Floyd Patterson vs Ingemar Johansson: The Trilogy That Time Forgot
By Sina Latif
When boxing fans think about heavyweight trilogies, the ones that will spring to mind will be Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier and Riddick Bowe vs Evander Holyfield.
However, another one which is somewhat under-the-radar, but was action-packed and incredibly exciting is Floyd Patterson vs Ingemar Johansson.
In the late 50’s and early 60’s, America’s Patterson and the Swede Johansson had three gripping bouts, each fight concluding with a vicious KO after all-out back-and-forth action throughout.
Recently, current unified champion Anthony Joshua came across a fighter who he was supposed to brush aside in their first fight in Andy Ruiz Jr, who then defeated the Brit in convincing fashion, with the pair having to engage in a rematch for Joshua to prove his championship credentials against the most unlikeliest of rivals.
It was the same with Patterson and Johansson. Patterson was a huge favourite heading into the first fight against a man who wasn’t viewed as a legitimate threat, but the Swede turned into the American’s biggest rival and an unlikely foe for Patterson to prove his champion’s grit against.
To this day, there are knowledgeable boxing fans that snicker when a promoter claims that his guy is the man to knock off a champion. This was the case with Johansson. Except it wasn’t just snickering on this occasion, it was blatant laughter.
In the final of the 1952 Olympics, Johansson spent two rounds ‘running’ against American Ed Sanders and was disqualified for refusing to fight.
Johansson’s heart and commitment was doubted. Patterson’s chin hadn’t shown any fragility and the speed of his combinations was unseen amongst past heavyweight champions. The American was anticipated to be champion for a long time.
Then, in the first fight in 1959, Johansson knocked down Patterson seven times in three rounds, flattening the defending champion and became an overnight sensation.
In the second fight, an immediate rematch in 1960, given the one-sided nature of the first fight and the fact that no heavyweight had ever regained their title, with 11 previous champions failing, not much was expected from Patterson.
However, Patterson regained his title with a fifth round KO to become the first heavyweight in history to do so in an immediate rematch.
Then came the third and final fight in 1961. A memorable rubber-match in Miami Beach, Florida.
“Ingo’s bingo”, Johansson’s devastating right hand, which had destroyed Patterson in their first fight, had Patterson down twice in the first round, a round which saw both men touch the canvas in one of the greatest first rounds in boxing history. However, this time Patterson rose from the canvas to go on and stop Johansson in the sixth round.
This trilogy had it all. Drama, excitement, great back and forth action, both in terms of the action in the fights and the heavyweight championship between the fights, suspense, excellent boxing skills, astounding power punching, knockdowns, with thirteen of them in total, championship grit and heart, and the creation of history.
Patterson and Johansson are not generally regarded in the same bracket of heavyweight greats such as Ali, Frazier, Bowe and Holyfield, and therefore their incredible trilogy is often overshadowed by those between the aforementioned greats.
Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder will be having their rubber-match this summer after two dramatic fights thus far, and fans would have the most lasting exciting memories if the fighters of today, heavyweights and the rest, were ready to rumble and produce the drama and elation that Patterson and Johansson conjured up all them years ago.
Whilst many of the more famous trilogies consist of underwhelming fights, with the action and excitement not being of the same standards in every fight, all three of the Patterson vs Johansson battles really did have it all, producing some of the most exhilarating, explosive crowd-pleasing action in the long history of heavyweight boxing.