Wednesday’s “Learn from the Fight” focused on Floyd Patterson’s continued dominance as world heavyweight champion, covering his second defence of the title in 1957 and his third defence in 1958.
Patterson’s manager and head coach, Cus D’Amato refused to do business with the mob but this cost him opponent choices. He only had access to fringe contenders and had to steer clear of the big boxing venues in New York and Chicago. The first of these contenders was an individual who was his own walking publicity machine thanks to his almost textbook Americana background.
Floyd Patterson versus Pete Rademacher Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship 22.08.2022
Pete “The Pug in the Gray Flannel Suit” Rademacher was born on 20th November 1928 in Tieton, Washington, USA and was of Finnish descent. Whilst attending military school he contracted rheumatic fever and used boxing as a form of rehabilitation therapy. He played college football for Washington State, playing offensive line, but soon also began competing as a very successful amateur boxer, winning the 1949, 1951, 1952 and 1953 Seattle Golden Gloves tournaments as well as the 1953 US Amateur Championship. In the latter he avenged his loss to Zora “Bell” Folley who had beaten him in the 1950 Golden Gloves. Folley would also become a professional boxer. He then went on to win the Chicago Golden Gloves, the All-Army Championships and the Service Championships in 1956. This qualified him to compete in the 1956 Olympics where he took home gold for the USA and was also the US flag-bearer for the closing ceremony. All of Rademacher’s wins at the Olympics came via a knockout. He finished his amateur career having only lost seven of his 72 bouts.
Bolstered by his Olympic performance, popularity and dominance over the national amateur heavyweight circuit for the first half of the 1950s, Rademacher campaigned to be the first amateur to win the world heavyweight crown on his professional debut. To date this is the only time an amateur has had a heavyweight world title shot as their professional debut. It proved to be a tremendously effective campaign with Rademacher being able to convince 22 wealthy Georgians to cover Patterson’s $250,000 purse. Floyd Patterson and Cus D’Amato (and trainer Dan Florio) were happy to offer him the opportunity. Rademacher’s style appears to be that of a technical slugger. He was 6’2″ tall with a reach of 77″. Rademacher came in at 202 lbs to Patterson’s 187 lbs. Five days before the fight Joe Louis went on record to state that the event was “The worst mismatch in boxing history.” One day before the fight, Patterson was the 10-1 favourite. The Associated Press quoted a Seattle businessman: “Nobody is betting – whilst sober.” On the day of the fight the United Press said there were no betting odds, as the fight was considered to be a gross mismatch.
The bout took place at Sick’s Stadium, Seattle where 16,961 spectators produced a gate of $243,030. The bout was refereed by former light heavyweight champion, Tommy Loughran. Due to the three hour time difference between Seattle and east coast plans to show the fight on close circuit TV were cancelled. There was no live radio or television.
The bout would contrast Pete Rademacher’s more traditional/classic style of boxing, common to amateurs of the time, using an upright posture and bladed stance to Patterson’s crouched, square-on, ultra-mobile peek-a-book style. Rademacher would use his reach advantage and Patterson would seek the inside.
Aspects of Patterson’s style on display here included the constant head movement, the tight guard, the shifting switch-hitting (especially with the right hook), doubling up on one side (e.g. body-to-head hooks) and the gazelle punch.
Round 1 – Pete Rademacher came out early, forcing the fight. Floyd Patterson seemed to be taken by surprise at Rademacher’s aggression. Rademacher also used feints very effectively, which seemed to baffle the champion. The challenger also displayed a fairly dextrous and probing jab as the champion crouched and weaved. Finally, Patterson caught him with a hard right to the body. Past the halfway point, Rademacher had scored the most but Patterson battled back with a swarm of punches sending his opponent into the corner and also across the ring. Rademacher was unperturbed and confidently set up his straight right with his effective jabs, taking the first round to everyone’s amazement.
