History | Sep 25 2019

On This Day: Sonny Liston hammers Floyd Patterson to win world heavyweight title

Nathan Fogg relives the night when Sonny Liston made short work world heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson
Sonny Liston
Sonny Liston  |  Action Images

IT’S not often that the heavyweight champion of the world goes into a fight the betting underdog, especially when fighting a challenger entering his first ever title bout. But when Floyd Patterson entered Comiskey Park in Chicago, on September 25, 1962, with the belt around his waist, he was facing a huge mismatch that would be quickly exposed. His opponent, the formidable Sonny Liston, held a 25 pound weight advantage with Patterson entering at 189 lb, making him an undersized cruiserweight by today’s weight classifications. Liston also enjoyed the benefit of a 13 inch longer reach; two factors which would have significant influence during the course of their two back-to-back fights.

Going into their first encounter Patterson was well renowned for being the youngest ever heavyweight champion and the first person to successfully regain his title, after avenging his defeat to Ingemar Johansson two years previously. Liston was feared for his unparalleled strength, as well his jab – one of the best in the business.

At 33-1, the fighter out of Philly had amassed 21 knockouts in his last 25 fights, all of which had ended with his hand raised as the victor. In the build up to the fight there was much controversy over the troubled past of Liston, who had found boxing whilst incarcerated. Patterson was advised not to fight him due to his alleged links to organised crime. The two eventually met after a two year delay after Liston had become the number one contender. It was a fight between two future hall of fame fighters, but the result was emphatically one-sided.