Ingemar Johansson

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For the Swedish race walker, see Ingemar Johansson (athlete).
Ingemar Johansson
IngemarJohansson 2.jpg
Statistics
Real name Ingemar Johansson
Nickname(s) Ingo
The Hammer of Thor[1]
Rated at Heavyweight
Height 1.84 m (6 ft 0 in)
Reach 183 cm (72 in)
Nationality Swedish
Born (1932-09-22)September 22, 1932
Gothenburg, Sweden
Died January 30, 2009(2009-01-30) (aged 76)
Kungsbacka, Sweden
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 28
Wins 26
Wins by KO 17
Losses 2
Draws 0
No contests 0
Ingemar Johansson
Medal record
Competitor for  Sweden
Men's Boxing
Olympic Games
Silver 1952 Helsinki Heavyweight

Jens Ingemar Johansson[2] (September 22, 1932 – January 30, 2009) was a Swedish boxer and former heavyweight champion of the world. Johansson was the fifth heavyweight champion born outside the United States. In 1959 he defeated Floyd Patterson by TKO in the third round, after flooring Patterson seven times in that round, to win the World Heavyweight Championship. As a result, Johansson was awarded the Hickok Belt as top professional athlete of the year - the only non-American to do so in the Belt's entire 27-year existence - and was named the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year and Sports Illustrated magazine's "Sportsman of the Year". He holds notable victories over Floyd Patterson, Eddie Machen, Joe Bygraves (two times), Henry Cooper, Brian London, Dick Richardson, Joe Erskine among others.

Johansson enjoyed a successful career as a heavyweight. When he retired in 1963 he had a record of 26 wins, 17 by KO, and only 2 losses. He called his right fist "toonder and lightning" for its concussive power (it was also called "Ingo's Bingo" and the "Hammer of Thor"), and in 2003 he was ranked at #99 on The Ring's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time.[3][4] He reputedly had bone trouble in his right hand on and off throughout his career as a result.

Early career[edit]

Johansson's introduction to the sport's limelight was inauspicious. He was disqualified for running from the eventual Olympic gold medalist, Ed Sanders, during the final of the Helsinki 1952 Summer Olympics heavyweight competition. Johansson maintained he was not fleeing Sanders, but rather was trying to tire his huge opponent for a planned third round onslaught. Johansson said he had been limited to a 10-day training camp, he had been trained by novices and he had been told by his team leader to let Sanders be the aggressor. Nevertheless, his silver medal was withheld for this poor performance, but he was presented with the medal in 1982.[5]

After the Olympics Johansson went into seclusion for six months, and considered quitting boxing. But he returned to the ring and turned professional under the guidance of the Swedish publisher and boxing promoter Edwin Ahlquist, and won his first 21 professional fights. He captured the Scandinavian pro title by knocking down and outscoring the Dane Erik Jensen (breaking his vaunted right hand in the process) A broken hand and a one year military service kept him out of the ring until late 1954. In August 1955 in his twelfth professional fight, Johansson knocked out former European Heavyweight Champion Hein ten Hoff in the first round. He took the Scandinavian heavyweight title in 1953 and on 30 September 1956 he won the European Heavyweight championship by scoring a 13 round KO over Italy’s Franco Cavicchi in 13 rounds in Milan for the European title.

Johansson successfully defended his European Crown against ranked heavyweights Henry Cooper (5th round KO on May 19, 1957) and Joe Erskine, whom he TKOed in 13 on 21February 1958.[6]

Champion[edit]

Ingemar Johansson knocks out Floyd Patterson and becomes boxing heavyweight champion of the world, June 26, 1959.

Johansson earned his shot at the world heavyweight crown when he KOed top ranked contender Eddie Machen in the first round of their elimination match on 14 September 1958. In front of 53,615 screaming fans in Ullevi football stadium, Johansson downed Machen three times, finally flattening him with a barrage of punches when Machen was on one knee for a knockout at 2:16 of the first round. Johansson then signed to fight champion Floyd Patterson.

