Phantom Punch (2008)

R  |   |  Biography, Drama, Sport  |  September 2008 (USA)
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Reviews: 11 user | 11 critic

The fascinating life story of Sonny Liston, the controversial heavyweight boxing champion of the world.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Geraldine Liston
Ceasar Novak
Father Alios
Nico Orso
Bobby Zazo
Andrew Hinkson ...
Troy Amos-Ross ...
Police Chief Greensburg
Bill Macky
Bishop Knight
Brian Frank ...
Officer Mellow
Philip Williams ...
St. Louis Cop


The story of World heavyweight champion boxer Charles L. "Sonny" Liston, who was knocked down 2 minutes into a championship fight by a seemingly harmless right hook from Muhammad Ali. It would forever be known as the "Phantom Punch". Liston later died under mysterious circumstances. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


"Before Tyson, there was Liston".


Biography | Drama | Sport

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for pervasive language, sexual content and some violence involving a sexual assault | See all certifications »


Official Sites:




Release Date:

September 2008 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El gancho fantasma  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs



Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The film was first titled 'Finding Sonny' and full production of the entire movie was to take place in Canton, Ohio. See more »


Something Up Your Sleeve
Written by Joe Lervold and Sandy Sherman
Performed by The Joel Evans Quartet featuring Patrick Maier
Courtesy of Mar-Tune Music
See more »

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User Reviews

Impressive job if you like fiction
14 April 2013 | by See all my reviews

I've seen several movies about Muhammad Ali but I have forgotten everything I knew about Sonny Liston from those movies. Reading some of the IMDb comments tells me this movie might not be telling the whole story. In fact, the comments suggest this movie may be wrong about a lot of historical facts about a real person.

But forgetting all this, I thought this was quite a good movie. Ving Rhames gave an Oscar-worthy performance and made me believe there was more to Sonny Liston than the angry man the world believed he was. I actually didn't know anything about Liston, but once he became famous, it appeared the world hated him for defeating Floyd Patterson and being such a bad boy. But he really wasn't so bad, at least not here. Plenty of scenes show him as a gentle man trying to make a better life for himself. And as hard as mobsters try to get him to throw fights, he doesn't appear to want to.

True, he is shown getting violent because someone accuses Geraldine, a woman he genuinely loves, of being a mere hooker.

And he is unfaithful to Geraldine. But he really tries to make it up to her. And he doesn't hit her.

And Rhames doesn't give the only good performance. Stacey Dash shows intelligence and determination as the woman Liston loves. Rick Roberts is great as the prison priest who discovers Liston's tendency to get into fights could be used constructively. And the good father follows Liston's career on the outside as well, as he takes a regular church job. Nicholas Turturro does a great job as the man who seems to be in charge of Liston's career, but has to answer to higher authorities.

There is quite a lot of violence and threats of violence, and I don't mean just in the ring.

One very effective scene makes use of slow motion as well as sound editing (that's what I'll call it) that suggests Liston has been hit one too many times and things don't seem real.

Most of the music here is great, and why not? It was set in an era when music was music. Toward the end, rock and roll was taking over, and there are some signs of that here. But it's Vegas, baby! And Bridgette Wilson-Sampras is quite a singer. Very good-looking too. No wonder Liston was tempted.

The movie is not without its weaknesses. I never speculated on what was real and what wasn't, but Cassius Clay doesn't even look like Cassius Clay (though neither did Will Smith), and he hardly says a word. Clay was known for his mouth, and off in the distance we do get to hear "I am the greatest!". But Clay doesn't brag or use his colorful words. Not in this movie.

And I saw a 50-star flag. I've never seen a 48-star flag where the stars weren't in neat rows and columns, so that must be what I saw. It was still the 50s at the time.

Overall, this was a worthy effort. Unless you want to tell the truth.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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