Sonny Liston FBI Files
126 pages of former heavy weight boxing champion, Sonny Liston, FBI files.
Charles "Sonny" Liston was born in 1932, into a family where he became one of twenty-five children. Liston's life was marked with numerous arrests, before and after he entered boxing. In 1950, Sonny Liston was arrested six times for muggings, one which only gained him five cents.
While in jail in 1952 for robbery, a Catholic priest noticed his boxing talents. After a successful amateur career Liston turned pro.From 1958 to 1960 Sonny Liston had a streak of nine knockouts. After a few years of avoiding fighting Liston, Heavy Weight Champion Floyd Patterson agreed to a fight. On September 25, 1962, Liston knocked out Patterson in first round. A 1963 rematch also ended in a first round knockout of Patterson. Sonny Liston was widely reputed to have strong mob affiliations.
In 1964, Sonny Liston was the heavy favorite to beat a brash young contender named Cassius Clay. Liston forfeited after the seventh round, due to a dislocated shoulder. Days later Cassius Clay joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name to Cassius X, then to Muhammad Ali.
Liston's next fight was a rematch with Ali. The fight ended with a first round knockout of Liston by Ali. The knockout punch in this fight became known as the "Phantom Punch." Many observers, even when viewing the punch in slow motion, believe the punch at best barley glanced Ali. Rumors still persist that Liston threw the fight to pay off debts owed to gamblers.
Sonny Liston's last fight was in 1970. He earned $13,000 for a match against Chuck Wepner. Chuck Wepner, who lasted 15 rounds in a match against Muhammad Ali, inspired Sylvester Stallone to create Rocky Balboa and write the screenplay for the Academy Award winning film "Rocky." Liston knocked out Wepner in the tenth round. Giving Sonny Liston a career record of 50 Wins, 4 loses, and 39 knockouts. Six months later, on December 30, 1970, Sonny Liston was found dead in his Las Vegas apartment, due to an apparent drug overdose.
The files contain approximately 60 discernable pages of memos and 26 pages of newspaper and wire service clippings. The files show that the FBI investigated whether both the February 25, 1964 Cassius Clay fight in Miami Beach and the May 25, 1965 Lewiston, Maine, Muhammad Ali rematch were fixed. Although much information was withheld on this topic, interest in the question is shown. Files include a Sonny Liston rap sheet and accounts of his various legal problems. Sonny Liston is described as being owned by "Hodlums" including Joseph Barone, Frankie Carbo, Blinky Palermo, and John Vitale. A memo shows the possibility that the Nation of Islam may have also been interested in Liston.