Floyd Patterson

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Floyd Patterson
Floyd Patterson 1962.jpg
Patterson in 1962
Nickname(s) The Gentleman of Boxing
Rated at Light heavyweight
Height 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Reach 71 in (180 cm)
Nationality American
Born (1935-01-04)January 4, 1935
Waco, North Carolina, U.S.
Died May 11, 2006(2006-05-11) (aged 71)
New Paltz, New York, U.S.
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 64
Wins 55
Wins by KO 40
Losses 8
Draws 1

Floyd Patterson (January 4, 1935 – May 11, 2006) was an American professional boxer who held the undisputed world heavyweight championship. At the age of 21, he became the youngest boxer to win the world heavyweight title, and was also the first heavyweight to regain the title after losing it. As an amateur he represented the United States at the 1952 Olympics, winning a gold medal in the middleweight division.

Although Mike Tyson later became the youngest boxer to win a world heavyweight title at the age of 20, Patterson remains the youngest undisputed heavyweight champion. Both Tyson and Patterson were trained by Cus D'Amato.

Early life[edit]

Born into a poor family in Waco, North Carolina, Patterson was the youngest of eleven children and experienced an insular and troubled childhood. His family moved to Brooklyn, New York, where Floyd was a truant and petty thief. At age ten, he was sent to the Wiltwyck School for Boys, a reform school in upstate New York, which he credited with turning his life around. He stayed there for almost 2 years. He attended high school in New Paltz, New York where he succeeded in all sports (to this day the New Paltz football field is named in his honor). At age fourteen, he started to box, trained by Cus D'Amato at his Gramercy Gym. Aged just 17, Patterson won the Gold medal in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics as a middleweight. 1952 turned out to be a good year for the young Patterson; in addition to Olympic gold Patterson won the National Amateur Middleweight Championship and New York Golden Gloves Middleweight Championship.

Olympic results[edit]

  • Defeated Omar Tebakka (France) 3-0
  • Defeated Leonardus Jansen (Netherlands) TKO 1
  • Defeated Stig Sjölin (Sweden) DQ 3
  • Defeated Vasile Tiţă (Romania) KO 1

Patterson's amateur record over 44 fights was 40-4, with 37 knockouts.

Patterson carried his hands higher than most boxers, in front of his face. Sportswriters called Patterson's style a "peek-a-boo" stance.

Early pro career[edit]

Patterson turned pro and steadily rose through the ranks, his only early defeat being an eight-round decision to former Light Heavyweight Champion Joey Maxim on June 7, 1954, at the Eastern Parkway Arena in Brooklyn, New York. Most people think Patterson did enough to win, and Maxim's greater fame at the time helped to sway the judges.[citation needed]


Although Patterson fought around the light heavyweight limit for much of his early career, he and manager Cus D'Amato always had plans to fight for the Heavyweight Championship. In fact, D'Amato made these plans clear as early as 1954, when he told the press that Patterson was aiming for the heavyweight title.[1] However, after Rocky Marciano announced his retirement as World Heavyweight Champion on April 27, 1956, Patterson was ranked by The Ring magazine as the top light heavyweight contender. After Marciano's announcement, Jim Norris of the International Boxing Club stated that Patterson was one of the six fighters who would take part in an elimination tournament to crown Marciano's successor. The Ring then moved Patterson into the heavyweight rankings, at number five.[2]

Patterson vs. Moore[edit]

After beating Tommy "Hurricane" Jackson in an elimination fight, Patterson faced former Light Heavyweight Champion Archie Moore on November 30, 1956, for the World Heavyweight Championship. He beat Moore by a knockout in five rounds and became the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in history, at the age of 21 years, 10 months, 3 weeks and 5 days. He was the first Olympic gold medalist to win a professional Heavyweight title.

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

Patterson vs. Johansson I, II & III[edit]

After a series of defenses against fringe contenders (Hurricane Jackson, Pete Rademacher, Roy Harris,[3] and Brian London), Patterson met Ingemar Johansson of Sweden, the number one contender, in the first of three fights. Johansson triumphed over Patterson on June 26, 1959, with the referee Ruby Goldstein stopping the fight in the third round after the Swede had knocked Patterson down seven times. Johansson became Sweden's first World Heavyweight Champion, thus becoming a national hero as the first European to defeat an American for the title since 1933.

