of Boxing Illustrated, told me for a story I did on Liston’s posthumous enshrinement by the IBHOF. “It depends on how moralistic you want to be. But remember, this is boxing we’re talking about.”

Upon reflection, it is somewhat curious that Ali, who generated so much fear and mistrust for the rematch with Liston in Lewiston, and for some time thereafter, evolved into such a sympathetic and beloved figure, widely acknowledged as the GOAT (Greatest of All Time). Also, upon reflection you have to wonder how the career paths of he and Liston would have proceeded had a semi-blinded Ali’s demand that trainer Angelo Dundee cut off his gloves before the fifth round of his first fight with Liston been granted.

What is indisputable is that boxing, so rich in stories about great and flawed fighting men, needs more documentaries of this quality that peer behind the curtain of what fans only see on fight night, giving insight into the whole person. Then again, how many prospective subjects are capable of taking viewers on the kind of roller-coaster ride that Sonny Liston’s tumultuous journey did?

“There was one thing that Sonny was better at than boxing, and that was compartmentalizing himself,” Assael said. “He could be a loving husband, he could be a womanizer, he could be a criminal, he could be a boxer. That’s what he was a master at – boxing and being able to lead so many different lives. There were so many men inside that one man.”

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in The Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Continue Reading

Featured Articles

Tony Harrison and Jermell Charlo; They Just Don’t Like Each Other

David A. Avila

Published

on

Tony-Harrison-and-Jernell-Charlo

Tony Harrison and Jermell Charlo; They Just Don’t Like Each Other

LOS ANGELES-If somebody told me that, I don’t know what I’d do.

Well, somebody said it, and now Detroit’s WBC super welterweight titlist Tony Harrison (28-2, 21 KOs) and Houston’s former titlist Jermell Charlo (32-1, 16 KOs) are about to do something about it on Dec. 21 at Toyota Arena in Ontario, Calif.

It seemed to be a north-south thing but they’re bringing it to the Wild West where there are more boxing gyms than anywhere else in the world.

Charlo, he hates him.

Both met on Thursday in downtown Los Angeles, the city of the Angels, and both were downright sinful in their opinions of each other. Harrison defeated Charlo by unanimous decision last December in Brooklyn. A rematch was scheduled for this past June but an injury to Harrison forced a postponement.

Standing next to each other on a stage at the Conga Room in LA Live, you could tell they wanted to play bongos on each other’s head.

“You saw what I did to Cota,” yelled Charlo to his nemesis regarding his knockout win over Jorge Cota last June. “You saw what I’m going to do to you.”

You could see the veins in Charlo’s neck swelling.

Harrison sat calmly on his chair like a beatnik contemplating a poem.

“Every time I see Jermell I just feel like he’s pretending. He’s convinced everyone he’s the toughest guy in the world. He gets up here and barks and makes excuses,” said Harrison peering over his sunglasses. “I beat you the first time and I’m here again.”

Charlo seem angered that they had to return to the Conga Room once again. Back in May both were in the same spot saying almost the same things. The Houston prizefighter seemed frustrated that he had to look at the Detroit fighter again who he openly despises.

“I am who I am, I can’t change my persona,” said Charlo. “We’re in a hurt business. We’re Roughriders in this sport.”

Harrison scoffed at Charlo’s statement.

“His words definitely sparked the fuel in me, that’s on fire now,” said Harrison. “He talks loud, but he’s not going to do anything. He doesn’t have the skill set to beat me.”

Tom Brown of TGB Promotions, said the venue has been successful in the past for his former shows. Among those in the past held at the same venue were Chris Arreola vs Bermane Stiverne; Robert “The Ghost Guerrero vs Andre Berto; and Alfredo Angulo vs Joel Julio.

“The Southern California fight fans are going to get another great fight here at the end of the year in Ontario. The 154-pound division is one of the hottest in boxing but first it’s time to settle this rivalry. This is a fight that promises nothing but fireworks,” said Brown.