Round 2 – Patterson stood his ground as Rademacher continued to force the fight. Rademacher’s rights started to get in more, bouncing off Patterson’s head. The champion attacked with his gazelle punch and worked to weave in under the jabs, catching Patterson on the way in. Later he began pounding around Patterson’s guard. Setting up a shock knockdown the challenger dug in a diagonal hook, landed a straight right to the side of Patterson’s head and then maneuvered around to detonate a powerful overhand right. The latter sent Patterson stumbling in the canvas. The champion was up at 3. Rademacher tried to capitalise by moving in with his jab and trying to land with his right but Patterson quickly tied him up. The champion shelled up and began bobbing and weaving in typical peek-a-boo style as Rademacher sought to land another big right hand. The champion clearly put his foot on the gas and landed a glancing overhand that sent the challenger into the ropes. Still Rademacher pressed the fight but this time Patterson was keen to make up for lost time and rounds, keeping the fight inside. The round ended with Patterson down two rounds.
Round 3 – Rademacher landed a good right to the body but soon began to miss with a few hastily thrown punches. Patterson was still having trouble negotiating his opponent’s left hand but his patient bobbing and weaving was slowly beginning to pay off. He exploded with a vicious left hook and swarmed in with a barrage of punches, a good right compounding the initial damage. Rademacher was in trouble for the first time in the fight and held on. Patterson then scored a right to the body and then later a good right to the head. Rademacher retaliated landing his own, having cleared his head. He moved to the outside and continued trying to set up shots using his reach advantage. However, Patterson now had the measure of the man and weaved his way in to land a powerful right hook to the head that sent Rademacher down. The challenger took a nine count on one knee. He moved in to clinch and Patterson burrowed into his body. Patterson confidently took his first round.
Round 4 – The footage revealed Rademacher intent on keeping the match at long range. When when wasn’t using his jab he was actively shoving Patterson out of the pocket. The champion persisted with moving inside. A good right to Patterson was immediately returned with two rights that staggered Rademacher. Yet the challenger rallied and moved Patterson into the corner. The champion wasn’t there long. As the fight stayed in the centre of the ring, both men landed some hard shots. Rademacher caught Patterson but again was repaid to with more shots from his opponent. The round was Patterson’s and should have evened up the scorecards, however, at this point Loughran scored Rademacher ahead by a slim margin.
Round 5 – Again, the round opened with the two contrasting styles being very evident. Rademacher probed at long range with his jab whilst Patterson consistently bobbed and weaved, looking for his opening. The challenger scored the first shot with a sharp right to the body. He followed this up with two more rights. However, if Rademacher thought role-reversing his place in the exchanges was going to work out for him he was in for a shock. Patterson’s single right hook to the jaw sent from his shifted southpaw stance sent Rademacher down. He was up after nine and moved into another Patterson swarming attack. Rademacher clinched and was separated. He then tried to move out with his jab but his weakness was evident and Patterson moved in again. Another right to the head sent Rademacher down. It was another nine count.
Rademacher’s jabs were no longer a bother to Patterson and he was quickly having to resort to clinching as he tried to spoil the swarming. Patterson soon broke through and yet another right sent the challenger down for another nine-count. As the fight resumed the champion put the pressure on, chasing the knockout. Rademacher was in desperate survival mode as he backed off and tried to tie up his opponent. An overhand right sent him stumbling to Patterson’s feet and the champion had to climb over him for Loughran to start his count. Up again at nine, the ponderous slugger pawed away with his jab and even attempted a right uppercut that widely missed its mark. Circling round he threw a straight right that Patterson easily slipped only to return fire with an onslaught of punches that pushed Rademacher across the ring and into a corner where he fell to one knee. However, possibly sensing a referee stoppage at this point, he was up pretty quickly this time.
Round 6 – Between rounds Rademacher confirmed to Loughran he was okay to continue. The round began at a slightly subdued pace. The challenger was now exercising caution, taking advantage of this apparent lull, and carefully used his jab whilst circling. Floyd similarly was looking for vital openings. He found a moment to snatch a gazelle punch and was clinched. He then patiently went back to looking for his opening. He scored a left jab to Rademacher’s mouth. The challenger clinched and was immediately punished with a rapid succession of hooks to the body. In typical peek-a-boo style he rebounded off a right to the body with one to the head that sent Rademacher down.
