Sonny Liston
World Heavyweight Champion
1962 - 1964


b. Unkown
d. December 30, 1970







A large and bold signature penned by world heavyweight champion Sonny Liston... Signed in blue ballpoint ink, this signature was cut from the first free end page of a book and is 5.5" long... Perfect for matting!!

measures: 2.75 x 8"
condition: fine

18 insured shipping



The Early Life Of Sonny Liston

  There is no record of Liston's birth, he once gave an age compatible with his being born in 1928 but is said to be absent from the 1930 United States Census it has been suggested he may not have known what year he was born. Liston settled on a date of birth of May 8, 1932 for official purposes but by the time he won the world title an aged appearance added credence to rumors that he was several years older than claimed.

Charles "Sonny" Liston was born into a sharecropping family who farmed the poor land of Morledge Plantation near Johnson Township, St. Francis County, Arkansas. His father, Tobe Liston, had been a widower in his fifties who had already fathered twelve children with his first wife when he and 16 year old Helen Baskin moved to Arkansas from Mississippi in 1916, they had 13 children together. Sonny is believed to have been the penultimate child and youngest son. Liston's father inflicted whippings so severe that the scars were still visible decades later. Helen Baskin moved to St. Louis with some of her children, leaving Sonny - aged around 13, according to his later reckonings - in Arkansas with his father. Soon afterward Sonny rose early, thrashed the pecans from his brother-in-law's tree and sold them in (Forrest City). With the proceeds he traveled to St. Louis and reunited with his mother and siblings. Liston tried going to school but quickly left after jeers about his illiteracy, the only employment he could obtain was sporadic and exploitative.

He turned to crime and led a gang of toughs who carried out muggings and robberies, often wearing a favorite shirt, and he became known to St. Louis PD as the "Yellow Shirt Bandit". In January 1950, he was caught after a gratuitously violent robbery he was convicted and, in June 1950, sentenced to five years in Missouri State Penitentiary. He gave his age as 20 years old, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat said he was 22.

Liston never complained about prison, saying he was guaranteed three meals every day. The athletic director at Missouri State Penitentiary, Father Alois Stevens, suggested to Liston he try boxing and his obvious aptitude, along with an endorsement from the priest, aided Liston in getting an early parole. Father Stevens organized a sparring session with a former pro light-heavyweight to showcase Liston's potential. After 2 rounds the ex-pro had taken enough. "Better get me out of this ring, he is going to kill me!" he exclaimed. On Halloween night in 1952, Liston was paroled. Much was later made of his being controlled by criminals. However, according to the priest who interested him in boxing, underworld figures became his management simply because they were the only ones willing to put up the necessary money.


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