The legendary Cus D’Amato didn’t want his fighter, heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson, to fight the fearsome Sonny Liston even once, let alone twice. Patterson was blessed with incredibly swift hands, sharp punching ability and excellent fitness. But the one thing Floyd did not have was a solid chin ( Patterson instead having the “chin of a poet,” according to the great Jerry Izenberg).
Patterson, by the time public demand along with his own pride forced him to face jailbird and all-round ‘bad man’ Liston, had been decked numerous times and he had been KO’d by Ingemar Johansson. Floyd came back from the crushing loss to the Swede (reportedly having left the arena wearing a disguise, the thought of being recognised after having let everyone down so badly being unpalatable to the sensitive champ) – winning the rematch and making history by becoming the first-ever two-time heavyweight king.
But Liston was a brute of a man. Heavy-handed and then some, Liston was a terrifying puncher with hands the size of a giant. Patterson showed bravery in granting the mob-controlled Liston (the mob being the one thing D’Amato was most frightened of) a shot at his title, but he paid the price for it. Crushed inside a round in September of 1962, Patterson found himself donning his fake moustache and beard once more.
Now aiming to make more history, that of becoming the first three-time heavyweight champ, Patterson was not given much of a chance. The return with Sonny took place on this day, July 22, in 1963. Once again the power, accuracy and sheer brute strength of the unpopular champion proved way too much for Patterson. BBC boxing commentator Harry Carpenter later recalled the cost the BBC had paid for the two Liston-Patterson fights, which went out via satellite, with the action over with after around 2:minutes in both bouts.
Liston appeared to be invincible, on his way to a very long reign. Who could live with his power, his menace? As it turned out, a young kid by the name of Cassius Clay was waiting in the wings, the heavyweight championship and the ability to repeatedly ‘shock the world’ his destiny.
But back in the summer of ’63, Charles Sonny Liston was THE man. The Baddest Man.