Up at nine, Rademacher continued throwing 1-2 combinations but they were sailing past Patterson’s head. Patterson continued to work his way forward and let Rademacher fitfully throw his now slow moving straights. Demonstrating an awareness of not becoming predictable, the champion even moved out of range for a beat. As he threatened the fight at mid-range, Rademacher was quick to hold on and spoil forcing separations. It looked like a stiff jab from Patterson stunned Rademacher who then moved back in only to receive a left hook/overhand right combination that sent him down onto his side. He didn’t make it back to his feet in time as Patterson remained the champion.
Pete Rademacher’s career was relatively brief. He never challenged for a world title again and retired in 1962 with a record of 15-6-1. His next opponent was his old amateur rival Zola Folley who knocked him out in round 4. He won his next six fights, four by knockout before drawing with Uli Ritter. He was then knocked out by Brian London in round 7. He won his next seven fights including a points victory over five-time Canadian heavyweight champion, George Chuvalo, who was never knocked out in his 93-fight career. He also stopped LaMar Clark in round 10. Clark currently holds the record of the most consecutive knockout victories at 45. Rademacher was then stopped by three fighters in a row by Doug Jones in round 5, George Logan in round 2 and Archie Moore in round six. He won a point victory over Buddy Turman, lost on points to Karl Mildenberger and won a unanimous decision over former-middleweight world champion, Bobo Olson. The Olson fight was his last and he went into business as a salesman and inventor. He became the president of Adolph Kiefer & Associates, Inc. The company was founded by Olympic swimming gold medallist Adolph Kiefer whose brother invented the nylon tracksuit. Kiefer & Associates invented the nylon swimsuit which replaced the old wool and cotton versions. Rademacher died in Sandusky, Ohio on 4th June 2020 aged 91.
Rademacher’s career was relatively brief. He never challenged for a world title again and retired in 1962 with a record of 15-6-1. His next opponent was his old amateur rival Zola Folley who knocked him out in round 4. He won his next six fights, four by knockout before drawing with Uli Ritter. He was then knocked out by Brian London in round 7. He won his next seven fights including a points victory over five-time Canadian heavyweight champion, George Chuvalo, who was never knocked out in his 93-fight career. He was then stopped by three fighters in a row by Doug Jones in round 5, George Logan in round 2 and Archie Moore in round six. He won a point victory over Buddy Turman, lost on points to Karl Mildenberger and won a unanimous decision over former-middleweight world champion, Bobo Olson. The Olson fight was his last and he went into business as a salesman and inventor. He became the president of Adolph Kiefer & Associates, Inc. The company was founded by Olympic swimming gold medallist Adolph Kiefer whose brother invented the nylon tracksuit. Kiefer & Associates invented the nylon swimsuit which replaced the old wool and cotton versions. Rademacher died in Sandusky, Ohio on 4th June 2020 aged 91.
Floyd Patterson versus Roy Harris Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship 18.08.1958
Cus D’Amato continued to be restricted to a selection of fringe contenders due to his refusal to do business with the mob. However, Roy Harris was rated as number 4 by Ring Magazine.
Roy “Cut ‘n Shoot” Harris was born on 29th June 1933. As his nickname indicates, he was born in Cut and Shoot, Texas. Harris was first taught how to box and wrestle by his father, a lifelong hog farmer. He learnt with his brother, Henry. The story went that Harris got his first pair of boxing gloves when he traded them for wild ducks. Harris won four Texas State Golden Gloves championships. He also won the state Olympic trials in 1952. After competing in the National Golden Gloves Championship 1954 he was awarded the Joe Louis Sportsmanship Award. He enrolled in the Sam Houston State University where he became an honour student before joining the US Army. He reached the rank of captain and also served in the reserves for 12 years.
Harris turned professional in 1955 and won all 23 of his first contests. The last of these were Bob “The Grinder” Baker, future light-heavyweight champion Willie Pastrano and Willi Besmanoff, all notable fighters.