Brown said a number of Riverside prizefighters will be added to the card.

“It should be amazing,” said Brown.

Charlo and Harrison can’t stand to even look at each other. And what was it that was actually said to set them off?

It doesn’t even matter now.

“They just don’t like each other,” said TV emcee Ray Flores.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in The Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Jeff-Fenech's-Speedy-Recovery-from-Heart-Surgery-Has-His-Doctors-Baffled
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Jeff Fenech’s Speedy Recovery from Heart Surgery Has His Doctors Baffled

The-Fifty-Greatest-Flyweights-of-All-Time-Part-Five-10-1
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

The Fifty Greatest Flyweights of All Time: Part Five 10-1

The-Life-And-Mysterious-Deayth-of-World-Title-Challenger-Eloy-Perez
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

The Life and Mysterious Death of World Title Challenger Eloy Perez

Puerto-Rico's-Javier-Upsets-Angel-Ruiz-in-SoCal
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Puerto Rico’s Javier Flores Upsets Mexico’s Angel Ruiz in SoCal

Fighter-of-the-Decade-2010-2019
Featured Articles1 week ago

Fighter of the Decade (2010-2019)

Making-Boxing-Safer-A-Call-to-Action-Part-One-Weigh-in-Reform
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Making Boxing Safer, A Call to Action: Part One, Weigh-in Reform

Making-Boxing-Safer-A-Call-to-Action-Part Two
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Making Boxing Safer, A Call to Action: Part Two

beterbiev-Embellishes-His-Claim-as-Top-Light-Heavy-in-Stopping-Gvozdyk
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Beterbiev Embellishes His Claim as Top Light Heavy in Stopping Gvozdyk

Joey-Giardello-vs-Rubin-Hurricane-Carter-and-The-Fight-That-Never-Was
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Joey Giardello vs. Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Fight That Never Was

Three-Punch-Combo-Two-Under-The-Radar-Fights-on-Saturday-and-More
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Three Punch Combo: Two Under The Radar Fights on Saturday and More

Elwin-La-Pulga-Soto-Retains-WBO-Title-in-Ugly-Fight-at-Fantasy-Springs
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Elwin “La Pulga” Soto Retains WBO Title in Ugly Fight at Fantasy Springs

Saturday's-Fight-in-the UK-Has-a-Beterbiev-Gvozdyk-Sparkle
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Saturday’s Fight in the UK Has a Beterbiev-Gvozdyk Sparkle

Serhii-Bohachuk-KOs-Tyrone-Brunson-in-Hollywood
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Serhii Bohachuk KOs Tyrone Brunson in Hollywood

Blair-Cobbs-Took-a-Strange-Route-to-his-Grand-Arrival-at-the-MGM-Grand
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Blair Cobbs Took a Strange Route to his ‘Grand Arrival’ at the MGM Grand

The-TSS-Prediction-Page-Returns-With-Picks-and-Analyses-of-Canelo-vs-Kovalev
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

The TSS Prediction Page Returns with Picks and Analyses of Canelo vs Kovalev

Dueling-Fight-Cards-in-Reno-and-Reading-Have-Toledo-Components
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Dueling Fight Cards in Reno and Reading Have Toledo Components

Canelo's-Fate-May-Rest-in-the-Hands-of-a-Brazilian-Soccer-Guy
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Canelo’s Fate May Rest in the Hands of a Bolivian Soccer Guy

Canelo-Kovalev-the-UFC-and-the-Great-DAZN-Flapdoodle
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Canelo-Kovalev, the UFC, and the Great DAZN Flapdoodle

Nonito-Donaire-and-The-Monster
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Nonito Donaire and The Monster

Fast-Results-from-Philadelphia-Beterbiev-TKOs-Gvozdyk
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Fast Results from Philadelphia: Beterbiev TKOs Gvozdyk

