While at the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, he started boxing. On Oct. 30, 1952, he was released on parole and he turned professional the following September. His first pro fight lasted 33 seconds: Liston leveled Don Smith with his first punch.
Liston was a marked man in St. Louis, where police were known to stop him on sight, sometimes without cause. On May 5, 1956, he erupted. When a cop confronted him and a friend about a cab parked near Liston's home, he assaulted the officer, breaking his knee and gashing his face, and took his gun. Liston received nine months in the city workhouse.
After his release, Liston had another altercation with a cop -- this time he left an officer headfirst in a trash can. A police sergeant put out the word that Liston should leave town or else.