This lesson looked at the rise of Swedish boxing sensation, Ingemar Johansson as he emerged as a threat to reigning world champion, Floyd Patterson. This was followed by Patterson’s defence of his world title against Brian London.
Ingemar Johansson versus Henry Cooper European Heavyweight Championship 19.05.1957
Jens Ingemar “Ingo” Johansson was born on 22nd September 1932 in Gothenberg, Sweden. There isn’t a lot recorded in the public domain of his background prior to boxing but by 1951 he had was part of the European Golden Gloves team. He made the Swedish Olympic team in 1952 and competed in the heavyweight division. However, despite technically winning the silver medal, the award was withheld due to Johansson being disqualified for uncharacteristic passivity. His coach had instructed him to allow his American opponent, the eventual gold medallist, Ed Sanders, to be the aggressor. Sanders was also warned about passivity. Johansson also protested that he had only been given a 10-day training camp, working with newcomers. He didn’t receive his silver medal for 30 years. The entire incident soured Johansson and he went into seclusion for six-months seriously considering quitting boxing. This did not last for long and he made his professional debut on 5th December that same year, knocking out Robert Masson in round four of their scheduled 8-round bout. Under the management of publisher and boxing promoter, Edwin Ahlquist, he stormed through the Swedish heavyweight ranks, claiming a second KO win in round 2 of his bout against Emile Bentz and taking the vacant Scandinavian European Heavyweight title in his fourth match. He took the European Heavyweight Championship in his fifteenth match with a thirteenth round knockout over Franco Cavicchi in PalaDozza, Bologna, Italy, having yet to know defeat.
By now Johansson’s record spoke for his status as a deadly slugger. Over half of his victories came via stoppage and he would affectionately refer to his right hand as “Toonder and Lightning”. The international press would call it “Ingo’s Bingo” and “The Hammer of Thor”. After knocking out Peter Bates in round 2 of their non-title match, Johansson defended his belt for the first time against Britain’s Henry Cooper.
Henry “Our ‘Enry” Cooper was born in Lambeth, London on 3rd May 1934. He was born to Lily and Henry Cooper, had an elder brother, Bern, and an identical twin brother called George. The Cooper children grew up in a council house on Farmstead Road on the Bellingham Estate, South East London. They all excelled at sport, although George and Bern’s expertise were in football and cricket as Henry shone in boxing. The children were evacuated to Lancing during the Second World War and when they returned to London, life was especially hard for them. However, Henry found work in a variety of jobs, such as a paper-round and earning pennies from recycling golf balls. Henry’s boxing career began in earnest in 1949 where he trained at Bellingham Boxing Club based at Athelney St School in Bellingham run by Albert Colley. Just prior to his national service, Cooper won two Amateur Boxing Association titles. He was also competed in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics on the British team in the light heavyweight division.
Cooper turned pro on 14th September 1954 with a first round knockout over Harry Painter. He also won his next eight competitions, all but two coming by knockout. Cooper had matured into a heavyweight competitor albeit at the slightly lighter end. His first international opponent handed him his first defeat. Italy’s Uber Bacilieri beat Cooper in a fifth round technical knockout. Cooper came back with a seventh round knockout over Ron Harman and then avenged his loss against Bacilieri by knocking the Italian out in round seven. He then lost on points to Joe Erskine, stopped France’s Maurine Mols in round 4, stopped Brian London in round 1 and stopped Italy’s Giannino Orlando Luise in round 7. He then lost to a technical knockout in a match against Peter Bates in round 5 and failed to clinch the Commonwealth Heavyweight title when Joe Bygraves knocked him out in round 9.
Henry Cooper weighed in at 194 lbs to Ingemar Johansson’s 200 lbs. Cooper was 6′ 1.5″ tall with a 75″ reach. Johansson was 6′ tall with a 70″ reach. Henry Cooper was left-handed but fought in an orthodox stance. Much like Tony Zale, Sandy Saddler and later Razor Ruddock, Cooper utilised this lead power hand in executing a powerful upward angled left hook he called ‘Enry’s ‘Ammer”. His left hook was also regularly whipped in from his powerful jab, similar to the way Joe Louis had executed his jab/hook combination. However, Cooper’s aggressive style often sacrificed his defence. His proportionately weaker defence was often exacerbated by being prone to cuts. Cooper’s record was 14-4 and Johansson’s was 17-0. Cooper was ranked number 4 by Ring Magazine.
The fight took place at the Råsunda Stadium, Stockholm, Sweden and was watched by the future king of Sweden, Gustav. There was a lot of controversy at the time as to whether the royal should be attending a boxing match.
