Is Sonny Liston A Top Ten HW ATG?

Discussion in 'Classic Boxing Forum' started by ThatOne, Aug 30, 2023.



Is he?

  1. Yes

    66.7%
  2. No

    33.3%
  1. Dubblechin

    Dubblechin Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

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    Going by the National Boxing Association ratings ... whicih were the official ratings:

    Roger Rischer wasn't ranked when Sonny Liston fought him in 1968. Rischer was briefly seven years earlier. Rischer had quit the sport and was making a comeback after years away that saw him lose three of his five comeback bouts.

    Billy Hunter wasn't ranked when Sonny Liston fought him in 1958. Hunter was a no-name boxer who fell to 10 wins, 5 losses and 2 draws when Liston beat him. Hunter was later ranked for about a year when he scored a couple wins over Alex Miteff. Then Hunter went back to losing and dropped off the face of the earth.

    Nino Valdes wasn't ranked when Sonny Liston fought him in 1959. He'd already fallen all the way out of the top 10 after losses earlier that year to Charlie Powell and Alonzo Johnson.

    Cleveland Williams wasn't ranked in the top 10 when Sonny Liston fought him the first time in 1959 and stopped him in three.

    Mike DeJohn WAS ranked #9 when Sonny Liston fought him in 1959. After Liston won, DeJohn fell out of the top 10 for a bit, before creeping back into the bottom of the top 10 at the end of the year.


    Sonny Liston's ACTUAL title run went like this. Other than DeJohn, it basically all happened in 1960.

    Cleveland Williams was the #9 contender when they fought their rematch in 1960, and Williams subsequently dropped out of the top 10 when he was stopped in two. (Williams didn't return to the top 10 until well into 1961.)

    Roy Harris was the #6 contender when he and Liston signed to fight in 1960. Liston wiped him out in one round. Harris was bounced out of the top 10 forever. (Whether he should've ever been there is another debate.)

    Zora Folley was the #4 contender when he and Liston signed to fight in 1960. Liston was rated #1. Liston won impressively in three rounds.

    Eddie Machen was the #3 contender when he and Liston signed to fight in 1960. Liston was rated #1. The fight went the full 12-round distance. Machen's rating actually moved up to #2 based on his performance against Liston.

    That was a great run in 1960. It got everyone buzzing. Then Liston didn't fight any ranked fighters in 1961 ... basically rested on his laurels ...

    Didn't step up again until he faced Floyd Patterson who was the champion when they signed to fight in September 1962.

    But this nonsense of all those guys Liston beat in 1960 were ranked for years before that, therefore Sonny Liston was the best fighter for ALL those years prior TOO ... before he ever fought them ...

    Are just people trying to pump up Liston because he made one defense of his title. So they have to artificially stretch out his career for as long as possible prior to that.

    For about a year and a half he tore through a pretty stale top 10 and created a lot of excitement. And it culminated when he beat Patterson.

    People thought he was incredible for about three years - 1960 to 1963 - because they weren't happy with the division they had.

    Whether Liston was actually "incredible" or just better than that stale group he walked over that had been led by Patterson, Folley and Machen, is open to interpretation.

    But nobody thought he was the greatest pugilist ever prior to 1960 and nobody thought he was after he quit on his stool in February 1964.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2023
  2. RulesMakeItInteresting

    RulesMakeItInteresting Boxing Junkie Full Member

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    I have him at #11.

    Hard to argue anyone putting him in the top 10 though. Both a crushing puncher and highly adaptible boxer, he was a near perfect machine.
     
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  3. NoNeck

    NoNeck Pugilist Specialist Full Member

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    I think Vitali, Wills and Dempsey should go ahead of him.
     
  4. Cojimar 1946

    Cojimar 1946 Well-Known Member Full Member

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    Doug Jones was ring ranked in 1962, Terrell in 1963 as was Chuvalo. Regardless of ratings these wins would have greatly enhanced his legacy. You also have Henry Cooper, Archie Moore, etc. Liston has a very shallow resume for a guy talked about as being top 10.
     
