Sonny, George and the Indelible Ali Stain

By Mike Casey on October 3, 2014
Sonny, George and the Indelible Ali Stain
They didn't come to dance, talk, make silly faces or dangle their gloves by their sides.

What must it be like when everyone tells you you’re unbeatable? Sonny and George heard that praise so many times that they came to believe it…

A curious form of amnesia seems to have gripped certain boxing historians in recent years. It has to do with Sonny Liston, George Foreman and Muhammad Ali. Who is the odd man out among that stellar trio? Who is the man who has oddly faded away and seemingly doesn’t exist anymore? Remarkably, it is Ali who has become the missing link, the conveniently forgotten man. Who would have thought it?

Some very crafty revisionism has been going on whereby the defeats to Ali suffered by Sonny and George have been almost entirely airbrushed from their records. Well, after all, it makes Liston and Foreman look so much sexier, doesn’t it? Just think, both of these mighty destroyers might have retired undefeated and gained godly status had the infernally irritating Ali not thrown a big spanner into their works at completely the wrong time.

Ali, for all his brilliance, continues to annoy me and a great many others. I can (and have in previous articles) list umpteen reasons why the self-styled “Greatest” has been as bad for boxing as he has been good for it. But we can’t go pretending that he didn’t do certain things just because he gets under our skin.

Liston and Foreman continue to rise in stature whenever the latest ranking of the all-time heavyweights pops up in the forums. I have seen both men placed as high as second on the lists of some historians. It’s as if the Ali defeats – hugely significant milestones in the history of the heavyweight championship – never happened. Not in this world, anyway. Perhaps in a parallel world which has since disintegrated into the mists of space.

So that makes it all OK. Let’s just shove those Ali losses to one side and talk about how Sonny Liston and George Foreman would have each reigned as world champion for 10 or 15 years. It’s easy to do because there’s plenty of wiggling room when we try to explain those defeats away. Sonny didn’t train properly for the first fight with Ali (Cassius Clay as he was then) at Miami Beach and injured his shoulder into the bargain. Sonny threw the second fight at Lewiston or simply got old and fed up all at once and fancied a snooze on the deck instead of another tedious night of chasing the Louisville loudmouth hither and yon.

George Foreman had a terrible run-in to his showdown with Ali, getting cut in training and suffering unacceptable torment from the Zaire locals who had been programmed to hate him by the latest of Ali’s many distasteful psychological tactics. Then George fought the wrong kind of fight on the night as his strength faded away in the intense heat and sent him into a state of panic. This wasn’t Killer George who had butchered Joe Frazier and Ken Norton. It was Amateur George, clueless and without a Plan B. All understandable, however, since the whole fight and everything surrounding it was so incredibly surreal. Had the contest been in Los Angeles or New York, Big George would have hammered Ali in about two or three rounds and then gone on to hammer Jerry Quarry and every other pretender of the era.

He didn’t. Nor did Sonny Liston smash through Ali and then threaten the record reign of Joe Louis. Whatever the circumstances of those three fights that shaped the destinies of all three men, we know one sure thing. They happened. Furthermore, they were of colossal and eternal historical impact.

Results

We can’t shoo those results away or pretend that they were different. That’s the behavior of children when they invent their own football and baseball results with dice and don’t like the numbers that come up. Very easy to throw the dice again until your team wins. Kids can get away with that. It’s part of the fun of being a kid. But you really should know a bit better when you’re a grown-up.

Why is all this shape-shifting and blurring of reality going on? Because Sonny Liston and George Foreman were what we used to call “proper fighters.” They came to fight and expected their opponent to do likewise. Sonny and George followed a long tradition of hitting the target by way of attack. A fighter wanting to win the heavyweight championship of the world was expected to go after the incumbent and hunt him down. Jeffries went after Fitzsimmons. Dempsey hounded and smashed Willard. Louis tracked and annihilated Jim Braddock and Marciano harried and smashed at Walcott.

Where the heavyweights are concerned, most boxing fans will always prefer a blood-and-thunder destroyer to an evasive man of skill and deft moves. These are the big boys and we expect big explosions. We might admire the skills and the subtle moves of Ali, Jack Johnson and Larry Holmes, but we don’t really want them in the final of a fantasy knockout tournament.

Shrewd editors of boxing trade magazines quickly learned this lesson and played to the wishes of their readership. In the sixties and seventies especially, there was always a ‘computer’ tournament being staged by one publication or another and it is highly doubtful that the expense of hiring a computer ever came into it. Any boxing journalist who’s worth his salt can churn out a computer-like blow-by-blow account of a fight without too much difficulty.

