Sonny Liston - The Real Story Behind the Ali-Liston Fights by Paul Gallender

Sonny Liston - The Real Story Behind the Ali-Liston Fights by Paul Gallender

Author:Paul Gallender [Gallender, Paul]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Published: 2013-03-17T11:00:00+00:00


Clay was so afraid of airplanes that it took four days to talk him into flying to Romefor the 1960 Olympic Games. He bought a parachute at an army surplus store and had it on his back for the entire flight. “Without that chute, I’d’ve turned white for sure,” said Cassius. Whenever his mother flew with him, it pained her to see her son so frightened, “his eyes so big and red.” Clay preferred to travel in Big Red, a 30-passenger 1953 Flexible bus on which his father had painted:WORLD’S MOST COLORFUL FIGHTER: CASSIUS CLAYandSONNY LISTON WILL GO IN EIGHT.

Clay drove Big Red to Denver for the November 5 contract signing. He arrived shortly after midnight and called some reporters whose phone numbers he’d been given. Trying to sound like a white man, he said the challenger had just driven into town and was getting ready to break into Sonny Liston’s house. Minutes after Clay’s bus pulled up, the whole neighborhood was awake. Cassius sent his friend and photographer Howard Bingham to pound on Liston’s door while someone else kept his hand on the bus horn. Sonny opened the door dressed in short, polka-dot pajamas with a fireplace poker in his hand. Clay was screaming as loud as he could, taunting Liston to come out and protect his home. Within minutes five police cars arrived with sirens blazing.

“You know that look of Liston’s you hear so much about,” wrote Ali. “Well he sure had it on standing in that door that night. Man, he was tore up. He wanted to come out there after me, but he was already in enough trouble with the police and everything. And you know, if a man figures you’re crazy, he’ll think twice before he acts, because he figures you’re liable to do anything.” A police dog was within a foot of Cassius when he was told to leave or be arrested for disturbing the peace. With Sonny standing in his doorway, Clay exited screaming and his entourage laughed all the way to their motel.

Clay demeaned Sonny on a number of occasions but Barney Baker told me this was the incident that tormented him the most. He had been humiliated in front of his neighbors, many of whom were white and not thrilled with his presence in the first place. “You know how them white people felt about that black man just moved in there anyway, and we sure wasn’t helping it none,” Ali said later. A week after the Listons moved in, 32 houses in Sonny’s neighborhood put up For Sale signs. Having Joe Louis as a neighbor may have been acceptable but Sonny Liston was apparently one black heavyweight champ too many.

At the following morning’s press conference one reporter likened Clay to a spoiled child showing off in front of his father. Cassius refused to sit next to Sonny and threatened to walk out of the meeting because Liston signed the three-page contract first. Calling Liston a chump and an old man, Clay said hewas going to give Sonny boxingand talking lessons.


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