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Sonny Liston: The Mysterious Life and Death of a Champion


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Product Details

  • Actors: Sonny Liston, William Nack, Jerry Izenberg, Geraldine Liston, Raymond Munson
  • Directors: Jeff Lieberman
  • Producers: Jeff Lieberman, David Leepson, Gregg Backer, Kirby Bradley, Ross Greenburg
  • Format: NTSC
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: Hbo (Warner)
  • VHS Release Date: May 7 2002
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6303982980
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #10,464 in Video (See Top 100 in Video)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By dennis knolmayer on June 11 2000
Format: VHS Tape
I seen this movie when it came on hbo in 1995 and this shows that no matter how great soony liston was if you dont have the talk to make boxing more interesting and make it more popular and more money like the promoters knew that cashus clay would,you have to take a dive .Thats correct anyone with any common sense knows some boxing fights are fixed especally the phantom punch in ali liston second fight where a man like sonny who could take the hardest punches a fighter could take get's knocked out by a punch that barely touches him you know is a bunch of bull.sonny liston was one of the most powerful punchers ever but this movie takes a great look not only boxing's set ups but all of the other sports where teams lose on purpose so the public pays more attention to the opponnet.Just imagine if sonny doesn't take the dives then when would of had a champion who would of the just dominated his opponents winng most of the time by knockouts like he did back to back against floyd patterson there would have never been achamp like muhammad ali who was quick and could hype up fights with his talk to sell tickets.Liston would have been one of the best ever.Finaly we find out that when liston in 1970 is on his way to eventually getting another chance at the heavyweight title again he is told to take another dive but wins the fight and is met by two guys who buy him drinks get him drunk and sleepy take him to a hotel room and and stick a needle of drug in his arm to make it look like suicide which he is found dead in room which is a good name for the title of this film the mysterious life and death of a champion.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Buster Paris on May 25 2004
Format: VHS Tape
A MUST Have For Anyone Interested In Sonny Liston
4.75 Stars
It's hard to know Sonny Liston - most people's first introduction to him is by way of Muhammad Ali and the 2 fights they had, but Sonny is so much more.
He was more feared and more tuff in the ring than Mike Tyson and the first incarnation of Big George Foreman. Sonny was the first. It was said that his opponents would start to bleed just from receiving his stare.
Most of the story of Sonny Liston is sad - no one knows for sure when he was born. No one knows for sure when he died.
This is a great video. Finally we're able to get clips of the champ and witness his presence and power in the ring, we get to hear him speak, see the scowl and actually see him smile too.
I wish this was longer. I would like to see more than just fight clips, but don't get me wrong - it's great to see anything with Sonny in it.
It's funny too - in typical Sonny treatment - it's only on VHS and not DVD.
This is a MUST have for anyone interested in Charles Sonny Liston - also you should read David Remnicks King Of The World and skim through Nick Tosches The Devil And Sonny Liston.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By anonymous on Aug. 1 2002
Format: VHS Tape
As this video proves Sonny Liston was more than the mob affiliated thug that the media painted him to be. In fact he is one of boxing's most compelling person's and by far it's saddest tragic figure. For all those interested in learning about the man behind the scowl and the power punches this video is required viewing. And for boxing fans it has a decent selection of footage of Sonny at his best.
"Someday they will write a blues song just for fighters. It'll be with slow guitar, soft trumpet, and a bell,"-Sonny Liston.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Great Insight on Sonny Liston - the Person Feb. 12 2005
By L.A. Scene - Published on Amazon.com
Format: VHS Tape
As I was growing up, I always considered myself a quasi-Boxing historian. One part of my interest in Boxing was the lineage that followed the champions in the various weight classes. Of course, the lure of the Heavyweight Division was too much to resist - therefore I sought to learn about the various champions. Sonny Liston, who was Heavyweight Champion from 1962 through 1964 was someone who was well known to me. Being a Muhammad Ali fan, I knew him as the man who Ali (then Cassius Clay) dethroned for the Heavyweight title. I also knew him as the fighter who defeated the first two-time Heavyweight Champion, Floyd Patterson. There was also a wealth of stories that were told about Sonny Liston- namely his alleged connections to organized crime, his alleged participation in both of his fights with Ali, and of course his mysterious death. What I didn't know was much about Sonny Liston the person. This HBO Sports presentation, "Sonny Liston: The Mysterious Life and Death of a Champion" does an outstanding job at providing much more insight into this most interesting and controversial figure.