In all these tournaments, I can’t recall any final being a slow burning game of chess between Jack Johnson and Muhammad Ali. Where the winner was concerned, you couldn’t go far wrong if you made your choice from the trio of Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano. Fireworks guaranteed! None of that fancy stuff where two guys dance around each other to the sound of their own elegant footsteps.

Reality

Reality is so often difficult to accept because it can be boring, anti-climactic and often inconclusive. We experience this constantly in the real sporting world, where a long awaited ‘clash of the titans’ turns out to be an inoffensive waltz or a controversial mess. Not so in the logical and tidy world of machines. If you had programmed the most advanced computer of 1965 to forecast the result of the Ali-Liston rematch, the result would not have been a first round knockout for Ali. If you had carried out a similar exercise in 1974, the computer would not have told you that Ali would knock out George Foreman. And there’s the problem. Real life is an awkward and contrary bitch and some of us want to risk the ‘butterfly effect’ by fiddling with the formula and rewriting the script whenever it starts wandering off on a tangent.

How great were Sonny Liston and George Foreman? Well, I loved the way both men fought and I believe they are certainly deserving of a place in the higher tier of the all-time heavyweights. But second? Third? No. Each was too flawed and lacking when it came to the toughest character test of his career. Liston first quit on his stool and then – for whatever reason – theatrically rolled around on the floor. Foreman was stripped of his confidence for the remainder of his peak career. He never was the same fighter again, never again the assured assassin who believed he could sweep any man from his path. Would the all-conquering Big George of 1973 and 1974 have labored so desperately and messily to quell Ron Lyle? Would that version of Foreman have been led a merry dance by Jimmy Young, a slick and skillful operator but certainly no Ali?

The Ali defeat in Zaire was no doubt a shattering experience for Foreman, one that would have shaken any other heavyweight in history. Shaken, yes. But not demoralized or decimated. Joe Louis suffered a far more painful and protracted shellacking from Max Schmeling, a chilling beating that went all the way into the twelfth round. Joe was back in action two months later to knock out Jack Sharkey and less than a year after that ripped the championship from Jim Braddock.

Liston damaged his shoulder when losing his title at Miami Beach and gave up after the sixth round, sitting sulkily on his stool. He quit and that counts big against a man when we are putting his character and resolve under the microscope. Consider, by comparison, the withering punishment taken by Jeffries and Marciano. How would Sonny have reacted if his nose had been split open, as was Marciano’s in the second Ezzard Charles fight? Liston’s supporters will point to the first Marty Marshall fight when Sonny battled on with a broken jaw. But Liston was still unknown in those days and nobody was judging him. It wasn’t a big and significant fight in front of a worldwide audience and Marty Marshall wasn’t Cassius Clay.

The harsh truth about Liston and Foreman, which their supporters find so hard to acknowledge, is that they were largely one-track fighters who required their opponents to stay obligingly within range and engage them. They were, as we have already said, “proper fighters.” They didn’t come to dance, talk, make silly faces or dangle their gloves by their sides. But Ali, for better or for worse, turned boxing in that direction and spawned a generation of imitators in the process. He ripped up the traditional textbook and reassembled it in coded language that only he could understand. Liston and Foreman, two of the most competent destroyers the heavyweight division has ever seen, were too robotic in nature to revise their style of fighting to cope with illogical movement and crazy angles.

In journalism, an ad that doesn’t slot neatly into place with the writer’s copy is known as a ‘bastard ad’. Ali was a bastard of a boxer. He did things that repeatedly led to his imitators being knocked cold. To this day, if you were teaching your son how to box, you wouldn’t advise him to copy Ali. Just as Arnold Palmer swung a golf club like Henry V wielding a sword, so Ali boxed in a style that was entirely his own. But even if we accept that Muhammad would have decisioned some of the past greats I have mentioned here, would they have stopped fighting and simply submitted? Would they have been knocked out horribly and forever haunted by their failure? Even the terribly gaunt and aging Jeffries kept trying to the bitter end against Jack Johnson in the searing heat of Reno.

When I interviewed George Foreman in London in 2001, he still couldn’t get the Ali fight out of his mind. I asked George about Frazier, Norton, Jerry Quarry, Earnie Shavers and George Chuvalo. But Ali and the hell of Zaire kept ghosting their way back into the conversation like Jacob Marley and his long and weighty chain. Twenty-seven years after the event, George was still plagued by the great scar that wouldn’t heal.

