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7 Years After Muhammad Ali’s Death, Former Mafia Boss Answers the Burning Question: Did Sonny Liston Take a Dive?

Published 06/04/2023, 7:27 PM EDT

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The clash between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston continues to be one of boxing’s most controversial bouts. The unexpectedness of it all sent the world into a frenzy, witnessing Ali assert his dominance and sent Liston to the canvas in a mere round in their second match-up. The young Ali successfully halted the onslaught of one of the most ferocious punchers to ever step foot inside the ring. This triumph was so outstanding that questions were raised about the fight’s outcome. Moreover, the Central Maine Youth Center echoed with cries of the fight being fake or fixed.

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That was the beginning of a long debate that stands even to this day. The debate about boxing’s most famous punch aptly named the ‘Phantom Punch’, still remains a mystery to boxing enthusiasts. The confrontation began in a straightforward manner, as Ali skillfully evaded a relentless and determined Liston, showcasing his graceful movements. As the round progressed, at one point in time, Ali went on the offensive connecting a handful of blows, but only one held significance: a solitary right hook. What raised eyebrows was the way Liston went down. Aptly described by Robert Lipsyte the next day in the New York Times, “Liston collapsed slowly, like a building, piece by piece, rolling onto his back, then flat on his stomach, his face pressed against the canvas.

There are rumors that Liston lost willingly because of his ties to the mafia. This question has been left unanswered leaving fans and boxing experts speculating. There is also another question in people’s minds- Was Sonny Liston too old when he fought Muhammad Ali? Recently, former Mafia Boss Micheal Franzese answered the burning question and gave his opinion on the fight.


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Former mafia boss’ take on Muhammad Ali vs Sonny Liston 2, and the controversial knockout

In an interview with VladTV, former Mafia boss Michael Franzese was asked about the long-standing speculation surrounding Sonny Liston’s alleged dive in the fight against Ali. The interviewer brought up the rumor, suggesting that Liston may have been paid off to lose intentionally.


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To this, Franzese confidently expressed his disbelief, stating, “I don’t think so.” When pressed further about Liston’s association with the mob and his reputation for violence, Franzese reiterated his skepticism, emphasizing, “Yeah, but I don’t think he took a dive.”


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Curious about Franzese’s personal encounters, the interviewer inquired if he had ever come into contact with Sonny Liston. Franzese responded, recalling his childhood experiences attending fights with his fight-enthusiast father in Brooklyn and New York. Despite his familiarity with Liston, Franzese maintained his stance that if Liston did indeed take a dive, it had no connection to the mob.

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When prompted by the interviewer if it could have been someone else who influenced Liston, Franzese concurred, affirming, “Yeah”.  Franzese appeared very confident about his answer. What is your take on the controversial ‘Phantom punch’ knockout? Do you think the knockout was legit? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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Chirag Radhyan

1174 articles

Chirag Radhyan is a Boxing Writer at EssentiallySports. He has authored over 300 articles and loves to talk about the animosity between athletes, leading up to a fight. His coverage of the off-court drama between Jake Paul and Tommy Fury received widespread appreciation from readers.

Edited By: Arijit Saha