As the sport of Boxing moved away from network TV toward Cable and Pay Per View outlets, HBO became a major partner in many Boxing promotions. As a result HBO has assembled a wealth of Boxing knowledge and thus is qualified to deliver a this documentary. Ross Greenberg is the executive producer of this documentary and does a terrific job at assmebling the life story of Sonny Liston. The story is basically told by many people who were close to Sonny Liston- this includes Sports Writers, Boxing Historians, Sparring Partners, FBI Agents, Police Officers, as well as Sonny Liston's widow Geraldine and the man whom Sonny defeated for the championship, Floyd Patterson.

While I had heard many of the stories about Sonny Liston's "connections", I never realized that this was a figure who was really considered the "bad boy" of Boxing during this period. Liston definitely had a troubled youth and young adulthood and in some ways. This carried over into the early days of his career and gave him a very bad reputation - especially with the Police in many cities. While I don't think it's fair to compare him to the 1990s version of Mike Tyson, you can definitely see some similarities to how they conducted themselves and how they grew up. The documentary makes one interesting comparision made when they discuss Floyd Patterson fighting Sonny Liston. They compare the fear that Patterson had of Liston when they got into the ring of their first World Championship match similar to the fear that Michael Spinks had when he got into the ring for his fight with Mike Tyson. After defeating Liston, the documentary goes into how Sonny Liston really sought to seek recognition to the public. The documentary goes into how Liston displayed this "day and night" image. By day, Sonny would often be outgoing and friendly (the documentary shows some great footage of Sonny with children), while at night Sonny still had many mysterious connections with shady characters - especially the mob.

There were a lot of interesting tidbits I picked up from this documentary

- They discuss the controversy around his birth certificate. It turns out that nobody really knows when he was born. He had a Birth Certificate made up when he started Boxing.

- The documentary does a nice job at showing how Sonny Liston moved around. First from Arkansas to St. Louis, then to Philadelphia, then to Denver, and finally to Las Vegas. In many of these cities, they do an excellent job at portraying both Sonny's problems with the law and how he was also harassed by the Police.

- The documentary spends a good chunk of time explaining where Sonny Liston's mob connections came from. They basically present how Sonny had connections in St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Las Vegas.

- I found it shocking that when he returned to Philadelphia after winning the title from Patterson, there was no celebration. Today, Philadelphia is a city that reveres its heroes, so this story surprised me.

- The video really paints a picture of Floyd Patterson as a class individual. I knew Patterson was a good guy, but got a whole new respect for him. This is done through some of Patterson's accounts that are made directly on this documentary, but is also done by others in the video.

- There is a good chunk of the documentary devoted to the two fights with Ali (Cassius Clay). I guess one thing that disappoints me is that there are no direct accounts from Ali himself on Liston. I'm not sure if Ali declined to talk or whether HBO decided not to pursue him. I do think if this was included, this would have made the documentary even better. They spend some time going through both fights were allegedly fixed and present arguments from both sides. They talk about how Liston was very much out of shape for this first fight - and why this occurred. They also talk about how Liston took the rematch seriously. They do a great job with the rematch Ali gave Liston - presenting footage of this fight in both color and black and white. Finally, there is some interesting information about Ali's relationship with the Muslims.

- I learned quite a bit about Liston after the Ali fight - on how he tried to continue his career. Much of this info I did not know about.