Abel-Sanchez-Had-a-Very-Pleasant-Trip-to-Paris
Featured Articles20 hours ago

Abel Sanchez Had a Very Pleasant Trip to Paris

From-Womb-to-Tomb-Sonny-Liston's-Fate-Was-Seemingly-Preordained
Featured Articles2 days ago

From Womb to Tomb, Sonny Liston’s Fate Was Seemingly Preordained

Tony-Harrison-and-Jernell-Charlo
Featured Articles2 days ago

Tony Harrison and Jermell Charlo; They Just Don’t Like Each Other

Australia's-Moloney-Twins-Keep-on-Truckin'
Featured Articles2 days ago

Australia’s Moloney Twins Keep on Truckin’

Carlos-Morales-and-Mercita-Gesta-Fight-to-a-Technical-Draw-in-LA
Featured Articles2 days ago

Carlos Morales and Mercito Gesta Fight to a Technical Draw in L.A.

New=Zealand-Heavyweights-Fa-and-Ahio-Have-a-Home-Field-Advantage-in-Utah
Featured Articles4 days ago

New Zealand Heavyweights Fa and Ahio Have a Home Field Advantage in Utah

Avila-Perspective-Chap-73-Gesta-vs-Morales-Celebrity-Boxing-Liston-and-More
Featured Articles4 days ago

Avila Perspective, Chap 73: Gesta vs Morales, Celebrity Boxing, Liston and More

Ortiz Accuses Wilder-of-Criminal-Tactics-Wilder-Takes-Umbrage
Featured Articles5 days ago

Ortiz Accuses Wilder of ‘Borderline Criminal’ Tactics; Wilder Takes Umbrage

Thomas-Hauser's-Latest-Book-A-Dangerius-Journey-is-Another-Peach
Featured Articles5 days ago

Thomas Hauser’s Latest Book, ‘A Dangerous Journey,’ is Another Peach

Weekend-Recap-Hits-and-Misses
Featured Articles6 days ago

Weekend Recap: Hits and Misses

3-Punch-Combo-Under-The-Radar-Fights-Elton-Dharry's-Improbable-Journey-and-More
Featured Articles7 days ago

3 Punch Combo: Under The Radar Fights, Elton Dharry’s Improbable Journey and More

KSI-Beats-Logan-Paul-and-Haney-and-Saunders-Win-Title-Fights-in-LA
Featured Articles1 week ago

KSI Beats Logan Paul and Haney and Saunders Win Title Fights in L.A.

Fast-Results-from-Fresno-Herring-and-Pulev-Prevail-on-a-Lackluster-Show
Featured Articles1 week ago

Fast Results from Fresno: Herring and Pulev Prevail on a Lackluster Show

Dwight-Ritchie-Australia's-Fighting-Cowboy-Dead-at-Age-27
Featured Articles1 week ago

Dwight Ritchie, Australia’s Fighting Cowboy, Dead at Age 27

Forget-Logan-Paul-vs-ksi-Pulev-vs-Booker-Warrants-a-Look-See
Featured Articles1 week ago

Forget Logan Paul vs. KSI: Pulev vs. Booker Warrants a Look-See

Celebrities-and-Champions-Lead-Matchroom-Fight-Card-on-LA
Featured Articles1 week ago

Celebrities and Champions Lead Matchroom Fight Card in L.A.

Fighter-of-the-Decade-2010-2019
Featured Articles1 week ago

Fighter of the Decade (2010-2019)

Fast-Results-from-Japan-Inoue-Overcomes-Donaire-in-a-Barnbarner
Featured Articles1 week ago

Fast Result from Japan: Inoue Turns Away Donaire in a Barnburner

Avila-Perspective-Chap-72-Pound-for-Bound-King-Matchroom-in-LA-and-More
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 72: Pound for Pound King, Matchroom in L.A. and More

Johnny-Tapia-and-Edwin-Valero-Get-Literary-Resurrections
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Johnny Tapia and Edwin Valero Get Literary Resurrections

Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending

Advertisement