The Boxing Biographies Newsletter
Volume 6 – No 1 5 Feb , 2010
May 11th saw the passing of former heavyweight champion of the world, Floyd Patterson, who passed away at his home in upstate New York. He was 71 years old.
Never a true heavyweight by today’s standards, Floyd fought at exactly 13 stone, he was possessed of lightning speed of punch, and was a great combination puncher. Born on 4th January 1935 at Waco, N.C., Floyd spent his amateur fighting career in the middleweight division. He won the 1951 New York Golden Gloves 160 lb Open title. He was also the Eastern Golden Gloves 160 lb Open Champion, and that same year he was beaten for the Inter City Golden Gloves title by Richard Guerrero. He was just 16 years old when winning those titles.
The following year, 1952, saw Floyd once again win the New York Golden Gloves title, this time at 175 lbs. He would also win the Eastern Golden Gloves 175 lb title stopping Harold Carter in the first round, and he also added the Inter City Golden Gloves 175 lb title to his collection defeating Eddie Jones. That same year, l952, was a truly important year for young Floyd, for it was also Olympic Games year, and Floyd was chosen to represent the United States in the middleweight division. He came to the notice of the worlds boxing public by winning the Gold Medal with a first round KO of Vasili Tita of Rumania.
It was time to put his Olympic win to good use, and when only 17 years old, Floyd turned professional with the legendary ‘Cus D’Amato.
Between 12th September l952,and 29th December 1952,Floyd fought four times, winning all of them via KO, and not one contest went past the 5th round. The following year saw Floyd take part in 5 more contests, winning them all, three by K0,and the remaining two on points.
1954 saw Floyd taking to the ring twice as often, for he had 10 contests, but it also saw him lose for the first time. Of his ten contests he won 6 on points and the other three wins were via the KO route. His only loss that year was to Joey Maxim in Brooklyn, on June 7th 1965. Most of his opponents were from the light-heavyweight class, but were nevertheless top class fighters such as Yvon Durelle, Joey Maxim, and Jimmy Slade.
1955, saw Patterson still learning his trade, with a further nine contests, and he won every one of them inside the distance. He knocked out Willie Troy (5), Don Grant (5), Esau Ferdinand (10), Yvon Durelle (5), Archie McBride (7), Alvin Williams (8), Dave Whitlock (3), Calvin Brad (l), and Jimmy Slade (7). He was getting himself noticed, and was gradually placing himself into the position of challenging for the worlds heavyweight title, which by 1956 had become vacant, and on 30th November 1956,Floyd went in with the “Old Mongoose”, Archie Moore in Chicago, for the vacant world title. Here we had two exponents of the “Peek-a--boo” style of fighting, ie fighting behind crossed gloves, but youth came out on top, when Floyd knocked out the aging Archie in the 5th round to become the youngest world heavyweight champion ever at the age of just 21 years.
He would hold the title of the youngest ever champion, until the young Mike Tyson took it from him when he defeated Trevor Berbick. Patterson also had the dubious title of being the world heavyweight champion who was floored more times than any other heavyweight champion, but he answered that criticism by stating that he was also the world champ who got up more times than anyone else.
Patterson’s story was the typical story of “Poor boy made good”, for he was brought up in Brooklyn, one of 11 children, and spent terms in Reform Schools. It was here that he was able to work out his frustrations in the boxing ring, and at the age of 14,Floyd was hanging around New York’s Gramercey Gym, the premises above which D’Amato had a knack of recognising young fistic talent,(he would strike lucky years later with Mike Tyson),and he began to encourage Floyd.
As an amateur, Floyd had a total of 44 contests, winning no fewer than 40,and collecting the titles I’ve already mentioned. An unfortunate part of Patterson’s reign as world heavyweight champion, was the fact that his manager D’Amato was at loggerheads with the powerful International Boxing Club, and he refused to let Floyd fight any fighter who was associated with that organisation, and of course it led to Patterson being accused of ducking legitimate challengers and taking on easy opponents.
It’s true, that when Floyd took on genuine heavyweights, he seemed to have trouble, and this was first experienced, when on 26th June l959,Floyd defended his title against Sweden’s Ingemar Johansson,in New York He was knocked out in 3 rounds by the big Swede.
Prior to taking on Johansson, Patterson had defended his title against Tommy Jackson (KO 10), Pete Rademacher (KO 6).Rademacher had not had a single professional contest, but was the Olympic Gold medalist, and fought for the worlds heavyweight title in his first professional contest-Roy Harris,(K0 12),and Britain’s Brian London,