Monday, September 5, 2011

FFA: SI: O Unlucky Man (Sonny Liston)

Sports Illustrated's, 1994 Swimsuit Edition, reprinted a look at Sonny Liston titled "O Unlucky Man."  I recall reading this and it had a huge emotional impact on me.  I would highly recommend taking a look at it.  It lets you see Liston as more than a two-dimensional villain in the boxing industry.  The part that struck me was how Sonny envisioned he would be received upon his return home to Philadelphia after winning the heavyweight title.  He expected a hero's welcome like Atlanta gave Evander Holyfield.  Unfortunately for Liston, that's not what he received.
Liston was ready. As the plane rolled to a stop, he rose and walked to the door. McKinney was next to him. The staircase was wheeled to the door. Liston straightened his tie and his fedora. The door opened, and he stepped outside. There was no one there except for airline workers, a few reporters and photographers and a handful of p.r. men. "Other than those, no one," recalls McKinney. "I watched Sonny. His eyes swept the whole scene. He was extremely intelligent, and he understood immediately what it meant. His Adam's apple moved slightly. You could feel the deflation, see the look of hurt in his eyes. It was almost like a silent shudder went through him. He'd been deliberately snubbed.

"Philadelphia wanted nothing to do with him. Sonny felt, after he won the title, that the past was forgiven. It was going to be a whole new world. What happened in Philadelphia that day was a turning point in his life. He was still the bad guy. He was the personification of evil. And that's the way it was going to remain. He was devastated. I knew from that point on that the world would never get to know the Sonny that I knew."

That is just a small part of the sadness that surrounded Sonny Liston.  This article is a really fantastic read.  I never forgot it after reading it 16 years ago so it made an impression on me. 

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