  5. Bokaj

    Bokaj Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

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    Yes, this notion that Liston was a kind of champion in exile and had to wait many years for his actual title shot has nothing to do with reality.

    It wasn't until 1960 he established himself as the supreme contender, as you show. The notion that his prime was 1958-1960 is quite laughable actually since he was still very green when he came back after two years away in 1958. Taking into account how steep his learning curve must have been considering this and how much better he looked against Williams in 1960 compared to 1959, he probably reached his prime in 1960 and sure still looked to be in it when he easily dispatched Patterson in 1963.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2023
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  6. BoxingKings

    BoxingKings New Member Full Member

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    Is there any footage of Liston vs Zora Folley or Howard King? These were right before he beat Patterson for the first time. Considering he was considered the consensus number 1 in the world, I'm surprised footage of these fights isn't freely available but maybe I'm just not looking in the right spots.
     
  7. McGrain

    McGrain Diamond Dog Staff Member

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    You can argue it, sure. He's a candidate.
     
  8. Bokaj

    Bokaj Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

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    "Greatly enhanced?" I agree they would have made it a bit better, but let's be real here. Terrell's absolutely best win at that point was a razor close decision over a guy Liston had KO'd twice (easily in their last fight), Jones had a run of three good performances but dropped rapidly after that and Chuvalo had beaten no one of note in 1963.

    i don't know if wins over these guys around that time would have moved Liston up in my rankings. How many places would he rise and who would he pass for you?
     
  9. Dubblechin

    Dubblechin Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

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    Right. It doesn't work like that. (One person in this thread said Liston was probably the best heavyweight going back to 1955-56.)

    Lots of guys beat fighters on the way up who used to be ranked. Going back in time and saying that means they were probably the top guy in the division when those guys were rated, too, makes zero sense.

    In 1958-1959, names like Floyd Patterson, Sonny Liston, Henry Cooper, Zora Folley, Brian London, Alex Miteff, Charley Powell, Cleveland Williams, Alonzo Johnson, etc., populated the Top 10 here and there.

    Just because he'd eventually stop nearly ALL of them (some multiple times) - Patterson twice, Liston twice, Cooper twice, Folley, London, Miteff, Williams, Powell ... basically all but Johnson ...

    Doesn't mean 16-year-old Cassius Clay, who was sharing a bedroom back in Louisville with his brother Rudy, should be considered the best heavyweight in the world going back to 1958-59.

    It doesn't work that way.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2023
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  10. CallMeAl

    CallMeAl New Member Full Member

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    He's in there on my list. #10. My list is subject to change though and he hasn't always been in there. I think in any top 10 you are going to find 8 - 12 interchangeable and Sonny is in that bracket IMO.
     
  11. Journeyman92

    Journeyman92 I’m become seeker of milk Full Member

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    Never surprises me how much people overrate a man whose best win might’ve been Eddie Machen.
     
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  12. mcvey

    mcvey VIP Member Full Member

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    Ring ranked.
    Nobody has suggested he was the greatest ever either before or after.the queestion is .Is he a top ten all time heavyweight?

    For me he is.
    The Ring in 2017 had a panel of experts make up their lists Liston came out at no 10.

    Bill Caplan had him at no 11.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2023
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  13. Bokaj

    Bokaj Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

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    Patterson has by far the best resume of anyone Liston beat. It is quite arguably better than that of anyone Louis beat.
     
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  14. Journeyman92

    Journeyman92 I’m become seeker of milk Full Member

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    What was Pattersons best win at the time of the Liston bout?
     
  15. Bokaj

    Bokaj Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

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    Can't have been many thread where he doesn't bring up Foreman, no matter the subject.

    In terms of rankings, he's certainly the GOAT when it comes to bring in a certain fighter in any discussion.
     
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