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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / 62 years ago – Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johannsson settle their rivalry

62 years ago – Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johannsson settle their rivalry

Publish Date: 03/19/2023
Fact checked by: Mike Goodpaster

My dad was a big fan of Floyd Patterson.

He witnessed Patterson’s fifth professional fight at Chicago Stadium in 1953.

Patterson was 18.

“His hands were so fast,” said dad. “Very skilled.”

Video: Floyd Patterson - Devastating Combinations

Floyd Patterson – Devastating Combinations

Patterson had captured gold the year before at the Helsinki Olympics in the middleweight division.

Dad was outside Chicago Stadium when Patterson knocked out Archie Moore three years later for the heavyweight championship.

“I was a little surprised,” Dad told me. “Moore had just fought Rocky Marciano. He knocked Marciano down early. Moore was a super fighter. I thought Patterson might have been biting off more than he could chew.”

As fast and explosive as Patterson could be, his chin was his Achilles’ heel. He was on the canvas 19 times in his career.

Seven of those were against Ingemar Johansson in 1959.

Johannsson also boxed at the 1952 Olympics, but not nearly as successfully as Patterson. They disqualified Johannsson for his passive approach. He said later he was trying to tire out his opponent. Instead, he was tired. Johannsson considered quitting boxing but turned several months after the Olympics.

He was 21-0, with 13 knockouts, his most impressive being a first knockout over high-ranking contender Eddie Machen when he and Patterson threw hands. He called his right fist, “Toonder and Lightning.”

Video: Ingemar Johansson - Pride of Sweden

Ingemar Johansson – Pride of Sweden

Paterson agreed with this assessment. The champion, a 5-1 favorite, cruised the first two rounds until “Toonder” connected – turning Patterson into a Yo-Yo that hit the canvas seven times.

Patterson was proverbial “out on his feet.”

At one point, he appeared to be gazing out at the crowd as another Johansson right zeroed in on his chin.

The fight was over. Johansson was the champion. Patterson hid out, contemplating his future. He was beyond embarrassed.

“Patterson was such a nice guy,” said dad. “You could see the hurt in his eyes. He didn’t leave his house for weeks.”

Video: Ingemar Johansson vs Floyd Patterson I

Ingemar Johansson vs Floyd Patterson I

Nice or not, Patterson wanted a rematch. This time, he was the underdog. The sequel went down at the Polo Grounds in New York close to a year later.

Many expected Paterson to lose.

Didn’t happen.

In round two, Johannsson clobbered Patterson with his dreaded right. Patterson backed off and absorbed the horror.

He was ok.

More determined than he had ever been in his career, Paterson cut down Johansson, ending things with a leaping left hook in round five. The damage was evident. Johansson’s left foot quivered uncontrollably.

Patterson leaned over the ropes and made eye contact with the media, who had doubted him. He then ran over to the still-prone body of Johannsson, cradling his head until the ringside doctor arrived. Patterson was the first heavyweight to regain his world championship.

Two fights.

Two explosive knockouts.

Video: Ingemar Johansson vs Floyd Patterson, II

Ingemar Johansson vs Floyd Patterson, II

A third bout had to happen. It did on March 13, 1961.

Patterson was the dreaded favorite by 4-1 odds. The cursed odds almost got him in round one. The second right Johansson threw connected on Patterson’s chin.

Down goes Paterson.

“I shook my head,” said dad. “Not again.”

A left and right downed Patterson for the second time. Patterson was hurt. What to do? Fight back. Johannsson attempted to end things. Patterson reacted instinctively–letting fly with a right and left. Johannsson went down, shocking the sold-out crowd at Miami Beach Convention Center. Johansson jabbed well in round two. Both fighters connected with heavy shots. They stayed upright  –  hammering each other. Patterson landed a thudding shot to Johansson’s soft midsection. Patterson jarred Johansson with lefts in round three  –  he also ate a right. Johannsson was bleeding. He fought back.

In round four, it was Patterson’s turn to bleed. Johannsson’s face was puffy. Patterson clipped him with a wicked combination. Johansson fell to the canvas. He hurt Patterson later in the round with what else, his big right.

Four rounds of hell were in the books.

Resting in round five, the champions were back at it hard three minutes later. Johansson looked winded, but still launched an attack. Patterson felt the punches, but the result appeared to deflate Johansson.

Now it was Patterson’s turn. A leaping left hook landed. Two rights and Johannsson was down again. He attempted to beat the count of 10 but failed.

Floyd Patterson was still the heavyweight champion of the world.

Video: Floyd Patterson vs Ingemar Johansson III - March 13, 1961 - Entire fight - Rounds 1 - 6 & Interview

Floyd Patterson vs Ingemar Johansson III – March 13, 1961 – Entire fight – Rounds 1 – 6 & Interview

Dad said, “Patterson was underrated. His chin held him back, but look at the guts he showed against Johannsson.”

Pops was right.

A guy named Liston waited in the wings.





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