Saturday, 20 June 2015

Charles Sonny Liston... A Champions demise.




Charles Sonny Liston found it hard to make good solid friendships, he had seen unimaginable hardship for most of his adult life..  Sonny took himself on an odyssey of a journey as a young man, from the cotton fields of Arkansas, to St Louis, Philadelphia, Devner Co, finally calling Las Vegas his home, an astonishing feat for a man who couldn't read a word, could only write a handful of words, yet from humble beginnings, via the penitentiary, Charles Liston became the heavyweight champion of the World against all the odds..  Sonny will always be remembered as a teamsters strongarm, an enforcer, but it wasn't by choice, it's all he knew..  Sonny moved out to Las Vegas after his former St. Louis friend and trainer Johnny Tocco had convinced him that it was a safer place to be, but men he called friends were not far removed from Sonnys side..  Irving 'Ash' Resnick, a casino worker who had a close relationship to organized crime, befriended Sonny, have him and Geraldine their first house in Las Vegas..  Ash was the friendly face of the Mob, the man chosen to manipulate Liston to benefit Gangsters Frankie Carbo and Frank Palermo, who owned shares in the fighter ..  We will never know if Sonny threw the Ali / Clay fights, guys associated with Sonny back then like Tocco and Davey Pearl feverishly doubted that Sonny would sell out like that, but behind that sullen exterior , Charles L Liston was still very much a kid, he felt beholden to Resnick for all of the favours he had done for Liston in Vegas..  Sonny believed that Ash and his connections had his best interests at heart..  Amidst a comeback following his two mysterious losses to Ali, there were rumors of a fixed fight, where Liston and Resnick made a huge purse by betting against themselves, also a condition that Sonny would benefit from a share of future earnings from future Muhammad Ali fights, these were only hearsay, but amidst other shady alleged fixed fights in the era, nothing would surprise me.  Liston would see his championship skills erode terribly, he would lose dramatically by knockout to a former sparring partner Leotis Martin, and find himself at a crossroads, his finances were poor, most of Sonnys ring earnings were syphoned out to the Mob, leaving Liston to pay taxes and expenses out of the crumbs he had left..  Any money promised by Resnick from any deal had evaporated and Sonnys relationship with Ash had deteriorated, struggling Liston had a dispute with Ash Resnick over money and or a business deal....   A month later Sonny was found dead of an apparent heroin overdose..    Geraldine Liston found Sonny upon returning from a visit with her sister, Sonny had been dead for about six days..  Needle tracks were found in his arms, yet all who knew Sonny knew that needles were the single thing he feared the most..      To this day Charles Listons death remains one of the biggest mysteries surrounding a high profile fighter.