A lot of publicity was made surrounding Harris’s ancestry and . He family were direct descendants of the original East Texas clans. This was stage managed at many of his fights. All 23 of them had taken place at Texas and he had built up a large following, a good number of them belonging to his extended family. His publicity photographs often had him wearing cowboy attire, including a 10 gallon hat, boots and firearms. Ahead of the match with Patterson he was on the front cover of Sports Illustrated, standing on a porch, bare-chested and barefoot holding a 19th century rifle and a dog at his side. He even recorded a single called “Cut ‘n Shoot” for Decca Records. A drive-in theatre was set up with its own closed circuit film set up for Harris’s extended family to watch his fight in Conroe.
The fight was held at Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California. Roy Harris stood at 6′ and had a 73″ reach. He weighed a 194 lbs to Patterson’s 184 1/2 lbs. Harris came in as the 5-1 underdog but, given his ranking, most thought him to be much better than Jackson or Rademacher. In fact, Sports Illustrated believed him to be the second best heavyweight in the world.
The publicity paid off as the gate for the fight broke Californian state records at $234,183.25 from the 21,680 in attendance. In addition to this, over 200,000 people watched the fight on closed-circuit television.
Harris’s best punch was a right uppercut that he set up with jabs. The uppercut has long been considered the antidote for swarmers.
According to BoxRec:
Patterson’s share of the net gate was $101,384.41. In addition, he got about $300,000 from TelePrompTer, which handled the theater TV, and about $60,000 from the movies. Out of his share, Patterson paid Harris a $100,000 guarantee. Patterson netted close to $300,000.
We watched highlights of the fight.
Round 1 – The first round saw both fighters unload early. We next to nothing of this round but apparently a lot of energy was expended by both men.
Round 2 – Harris tentatively shot out his left which Patterson easily slipped. However, the challenger got his timing in and hit the champion with his trademark uppercut. It looked like Harris pushed him with his left hand as well, leading the referee to hesitate whether to call it a knockdown. It is probable that the push was an intended left hook follow-up. Nevertheless, he counted four before Patterson got back up. Harris continued to try to land the uppercut again but to no avail, although Patterson appeared to be on the defensive for the rest of the round.
Round 7 – Harris was now sporting a cut about his left eye. This had happened in round 3 and proved to be quite a gusher, but had been patched up. Patterson weaved in and dropped him with a right cross over Harris’s jab – textbook peek-a-boo. Harris was up at eight and noticeably bleeding again.
Round 8 – Again, Harris came out with regular jabbing looking to set up the uppercut. An exchange in the middle of the round saw Harris miss with his jab/uppercut/left hook combination as Patterson then shift-stepped with his right, which connected and was followed up by a powerful southpaw left. Harris was down again. It was another eight-count for Harris. Patterson pressed the fight now but Harris fought back with aggression. Another fast exchange saw Patterson avoid the uppercut and land right to the head, followed by a left and then another right. Another eight count and Harris was back into the fray. His face was pouring blood now and his nose was also damaged.
Round 11 – Patterson forced the fight, pursuing Harris around the ring. Although there were no knockdowns, it looked like Harris was doing his best to control the damage.
Round 12 – Patterson slipped a left and dropped right, Harris playing into the peek-a-boo style. It looked like the challenger went down voluntarily, holding onto the rope for a nine-count to clear his head. The fight resumed with Harris now moving to the outside as Patterson hunted him down, getting the better o most of the exchanges. Patterson picked off shots to the head and the body. His head pouring blood, Harris battled on and barely moved out of the way as Patterson landed single shot after single shot.
After the round ended Bill Gore signalled from Harris’s corner the fight was over. There had been agreement with the referee that the fight would only be stopped if Harris’s corner had requested it. Floyd Patterson remained world heavyweight champion.
After the fight, Harris told the press “I did my best”. His next fight would see him win the Texas Heavyweight Championship from Donnie Fleeman and it won’t be the last we will see of him in our lessons.