Johansson was a colourful figure in New York as he trained for the fight. Eschewing the monastic training regimen favored by Patterson and other fighters, Johansson trained at the Catskill resort of Grossingers. He didn't seem to train particularly hard, and was often seen at night spots with his attractive girlfriend, Elaine Sloane, whom he asked out while she was working for Sports Illustrated.

He entered the ring in Yankee Stadium on 26 June 1959, as a 5-1 underdog. Johansson spent the first two rounds of the encounter retreating and flicking a light left jab at the champion. In the third round, Johansson threw a wide left hook that Patterson blocked with his right hand. When he moved his right hand away from its protective peek-a-boo position before his chin, Johansson drilled him with a short powerful right hand. Patterson went down, arose on unsteady legs and was out on his feet. Johansson followed up his advantage and sent Patterson down 6 more times in the round before the bout was stopped by referee Ruby Goldstein. Johansson celebrated with his girlfriend and future wife Birgit Lundgren and the next day a headline in a New York newspaper expressed the city's amazement. It read: "Ingo -- It's Bingo." [7] When Johansson returned to Sweden, he flew in on a helicopter, landing in the main football stadium in Gothenburg, his home town, and was cheered by 20,000 people.[8] He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, as well as the cover of Life Magazine on 20 July 1959, alongside Birgit.

Johansson was a flamboyant champion - a precursor to the "Swinging Sixties". One publication dubbed Johansson "boxing’s Cary Grant" and in 1960 he appeared the movie All the Young Men as a Marine, alongside stars Alan Ladd and Sidney Poitier. Wherever he went, in the U.S. or in Sweden he had a beautiful woman on his arm and paparazzi snapping pictures.[9]

To train for the third fight with Patterson, Ingemar sparred with a young Muhammad Ali, (known then as Cassius Clay) in Miami Beach. After Cassius had "boxed his way around the ring, as if it was he, using Ingo as a sparring partner," somebody offered $100,000 to Ingemar to fight in a televised event with Ali, but Ingemar declined saying that the fight wouldn't draw three ticket holders and that Ali didn't have the ability to step in the ring with him at that time.[10]

Rematch with Patterson[edit]

Johansson proposed to girlfriend Birgit in April 1960 after the champion visited Egypt. Then he turned his attention to defending his title against Floyd Patterson.[11] The two signed for a rematch on 20 June 1960. Patterson knocked Johansson out in the fifth round with a leaping left hook to become the first man to recover the world's undisputed heavyweight title. The punch caught Johansson's chin and he hit the canvas with a thud, out cold before he landed flat on his back. With blood trickling from his mouth, his glazed eyes staring up at the ring lights, and his left foot twitching the Swede was counted out. After the count, Patterson showed his concern for Johansson by cradling his motionless opponent, and promising him a second rematch. Johansson lay flat on his back on the canvas for five minutes before he was placed on a stool brought into the ring. He was still dazed and unsteady fifteen minutes after the knockout as he was helped out of the ring.

Third match with Patterson[edit]

Patterson and Johansson fought their final match on 13 March 1961. Johansson appeared to be in the worst physical condition of his three bouts with Patterson. A. J. Liebling, writing in The New Yorker, said the outcome seemed preordained and that Johansson was not dieting for the fight, eating creamed chicken, strawberry shortcake, and cherry cheesecake. Nonetheless the fight was competitive. Johansson caught Patterson leaping at him in the very first round and knocked him down. He followed his advantage up by scoring another knockdown, but was himself caught going in wide open by that famous Patterson left hook. It knocked him down. As the fight progressed, it became obvious that Johansson was spent. Patterson eventually knocked him out in round six.

Later career and retirement[edit]

Johansson only then aged 29 returned to Europe. He recaptured the European crown from Dick Richardson by an eight round KO on 17 June 1962. By this time Sonny Liston had captured the heavyweight crown from Patterson, and efforts were underway to match Johansson with Liston. Boxing fans would have loved the match.

Johansson, however, fought journeyman heavyweight Brian London on 21 April 1963, in a non-title twelve-round match. Johansson won most of the rounds by boxing fairly well but not throwing a serious right hand punch throughout the entire fight. In round twelve with four seconds remaining in the fight London tagged Johansson with a powerful right hand that knocked him down flat on his back. Johansson arose at the count of four just as the bell rang to end the fight. Film of this fight clearly illustrates Ingo was upright but groggy at the sound of the bell. The next day’s Stockholm's newspaper's front page showed a photo of him dizzy climbing the ropes with the headline "Wake up Ingo – You won!" After seeing this he sat down and wrote a letter to the European Boxing Union resigning his title and retiring from boxing at the age of 30, somewhat younger than many.


