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Old 04-04-2010, 01:29 AM   #1
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Default Liston Chronicles Part 3

Liston became a persona non grata after the fiasco. He fought on against mostly nondescript opposition in Sweden and then returned to fight a 6’4 truck driver named Bill McMurray. By this point it is not unlikely that Liston was forty years old, although he still had the strength of ten men. With Ali stripped of his title and out of the picture, Sonny was fixing his sites on Joe Frazier by 1968. Emboldened with a fourth round KO of McMurray, a new trainer in **** Sadler (who would also train George Foreman) and Sammy Davis Jr.’s interest in his career, Liston was feeling upbeat. “I’ll beat [Frazier],” he declared. “I won’t have to chase him. It’ll be like shooting fish in a barrel.”

Henry Clark was ranked ninth by Ring Magazine when Liston faced him four months after McMurray. Liston won every round behind a jab and became the first man to stop him. Amos Lincoln was his eleventh straight KO since the Ali rematch, and Lincoln ended up d****d over the ropes for three minutes while his handlers tried to revive him.

The old ex-champion was coming on, straight for Frazier, and the boxing world was buzzing. It couldn’t last if the word on the street was accurate though, and the word was that Liston was boozing it up regularly and addicted to heroin. It couldn’t last because Liston was Liston. Leotis Martin put an end to Liston’s redemption delusions and brought the sheep in with a right hand, followed by a left hook and another right. Liston fell hard and didn’t move. There wasn’t much doubt that this was his only legitimate knockout loss.

Liston’s last bout was held in Jersey City in June 1970 against Chuck Wepner. A strangely silent guest appeared at the back of the armory where the fight was held: it was Muhammad Ali. Ali remained confused and fascinated by his predecessor for many years after their bouts and admitted that Liston scared him. He once went so far as to privately claim that “Liston was the Devil.” Either way, Liston was applauded as he entered the ring against the 6’5, 228 lb challenger.

It was a brutal fight; and Liston wins those.

Wepner, stopped after nine rounds, was in shock for three days after the bout with a broken nose, a broken left cheekbone, and seventy-two stitches to close his face. Sonny had hopes that this, his 50th victory, would qualify him for a bout against Jerry Quarry. It was not to be.

The Grim Reaper showed up instead, tapping him on one of those massive shoulders. Sonny Liston died alone, probably on December 29, 1970, and apparently from a drug overdose. No one really knows. Black daisies sprang up in the bedroom where his body lay for days before anyone found him.

It was a brutal life; and no one wins those.
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