Kevin Fixler
    Sport Matters

20 June 2015

Boxing’s detested king

The tale of Charles “Sonny” Liston is far more complex than that of just an intimidating ex-con who broke legs for the mob on his way to seizing boxing’s heavyweight title. “His story,” says boxing writer and historian Springs Toledo, is “almost Shakespearean.”

As the story goes, Liston was so reviled that in January 1962 President Kennedy asked the then-heavyweight champ, Floyd Patterson, to refuse Liston, the No. 1 challenger who had been waiting upward of two years, a title shot because of his recognized ties to organized crime. During this intense era of the civil rights movement, black leaders also feared that if the perceived henchman defeated Patterson — the more polished and humble African-American champ — it could set race relations back even further.

Read the story exclusively at OZY.

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