Now this is a great research topic for all boxing historians,
Mike always talked about how he idolized Sonny Liston. The similarities between each are haunting. Both terrorized the heavyweight division in their primes. Both were masters at intimidation and looking at their personalities, both could crumble under pressure both inside the ring and outside the ring. But there is no denying how alike these two men were.
A fight between them would be such a mental test of wills and it could come down to who would crack first under pressure. I'm not just talking about who landed the first punch, but who could be more mentally focussed in preparation. Ali got under Liston's skin in both fights and Liston fought some very tough contenders in his era. Tyson's competition was somewhat weaker because he had more "no hopers" than Liston had. His biggest and best came against a too old Larry Holmes and a too scared Michael Spinks. However, Liston had two "backyard muggings" against Floyd Patterson. Floyd was forced into the fight because of political and public pressure. Patterson, who never had a great chin, it was believed had a disguise with him to get out of town as quick as possible. He knew that Sonny was going to kill him both times, and that's exactly what happend.
I think that Tyson had better handspeed and footspeed than Liston and would probably take Tyson to win by a 7th round TKO. It would be very interesting to see how either of these fighters would (or if they could come back) in the mid to later stages of a fight if things weren't going their own way. Liston quit against Ali because despite the judges having that first fight an absurd draw at the stoppage, Ali was up 4-2 on most cards. Tyson didn't have to deal with adversity until Buster Douglas, and while Buster was a 50-1 longshot, that fight and the magnetude of the upset was much larger than the closest thing that you could compare it to, as Jim Lampley did, Ali-Liston I where Sonny was anywhere from a 7-1 to 10-1 favorite.
I don't know if the second Ali-Liston fight was fixed or not.
Look at the lives of these fighters outside the ring. Tyson the purse snatcher, Tyson robbing people, Liston who held up a gas station and used to hit people over the head with clubs. (In fact, Sonny would get beaten by policemen's clubs as well.) Both of these fighters had some of the meanest mean streaks which made them similar. However, my question to the forums is, what made them different?