Patterson vs Johansson: The Introvert v The Extrovert
By Simon Graham
Over the years there have been many fight trilogy’s two boxers who come together to thrill and excite the fans during classic brawls. Many forget that Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johansson also fought each other in a trilogy of fights with Patterson 2-1 to the good.
Patterson a quiet sensitive man, and perfectionist had become the youngest heavyweight champion beating Archie Moore on November 30, 1956 he was also the first Olympic gold medallist to win a professional heavyweight title.
After several successful defences, Patterson met number one contender Johansson a colourful figure more akin to night-clubbing than training on June 26, 1959. Entering the ring in Yankee Stadium as a 5–1 underdog Johansson spent the first two rounds of the encounter retreating and flicking out light left jabs at the champion.
In the third round, Johansson threw a wide left hook that Patterson blocked with his right hand, when he moved his right hand away from its protective position, Johansson nailed him with his own short powerful right hand. Patterson went down hard but arose quickly on unsteady legs, he was out on his feet, looking for the neutral corner completely disoriented thinking he had knocked down his opponent Johansson seized his opportunity and relentlessly pounced on the campion knocking him down a further 6 times before the referee halted the contest.
Johansson had become the first European to defeat an American for the title since 1933, he was a national hero in Sweden.
12 months later June 20th 1960 Patterson got his revenge, a brutal knock out in the fifth round, seemingly out on his feet before he hit the canvas hard Johansson was out cold for 5 minutes blood trickling from his mouth his left foot quivering, Patterson had become the first man in history to regain the Undisputed world heavyweight championship.
In 1961 their third and final bout saw both fighters getting up off the floor, Patterson abandoning his usual jabbing style aggressively seeking Johansson with hard body shots finally ending the fight in the 6th round with a knock out.
Paterson would later lose his title to Sonny Liston unsuccessfully challenging Cassius Clay for the title a few years later. Patterson boxed into the early part of 70s losing controversially to Jimmy Ellis and beating Oscar Bonavena, Patterson retired for good after losing to Muhammed Ali in 1972.
Johansson retired as the undefeated European Champion at the age of 30 becoming a hotel manager in Florida and Swedish movie star.
Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johansson became good friends who flew across the Atlantic to visit each other every year. They ran in marathons (including the Boston Marathon) all over the world until the mid-1980s. In 1985 completing the Stockholm Marathon together.
During the 1990s, Johansson and Patterson would attend boxing conventions together signing their autographs on boxing memorabilia for adoring fans. They continued to be friends until the onset of Alzheimer’s disease incapacitated them both, they remained Inseparable both in life and death.