- They spend some time discussing some of the strange circumstances surrounding Liston's death.

- Great accounts by the Police Officers investigating Liston's death and FBI Officers who were investigating the fight fixes.

Overall this is a very good documentary. This will not only interest the Boxing fan, but I even think this will be a compelling story for someone who really isn't into Sports. It's a documentary one will probably several times- highly recommended.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
RIP Champ Aug. 1 2002
By anonymous - Published on Amazon.com
Format: VHS Tape
As this video proves Sonny Liston was more than the mob affiliated thug that the media painted him to be. In fact he is one of boxing's most compelling person's and by far it's saddest tragic figure. For all those interested in learning about the man behind the scowl and the power punches this video is required viewing. And for boxing fans it has a decent selection of footage of Sonny at his best.
"Someday they will write a blues song just for fighters. It'll be with slow guitar, soft trumpet, and a bell,"-Sonny Liston.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
GREAT VIDEOGRAPHY OF A GREAT FIGHTER Nov. 12 2004
By TeeEnnEss - Published on Amazon.com
Format: VHS Tape
I had seen this particular piece on cable years ago and found it very compelling and well put together. When I saw that it was available here on Amazon.com, I snatched it up immediately. Just watching how this supremely talented and much maligned fighter lived (and died) is both entertaining and saddening. The home movies interspersed with TV and fight footage along with the haunting jazz music in the background makes for a "package" well worth the money. It's hard to say that Liston wasn't one of the greatest boxers ever, after watching this.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A MUST Have For Anyone Interested In Sonny Liston May 25 2004
By Buster Paris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: VHS Tape
A MUST Have For Anyone Interested In Sonny Liston
4.75 Stars
It's hard to know Sonny Liston - most people's first introduction to him is by way of Muhammad Ali and the 2 fights they had, but Sonny is so much more.
He was more feared and more tuff in the ring than Mike Tyson and the first incarnation of Big George Foreman. Sonny was the first. It was said that his opponents would start to bleed just from receiving his stare.
Most of the story of Sonny Liston is sad - no one knows for sure when he was born. No one knows for sure when he died.
This is a great video. Finally we're able to get clips of the champ and witness his presence and power in the ring, we get to hear him speak, see the scowl and actually see him smile too.
I wish this was longer. I would like to see more than just fight clips, but don't get me wrong - it's great to see anything with Sonny in it.
It's funny too - in typical Sonny treatment - it's only on VHS and not DVD.
This is a MUST have for anyone interested in Charles Sonny Liston - also you should read David Remnicks King Of The World and skim through Nick Tosches The Devil And Sonny Liston.
8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
could of been one of the best if not for June 11 2000
By dennis knolmayer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: VHS Tape
I seen this movie when it came on hbo in 1995 and this shows that no matter how great soony liston was if you dont have the talk to make boxing more interesting and make it more popular and more money like the promoters knew that cashus clay would,you have to take a dive .Thats correct anyone with any common sense knows some boxing fights are fixed especally the phantom punch in ali liston second fight where a man like sonny who could take the hardest punches a fighter could take get's knocked out by a punch that barely touches him you know is a bunch of bull.sonny liston was one of the most powerful punchers ever but this movie takes a great look not only boxing's set ups but all of the other sports where teams lose on purpose so the public pays more attention to the opponnet.Just imagine if sonny doesn't take the dives then when would of had a champion who would of the just dominated his opponents winng most of the time by knockouts like he did back to back against floyd patterson there would have never been achamp like muhammad ali who was quick and could hype up fights with his talk to sell tickets.Liston would have been one of the best ever.Finaly we find out that when liston in 1970 is on his way to eventually getting another chance at the heavyweight title again he is told to take another dive but wins the fight and is met by two guys who buy him drinks get him drunk and sleepy take him to a hotel room and and stick a needle of drug in his arm to make it look like suicide which he is found dead in room which is a good name for the title of this film the mysterious life and death of a champion.


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