Sonny

It’s exactly 50 years since the then Cassius Clay won the world heavyweight title. But spare a thought for Sonny Liston, the man he beat. Like Joe Frazier and George Foreman, Liston was ideal casting as the brutal, inarticulate villain. Unlike them, he never really redeemed himself in the eyes of the public. Liston had been forced to wait a long time to become champion, partly because boxing’s powers-that-be, alarmed by his criminal background, preferred to see the much more wholesome and media-friendly Floyd Patterson hold on to the crown. Civil rights leaders weren’t all that keen on him either. In the end, he didn’t get his chance to fight for the title until 1962. He won easily, but his best years were already behind him (no one seems to be sure exactly when he was born, but he was probably  in his early thirties when he knocked out Patterson.) And then along came Ali.  Liston lived another six years after his humiliation at the hands of the young pretender, but it sometimes feels as if he’s been written out of history all together. At least this video provides a glimpse of him at his best —  in and out of the ring — with a little help from Andy Warhol and James Brown.

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