Patterson knocked out Johansson in the fifth round of their rematch on June 20, 1960, to become the first man in history to regain the Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship. Johansson hit the canvas hard, seemingly out before he landed flat on his back. With glazed eyes, blood trickling from his mouth and his left foot quivering, he was counted out. Johansson lay unconscious for five minutes before he was helped onto a stool.

A third fight between them was held on March 13, 1961 and while Johansson put Patterson on the floor, Patterson retained his title by knockout in the sixth round to win the rubber match in which Patterson was decked twice and Johansson once in the first round. Johansson had landed both right hands over Floyd's left jab. After getting up from the second knockdown Floyd abandoned his jab and connected with a left hook that knocked down Johansson. After that, Patterson came on with a strong body attack that wore down Johansson. In the 6th round, Johansson caught Patterson with a solid right. But the power in Ingemar's punches was gone. Patterson won the fight in the 6th round by knockout.[4]

Patterson vs. Liston I & II[edit]

After the third Johansson fight, Patterson defended the title on December 4, 1961 against Tom McNeeley and retained the title with a fourth-round knockout. However he did not fight number one contender Sonny Liston. This was due in part to Cus D'Amato, who did not want Patterson in the ring with a boxer with mob connections. As a result, D'Amato turned down any challenges involving the IBC. Eventually, due to a monetary dispute with Jimmy Jacobs, Patterson removed D'Amato from handling his business affairs and agreed to fight Liston.

Leading up to the fight, Sonny Liston was the major betting line favorite, though Sports Illustrated predicted that Patterson would win in 15 rounds. Jim Braddock, Jersey Joe Walcott, Ezzard Charles, Rocky Marciano and Ingemar Johansson picked Patterson to win. The fight also carried a number of social implications. Liston's connections with the mob were well known and the NAACP was concerned about having to deal with Liston's visibility as World Champion and had encouraged Patterson not to fight Liston, fearing that a Liston victory would tarnish the civil rights movement.[5] Patterson also claimed that John F. Kennedy did not want him to fight Liston either.[6]

Patterson lost his title to Liston on September 25, 1962 in Chicago, by a first-round knockout in front of 18,894 fans. The two fighters were a marked contrast. In the ring, Liston's size and power proved too much for Patterson's guile and agility. However, Patterson did not use his speed to his benefit. According to Sports Illustrated writer Gilbert Rogin, Patterson didn't punch enough and frequently tried to clinch with Liston. Liston battered Patterson with body shots and then shortened up and connected with two double hooks high on the head. The result at the time was the third-fastest knockout in boxing history.[7] After being knocked out, Patterson left Comiskey Park in Chicago wearing dark glasses and a fake beard for the drive back to New York. After the fight, questions were raised on whether the fight was fixed to set up a more lucrative rematch. Overnight, Patterson seemed to lose his public support as a result of his swift knockout.[8]

The rematch was set for April 1963; however, Liston injured his knee swinging a golf club and the fight was delayed to July 22, 1963. In Las Vegas that night, Patterson attempted to become the first boxer to win the Heavyweight title three times, but Liston once again knocked him out in the first round. Patterson lasted four seconds longer than in the first bout.

Post-title career[edit]

Following these defeats, Patterson went through a depression. However, he eventually recovered and began winning fights again, including top victories over Eddie Machen and George Chuvalo. The Chuvalo match getting Ring magazine's "Fight of the Year" award.

Patterson was now the number one challenger for the title held by Muhammad Ali. On November 22, 1965, in yet another attempt to be the first to win the World Heavyweight title three times, Patterson lost by technical knockout at the end of the 12th round, going into the fight with an injured sacro-iliac joint in a bout in which Ali was clearly dominant.[9] Ali called Patterson an "Uncle Tom" for refusing to call him Muhammad Ali (Patterson continued to call him Cassius Clay) and for this outspokenness against black Muslims.[10] Instead of scoring a quick knockout, Ali mocked, humiliated and punished Patterson throughout the fight before knocking him out in the 12th round.[11]

Patterson was still a legitimate contender. In 1966 he traveled to England and knocked out British boxer Henry Cooper in just four rounds at Wembley Stadium.

Patterson tried his hand at acting. He is seen in this 1968 The Wild Wild West episode as a landowner who is in danger of losing his property.

In September 1969 he divorced his first wife, Sandra Hicks Patterson, who wanted him to quit boxing, while he still had hopes for another title shot.

