Today, many able critics still contend that Sonny Liston delivered the hardest punch in the history of the professional ring. Through much of his career, which commenced in the early ’50s, he made short work of all comers – but these were largely marginal-to-good aspirants. He was finally granted a shot against reigning heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson in 1962. It was brief as Patterson took the count early on; a re-match midway in ’63 proved to be a carbon-copy. Liston later lost his title to Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) in 1964. In their heralded re-match in 1965, Liston was shockingly knocked out in the first round which raised the suspicion of a fix.
Presented is a $100 bill dated to 1950 that was signed by Liston in blue ballpoint pen (“9”). After a short stint in prison and coming up through the ranks as an amateur, he made his professional debut in 1953. The signature is clean and concise on the currency. Specifically, the autograph is personalized “To Michael From Sonny Liston.”
From the collector’s point of view, the appeal of this autograph is manifold. Sonny Liston was never a popular celebrity. In an age when society was directed by the ‘moral majority,’ Liston’s checkered past wasn’t warmly excused. But of greater import is that it’s widely thought that Sonny Liston was illiterate – signing his name only when tutored by his wife. And the final determinant stimulating interest in Liston’s autograph is his pre-mature passing (1970). Oddly enough, Liston was still ranked in the world before dying under mysterious circumstances.
Authentication: JSA Full Letter