Professional boxing record[edit]

26 Wins (17 knockouts, 8 decisions, 1 disqualification), 2 Losses (2 knockouts)
Res. Record Opponent Type Round Date Location Notes
Win 26-2 United Kingdom Brian London PTS 12 21/04/1963 Sweden Johanneshov Ice Stadium, Stockholm, Sweden
Win 25-2 United Kingdom Dick Richardson KO 8 (15) 17/06/1962 Sweden Nya Ullevi, Gothenburg, Sweden Won EBU (European) Heavyweight title.
Win 24-2 Netherlands Wim Snoek KO 5 (10) 15/04/1962 Sweden Kungliga tennishallen, Stockholm, Sweden
Win 23-2 Jamaica Joe Bygraves TKO 7 (12) 02/09/1962 Sweden Maesshallen Sports Hall, Gothenburg, sweden
Loss 22-2 United States Floyd Patterson KO 6 (15) 13/03/1961 United States Convention Hall, Miami Beach, Florida, United States For World Heavyweight title.
Loss 22-1 United States Floyd Patterson KO 5 (15) 20/06/1960 United States Polo Grounds, New York, New York, United States Lost World Heavyweight title.
Win 22-0 United States Floyd Patterson TKO 3 (15) 26/06/1959 United States Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York, United States Won World Heavyweight title.
Win 21-0 United States Eddie Machen KO 1 (12) 14/09/1958 Sweden Nya Ullevi, Gothenburg, Sweden Spectator record for Swedish Boxing.
Win 20-0 Germany Heinz Neuhaus TKO 4 (12) 13/07/1958 Sweden Nya Ullevi, Gothenburg, Sweden
Win 19-0 Wales Joe Erskine TKO 13 (15) 21/02/1958 Sweden Maesshallen Sports Hall, Gothenburg, Sweden Retained EBU (European) Heavyweight title.
Win 18-0 United States Archie McBride PTS 10 13/12/1957 Sweden Maesshallen Sports Hall, Gothenburg, Sweden
Win 17-0 United Kingdom Henry Cooper KO 5 (15) 19/05/1957 Sweden Råsunda Stadium Stockholm, Sweden Retained EBU (European) Heavyweight title.
Win 16-0 United Kingdom Peter Bates KO 2 (10) 28/12/1956 Sweden Maesshallen Sports Hall, Gothenburg, Sweden
Win 15-0 Italy Franco Cavicchi KO 13 (15) 30/09/1956 Italy Palazzo Dello Sport, Bologna, Italy Won EBU (European) Heavyweight title.
Win 14-0 Germany Hans Friedrich PTS 10 15/04/1956 Sweden Kungliga tennishallen, Stockholm, Sweden
Win 13-0 Jamaica Joe Bygraves PTS 8 24/02/1956 Sweden Maesshallen Sports Hall, Gothenburg, Sweden
Win 12-0 Germany Hein ten Hoff KO 1 (8) 28/08/1955 Sweden Ullevi, Gothenburg, Sweden
Win 11-0 Germany Guenter Nurnberg KO 7 (8) 12/06/1955 Germany Westfalenhalle, Dortmund, Germany
Win 10-0 Italy Uber Bacilieri UD 8 03/04/1955 Sweden Kungliga tennishallen, Stockholm, Sweden
Win 9-0 Italy Aldo Pellegrini DQ 5 (8) 04/03/1955 Sweden Maesshallen Sports Hall, Gothenburg, Sweden
Win 8-0 Austria Kurt Schiegl TKO 5 (8) 13/02/1955 Sweden Kungliga tennishallen, Stockholm, Sweden
Win 7-0 Trinidad and Tobago Ansell Adams PTS 8 06/01/1955 Sweden Maesshallen Sports Hall, Gothenburg, Sweden
Win 6-0 Luxembourg Werner Wiegand TKO 5 (8) 05/11/1954 Sweden Maesshallen Sports Hall, Gothenburg, Sweden
Win 5-0 France Raymond Degl’lnnocenti KO 2 (6) 03/12/1953 Sweden Maesshallen Sports Hall, Gothenburg, Sweden
Win 4-0 Denmark Erik Jensen PTS 6 12/03/1953 Denmark K.B. Hallen Sports Hall, Copenhagen, Denmark Won Scandinavian Heavyweight title.
Win 3-0 Jamaica Lloyd Barnett PTS 8 06/03/1953 Sweden Maesshallen Sports Hall, Gothenburg, Sweden
Win 2-0 France Emile Bentz KO 2 (6) 06/02/1953 Sweden Maesshallen Sports Hall, Gothenburg, Sweden
Win 1-0 France Robert Masson KO 4 (8) 05/12/1952 Sweden Maesshallen Sports Hall, Gothenburg, Sweden

