60 Years Ago: When Liston Crushed Patterson In A Repeat Showing Of Terrifying Punching Power

By James Slater - 07/22/2023 - Comments

Talk about a rematch that was wholly and totally unnecessary. It was on this day 60 years ago when heavyweight king Sonny Liston again fought Floyd Patterson. Liston, who had been made to wait for his chance at the title and who had brutally relieved Patterson of the crown in a little over two minutes in September of 1962, made mincemeat out of Floyd a second time 10 months later.

The rematch lasted a little bit longer, but not by much – Sonny’s howitzers needing an additional four seconds to take Patterson out in the needless sequel. Liston really did look set for a long, long reign as champ. And maybe the former jailbird turned magnificently intimidating fighting machine would have kept the title for pretty much as long as he wanted to were it not for one man: Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali.

But that’s another story.

For now, in the summer of ’63, Liston had made the first defense of the championship, and he was being compared to greats of the past by the boxing experts. Some said/still say Liston had the best heavyweight jab next to the beloved Joe Louis. Some said/still say Liston’s crunching power was the most destructive ever seen in the heavyweight division. And Liston had those enormous hands, hands that inflicted damage on each and everything they made contact with.

Patterson had no chance, and he knew it. So too, did Floyd’s trainer, the one and only Cus D’Amato. But twice Patterson climbed through the ropes to face the wrath of Liston, the man who had cleaned the division out of all worthy contenders but was made to wait for his shot (Liston taking care of Cleveland Williams (twice), Nino Valdes, Roy Harris, Zora Folley, and Eddie Machen as he closed in on the title he knew he would win if given a chance.

And so it was that Liston twice went clean through Patterson the way a hot knife goes through butter. Fans didn’t get much value for money in these two fights, but they were privileged to witness a pure, devastating puncher go about his business in a chilling fashion. Liston never revealed too much verbally; his dislike/mistrust of the press was well known, and Sonny, by his own admission, didn’t say too much to the media. “I only know a few words, and I’ve said ’em all,” Liston once said, smiling as he spoke with a press guy.

Instead, Liston expressed himself in the ring, with his power along with his underrated boxing skill serving him so efficiently. And some say Sonny deserves to be ranked as one of the greatest heavyweights of them all. Just two title retentions, those two humiliating defeats at the hands of Ali, and the fact that Liston had to wait until he was an “old man” before he got a shot at the title – these factors all affect the way fans rate Liston amongst the greats.

But in his prime (as close as we can figure it in terms of actual age), in the years 1959, 1960, and 1961, Charles L. “Sonny” Liston may well have been as close to unbeatable as any heavyweight we have ever seen.

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