Floyd Patterson (January 4, 1935 – May 11, 2006) was an American professional boxer who competed from 1952 to 1972, and twice reigned as the world heavyweight champion from 1956 to 1962. At the age of 21, he became the youngest boxer in history to win the title, and was also the first heavyweight to regain the title after losing it. As an amateur, he won a gold medal in the middleweight division at the 1952 Summer Olympics.
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.
Patterson took up boxing at age fourteen, and was trained by Cus D'Amato at his Gramercy Gym. Three years later, he won the gold medal in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics as a middleweight. In 1952, he won the National Amateur Middleweight Championship and New York Golden Gloves Middleweight Championship.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
After a series of defenses against fringe contenders (Hurricane Jackson, Pete Rademacher, Roy Harris, 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.
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. Patterson also claimed that John F. Kennedy did not want him to fight Liston either.
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. 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.
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.
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. 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. Instead of scoring a quick knockout, Ali mocked, humiliated and punished Patterson throughout the fight before knocking him out in the 12th round.
Patterson remained a legitimate contender. In 1966 he traveled to England and knocked out British boxer Henry Cooper in just four rounds at Wembley Stadium.
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.
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.
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.
The New Paltz High School football field was named "Floyd Patterson Field" in 1985.
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, on May 11, 2006 at age 71. He is buried at New Paltz Rural Cemetery in New Paltz, Ulster County, New York.
|Professional record summary|
|64 fights||55 wins||8 losses|
|64||Loss||55–8–1||Muhammad Ali||RTD||7 (12), 3:00||Sep 20, 1972||Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.||For NABF heavyweight title|
|63||Win||55–7–1||Pedro Agosto||TKO||6 (10), 3:00||Jul 14, 1972||Singer Bowl, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|62||Win||54–7–1||Oscar Bonavena||UD||10||Feb 11, 1972||Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|61||Win||53–7–1||Charlie Harris||KO||6 (10), 2:31||Nov 23, 1971||Multnomah County Exposition Center, Portland, Oregon, U.S.|
|60||Win||52–7–1||Vic Brown||UD||10||Aug 21, 1971||Peace Bridge Arena, Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada|
|59||Win||51–7–1||Charley Polite||UD||10||Jul 17, 1971||Erie Arena, Erie, Pennsylvania, U.S.|
|58||Win||50–7–1||Terry Daniels||UD||10||May 26, 1971||Cleveland Arena, Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.|
|57||Win||49–7–1||Roger Russell||TKO||9 (10), 1:29||Mar 29, 1971||Philadelphia Arena, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.|
|56||Win||48–7–1||Levi Forte||KO||2 (10), 2:20||Jan 16, 1971||Convention Center, Miami Beach, Florida, U.S.|
|55||Win||47–7–1||Charley Green||KO||10 (10), 1:15||Sep 15, 1970||Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|54||Loss||46–7–1||Jimmy Ellis||PTS||15||Sep 14, 1968||Råsunda Stadium, Stockholm, Sweden||For WBA heavyweight title|
|53||Loss||46–6–1||Jerry Quarry||MD||12||Oct 28, 1967||Grand Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, U.S.|
|52||Draw||46–5–1||Jerry Quarry||MD||12||Jun 9, 1967||Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California, U.S.|
|51||Win||46–5||Bill McMurray||KO||1 (10), 2:37||Mar 30, 1967||Civic Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.|
|50||Win||45–5||Willie Johnson||KO||3 (10), 2:05||Feb 13, 1967||Municipal Auditorium, Miami Beach, Florida, U.S.|
|49||Win||44–5||Henry Cooper||KO||4 (10), 2:10||Sep 20, 1966||Empire Pool, London, England|
|48||Loss||43–5||Muhammad Ali||TKO||12 (15), 2:18||Nov 22, 1965||Las Vegas Convention Center, Winchester, Nevada, U.S.||For WBC, The Ring, and lineal heavyweight titles|
|47||Win||43–4||Tod Herring||TKO||3 (10), 0:40||May 14, 1965||Stockholm, Sweden|
|46||Win||42–4||George Chuvalo||UD||12||Feb 1, 1965||Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|45||Win||41–4||Charlie Powell||KO||6 (10), 1:21||Dec 12, 1964||Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico|
|44||Win||40–4||Eddie Machen||PTS||12||Jul 5, 1964||Råsunda Stadium, Stockholm, Sweden|
|43||Win||39–4||Santo Amonti||TKO||8 (10), 2:25||Jan 6, 1964||Stockholm, Sweden|
|42||Loss||38–4||Sonny Liston||KO||1 (15), 2:10||Jul 22, 1963||Las Vegas Convention Center, Winchester, Nevada, U.S.||For WBC, The Ring, and world heavyweight titles|
|41||Loss||38–3||Sonny Liston||KO||1 (15), 2:06||Sep 25, 1962||Comiskey Park, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.||Lost The Ring and world heavyweight titles|
|40||Win||38–2||Tom McNeeley||KO||4 (15), 2:51||Dec 4, 1961||Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario, Canada||Retained The Ring and world heavyweight titles|
|39||Win||37–2||Ingemar Johansson||KO||6 (15), 2:45||Mar 13, 1961||Exhibition Hall, Miami Beach, Florida, U.S.||Retained The Ring and world heavyweight titles|