Confidence

The importance of mental strength in the fight game can never be underestimated. With the true elite, it is constant and unswerving. In the case of Liston and Foreman, it was too unbalanced. When the seesaw was tipping in the right direction, Sonny and George believed that no man on earth could take them. They believed that to a dangerous extent in my opinion. When the seesaw tipped in the wrong direction and gave them a whack in the head, the confidence drained away in a rush.

What must it be like when everyone tells you you’re unbeatable? Sonny and George, in their pomp, heard that praise so many times that they came to believe it. Liston, especially, became far too arrogant after his spectacular knockouts of Floyd Patterson. His image as the invincible monster of boxing bred the belief within him that he could take his foot off the accelerator and still stay miles ahead of the rest.

Why sweat in the gym and run for miles on freezing cold mornings when he could knock out guys with an icy stare? Patterson, in two attempts, had shared Liston’s company for just four minutes and fourteen seconds. Cassius Clay, Sonny believed, wouldn’t last much longer. The few other contenders that rated a shout had already felt the mighty swipe of the Bear’s paw. When somebody suggested former champion, Ingemar Johansson, Liston could not conceal his contempt. “Johansson should be arrested,” he scoffed. He turned to manager Jack Nilon and said, “Hey, Jack, give me Johansson for a birthday present!”

Then Sonny gave the game away when the conversation turned back to the young Clay. “The only thing I’d have to do with Clay is a lot of roadwork – because he’s gonna run like a thief.” Of Clay’s boast that he would take Liston in six rounds, Sonny retorted, “By the time of the sixth round, I’ll be halfway through the victory party.”

He truly believed this when he journeyed to Miami Beach to put the Louisville Lip to sleep. In fairness, so did most others. By that time, Sonny had been slopping through his training and partaking of the wrong kind of supplements for some time. He gambled heavily too and was paying back debts right to his dying day. The expectations and demands of his management team and their dubious associates must have constantly weighed on his mind and nagged him with worry.

The first fight with Patterson didn’t just put Floyd to sleep. It put Sonny into a dangerous slumber too. Las Vegas, the venue for the return match, was the one place on earth where Liston was unlikely to knuckle down to the serious business of running, punching and catching medicine balls with his stomach. The crap tables got far more of his attention. The muscle on his big body began to lose its hardness and his legs began to lose their strength as he shunned heavy boots in favor of sneakers for some none too strenuous roadwork. He sleepwalked to another decimation of Patterson and was still dozing against Clay at the Miami Beach Convention Hall.

Would Liston have been similarly lazy and arrogant against smaller opponents like Dempsey, Louis and Marciano? There is every reason for believing so. And if Sonny hadn’t been able to bomb out these greats in the first two or three rounds (a highly unlikely scenario anyway in this writer’s view) how would he have reacted? How enthused would he have been by the prospect of Dempsey and Marciano relentlessly tearing into him or Louis smashing shots into that poorly conditioned body? These men weren’t Cleveland Williams. They didn’t have a good go and then fall apart. I think Liston would have panicked and been looking for a way out that saved him the embarrassment of taking the full count.

Credit

George Foreman, to his everlasting credit, never stopped swinging and trying against Ali. But George too panicked when he realized that his invincibility was a myth. Sensing that he was sinking ever deeper into quicksand, Foreman fought with terrible recklessness and lack of thought. Even in the early rounds, when he was still fresh, he was swinging round the houses and expending terrific energy unnecessarily. He was firing crushing punches for sure, which should have done for any other opponent. But Ali wasn’t any other opponent and George knew that.

Foreman flailed like an amateur in his increasing state of panic and exhaustion, when a couple of calm and disciplined shots – even as he neared the moment of death – might still have saved his bacon. He erred both tactically and mentally, and the last small fires from that wreckage continued to simmer and sting him for the rest of his career.

In the romantic and fanciful world of Internet forum match-ups between the all- time great heavyweights, we hear so often of how Foreman’s mighty, scything blows would have smashed Joe Louis and Jack Johnson and bombed out Dempsey and Marciano in two or three rounds. We hear of Liston’s crushing power doing likewise. Quite possibly so on their finest night, but highly unlikely.

Such conclusions in favor of Sonny and George are generally reached by deception, and it’s really got to stop. This is craftily done by drawing a line under Liston’s record after his second defeat of Patterson and pretending that Foreman’s career concludes after his butchering of Ken Norton in Caracas. It’s all so neat and sexy. It makes Sonny and George look like the indestructible terminators that so many people want them to be. But it’s still cheating.

