Sonny Liston: The Original Baddest Man on the Planet
The heavyweight champion is often known as the “baddest man" on the planet, but Sonny Liston was the baddest heavyweight champion in history.
Boxing’s heavyweight champion of the world has for a long time claimed the title of “baddest man on the planet” because they’re the biggest, toughest, and most dangerous man around… most of the time.
Some heavyweight champs have just been too good to be bad. Just look at the Klitschkos. And no one is going to call Tyson Fury the “baddest man on the planet”.
That’s because you have to be bad all over, and Sonny Liston - the original “baddest man on the planet” was bad all over.
From day one, he was the perfect fit.
Born sometime between 1929 and 1932 as the second youngest of his abusive and alcoholic father’s 25 children, no one ever knew his birthday. Not even Sonny.
He worked as a leg breaker for the mob. He did time for beating a policeman bloody. He even pulled a gun on Muhammad Ali at a casino. And he was arrested over 20 times. Unsurprisingly, it was in jail that Sonny learned to box.
No one would ever accuse him of being particularly light on his feet, or quick with his hands. He was lumbering, even for a heavyweight. But to doubt his brute strength was to lose the fight before it started.
The Big Bear’s method was simple - push forward, swing those gigantic fists, watch them fall down. At times it seemed no more than pure brutality, but by 1963 he’d done it to so many victims that the heavyweight champion of the world had no choice but to fight him.
At that stage it was the sublimely skilled Floyd Patterson, the Olympic gold medalist and knockout artist in his own right. It was a massacre, as Liston utterly destroyed him in less than a round to claim the WBA and Lineal heavyweight titles.
In his next fight he repeated the feat - Floyd Patterson, KO, first round - to retain his titles and claim the first ever WBC heavyweight championship.
His 184 centimetre frame was big for the time, but his 213 centimetre reach was obscene, and his fists were so big he had to have his gloves custom made. He ended his career with 50 wins, 39 knockouts and just four losses, largely through power and intimidation.
And do you know how he died? No you don’t, because no one does. Like his birthday, no one even knows the date.
Sonny Liston was found dead, possibly murdered, alone in his apartment, because that was Sonny Liston. Baddest Man on the Planet.
Right till the very end.