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Liston Receiving Spiritual Counseling

July 27, 1963 - Heavyweight champion Sonny Liston has accepted the Rev. Edward P. Murphy (left) as his spiritual guide. Liston is not a Catholic, but he lives near Rev. Murphy’s Loyola Catholic Church in Denver. Today, Rev. Murphy said: “People like to hear the bad side of things, to measure themselves and inflate their own egos — and the writers, they’re lazy. Sure, there are a lot of bad things about Sonny Liston, but it’s all history. I guess it’s easier to drum up all bad things than to try to understand and forgive and give credit for change and achievement.” Much of the rehabilitation of the champion has been credited to this small, white-haired Jesuit priest. They met through a mutual friend in 1960, when Liston was in Denver for a bout. Since then, they have talked at great length. Neither man has ever revealed the particulars of their talks. “Here is a man who grew up with great odds against him, who had more problems than any other 50 guys,” said Rev. Murphy. “And he survived.” Liston was one of 25 children of an Arkansas sharecropper. He was severely abused by his father and barely educated. He wound up traveling with bad companions and, after serving two jail terms, was hounded with nuisance arrests in St. Louis and Philadelphia. Father Murphy is not a naive man, and he says that a sinner cannot become saint in a matter of months. “But he has a lot of things going for him,” said Rev. Murphy. “He’s a very bright man, and he has a strong desire to do good. He loves children. He wants to be of service to the community, but he needs guidance in this direction. Here in Denver, he has made visits to Juvenile Hall, a temporary detention center for youngsters.” In conclusion, Rev. Murphy said: “An image was created about Sonny Liston, and once it was true. But it isn’t any more. This man should be an image, an example that no matter how far down you go, you can always go up.”


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