Sonny Liston was a dangerous fighter, and he was very limited to those who would fight him, as I will explain.
Sonny, challenged every top ten contender to face him, and only one would. That one only agreed because, he thought Sonny (by then over 40 years of age) was finally vulnerable, and past his best.
But to say he fought only tomato cans is completely wrong. He fought four fringe contenders, including a top European contender with a 32–4–1 record, two top 5 contenders, 2 good prospects, 4 solid gatekeepers, and 4 journeymen.
Sonny spent the rest of his life, after losing to Ali, seeking to redeem his name and regain the title. After his defeats by Ali, Sonny took time off, and tried to heal his injuries. Then he begun a five year journey to force another title fight, and repair his legacy. Despite his best efforts, 'the establishment' sabotaged him.
Sonny, after his Ali defeats, could not get a promoter to put him on a card in America. Finally, Ingemar Johansson, who had refused to fight Sonny in 1958, promoted cards in Sweden with Sonny on them. These fights were with:
Gerhard Zech, who was 32–4–1 when he fought Sonny, and who thought he could jumpstart his career by fighting the old man. Sonny Liston knocked him out in the 7th round.
Fringe contender Amos Johnson, 22–3–1 when he fought Sonny, who had just beaten British Champion and contender Henry Cooper, was looking to enter the top 10. He thought because he beat Ali as an amateur, he might be able to defeat Liston. He was again defeated, as he was knocked out in the third round.
Dave Bailey, was another in a string of boxers who saw the name of Sonny Liston, and agreed to fight him just for the money. He was knocked out in the first round.
Elmer Rush, thought he could jump the line to a title shot, if he could beat the 'old man'. Sonny Liston showed again he was a feared puncher, winning again by knock out in the sixth round.
Back in the United States, Sonny Liston called out 'Smokin' Joe Frazier, and every other member of the top ten of the heavyweight division. Every member of the top ten all refused to fight Sonny, so he went on to face the following.
Bill McMurray was a journeymen and Liston stopped him in the fourth round. Billy Joiner was stopped in the seventh round.
Henry Clark was ranked highly by both the WBA and the WBC, and Liston stopped him in the seventh round. After this win, he was onced again ranked inside the top ten in the world.
The next on the hitlist was Sonny Moore who took the fight just for the money, and was stopped inside three rounds. Sonny's former sparring partner, Amos Lincoln, was stopped in the second round.
Billy Joiner, wanted a second attempt at Liston, and believed that an aging Sonny was there for the taking. The fight went the distance and Liston took the decision. One of his few fights that went to a decision.
'Scrap' Iron Johnson was a tough, durable fighter, and Sonny stopped him in the seventh round. George Foreman couldn't stop Johnson the following year, and he said that after fighting both former champions, Liston hit harder then Foreman.
Leotis Martin, Sonny’s former sparring partner, was forced to face Sonny Liston in a title eliminator for the WBA heavyweight title, and for the new NABF heavyweight title. Sonny dominated the fight throughout, but was knocked out completely in the ninth round.
Sonny’s last fight was against Chuck Wepner, who would later fight Ali for the title. Wepner was destroyed by Liston. Sonny gave Wepner a beating. The fight was stopped in the ninth round because of severe cuts over both of Wepner's eyes. He needed 72 stitches and also suffered a broken nose and a cracked left cheekbone.
Charles L Liston, Sonny, will go down as one of the most avoided fighter ever.
'I got to running with the wrong crowd. We broke into this restaurant about two in the morning and got away. But after we had gone about ten blocks we decided to get some barbecue, but then the police came along and barbecued us. I got out on probation.
I was sixteen then, weighing over two hundred pounds. I was in a lot of street fights. I used to punch first and ask questions later, that's the way those guys do. I guess I was the biggest, strongest guy on the corner. None of the other gangs would mess with me, and so I started to strut with this gang and wound up in a bigger house.
Some sucker sold me a gun to be shot only on a Saturday night, that's the only time you needed it. I never shot a gun before, so I held it up into the sky and pulled the trigger. The gun lit up and I, thinking it was on fire, threw it into the mud.
After that I started running with this guy who had a car. We made a few stick ups, got away with the first, tried a second and it didn't turn out. This time, they sent me away to Jefferson City for five years.'
– Sonny Liston