There is another way of doing it, of course. By grudgingly accepting Ali as the greatest of all heavyweights, we can then slot in Sonny and George right behind Muhammad in any order of preference. Some historians are doing this with breathtaking confidence and brashly telling us that everything that happened in the heavyweight division before Liston, Ali and Foreman was window dressing.

Logical thinking, I suppose, if you choose to watch everything from a shop window instead of getting out in the fresh air and taking a walk around the block.

Mike Casey is a Boxing.com writer and Founder & Editor of ALL TIME BOXING at https://sites.google.com/site/alltimeboxingrankings. He is a freelance journalist and boxing historian and a member of the International Boxing Research Organization (IBRO).

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Sonny Liston vs Floyd Patterson I Sep. 25, 1962



Sonny Liston vs Floyd Patterson, II (long)



Cassius Clay aka Muhammad Ali v Sonny Liston 1964



Muhammad Ali VS. Sonny Liston II (25.05.1965)



Sonny Liston vs Leotis Martin



George Foreman vs Joe Frazier I



George Foreman vs Ken Norton - March 26, 1974



George Foreman vs Muhammad Ali - Oct. 30, 1974 - Entire fight - Rounds 1 - 8 & Interview



George Foreman - Jimmy Young



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  1. Mike Casey 07:49am, 10/11/2014

    Thanks, Ray! All the best.

  2. Ray mccormack 08:22pm, 10/10/2014

    Mike, I will be brief. I find you to be the best writer on this website (I think we are of almost comparable ages). you definitely know boxing and it’s history. As I said I will be brief. Regarding Sonny Liston he should have been given a title shot no later than 1958. He fought and beat all the contenders Patterson ducked over the years, Williams, Machen, Valdez, Folley… By the time Liston fought Patterson in 1962 he was already past his prime. Even in the late 60’s when Liston was well into his 40’s he was still capable of beating top 10 contenders. I am not making an excuse for his loss to Leotis Martin but Liston was probably somewhere between 40 and 45. And Liston took that fight on 2 weeks notice. No question he lost that fight and that finished him as a serious contender. As much as I love Joe Frazier, I think Yank Durham, had to be the happiest boxing manager in the world when Liston was removed from the scene as a contender. Styles always make a fight and Joe Frazier RIP was made for Sonny Liston even in 1969. George Foreman says the only fighter that ever could back him up in the ring was Liston when they were sparring. As I mentioned earlier styles make a fight. And because of Listons tremendous physical attributes he would be a difficult fighter if both he and his opponent were at their peaks Mike, one final thought. Suppose Liston and Jack Dempsey (Another favorite of mine. I was lucky enough to have met him twice and have my picture taken with him) fought 5 times and Dempsey won 3 times and Liston won 2 times. Would that make either of the fighters a bum or second rate? Of course not. Mike keep your articles coming they are great. And you certainly deserve a raise

  3. tuxtucis 08:27am, 10/08/2014

    @Mike Casey: I believe too Dempsey is very underrated today, when he starts to be usually ranked outside all time top 10. Anyway I see a different treatement between his loss to Flynn (about whom you re sure it’s a dive although there is no film of it) and the Liston loss to Ali (an evident dive as it shows the film)

  4. Mike Casey 08:09am, 10/08/2014

    Well, Tux, the Flynn defeat was almost certainly a tank job on Jack’s part, which I in no way condone. The Sudenberg loss, as you should know, was very early in Jack’s career. I don’t worship Dempsey or any other fighter. I simply believe that Jack had more of the essential skills than most others among the heavyweights. But I’m not going to hit anyone over the head with a hammer who happens to disagree.

  5. The Flea 12:41am, 10/08/2014

    Foreman would likely smash Marciano and Dempsey inside a few rounds I think.

    Neither of those are anything like Ali stylistically.

    Louis? That’s another question entirely, but let’s not forget that Louis wasn’t infallible with wide hooks himself.

  6. tuxtucis 07:49am, 10/07/2014

    Are we unfair with Mister Casey and his worshipping of Jack Dempsey if we ask why the losses by Ali are indelible for Liston and Foreman and the loss by Fireman Flynn is indelible for Dempsey (and maybe the 9 knockouts suffered by Sudenburg too) ?  :-)

  7. Eric 06:25am, 10/04/2014

    Judging by Liston’s swollen face, I believe his first fight with Ali was legit. Undertrained and overconfident ala Tyson vs. Douglas, Liston gassed out, and feeling every bit of his 32+ years grew tired of chasing the 22 year old Clay/Ali and pulled a “no mas.” However, even Ray Charles could see that Sonny took a dive in the rematch. Sonny sure wasn’t a great actor, the job he pulled off in Lewiston was worst than his scene on “Love American Style.”  A guy that took the punches from Cleveland Williams without blinking is going to be knocked out by a punch from Ali, while Ali is leaning back?

