Big Ivan: The 325-Pound Nonstarter
He was a big man who came to America in 1961 in search of a big girl and the biggest prize in boxing. He got neither. He was seven feet tall and weighed in at 325 pounds. He was also forty-two years of age, so one immediately had to wonder about his sense of timing.
Nobody ever got to know how good or how bad a fighter Ivan Georgiev might have been. He never got off the launch pad after his long trek to the promised land from his native Bulgaria. There is no professional record for big Ivan in the boxing archives because he never had a professional fight.
America wasn’t like it was in the brochure. Ivan claimed he couldn’t even get a job as something to be going on with before he smashed heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson through the floor. That was the simple master plan. Get a job, get a boxing license and then go straight for Patterson. A nice big cuddly girlfriend was also on the wish list, but she didn’t come skipping forth either.
Ivan Georgiev moaned long and hard about his predicament, specifically the refusal of General Melvin Krulewitch, chairman of the New York State Boxing Commission, to cough up a license. A sensible and measured man was the good general, not the carefree type who let anyone through the gate. The old killjoy believed that an untested, flabby man of forty-two might just get seriously hurt in the prize ring.
“I was born to be the heavyweight champion of the world,” Ivan insisted, thereby joining a club of millions. “There is nothing unusual about me. I have passed physical tests all over Europe and here in the United States, and doctors have found no freakish glandular disorders or anything else wrong with me.
“I am a normal giant and I should be permitted to fight here to prove I can become the champion and capitalize on my God-given strength and physique. The only thing keeping me from doing so is a license. I am 42 years old, that is true. But I have the strength and endurance and stamina of a man of twenty-one. I have taken good care of myself. What has a few years to do with it? Look at light heavyweight champion, Archie Moore.”
People did indeed look at Archie Moore and they saw a man with more than 35 years’ experience as a professional boxer and more than 200 fights on his log. There were several other important differences between Archie and Ivan, which one really shouldn’t need to explain.
“I haven’t had any professional fights,” Ivan conceded, “but I know I can knock out Patterson. All I want is a chance. Patterson would never be able to hurt me with his fists. He would wear himself out trying to do so and I would wear him down with my weight and then knock him out.”
Sadly, nobody was listening. Sounding somewhat like a gloomy comedian, Ivan gave an update of his sorry saga: “I figured I would meet a nice big American girl, set up a nice home, win the heavyweight championship and settle down to practice medicine. I don’t meet any nice big girls. They won’t give me a license to fight. They give me a job at the hospital and pay me $88 a month. Patterson and Johansson fight twice and split up more than a million dollars.
“Then I have to give up the job at the hospital and live on the welfare of the state. I get $88 a month and ulcers.”
Writer Jack Mahon, writing about big Ivan Georgiev in 1962, reported: “Over and over the big fellow voices his plaint to whoever will listen. Some fight veterans we know who watched Ivan in the gym shook their heads glumly. They would never say to Ivan what they said to me.
“Summing it up, it is: Ivan is fast for a big man but cannot get out of his own way. He is clumsy, muscle bound, and would be cut to pieces by any kind of a boxer who could get away from his lumbering rushes and weight advantage – which is all the big fellow has.”
Your writer doesn’t know whether big Ivan persisted with the American dream or whether he shuffled off back to Bulgaria. But in the only available picture of him—holding in his stomach and wearing a pair of elephantine trunks held up by a trouser belt—he looks like somebody’s dad having a laugh after a few beers.
Mike Casey is a Boxing.com writer and Founder & Editor of ALL TIME BOXING at https://sites.google.com/site/alltimeboxingrankings. He is a freelance journalist and boxing historian and a member of the International Boxing Research Organization (IBRO).