|38||Win||36–2||Ingemar Johansson||KO||5 (15), 1:51||Jun 20, 1960||Polo Grounds, New York City, New York, U.S.||Won The Ring and world heavyweight titles|
|37||Loss||35–2||Ingemar Johansson||TKO||3 (15), 2:03||Jun 26, 1959||Yankee Stadium, New York City, New York, U.S.||Lost The Ring and world heavyweight titles|
|36||Win||35–1||Brian London||KO||11 (15), 0:51||May 1, 1959||Fairgrounds Coliseum, Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.||Retained The Ring and world heavyweight titles|
|35||Win||34–1||Roy Harris||RTD||12 (15)||Aug 18, 1958||Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California, U.S.||Retained The Ring and world heavyweight titles|
|34||Win||33–1||Pete Rademacher||KO||6 (15), 2:57||Aug 22, 1957||Sick's Stadium, Seattle, Washington, U.S.||Retained The Ring and world heavyweight titles|
|33||Win||32–1||Tommy Jackson||TKO||10 (15), 1:52||Jul 29, 1957||Polo Grounds, New York City, New York, U.S.||Retained The Ring and world heavyweight titles|
|32||Win||31–1||Archie Moore||KO||5 (15), 2:27||Nov 30, 1956||Chicago Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.||Won vacant The Ring and world heavyweight titles|
|31||Win||30–1||Tommy Jackson||SD||12||Jun 8, 1956||Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|30||Win||29–1||Alvin Williams||KO||3 (10), 1:58||Apr 10, 1956||Memorial Hall, Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.|
|29||Win||28–1||Jimmy Walls||TKO||2 (10), 2:29||Mar 12, 1956||New Britain, Connecticut, U.S.|
|28||Win||27–1||Jimmy Slade||TKO||7 (10), 2:05||Dec 8, 1955||Grand Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, U.S.|
|27||Win||26–1||Calvin Brad||KO||1 (10), 2:58||Oct 13, 1955||Grand Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, U.S.|
|26||Win||25–1||Dave Whitlock||KO||3 (10), 0:52||Sep 29, 1955||Winterland Arena, San Francisco, California, U.S.|
|25||Win||24–1||Alvin Williams||TKO||8 (10), 2:28||Sep 8, 1955||Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada|
|24||Win||23–1||Archie McBride||KO||7 (10), 1:46||Jul 6, 1955||Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|23||Win||22–1||Yvon Durelle||RTD||5 (10)||Jun 23, 1955||Newcastle, New Brunswick, Canada|
|22||Win||21–1||Esau Ferdinand||TKO||10 (10), 2:49||Mar 17, 1955||Civic Auditorium, Oakland, California, U.S.|
|21||Win||20–1||Don Grant||TKO||5 (10), 1:13||Jan 17, 1955||Eastern Parkway Arena, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|20||Win||19–1||Willie Troy||TKO||5 (8)||Jan 7, 1955||Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|19||Win||18–1||Jimmy Slade||UD||8||Nov 19, 1954||Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|18||Win||17–1||Joe Gannon||UD||8||Oct 22, 1954||Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|17||Win||16–1||Esau Ferdinand||UD||8||Oct 11, 1954||St. Nicholas Arena, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|16||Win||15–1||Tommy Harrison||TKO||1 (8), 1:29||Aug 2, 1954||Eastern Parkway Arena, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|15||Win||14–1||Jacques Royer Crecy||TKO||7 (8)||Jul 12, 1954||St. Nicholas Arena, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|14||Loss||13–1||Joey Maxim||UD||8||Jun 7, 1954||Eastern Parkway Arena, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|13||Win||13–0||Jesse Turner||UD||8||May 10, 1954||Eastern Parkway Arena, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|12||Win||12–0||Alvin Williams||UD||8||Apr 19, 1954||Eastern Parkway Arena, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|11||Win||11–0||Sammy Brown||TKO||2 (10), 1:40||Mar 30, 1954||Turner's Arena, Washington, D.C., U.S.|
|10||Win||10–0||Yvon Durelle||UD||8||Feb 15, 1954||Eastern Parkway Arena, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|9||Win||9–0||Dick Wagner||TKO||5 (8), 2:29||Dec 14, 1953||Eastern Parkway Arena, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|8||Win||8–0||Wes Bascom||UD||8||Oct 19, 1953||Eastern Parkway Arena, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|7||Win||7–0||Gordon Wallace||TKO||3 (8), 0:52||Jun 1, 1953||Eastern Parkway Arena, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|6||Win||6–0||Dick Wagner||SD||8||Apr 13, 1953||Eastern Parkway Arena, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|5||Win||5–0||Chester Mieszala||TKO||5 (6), 1:25||Jan 28, 1953||Chicago Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.|
|4||Win||4–0||Lalu Sabotin||TKO||5 (8), 1:30||Dec 29, 1952||Eastern Parkway Arena, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|3||Win||3–0||Lester Johnson||TKO||3 (6), 1:26||Oct 31, 1952||Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|2||Win||2–0||Sammy Walker||TKO||2 (6), 0:47||Oct 6, 1952||Eastern Parkway Arena, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|1||Win||1–0||Eddie Godbold||KO||4 (6), 1:39||Sep 12, 1952||St. Nicholas Arena, New York City, New York, U.S.||Professional debut|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Floyd Patterson.|
|Amateur boxing titles|
|U.S. middleweight champion
|World boxing titles|
Title last held byRocky Marciano
|The Ring heavyweight champion
November 30, 1956 – June 26, 1959
|World heavyweight champion
November 30, 1956 – June 26, 1959
|The Ring heavyweight champion
June 20, 1960 – September 25, 1962
|World heavyweight champion
June 20, 1960 – September 25, 1962
|Youngest world heavyweight champion
November 30, 1956 – November 22, 1986