When Ali was stripped of his title for refusing induction into the military, the World Boxing Association staged an eight-man tournament to determine his successor. Patterson fought Jerry Quarry to a draw in 1967. In a rematch four months later, Patterson lost a controversial 12-round decision to Quarry. Subsequently, in a third and final attempt at winning the title a third time, Patterson lost a controversial 15-round referee's decision to Jimmy Ellis in Sweden, despite breaking Ellis's nose and scoring a disputed knockdown.

Patterson continued on, defeating Oscar Bonavena in a close fight over ten rounds in early 1972.

At age 37, Patterson was stopped in the seventh round in a rematch with Muhammad Ali for the NABF Heavyweight title on September 20, 1972. The defeat proved to be Patterson's last fight, although there was never an announcement of retirement.

Retired life[edit]

In retirement, he and Johansson became good friends who flew across the Atlantic to visit each other every year and he became chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission. He was also inducted into the International Boxing Hall Of Fame in 1991.[12]

In 1982 and 1983 he ran the Stockholm Marathon together with Ingemar Johansson.

Patterson lived in New Paltz, New York for many years and was known as a true gentleman around town.

His adopted son, Tracy Harris Patterson, was a world champion boxer in the 1990s and was trained by Floyd during part of his career. Floyd also trained Canadian heavyweight Donovan "Razor" Ruddock in 1992 for his fights with Greg Page, Phil Jackson, and Lennox Lewis.[13]

The New Paltz High School football field was named "Floyd Patterson Field" in 1985.


The grave of Floyd Patterson

Floyd Patterson suffered from Alzheimer's disease and prostate cancer and had been hospitalized for a week prior to his death. He died at home in New Paltz in 2004 at age 71. He is buried at New Paltz Rural Cemetery in New Paltz, Ulster County, New York.[14]


  • "It's easy to do anything in victory. It's in defeat that a man reveals himself."
  • "They said I was the fighter who got knocked down the most, but I also got up the most." (This quote was used in the tenth episode of the 2009 TV series V.)
  • "When you have millions of dollars, you have millions of friends."[15]
  • On boxing: "It's like being in love with a woman. She can be unfaithful, she can be mean, she can be cruel, but it doesn't matter. If you love her, you want her, even though she can do you all kinds of harm. It's the same with me and boxing. It can do me all kinds of harm but I love it."

Professional boxing record[edit]

