Those of you my age reading this undoubtedly remember the little engine who could, Floyd Patterson, the middleweight peek-a-boo fighter who fought in the heavyweight class and reigned supreme in the 50s and 60s.
I can remember watching the wars he fought with Sweden’s Ingemar Johansson, starting in 1959 and finishing in 1961 with a 2-1 record against the big Swede. I can still see Patterson kneeling over Johansson’s prone, unconscious body as Johansson's leg beat a tattoo on the canvas from Patterson’s quick right to the chin. I can see that as clear as day.
Always known as a gentleman, who fought in superb condition and who had speed and style, Patterson won the gold in the 165-pound division in the 1952 Olympics, fought the likes of Archie Moore, Sonny Liston and Muhammad Ali among others, and was respected by anyone he fought for his leonine heart. His record was 55-8-1 with 40 KOs when he retired.
Patterson, who was six feet tall and rarely weighed over 185, came from an impoverished background (he was one of 11 children) where he had brushes with the law before turning his life around via the ring. He was a representative of what boxing could have been and the antithesis of the thug heavyweight, a la Mike Tyson (Patterson’s first pro trainer was Cus D’Amato, Tyson’s first trainer).
Floyd Patterson died in New Paltz, NY yesterday at the age of 71.
A man who remained a very classy guy all his days and who was the epitome of The Sweet Science.