Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sonny Liston Defends Title Against Floyd Patterson


On July 22, 1963, boxer Sonny Liston defended his World Heavyweight title against Floyd Patterson in a rematch from the previous year.  The fight took place in Las Vegas, Nevada.

 Sonny Liston entered the first fight against Patterson as a heavy betting line favorite.  However, Sports Illustrated along with former heavyweight champions James Braddock, Ezzard Charles, Rocky Marciano and “Jersey” Joe Walcott all predicted that Floyd Patterson would come out victorious. However, Muhammad Ali predicted Liston would get a knockout in the first five rounds.


Ali was right on target as Liston used his power to dominate Patterson, knocking him out just 2:06 into the first round.



The one-sided nature of the bout was a major surprise. Patterson was expected to try to employ his speed and agility to counter Liston's size and power but in the event Patterson's tactics showed a complete lack of guile. Sports Illustrated writer Gilbert Rogin characterized the fight as "bathetic," claiming Patterson didn't punch enough, had inexplicably sought to clinch with his far heavier opponent and repeatedly made the basic error of failing to tie up both his opponent's arms in a clinch. Liston bulled Patterson around while using his free hand to batter him with body blows before shortening up and connecting with two double hooks high on the head.



It was the third-fastest knockout in a world heavyweight title fight and the first time the champion had been knocked out in round one. Rogin discounted speculation that Patterson had thrown the fight and suggested that "mental problems" had been responsible for his poor performance.



The rematch was a carbon copy of the first fight as Sonny Liston used his huge weight and reach advantage to once again knockout Patterson in the first round.  The fight lasted just four seconds longer that the first one as Patterson was counted out at 2:10 of the first round. After the victory the champion, Liston, was loudly booed.



After his victories against Patterson, Liston would go on to fight against Muhammad Ali, two times, and lost both. Fans and judges speculated that Liston took a dive during both fights, though Liston denies the claims.



Liston finished his career with a record of 50-4, with the only boxer he lost to more than once being Muhammad Ali, both times being for the World Heavyweight title.

Check out the video below of Liston and Patterson's bout: