There were no common opponents between Sonny and Mike Tyson, but there was a man who trained both. There were also fighters like Foreman and Ali who knew both well. All of them said Sonny hit far harder than Mike Tyson…
Mike Tyson was a boxer-puncher of appalling speed, hand-speed, constant movement and power. Who threw “punches in bunches” with bad intentions while maintaining superb defense. People who never saw him fight, or who never understood boxing in the first place, cannot tell the difference between a volume boxer-puncher, and a single shot headhunter like Wilder.
Teddy Atlas has said a boxer must have three things in order to punch with authority, saying:
“Mike had the hat trick of hands. There are three things a boxer most wants as a puncher. And Tyson had all of them. He had a combination of quickness, speed, and power, which is not common.”
And that was the key to Mike: he did not have the hardest one shot punch, but he had the ability to hit mighty hard, mighty fast, mighty often!
What about Sonny Liston?
He did have the hardest one shot punch, based on what he did to other fighters, and what fighters who knew them both well said…
George Foreman himself said Sonny Liston was the hardest puncher he ever faced. When he sparred with him after the Olympics in the 60’s. Sonny was at least 40 then, and probably closer to 50, but George said he had never felt power like Sonny’s. And that Liston was the only man ever able to force him backwards by sheer brute strength in the ring.
Talent wise, Sonny Liston was perhaps the best of all time other than Ali. Record wise, we do not really know. He got started late, had constant legal troubles, and was the most feared and avoided fighter in history. Only President Kennedy asking Patterson to fight him got him a title shot after years as the mandatory #1 contender.
Sonny’s first pro fight lasted 33 seconds: Liston leveled Don Smith with his first punch, and Smith was out for 3 minutes!
A good example of Sonny’s sheer strength was an exercise he devised. In training camp of loading an industrial sized wheelbarrow full of rocks, and wheeling it up and down a hill. George Foreman, 19, went from winning Gold in the Olympics to working with Sonny Liston, who by then, was in his 40’s.