  8. nicolas 01:31am, 10/04/2014

    I don’t know if Foreman wanted a rematch with Ali. I think in many ways Foreman was really hurt by the loss to Ali. He has since claimed that he thinks he might have been drugged. I think that in some way Ali in his cruelty to both Frazier and Foreman, Foreman took it much worse. This cruelty now was how he presented both of them to the black community. Had Foreman beaten Young, which he did not, perhaps a rematch would have happened,

  9. tuxtucis 11:36pm, 10/03/2014

    Marciano was knocked down in 1 round by Moore and Walcott, I’ve no troubles in seeing him knocked out between 3 rounds by a prime Liston or Foreman. I’ve a Great opinion of Liston: i would remember in first match he was draw on judge scorecard at moment of retirement; the Second right was simlt the grossest farce of boxing history. For my opinion of Liston far more questione are posed by His early loss with light Marshall and His late ko loss by Martin. In no part of his career Foreman could have been kayoed by a Martin with a single punch.

  10. Jethro's Flute 06:55pm, 10/03/2014

    “Notice Ali ducked Foreman for 3 years and never gave George a chance to recapture his title. Wonder why?”

    More than anything else, Ali beat George by outsmarting him. Foreman was very good at cutting off the ring, something that Liston could never do.

    By the time Foreman made his comeback in 1976, Ali was shot and would not have fooled him twice.

    Ali offered him a rematch in 1978, after Foreman had quit the ring. He said he couldn’t beat Ken Norton and he was certainly correct.

  11. Jethro's Flute 06:51pm, 10/03/2014

    “In the romantic and fanciful world of Internet forum match-ups between the all- time great heavyweights, we hear so often of how Foreman’s mighty, scything blows would have smashed Joe Louis and Jack Johnson and bombed out Dempsey and Marciano in two or three rounds”

    Marciano would lose by one-punch knockout in the first round to Foreman.

    What happens to slow-starting, swarming fighters against big George?

  12. Jethro's Flute 06:49pm, 10/03/2014

    “And if Sonny hadn’t been able to bomb out these greats in the first two or three rounds “

    He’d have wrecked the slow-starting, cut-prone Marciano who would have stood right in front of him.

  13. Clarence George 06:20pm, 10/03/2014

    Mike:  I of course know that you don’t believe that Ali has been forgotten or that his defeats of Liston and Foreman somehow didn’t happen.  The point of my initial post is that nobody believes that.  I couldn’t agree more that Liston and Foreman tend to be overrated today, but I don’t agree that it’s because of “Cassius who?  Muhammad what?”  Rather, I think one can boil it down to revisionism.  We live in a time when people love to challenge accepted and established truths, which explains why Dempsey and, even more so, Marciano tend to be downplayed.  Here’s hoping that reason once again reasserts itself, and that Liston and Foreman not long remain near-throne pretenders.

  14. Eric 04:23pm, 10/03/2014

    If Ali hadn’t come along, Liston could’ve very well reigned until the late 60’s, with only father time stopping him from going on longer. After Patterson, Liston would’ve cleaned up on contenders like Chuvalo, Mildenberger, Cooper, and Terrell. Can’t see much use in rehashing old foes like Patterson, Williams, or Folley, more than likely the same result. Liston would’ve busted up a young Jerry Quarry had they met around ‘67 or so, and I could see Sonny pulling out a win over Argentinian strongman, Oscar Bonavena around that same time period. Jimmy Ellis would have been no problem. It probably would’ve come down to Joe Frazier outsmoking a middle-aged Liston sometime around ‘68 or ‘69 for the title. No way does Frazier beat a prime Sonny, but at that period, a young Frazier would’ve probably been the one to dethrone Sonny, had Ali not existed.

