The Gazelle Leaps into the History Books Again (diary entry)

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“Learn from the Fight” Lesson:

Floyd Patterson versus Ingemar Johansson Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship 20.06.1960

It had been almost a year to the day that Ingemar Johansson had shocked the world with his upset victory over Floyd Patterson. Johansson became an instant celebrity and was the first Swede to win a world title. He had also handed Patterson both his second career defeat and his first knockout. During a match that Patterson said he had overworked for having only fought 21 days prior and had only taken two days off training, the Gentleman had been knocked down a record seven times and had to be stopped from continuing by the referee. Neither man fought another person until their rematch.

A totally new approach was taken with Patterson. Dan Florio took a greater interest in Patterson’s training this time and Cus D’Amato seemed to take a step back. Florio saw some fundamental problems in the peek-a-boo style that needed to be overcome in the Johansson fight. Patterson was to be more aggressive which was fine with the Gentleman who confessed this was the first man he truly hated in the sport. Floyd was also to put on more weight and came in at 190 lbs, his heaviest to date. This was still 5 lbs lighter than Ingo who also had height and reach advantages. Understandably Patterson went in as the underdog with the odds 8-5 in favour of Johanssen.

The fight took place at the famous Polo Grounds in New York. A crowd of 31,892 yielded a gate of $821,561. The fight was also broadcast live on ABC radio and shown on closed circuit TV in 230 locations across 160 cities. BoxRec notes that there was no closed circuit locations within 75 miles of New York City. Closed circuit TV had receipts of $2,251,162. Each boxer was granted 25 percent of the gate.

According to BoxRec, “Of the closed circuit money, half went to the theaters and half to the promotion. Of the promotions’ half, 20 percent went to the closed circuit company, Teleprompter. Of the remaining sum, 50 percent went to Patterson, 35 percent to Johannson and 15 percent to the fight’s promoter, Feature Sports.”

Famous referee, Arthur Mercante, made his title fight debut with this fight. The bout would be awarded Fight of the Year by Ring magazine.

Round 1 – In line with the plan, Patterson was the early aggressor. His gazelle punch would be a more prominent and dangerous feature and was on display in the first round. This was largely negating the champion’s attempts to use his jab and reach advantage. This resulting in a fair amount of clinching as Patterson remained determined to force the fight.

Round 2 – The challenger continued with the aggression but, in his enthusiasm, he perhaps forgot about Ingo’s most deadly weapon. In the previous encounter the champion had kept his “toonder and lightning” cocked and ready to launch. He had patiently waited for his moment, much like Max Schmeling had when he surprised Joe Louis in their first encounter. There was a lot expectation for the moment to happen again and the crowd did not have to wait long. Again, the hand remained up and ready to go as Johansson negotiated this more aggressive version of Patterson with his longer reach. Finally, he dropped Thor’s Hammer and the shot dazed Patterson. The former champion didn’t go down but rather than continuing to force the fight he boxed clever. He shook off the punch adopted a more defensive posture, stalling for time. Knowing he’d hurt his opponent, Johannson tried to capitalise and worked to set him for another one. Floyd remained on the backfoot, avoiding the jabs at edge of range. As his senses returned, the peek-a-boo slip/jab found its mark and he began to exchange more. They clinched again and Patterson, although notably less aggressive at this point, was still active.

Round 3 – There had been no bluff about Patterson’s bounceback towards the end of the previous round. He was on the front foot at the beginning of round 3. However, this wasn’t to say Johannson wasn’t also coming forward. They both worked the centre of the ring, exhibiting their very different styles. The challenger’s constant lateral slips and slip-jabs, complemented with rapid hooks at mid-range all from a crouched stance versus the champion’s regular jabbing used to set up the downward angled right-hand bombs launched from the more upright classical European stance. Towards the final seconds Floyd threw in what looked like a lead shovel hook.

Round 4 – A small cut under Johansson’s left eye was now visible. Patterson kept the centre of the ring with double-jabs. Ingo circled somewhat awkwardly. After a brief clinch, the champion to his turn as the challenger began to circle whilst pumping jabs. He threw under shovel hook and this time it visibly hit home on Johansson’s liver. Floyd then pushed for the centre position again, entering with the trademark side-to-side slipping and then attempting to manhandle the champion in the clinch. This became the regular place now as both men pushed backwards and forwards, striking with their free fist. Ingemar was cautioned for holding. The round ended fairly evenly.

Round 5 – Floyd came out with his foot pushed harder to the pedal. An aggressive volley of jabs accompanied by characteristic peek-a-boo bobbing and weaving saw the two men into a clinch. From here a short inside right from Patterson rocked the Johansson. He moved the fight to the outside but Floyd was looking more in charge now. Ingemar’s jabs looked tentative, fending off the busy challenger. Again, The Gentleman’s mid-range shovel hook landed and this time it clearly hurt the champion. A second hook to the head missed but he was fast to reload and this time it was with his own patented technique: the gazelle punch. This flying left hook caught Ingo flush in the jaw and dropped him for a stunning count of nine. The champion was now visibly bleeding from his mouth and above his left eye.

With tables now apparently turned, Patterson jumped on his opponent with a two-fisted assault. As Ingo responded by holding and angling off, Floyd manoeuvred around his opponent with a right hook to the ribs and two overhand rights to head.  The referee separated them from the clinch and Patterson moved in again. A desperate Johansson blocked it with his right only for Floyd to move around his back, catch body with his right hand to move into a right to the head. After another referee separation the champion threw an ineffectual looking right almost in memory of the punch that had won him the belt. He then adopted a sharper bladed, longer stance as he leaned out of the action with his jab fully extended. The range was quickly gobbled up and Johansson leant into the clinch trying to clear his head. Patterson gave a masterclass in his take on the peek-a-boo. A shovel hook to the liver was immediately reloaded for the coup de grace.

Spiraling up from the floor it sent an unstoppable shockwave through Johansson’s skull and sent his unconscious body crashing down, his bouncing off the canvas. As his left foot convulsed he was counted out at the 1:51 mark of the fifth round.

Despite his later admitted feelings of hatred towards his opponent, Floyd’s true nature was evident as he tried to check on his condition and yet was intercepted by his celebrating corner. Years later Patterson would reflect, “I just hope that I’ll never be as vicious again.” Ingo would recover and plans were soon made for the two meet for a third time as a hungry crowd, now twice shocked by upset victories on each side, looked forward to a much anticipated rubber match. Again, it would be another year before this would happen and neither man would fight another person in the interim.

For now, however, Floyd Patterson had defied the odds and, once again, made boxing history. Before it was by becoming the youngest man to win the world heavyweight title. This time he was the first to achieve what eight previous former world champions had failed to do: he had regained the belt. For this he was awarded fighter of the year by Ring Magazine.


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