Sadly footage from match between Cooper and Johansson was scarce and this is blamed on the prince’s presence. We had to settle for under a minute into the fifth and final round for Cooper. Henry received a warning from the referee early in the fight for some reason. A cut was already evident. Johansson worked Cooper over with his jab to set up his vicious right. According to Cooper, the outdoor event was very sunny and he was momentarily blinded by the sun as Johansson caught him with a powerful right hook. The bout was apparently quite boring and the cameraman decided to shift his attention from the fight to the future Swedish king just as Ingo threw his knockout punch. Cooper failed to make the count and Johansson held onto his European belt.
Ingemar Johansson versus Eddie Machen 14.09.1958
After outpointing Archie McBride in a non-title bout, Johansson successfully defended his European belt by stopping Joe Erskine in round 13 and then stopped Heinz Neuhaus in round 4. His next bout of which we have existing footage was the non-title fight against Eddie Machen. This was clearly part of Ingo’s campaign to challenge for the world heavyweight championship.
Edward Mills “Eddie” Machen was born on 15th June 1932 in Redding, California, USA. He was one of six children. His father was a rural mail courier. Machen dropped out of high school to pursue his boxing career. He had fought just three amateur bouts when he was convicted and imprisoned for armed robbery. Upon his release, he made a conscious decision to enter professional boxing and never go back to prison. His early career was remarkable. He knocked out three his first professional opponents in round 1 and all of his first 10 fights were won by stoppage. By his 24th bout he had never been beaten and the majority of the fights had been won by knockout. His victims had included Nino Valdes twice (unanimous decision and knockout), Joey Maxim twice (unanimous decisions) and Hurricane Jackson. He then drew with the Zora Foley then ranked number 3 in Ring Magazine’s 1958 heavyweights.
Machen stood at 6′ with a 75″ reach. He weighed in at 194 lbs to Johansson’s 198 lbs. Eddie Machen was ranked number 7 by Ring Magazine. His record was 24-0-1. The fight took place at Nya Ullevi, Gothenburg, Sweden. Apparently the audience attendance broke Swedish records.
Round 1 – Machen came out as the aggressor. He held an upright stance and was content to throw power shots from the centre of the ring. Johansson worked from the outside, making good use of his jab, especially his body jab. After a few exchanges, Ingo circled to the inside threw the aforementioned jab and hit Machen with a devastating right, which he then tried to follow with another left but his opponent was down. Machen beat the count and pushed back into Johansson resulting in a clinch where they both worked away with rabbit punches. Ingo moved onto the back-foot, using his body jab in a way that was reminiscent of James J. Jeffries. Machen’s pressure resulted in another clinch and this concluded with another powerful combination delivered by Johansson that sent his opponent down again. This time Machen’s return was not nearly as convincing. He rose with his arms down and seemed to limp back to the action.
Reading the very obvious signs Ingo went in to finish the job. Machen was driven into the corner with a barrage of blows. He sank to a squatting position and tried to rise but was battered flat to canvas where the referee counted him out.
The shock knockout looked like it could have been stopped the moment Machen went down in his corner even if he hadn’t technically been floored. It was an unusual scene. When he did actually go down, the referee paused as if to check the fighter’s condition and it seemed like this would have been a good time to just call the fight finished.
Ingemar Johansson was now the number one ranked challenger for the World Heavyweight Championship.
Floyd Mayweather versus Brian London Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship 01.05.1959
Born Brian Sidney Harper on 19th June 1934 in West Hartlepool, Durham. He was the son of British and Commonwealth champion Jack London (who took his name after the turn of 20th century American author and boxing journalist). His father had been known for his crude and cumbersome fighting style (and also for beating Freddie Mills), and Brian had initially been a reluctant boxer due to the thought of getting cauliflower ears. His older brother, Jack Jnr, also became a professional boxer and would fight at light heavyweight. When Brian was 16 the family moved to Blackpool, which Brian identified with for the rest of his life. His ring name would be “The Blackpool Rock” and “The British Bulldog”.
London was encouraged to take up boxing when he undertaking national service with the Royal Air Force. He said the pressure came from expectations from his colleagues due his father and now his brother’s success at the sport. He turned professional on 22nd March 1955 with a first round knockout over Dennis Lockton. London won all 12 of his first fights, 11 of these by stoppage. His opponents not only included British fighters but boxers from Belgium, USA, Spain and Jamaica. He lost his thirteenth bout to Henry Cooper in a shocking first round technical knockout. His next three opponents were all knockout wins over Tongan, British and Luxemburg boxers. He then lost on points to Germany’s two-time current heavyweight champion and former European champion Heinz Neuhaus. His 24th fight saw him win both the British and Commonwealth titles from Joe Erskine with an eighth round knockout. He lost these titles in his 26th fight to Henry Cooper on points. Nevertheless, his record of 22-4 put him in position to challenge for Floyd Patterson’s World Heavyweight Championship belt.
