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Sonny Liston

Sonny Liston was a notable twentieth century African-American boxer. He was known for his punching power and intimidating appearance in the boxing ring. Liston earned the World Heavyweight Championship in 1962 when he knocked out his opponent Floyd Patterson.

He was named Charles Liston upon his birth. The exact year of his birth is unknown, although it is disputed that he could have been born during early 1930s. Liston grew up in a sharecropping family in Sand Slough, Arkansas. His family farmed the poor land of Morledge Plantation. Liston had a rough childhood as he claimed that the only thing his father ever gave him was severe beatings and the scars left were visible even decades later. Though his mother left him with his father, he managed to travel to St. Louis to reunite with her and his siblings. He began his education at a local school but quickly left afterwards for being criticized about his illiteracy.

Since Liston had no education or any other skills, his chances of any respectful employment were quite low. The dire situation led him toward the life of crime. Liston formed a gang of tough guys like him and organized mugging and armed robberies. The St. Louis police named him “Yellow Shirt Bandit” as he was usually seen in yellow during a robbery. Eventually, Liston was captured by the law in 1950 and was sentenced to five years of imprisonment in Missouri State Penitentiary. The imprisonment didn’t bother him as he was grateful for three times of meals a day. He was suggested by the athletic director of the penitentiary to try boxing and due to priest’s endorsement Liston gained an early parole. A sparring session with a professional heavyweight named Thurman Wilson was arranged to gauge Liston’s potential.

After being released from the prison in 1952, Liston had a brief career before he won the Chicago Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions in 1953. He also competed in the 1953, National Amateur Athletic Union Tournament but lost to Jimmy McCarter. He then participated in International Golden