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Rhames Takes a Phantom Punch

Published October 29, 2007 in Casting Update
By Ryan Parsons | Image property of WireImage, Hollywood Reporter.
Ving Rhames Ving Rhames
Ving Rhames is ready to put up his dukes for Phantom Punch, a biopic that will have him portraying the infamous heavyweight fighter Sonny Liston.

Ving Rhames for Phantom Punch

Robert Townsend will direct Phantom Punch off a script by Ryan Combs.

The independently-financed film chronicles Liston's rise to fame as a boxer and the single "phantom punch" he took at the hands of Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay) that many believe led to the demise of his career..

Liston had a troubled history. He was the 24th of 25 (other history remembers 12th of 13) children born to an Arkansas sharecropper, and went from robbing a gas station to beating up a police officer -- both of which landed him in jail. He turned to fighting as a way to gain respect and later became the world heavyweight champion in 1962. Talk about loading a weapon.

Though his history is soiled with criminality -- has was also linked to the mob -- it was the punch that Muhammad Ali landed on him two minutes into the 1965 bout that earned him a place in the history books.

The punch has long been debated, as many people ringside did not see Muhammad connect a punch. The lack of evidence suggested a dive by Liston and, because of his mob connections, the theory was supported by the fact that Liston supposedly owed some dangerous people money.

Slow motion replays later confirmed that Liston was in fact hit by one of Ali's quick punches. The punch wasn't that hard, however.

Rhames brought the script to Townsend, and the director can't think of a better person to star.

"The thing is that certain people are born to play certain roles and Ving has always gravitated toward Sonny Liston's story," said Townsend. "This is his baby and he's giving birth to it. He's already playing the character at so many levels."

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Ryan Parsons
Sources: Image property of WireImage, Hollywood Reporter.

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