  15. Eric 03:01pm, 10/03/2014

    I have Liston at #3 and Foreman at #4. I admit I’ve always favored brutish power punchers over craftsman like Ali, who I have ranked at the #1 slot. Liston just mowed down some pretty decent opposition on his way to the title. He massacred a prime Cleveland Williams twice. Beat up contenders Zora Folley and Nino Valdez. None of these fighters went past the third round. Machen would last 12 rounds only because he fought to survive. Even as an old man, Liston was dangerous. He was easily winning the Martin fight until he got caught. Liston might have been well into his 40’s when he fought his last fight with Wepner, but still he managed to bust up the huge 6’5” Wepner. Rumor has it that Joe Frazier wanted no part of Liston, even though Liston was old and creaking by then. I still feel both Ali-Liston fights are highly suspect. Foreman definitely deserves a high ranking. He might not have been the most stylish boxer out there, had no footwork, and relatively poor stamina, but he got the job done. Name me one past heavyweight great that could have accomplished what Big George pulled off by winning the title in ‘73, retiring for 10 years, and then capturing the crown 21 years after his initial reign at the age of 45? Do you think Marciano, Dempsey, Louis, or Ali could have pulled that off? George lost to Ali, but his lost to Young probably had more to do with Big George just burning out while chasing Ali for a rematch. Hard to keep motivated for 3 years chasing the champion down for a return bout. Notice Ali ducked Foreman for 3 years and never gave George a chance to recapture his title. Wonder why?

  16. nicolas 02:55pm, 10/03/2014

    Forgot to finish, I just think that people realize what an accomplishment it was for Ali to defeat these two men, and I would also say that is why Ali is considered so great.

  17. nicolas 02:54pm, 10/03/2014

    Mike, I think that at the time of the losses that Liston had with Ali, and Foreman with Ali, that they were taken way down a notch from what they were thought of before. they were considered at the time, unbeatable, but Ali beat them, and now (at the time of there losses to Ali), the feeling was they were not as good as we thought. I don’t think that people forget the losses that they did suffer to Ali, in fact, I would go as far to say that Foreman’s loss was far greater, as he was supposably fighting a past his prime Ali, which was probably true.

  18. Mike Casey 02:18pm, 10/03/2014

    Clarence, can I suggest you read the opening two paragraphs again and see them in their proper context? Ali the ‘forgotten man’ is only forgotten (when appropriate) by those who would have Liston and Foreman in the top three - as I explained. I’m rather surprised that you didn’t get it.

  19. Clarence George 01:24pm, 10/03/2014

    “Who is the man who has oddly faded away and seemingly doesn’t exist anymore?  Remarkably, it is Ali who has become the missing link, the conveniently forgotten man.  Who would have thought it?”  Nobody, because it isn’t true—the unwarranted deification of Ali continues unabated.  I also don’t think that Liston and Foreman’s losses to Ali have been somehow airbrushed from the portrait of heavyweight history.

    With those provisos in mind, I agree that Liston and Foreman are in desperate need of being taken down a peg or two.  Until relatively recently, Liston was neglected and underrated; the pendulum has now swung too far in the other direction.  The same is true, by the way, of Ezzard Charles.  I’m a huge fan of “The Cincinnati Cobra,” and he much needed and deserved to be reevaluated upward, but it’s gone a bit too far.  Foreman is grossly overrated today.  A fantastically powerful puncher, but not much else.  I suspect he’s overpraised because he’s become cuddlesome, what with his grill and all.  People like to do nice things for nice people.  Yes, it can be just that simple.  Liston has never been mistaken for a Teddy Bear, either in his time or since.  In his case, it’s the plodding of history, in tandem with resultant overcompensation—it took a while for his excellence to be recognized, and guilt at the decades-long neglect has led to the praise being more abundant than it should be.

    I rank Liston higher than Foreman, but neither man is among my top 10.

  20. nicolas 01:22pm, 10/03/2014

    As Emanuel Stewart once said, Ali was lucky that he did not meet the Liston of 1959 or 1960. Ali might have won, but it probably would have been more difficult. Even back in 1974, as a 17 year old, I felt that Foreman was making a big mistake going to Zaire. On my all time list of great heavyweights, I have Foreman at number 5, and Liston at number 10.  Ali of course I have at number one. PETER, I do feel that Norton won the third fight with Ali, but as for Young, I cannot feel that way. How can you win a round when you duck through the ropes. I just think that the fight was a lot closer than those judges had it. I gave it to Ali by two points, as Young was penalized a point for that ducking under the ropes.

  21. peter 12:14pm, 10/03/2014

    “The importance of mental strength in the fight game can never be underestimated. With the true elite, it is constant and unswerving. In the case of Liston and Foreman, it was too unbalanced.”—That was a great sentence! ... Ali even had the judges believing that he was unbeatable the nights he lost to Jimmy Young and Ken Norton! (And a few others!)

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