The enigmatic Sonny Liston was a boxer born in about 1932 in Arkansas. He had a troubled home life as a child, and had many run-ins with local law enforcement. His early arrests led him to take up boxing, which he took to very well. After he was released, he started his life as a boxer.
In 1952, he ended up involved with the Mafia – Frankie Carbo and Blinky Palermo, Mafia figures, owned most of his contract. These ties to the criminal underworld only strengthen the mystery behind his death and the enigma that was his life.
After a loss to Cassius Clay, who would become Muhammad Ali, Liston stopped fighting for more than a year. Afterwards, he came back in 1968 to win a competition. This seemed to give him back his fighting spirit; he signed a contract to face George Chuvalo. However, right after Chuvalo agreed to fight Liston, Liston was found dead in his home. It seemed that Liston had fallen onto a bench after taking drugs. Police found heroin in the house, but no means of injecting the drug; Davey Pearl, a friend, claimed that he would never have done something like that because he was afraid of needles. Many of Liston’s acquaintances agreed.
Police found that Liston did not have enough heroin in his body to kill him; doctors finally determined heart failure was the cause of death.
There is some speculation that Liston was murdered by drug dealers, loan sharks, the mob, or even another unknown person. Perhaps someone had paid him to lose a fight, and he had failed to do so – his fight with Chuck Wepner six months earlier, maybe. An article released recently speculated that the fight between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston had Mob involvement.