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Today in Sports History: July 22nd


(Liston knocks out Patterson again. Photo courtesy of AP Photos)

7/22/1963 - Patterson loses in Liston rematch

On September 25, 1962, Sonny Liston humiliated Floyd Patterson to steal from him the title of world heavyweight champion. Patterson had claimed the championship belt from 1956 to 1959, lost it to Ingemar Johansson, and then did something that had never been done before and won it back, beating Johansson almost one year later. He had been the best boxer in the world for most of the last six years, but his speed and agility had been no match for Sonny Liston, whose brute strength had simply overwhelmed him. In their first meeting, Liston knocked out Patterson just 2 minutes and 4 seconds into the fight.

Patterson was so humiliated that he wore disguises after the fight to avoid being recognized. He trained heavily for their rematch on July 22, 1963, took to training in the Catskills Mountains, living in solitude, practicing hour after hour, even though many believed it was impossible for him to beat Liston. "I think my chances of winning back the title are just as good as Liston's of winning it," he told the Sydney Morning Herald in February.

For all his training and readjustments, the result was essentially the same. Liston again knocked out Patterson in the first round, defeating him only 2 minutes and 9 seconds into the match. Wrote Jim Murray of the L.A. Times, "Floyd can't beat Sonny at anything but a spelling bee. Liston could probably knock him out via smoke signals, and Floyd will probably get woozy if Liston just drove past his house in Scarsdale. You knew the fight was over as soon as you saw Floyd had forgotten a sledge hammer."

Incidentally, both fighters would have their careers punctuated by Muhammad Ali -- Patterson continued fighting for another decade, even winning nine fights in a row towards the end, before losing the second of a pair of championship bouts against him. Liston lost his status as world champion to Ali, and in the process, went down in one of the most famous images in all of sports: with Ali pumping his fist while he lay on the ground.