On This Date in Sports June 26, 1959: Bingo for Ingo

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

In a stunning upset, Ingemar Johansson knocks out Floyd Patterson in the third round to win the heavyweight championship of the world at Yankee Stadium. Johansson entered the fight a 5-1 underdog against Patterson, who had held the title since winning the belt vacated by Rocky Marciano in 1956. Floyd Patterson would get off the matt and regained the belt a year later from Johansson at the Polo Grounds.

Floy Patterson was born on January 4, 1935, in Waco, North Carolina. The youngest of 11 children, Patterson was often in trouble as the family moved to Brooklyn. After being sent to a reform school at the age of ten, Floyd Patterson began to learn the sport of boxing. At the age of 14, he began working with trainer Cus D’Amato at his gym in Gramercy Park. D’Amato quickly helped Patterson become one of the top amateurs in the world, as he went to the Helsinki Olympics and won a Middleweight Gold Medal at the age of 17 in 1952. After turning professional, Floyd Patterson quickly rose up the ranks winning his first 13 fights. After losing a decision to Joey Maxim, Patterson became more aggressive and started to knock opponents out in the early rounds. When Rocky Marciano retired at 49-0, it was Floyd Patterson with a fifth-round knockout of Archie Moore to win the vacated title on November 30, 1956.

Ingemar Johansson was born on September 22, 1932, in Gothenburg, Sweden.  A hulking six-footer, Johansson won the Silver Medal at the Helskini Games, losing the Heavyweight final to American Ed Sanders. Fighting exclusively in Europe, Johannsson won the European Heavyweight Championship two months before Patterson won his title and was 21-0 when he got the chance to fight for the Patterson’s World Title in the United States.

After becoming boxing’s youngest heavyweight champion ever at the age of 21, Patterson becomes a force as he won his first four title defense all by knockout and sat with a career record of 31-1 as he prepared to take on the unknown fighter for Sweden. Upon arriving in the United States, Ingemar Johansson nicknamed “Ingo” was a curiosity, as he appeared to enjoy the nightlife more than fighting as he was seen more often in nightclubs than the gym while training in New York’s Catskills.

Entering the ring a 5-1 underdog, Ingemar Johansson spent the first two rounds trying to hide from the punching power of Floyd Patterson. Tossing the occasional left jab, Johansson’s strategy seemed to be avoiding a brawl with the champion, instead of using a hit run tactics to avoid getting hit with the big power punch. In the third round, Ingemar Johansson continued to play hit and run. Then things changed when he saw an opening and caught Floyd Patterson with a solid right that knocked him to the canvas. From that moment on it was clear the champion was out on his feet as Ingo knocked him down six times in rapid succession in the third round before Ruby Goldstein stopped the fight and declared Ingemar Johansson the winner and new heavyweight champion.

Upon returning to Sweden, Ingemar Johansson got a hero’s welcome as more than 20,000 fans greeted him at a rally at a local soccer stadium in Gothenburg. Over the next year, Ingo became a worldwide star as he was given movie roles and appeared on magazine covers. He was named 1959’s Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated before setting up a rematch with Floyd Patterson 51 weeks later on June 20, 1960. Hoping to prove it was no fluke, Ingemar Johansson sparred against the greatest, a young Cassius Clay. An observer offered the champion, $100,000 to televise a match against the brash young man from Louisville, but the champion declined.

When the rematch came, Floyd Patterson was ready for the champion for Sweden and was careful to not fall in the same trap he did at Yankee Stadium. In the fifth round, Patterson land a power shot that knocked Johansson out cold to regain the championship. They would fight a third time on March 13, 1961, at Miami Beach. Patterson would score a sixth-round knockout, ending the series. The three fights against Floyd Patterson were the only fights, Ingo would have in the United States as he returned to fighting in Europe, finishing his career with a record of 26-2. Patterson would hold the title an additional two years, before losing to Sonny Liston on September 25, 1962.