55 Wins (40 knockouts, 15 decisions), 8 Losses (5 knockouts, 3 decision), 1 Draw[16]
Res. Record Opponent Type Round Date Location Notes
Loss 55–8–1 United States Muhammad Ali TKO 7 (12) 20/09/1972 United States Madison Square Garden, New York For NABF Heavyweight title.
Win 55–7–1 Puerto Rico Pedro Agosto TKO 6 (10) 14/07/1972 United States Singer Bowl, Flushing, Queens, New York
Win 54–7–1 Argentina Oscar Bonavena UD 10 11/02/1972 United States Madison Square Garden, New York
Win 53–7–1 United States Charlie Harris KO 6 (10) 23/11/1971 United States Portland, Oregon
Win 52–7–1 United States Vic Brown UD 10 21/08/1971 United States Peace Bridge Arena, Buffalo, New York
Win 51–7–1 United States Charley Polite UD 10 17/07/1971 United States Erie Arena, Erie, Pennsylvania
Win 50–7–1 United States Terry Daniels UD 10 26/05/1971 United States Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
Win 49–7–1 United States Roger Russell TKO 9 (10) 29/03/1971 United States Arena, Philadelphia
Win 48–7–1 United States Levi Forte KO 2 (10) 16/01/1971 United States Convention Hall, Miami Beach, Florida
Win 47–7–1 United States Charley Green KO 10 (10) 15/09/1970 United States Madison Square Garden, New York
Loss 46–7–1 United States Jimmy Ellis PTS 15 14/09/1968 Sweden Solna Fotbollsstadion, Stockholm, Sweden For WBA Heavyweight title.
Loss 46–6–1 United States Jerry Quarry MD 12 28/10/1967 United States Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles Elimination tournament for WBA Heavyweight title.
Draw 46–5–1 United States Jerry Quarry MD 12 09/06/1967 United States Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles
Win 46–5 United States Bill McMurray KO 1 (10) 09/06/1967 United States Civic Arena, Pittsburgh
Win 45–5 United States Willie Johnson KO 3 (10) 13/02/1967 United States Auditorium, Miami Beach, Florida
Win 44–5 United Kingdom Henry Cooper KO 4 (10) 20/09/1966 United Kingdom Empire Pool, Wembley, London, England
Loss 43–5 United States Muhammad Ali TKO 12 (15) 22/11/1965 United States Caesars Palace, Las Vegas For World Heavyweight title.
Win 43–4 United States Tod Herring TKO 3 (10) 14/05/1965 Sweden Johanneshov, Stockholm, Sweden
Win 42–4 Canada George Chuvalo UD 12 01/02/1965 United States Madison Square Garden, New York Fight was named The Ring Magazine Fight of the Year for 1965.
Win 41–4 United States Charlie Powell KO 6 (10) 12/12/1964 Puerto Rico Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Win 40–4 United States Eddie Machen TKO 3 (10) 05/07/1964 Sweden Hiram Bithorn Stadium, Solna, Sweden
Win 39–4 Italy Santo Amonti TKO 8 (10) 06/01/1964 Sweden Johanneshov, Stockholm, Sweden
Loss 38–4 United States Sonny Liston KO 1 (15) 22/07/1963 United States Convention Center, Las Vegas For World Heavyweight title.
Loss 38–3 United States Sonny Liston KO 1 (15) 25/09/1962 United States Comiskey Park, Chicago Lost World Heavyweight title.
Win 38–2 United States Tom McNeeley KO 4 (15) 04/12/1961 Canada Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Canada Retained World Heavyweight title.
Win 37–2 Sweden Ingemar Johansson KO 6 (15) 13/03/1961 United States Convention Hall, Miami Beach, Florida Retained World Heavyweight title.
Win 36–2 Sweden Ingemar Johansson KO 5 (15) 20/06/1960 United States Polo Grounds, New York Won World Heavyweight title. Fight was named The Ring Magazine Fight of the Year for 1960. Patterson became the first person to regain the World Heavyweight title.
Loss 35–2 Sweden Ingemar Johansson TKO 3 (15) 26/06/1959 United States Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York Lost World Heavyweight title.
Win 35–1 United Kingdom Brian London KO 11 (15) 01/05/1959 United States Fairgrounds Coliseum, Indianapolis Retained World Heavyweight title.
Win 34–1 United States Roy Harris RTD 12 (15) 18/08/1958 United States Wrigley Field, Los Angeles Retained World Heavyweight title.
Win 33–1 United States Pete Rademacher KO 6 (15) 22/08/1957 United States Sick's Stadium, Seattle Retained World Heavyweight title.
Win 32–1 United States Tommy Jackson TKO 10 (15) 29/07/1957 United States Polo Grounds, New York Retained World Heavyweight title.
Win 31–1 United States Archie Moore KO 5 (15) 30/11/1956 United States Chicago Stadium, Chicago Won vacant World Heavyweight title.
Win 30–1 United States Tommy Jackson SD 12 08/06/1956 United States Madison Square Garden, New York World Heavyweight Title Eliminator.
Win 29–1 United States Alvin Williams KO 3 (10) 10/04/1956 United States Memorial Hall, Kansas City, Missouri
Win 28–1 United States Jimmy Walls TKO 2 (10) 12/03/1956 United States New Britain, Connecticut
Win 27–1 United States Jimmy Slade TKO 7 (10) 08/12/1955 United States Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles
Win 26–1 United States Calvin Brad KO 1 (10) 13/10/1955 United States Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles
Win 25–1 United States Dave Whitlock KO 3 (10) 29/09/1955 United States Winterland Arena, San Francisco
Win 24–1 United States Alvin Williams TKO 8 (10) 08/09/1955 Canada Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada
Win 23–1 United States Archie McBride KO 7 (10) 06/07/1955 United States Madison Square Garden, New York
Win 22–1 Canada Yvon Durelle RTD 7 (10) 23/06/1955 Canada Newcastle, New Brunswick, Canada
Win 21–1 United States Esau Ferdinand TKO 10 (10) 17/03/1955 United States Auditorium, Oakland, California
Win 20–1 United States Don Grant TKO 5 (10) 17/01/1955 United States Eastern Parkway Arena, Brooklyn, New York
Win 19–1 United States Willie Troy TKO 5 (8) 07/01/1955 United States Madison Square Garden, New York
Win 18–1 United States Jimmy Slade UD 8 19/11/1954 United States Madison Square Garden, New York
Win 17–1 United States Joe Gannon UD 8 22/10/1954 United States Madison Square Garden, New York
Win 16–1 United States Esau Ferdinand UD 8 11/10/1954 United States St. Nicholas Arena, New York
Win 15–1 United States Tommy Harrison TKO 1 (8) 02/08/1954 United States Eastern Parkway Arena, Brooklyn, New York
Win 14–1 France Jacques Royer Crecy TKO 7 (8) 12/07/1954 United States St. Nicholas Arena, New York
Loss 13–1 United States Joey Maxim UD 8 07/06/1954 United States Eastern Parkway Arena, Brooklyn, New York
Win 13–0 United States Jesse Turner UD 8 10/05/1954 United States Eastern Parkway Arena, Brooklyn, New York
Win 12–0 United States Alvin Williams UD 8 19/04/1954 United States Eastern Parkway Arena, Brooklyn, New York
Win 11–0 United States Sammy Brown TKO 2 (10) 30/03/1954 United States Turner's Arena, Washington
Win 10–0 Canada Yvon Durelle UD 8 15/02/1954 United States Eastern Parkway Arena, Brooklyn, New York
Win 9–0 United States Dick Wagner TKO 5 (8) 14/12/1953 United States Eastern Parkway Arena, Brooklyn, New York
Win 8–0 United States Wes Bascom UD 8 19/10/1953 United States Eastern Parkway Arena, Brooklyn, New York
Win 7–0 Canada Gordon Wallace TKO 3 (8) 01/06/1953 United States Eastern Parkway Arena, Brooklyn, New York
Win 6–0 United States Dick Wagner SD 8 13/04/1953 United States Eastern Parkway Arena, Brooklyn, New York
Win 5–0 United States Chester Mieszala TKO 5 (6) 28/01/1953 United States Chicago Stadium, Chicago, Illinois
Win 4–0 United States Lalu Sabotin TKO 5 (8) 29/12/1952 United States Eastern Parkway Arena, Brooklyn, New York
Win 3–0 Lester Johnson TKO 3 (6) 31/10/1952 United States Madison Square Garden, New York
Win 2–0 United States Sammy Walker TKO 2 (6) 06/10/1952 United States Eastern Parkway Arena, Brooklyn, New York
Win 1–0 United States Eddie Godbold KO 4 (6) 12/09/1952 United States St. Nicholas Arena, New York


