1. IN September 1962 Sonny Liston flattened Floyd Patterson in the opening round to claim the world heavyweight title in Chicago. Patterson had proved in the past he could rebound from devastating defeat, having gained revenge over Ingemar Johansson, but few expected him to reverse the Liston result in the July 22 1963 rematch. But Liston thought that Patterson would fare a little better this time saying, “Maybe it’ll go three [rounds], maybe even five.” Patterson’s promises that he “shall not be knocked out in the first round” again were hardly inspiring.
2. HOWEVER, Patterson had reportedly shown good form in training, flooring five sparring partners while preparing in Las Vegas and knocking out another. The former champion, so ashamed of his performance in the first bout he disguised himself with a fake beard in the aftermath, was certainly working hard to conquer his demons; previously scared of flying, Patterson had paid £6,000 for a plane and was learning how to fly.
3. LISTON, wearing a straw hat, blue shirt and silver-gold dressing gown, kept the fans waiting at the weigh-in and was duly fined $100 for turning up 40 minutes late. The champion’s lack of popularity was never more evident as fans jeered him as he undressed and plonked himself on the scales. The boos got louder before the fight as the 8,000-strong crowd inside the Las Vegas Convention Center screamed dislike at Liston, and appreciation for Floyd.
4. THE winner was set to collide with Cassius Clay, who Liston claimed was so easy to beat even his wife could do it. The young braggart from Louisville was introduced in the ring, and shook hands with Patterson before starting towards Liston, then theatrically stopping, retracing his steps, and leaving the ring. The champion looked furious.
5. CLAY’S behaviour did few favours to Patterson. Liston answered the opening bell like a man possessed and clubbing blows rained all over the former king. Patterson was in trouble, and after taking three more thudding right hands, fell to the canvas. Up at ‘four’ Floyd looked unsteady before offering a brief retaliation that culminated in him punching Liston’s shoulder. But he was dropped twice more, and after 2 minutes and 10 seconds – four seconds longer than bout one – it was all over.
6. “THERE’LL be no beard and no disguise this time,” said Patterson after the devastation. “But I do feel disgraced and ashamed. I was beaten by a better man tonight. But I’m not quitting. I love boxing. I want to try and fight my way up the ladder again. I wasn’t afraid – just nervous and tense. I was trying to make him miss and counter, but it didn’t work out.”
7. “I HIT him harder than I did in Chicago,” said Liston. “He hit me with a right on the shoulder. Was he afraid? I think so. Anyway, I tried to scare him by staring at him. I think it worked. He gave me that hurt look.”
8. LISTON then turned his attention to his next challenger. “Clay? Two rounds. One-and-a-half to catch him, the other to knock him out. I’ll fight him tonight if he wants. I’m not yet warmed up.”
9. LESS than a year later, Liston quit on his stool after six rounds. Clay became the new champion and infamously knocked out Sonny in their 1965 rematch, the damage being done by a ‘phantom punch’. Liston’s showing in those two bouts prevented him from getting another chance and he died mysteriously in 1970.
10. PATTERSON worked his way back into contention but was stopped by Clay – then Muhammad Ali – in 12 rounds. The popular former champion remained a leading contender until his retirement in 1972.