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Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Friday, May 12, 2006

Floyd Patterson RIP

Former heavyweight boxing champion Floyd Patterson has passed away. Born in 1935, he was the first heavyweight to regain his title after losing it. Let us all take a moment to remember him.

Patterson was a mild, modest man who didn`t like fame and who shied away from adulation. He was a good champion, although not great, and he was one of the last real athlete role-models, devoting his later life to helping underpriveleged kids and teaching boxing. He was a class act.

Patterson had the misfortune of being wedged between two golden ages; he became champion by defeating light-heavyweight legend Archie Moore to fill the vacant spot left by the retirement of Rocky Marciano. Marciano was the first heavyweight champion to retire without a single loss (49-0), and he knocked out the very same Archie Moore in the 9th round of his final bout. His were big shoes to fill, and the golden age begun by ``the Brown Bomber``- Joe Louis-could be said to have ended with Marciano`s retirement. (After Patterson`s conqueror-Sonny Liston- came Cassius Clay/Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier who would begin another such era.)Shy, retiring Patterson fought his way to the top in a tournament to crown a new king, and won the title in a 5th round KO of ``the old mongoose``-Moore.

Patterson first came to prominence by winning the middleweight title in the 1952 Olympics. He began his pro career as a light-heavyweight, and suffered his first loss to former champ Joey Maxim in a controversial decision. Patterson then moved up to heavyweight, and earned the right to fight for the title against Moore.

Patterson would defend his title 4 times before being KO`d by a beefy Swede named Ingemar Johanssen. Johanssen was a brawler with a tremendous right hand punch dubbed ``the Hammer of Thor``. (He also liked women and champaign more than training.) He knocked Patterson out in the third round (after knocking him down 7 times) to claim the title, only to be ko`d himself in their rematch, making Patterson the first heavyweight in history to reclaim the crown! Patterson knocked Johanssen out in a wild rubber match (in which he was knocked down 9 times and Johanssen twice before putting the big Swede away) in 1961 to retain his title.

Patterson would lose his title to dark, brooding Sonny Liston in 1964, who would himself lose to Cassius Clay. (Liston started boxing in prison, and it has often been speculated that the title fight was fixed. The Liston-Clay rematch was even worse, with the ``phantom punch``, a quick little tap from Ali which sent Liston down for the count!)

Patterson would retire after his KO by Muhammed Ali in 1972.

Floyd Patterson was a special type of man; plagued by fears and emotionally vulnerable, he nevertheless went against the meanest, toughest men of his era. If Courage is not defined by lack of fear, but by facing ones fear and overcoming it, then Floyd Patterson was one of the bravest fighters who ever lived! He faced men stronger, larger, and meaner than himself, he faced his own fear and self-doubt, and fought like a champion. He may not have been the greatest boxer who ever lived, but he most certainly was one of history`s great fighters! His was truly the heart of a champion!

Gather round, I'm bettin' even money folks
There's a bell soundin' way up high
And the champ is climbin' through the golden ropes
Of the Big Ring up in the sky

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