  1. ^ Weston, Stanley (editor) (1996). The Best of the Ring. Chicago: Bonus Books. p. 183. ISBN 1-56625-056-0. 
  2. ^ Daniel, Dan (August 2005). ""I Won't Be Back," Says Marciano". The Ring. 84 (8): 90–91. 
  3. ^ "Tale of the tape". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. Associated Press. August 18, 1958. p. 15. 
  4. ^ "The 10 Greatest Heavyweight Fights of All Time,Floyd Patterson vs. Ingemar Johansson 3.". boxingmemories.com. Retrieved 2011-03-22. 
  5. ^ "Esquire covers commemorate boxing's prime". ESPN.com. May 8, 2008. 
  6. ^ "Ex-Champ Floyd Patterson Dies At 71". CBS News. May 11, 2006. 
  7. ^ Sonny Liston: The Facts http://www.thesweetscience.com/boxing-article/705/sonny-liston-facts/
  8. ^ The Facts About The Big Fight http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1147918/index.htm
  9. ^ Johnson, Chuck (2006-05-11). "Ex-heavyweight boxer Floyd Patterson, 71, dies". USA Today. Retrieved 2010-05-02. 
  10. ^ http://observer.guardian.co.uk/osm/story/0,,1072751,00.html Ali: The Legacy
  11. ^ http://espn.go.com/sportscentury/features/00242468.html
  12. ^ Mitch Abramson (April 16, 2014). "Daily News Golden Gloves Hall of Fame: Floyd Patterson". Daily News (New York). 
  13. ^ http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1003844/index.htm Floyd Patterson: His Own Man
  14. ^ Alan Howard Levy. Floyd Patterson: A Boxer and a Gentleman, p. 263
  15. ^ http://jco.usfca.edu/boxing/rape.html
  16. ^ http://boxrec.com/list_bouts.php?human_id=009038&cat=boxer

Further reading[edit]

Further watching[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Rocky Marciano
World Heavyweight Champion
November 30, 1956 – June 26, 1959
Succeeded by
Ingemar Johansson
Preceded by
Ingemar Johansson
World Heavyweight Champion
June 20, 1960 – September 25, 1962
Succeeded by
Sonny Liston
Preceded by
Joe Louis
Youngest Heavyweight Champion
November 30, 1956 – November 22, 1986
Succeeded by
Mike Tyson