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Liston Silent after Shocking Defeat

Feb. 25, 1964 - “We’re simply out of business.” Facing up to the bitter facts of the fight business, Jack Nilon made that sad statement tonight on behalf of his beaten former heavyweight champion, Sonny Liston. Nilon was doing the talking because Liston either couldn’t or wouldn’t. The ex-champion departed immediately after his astonishing upset defeat by Cassius Clay for nearby St. Francis Hospital where he underwent X-rays for his shoulder injury.

“There is no contract for a return bout,” Nilon explained. “We don’t even know if there’s going to be one now. We understand the kid [Clay] is going into the Army now for two years. What can we do? We’re out of business.”

Among the interested listeners at Nilon’s conference were Rocky Marciano, the former heavyweight champion, and Cus D’Amato, former manager of Floyd Patterson. Floyd was twice a one-round knockout victim of Liston. “Clay sure surprised me,” said Marciano. “I didn’t realize he was that good a fighter. He was quick and deceptive. He fought a smart fight.”

D’Amato kept shaking his head in an “I-told-you-so” manner. “That’s the way Patterson should have fought. Hit and run — hit and run. This kid did just that. He put up a perfect fight. He kept sticking and moving out of the way. That’s the way to beat Liston. If Patterson had fought that way, he would still be the champion of the world.”

There were multiple versions of just how and when Liston injured his shoulder. Joe Polino, one of Sonny’s trainers told it this way: “Liston threw a hook in the fifth. Clay stopped it in midair, and Liston felt something crack in his left shoulder.” Polino, who stayed behind when Liston was whisked to a hospital, said Sonny was crying as he left the dressing room. “He was disgusted,” the trainer said. “Just broken up and crying.”


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