Quick Takes

    Cheers to Randall Cunningham, former NFL star quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles. Before playing pro football, he was drafted out of UNLV. He had not graduated prior to the draft. At 41 years of age, Randall, married and the father of three, went back to UNLV, completed his necessary credits and received his degree on Monday of this week. That is one CLASS act.

    Then there's Ricky Williams, who abandoned the Miami Dolphins and his teammates hours before training camp this season. In an inteview on "60 Minutes" Sunday night, Ricky, unmarried, stated that he is supporting his three kids, all by different women. Mike Wallace never asked him how heís supporting them, and if he isnít destitute, why he canít pay the Dolphins the $8 million he owes them in unearned bonus money. Whatever the answer, it warrants the question. And Ricky still does not feel an apology to his Miami teammates is in order. That is one cl-ASS act.

Story of the Week

CHARLES "SONNY" LISTON

    One of the heavyweight champions of the early 1960ís, Charles "Sonny" Liston, blasted Floyd Patterson out of the throne only to be tossed out himself by a flamboyant young kid named Cassius Clay. Liston, an ex-con with a cold and imposing stare that made him the bane of weigh-ins, was scary in the ring and in private life. He was a menacing figure at 6-1 and 226. The twists in Listonís career were influenced as much by his reputation as a bad man as by his quite formidable boxing and fighting skills. There is a difference.

    Liston was born in rural Arkansas into an enormous family of 24 brothers and sisters. At the age of 13, he fled his grindingly poor environment, and moved to St. Louis to join his mother. St. Louis street life bred in Liston a propensity for crime. After a conviction for armed robbery, he was sentenced to two concurrent five-year terms in the Missouri State Penitentiary. While in prison, Liston began to participate in a formal boxing program. Paroled in 1952, he fought at the amateur level, and won the 1953 National Golden Gloves title.

    Liston then turned pro in 1953, and won 14 of his first 15 fights. After another bout with the law, he was back at prize-fighting. In 1958, Ring Magazine ranked him the ninth top contender for the heavyweight title. By 1960, Liston was ranked the number one heavyweight challenger. He had a criminal past with reputed underworld connections, and this did not make him an attractive opponent for a title shot.

    Champion Floyd Patterson finally agreed to take Liston on in 1962. The end for Patterson was abrupt. Liston hammered the champion with two left hooks and a right that knocked him out in the first round. Liston was now the top heavyweight in the world. Less than one year later, Patterson was back for the rematch, and Sonny did it again, a first-round KO. Liston retained his heavyweight championship belt, and the glory that went with it.

    Liston was dethroned by brash Cassius Clay in a major upset in 1964. Clay proved much too fast for Sonny. Liston did not answer the bell in round seven. Questions about Sonnyís poor performance were never answered. The circumstances of the rematch the next year in Lewiston, Maine are equally murky. Clay, by then Muhammad Ali, knocked Liston down in the first round. Liston got up but the fight was stopped because Liston had been down past the 10-count of ringside timekeeper, Nat Fleischer, editor of Ring Magazine.

    After the questionable Ali matches, Liston continued to fight for another six years. His 17-year career ended in 1970 when he died in his home in Las Vegas under suspicious circumstances. Officially, the cause of death was listed as lung congestion and heart failure. Unofficially, the death appeared to be the result of a heroin overdose. Some police officials and Liston associates believed that he was murdered.

    Charles "Sonny" Liston had a pro career record of 50-4-0, with 39 wins via knockout. That record included the coveted heavyweight title. But his boxing career, like his personal life, left many questions unanswered.

Last Weekís Trivia

    Ernie Lombardi was the last catcher to win a MLB batting title. He did it for the Boston Braves in 1942 with a .330 batting average. Lombardi stole all of eight bases in 17 MLB seasons; he was slower than a snail, so he didnít get the benefit of many infield hits, but he was a tremendous hitter with a lifetime average of .306.

Trivia Question of the Week

    In 1974, Chris Evert was a top money winner in two sports. What sports? You know one; what's the other one? See next weekís Sports Junkie for the answer.