'I was astounded by how many p...
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'I was astounded by how many people wanted him dead' | Was Sonny Liston murdered?

Eoin Harte
Eoin Harte

06:47 14 Jan 2020

There is plenty of reason to believe that former heavyweight boxing champion of the world Sonny Liston was murdered, according to Shaun Assael.

The author of ‘The Murder of Sonny Liston’ was on Off The Ball and spoke about the mysterious circumstances surrounding the boxer’s death.

“The autopsy reads, ‘Natural causes with heroin metabolites in his system.’ So the accidental overdose is what most people think. And yet for 30 odd years, I’m hearing conspiracy theories that there’s more.

“So I go to Las Vegas to try to unravel those theories and what I find is that Sonny was in the crosshairs of a very dangerous period both for Las Vegas and him.

“He was under federal investigation, there was a drug dealer who he crossed in the set-up who had a contract out on his life.

“As I said, he’s making noises about an Ali fight nobody wants him to make - not the mob, not the Nation of Islam. He’s involved with a gang leader and he’s snorting heroin with that gang leader, he’s dating a junkie - I could go on,” Assael said.

Assael is not the first author to have written a book about Liston’s life but he explained that he is the only one to really delve into the former heavyweight champion’s death.

“So as I begin unravelling this, and I should say that the idea for the book - there have been a number of great biographies, the late Nick Tosches wrote a phenomenal one and I encourage everyone to read those.

“But most of those biographies race through the last year of Sonny’s life. By setting a book entirely in that last year I was able to develop what not a lot of people knew about him and by the time I’m done I’m astounded by the cast of characters that want Sonny dead,” Assael commented.

Liston often found himself in trouble with the law yet had a close relationship with the police, which may have resulted in his death.

“One of the reasons the cops let him go so often was that he was snitching for a police detective who was the head of the organised crime bureau there. So again, was Sonny snitching?

“There’s a lot of people who got killed in Vegas for doing that. But he had that champions faith in him, that all champions boxers have. That he could duck any punch. He just didn’t see that one coming,” Assael said.

While natural causes are the official reasoning behind Liston’s death, there are certainly plenty of reasons to believe his death may well have been murder.

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Boxing Crime Murder Shaun Assael Sonny Liston

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