Legend:       Win       Loss       Draw/No contest       Notes

Retired life[edit]

"Ingo the Champ", Peter Linde´s statue in bronze of world heavyweight champion in boxing Ingemar Johansson was unveiled in his home town Gothenburg on Saturday, September 17th, 2011, outside Ullevi - the stadium where Johansson won a match in 1958 against Eddie Machen.

Ingemar Johansson and Floyd Patterson became good friends who flew across the Atlantic to visit each other every year.

Johansson made several films in Sweden and appeared as a Marine in the Korean War film All the Young Men (1960).

In the 1960s along with other business interests, Johansson co-promoted boxing cards in Sweden, including several with ex-champ Sonny Liston (1966 and 1967). On April 22, 1966, he boxed a five-round exhibition with European Heavyweight Champion Karl Mildenberger for his first co-promotion. He also owned a fishing boat and a bar called "Ingo's".

By the 1970s he resided in Pompano Beach, Florida, for part of each year and ran in marathons (including the Boston Marathon) all over the world until the mid-1980s. In 1985 he completed the Stockholm Marathon.

During the 1990s Johansson and Patterson would attend boxing conventions and also sign their autographs on boxing memorabilia. They continued to be friends until the onset of Alzheimer's disease incapacitated them both. It is thought the illness was of the type linked to boxing, although his career was fairly short compared to some champions.[12] In the 1990s Johansson's business interests in Sweden included sports apparel and a light lager beer entitled HAMMER, named for his punching prowess.

In 2000, the Swedish Sports Academy selected Johansson as Sweden's third-best athlete of the 20th century, behind tennis great Björn Borg and Alpine skiing great Ingemar Stenmark. In 2002, he was inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Having suffered from Alzheimer's disease and dementia since the mid-1990s, he lived in a nursing home in Kungsbacka while his health deteriorated. In the later stages of his illness, he was reunited with his second wife, Birgit, who was at his side when he died on January 30, 2009, from complications following pneumonia.[8][13] At the time of his death, he was at age 76 the oldest living heavyweight champion. Johansson was married and divorced twice, and is survived by five children.[14]

In January 2011, the 1959 Johnny Lion song "Ingemar Johansson", which chronicles the 1959 Patterson fight, was re-released on the compilation album From The Vault: The Coed Records Lost Master Tapes, Volume 1.[15]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Achievements
Preceded by
Floyd Patterson
World Heavyweight Champion
1959–1960
Succeeded by
Floyd Patterson
Preceded by
Franco Cavicchi
European Heavyweight Champion
September 30, 1956 - March 27, 1960
World Champion
Succeeded by
Dick Richardson
Preceded by
Dick Richardson
European Heavyweight Champion
June 17, 1962 - April 22, 1963
Retired
Succeeded by
Henry Cooper
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Max Schmeling
Oldest Living Heavyweight Champion
February 2, 2005 – January 30, 2009
Succeeded by
Ernie Terrell
Awards
Preceded by
Archie Moore
Edward J. Neil Trophy
(BWAA Fighter of the Year)

1959
Succeeded by
Floyd Patterson
Preceded by
Carmen Basilio
Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year
1958, 1959
Succeeded by
Floyd Patterson