Cus D’Amato was still having a hard time keeping his champion active with defences against legitimate contenders whilst avoiding the mob-owned venues in New York and Chicago. He chose Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA for his fourth title defence. Brian London was number 8 ranked in the world and came in as a 10-1 underdog. He stood at 6′, had a reach of 73″ and weighed 206 lbs. His end career knockout percentage was less than 50% and he was quite different from his father, being more of an outboxer in terms of style. Patterson weighed 183 lbs and his current record was 34-1.
The contract stipulated that if London won he would have to give Patterson a rematch within 90 days. Patterson was also guaranteed either 60 per cent of the net gate or $75,000, whichever was the greater, in addition to $200,000 from television. The gate of around 10,000 spectators yielded an estimated $120,000. The referee was Frank Sikora and the judges were Kelse McClure and Marshall Baumgartner. They used the 5-point-must system which meant that the winner of each round had to receive five points and the loser four or less.
Round 1 – London came out with a series of jabs and used his range. Patterson caught London early with a good left hook. A little later he landed an even harder right hand leading to a clinch. London began to show swelling on his left cheek bone. He sensed he might finish the fight early and swarmed in but London stood his ground. Later, Patterson was told to put his head down. London tried to press the fight but his high guard exposed his midsection to Patterson’s body blows.
Round 2 – London took the initiative early and moved in with more straights. Patterson came back hard and seemed intent on getting a knockout. Midway through the second round he sent in around six or seven hard punches to the body and head. Patterson, usually known for being a slow starter, kept up the pace. He missed with a big right hand and shrugged his shoulders which the audience appreciated.
Round 3 – Again, we witnessed an aggressive start from London and a hard response from Patterson. Patterson circled and got admonishments from his corner to keep his head down. London scored with a right hand and Patterson came back at him with one minute to go.
Round 4 – London continued to paw with his jab and tried to break the champion’s guard. Patterson continued to burst in with bunches of punches. London remained active and began to cover his ribs more when the champion burrowed in but his right cheek bone was now sporting a matching swelling.
Round 5 – Patterson took the pace of this round early, test his range. London was noticeably slower due to the punishment he took the body early on in the fight. He kept pawing to the extent where Patterson even shrugged his shoulders at him for not doing anything. The champion continued to go to the body and London tried to counteract by digging elbows into his sides.
Round 6 – The champion began with the double jabs now but soon went onto the back back-foot only to bait London. He immediately switched strategies and swarmed in with a fast combination. London found himself being pushed back several times. His more upright stance had now changed into crouch to better protect his body. The damage to his ribs was evident. Patterson circled more.
Round 7 – Patterson and London kept matching crouched stances but the champion threw more shots and heavier shots in the exchanges.
Round 8 – London was cagier now, allowed Patterson to be more aggressive. The champion landed some hard right and left hooks to the body followed with head shots. London continued to match Patterson each time the champion crouched in his peek-a-boo style. Moving into a clinch, the challenger threw a right uppercut to the enjoyment of the crowd. However, Patterson continued to dominate and unleashed flurry after flurry easily winning the round.
Round 9 – The round began more cautiously. London’s jab was now more of a flicker jab than a pawing shot. This seemed to be less by choice and more by necessity due being robbed of a lot his power. Nevertheless, as the fight became more flat-footed he put as much weight into each hand as possible. The pattern was becoming very familiar his straights were easily avoided by Patterson who took every opportunity to weave and go to the body.
Round 10 – He was also now using his superior speed to pick off the challenger’s head with his jabs and a straight right. Patterson appeared to taunt London at this stage. He maintained the pace, now beginning to run matters from long range where London had the natural advantage. A hard right on the end of several rapid lefts noticeably hurt the challenger. He began to back off more. Even at close range his right uppercut had no power, meeting jeers from the audience. Just ahead of the bell Patterson dropped London to one knee for a count of five.
Round 11 – Patterson was jabbing his way in now and punctuating these strikes with right and left hooks to the head. However, it was a right/left/right series of hooks to the body that made London stumble backwards and fall. The challenger laid on his left side unable to beat the count.
Floyd Patterson had defended his title for the fourth time and now looked towards taking on his biggest threat to date: Ingemar Johansson.