Summer of ‘59

By Clarence George on August 9, 2014
Summer of ‘59
What happened in 1959? Ingemar Johansson became Heavyweight Champion of the World.

“And now the times are changin’. Look at everything that’s come and gone… Those were the best days of my life…”

“You know you’re getting old when you stoop to tie your shoelaces and wonder what else you could do while you’re down there.”—George Burns

All respect to George Burns, but I knew I was getting old when informed that my lunchbox depicting characters from The Munsters, which my mother bought at Woolworth’s seemingly yesterday, is now a collector’s item.

Butch Patrick, who played Eddie, is now 60. The two lovelies who played Marilyn, Beverley Owen and Pat Priest, are 77. The others—Fred Gwynne (Herman), Yvonne De Carlo (Lily), and Al Lewis (Grandpa)—are dead. Good Lord, how depressing. But I take pleasure in the memory of having met Grandpa at his restaurant on Bleecker Street. A wonderfully dirty old man, he ogled my date with all the discretion of a construction worker. When I told him that I’d been a fan of his since a kid, he said, “Dontcha think I know that?” I asked him for his autograph, and he said, “After you pay. Whaddya think I am, an idiot?”

My 55th birthday is coming up. Hence the introspection and nostalgia. What happened in 1959? Alaska and Hawaii became, respectively, the 49th and 50th states. Lou Costello died. The Los Angeles Dodgers took the Chicago White Sox in the World Series. Tomy Lee won the Kentucky Derby. Ben-Hur came out. And Mary Ann Mobley won the Miss America Pageant. But most importantly, Ingemar Johansson became Heavyweight Champion of the World—when that title meant something, when it meant everything—by stopping Floyd Patterson at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx (now home to a park called Heritage Field) via third-round TKO on June 26, becoming the first European to hold that august title since Primo Carnera took the crown from Jack Sharkey by sixth-round KO at the Madison Square Garden Bowl in Long Island City (now the site of a Home Depot, God help us) 26 years before almost to the day, on June 29, 1933.

That third round was something else. Around the 30-second mark, the Swede knocked Floyd down with that thundering right of his. The champ got to his feet, but was O-U-T, out. A left and a right put Patterson down a second time. Two more rights, and down goes Patterson for the third time. A right-left combo, and Floyd visits the canvas for the fourth time. But not for the last. There was a fifth…a sixth…a seventh.

As Bert Sugar writes, “By now Patterson was like a ghost, lifted up from the deck by some supernatural force and then made one with the canvas by Johansson’s right. Now Johansson was on him, battering Patterson with both hands until he collapsed to the mat. Floyd arose for the fifth time, only to be flattened again, this time by a right uppercut, followed by a left and a right. The champion still refused to quit. Johansson walloped his now-helpless opponent with a left-right-left salvo until referee Ruby Goldstein mercifully stepped in and stopped the fight at 2:03 of Round 3.”

As Johansson himself said, it was all “slightly gruesome.”

Would I have preferred to have been born under the star of a true great—Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano? Sure. But Ingo tends to be underrated, and that right of his was a dream. A kid born today has to be content with Wladimir Klitschko, the IBF, IBO, WBO, WBA, and RING champ. Alternatively, there’s Bermane Stiverne, holder of the WBC trinket. I don’t know what all that means, and I don’t care to be edumacated.

“And now the times are changin’. Look at everything that’s come and gone… Those were the best days of my life.”

It’s 1959, and Ingemar Johansson is the undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World.

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  1. Mike Silver 09:51am, 08/13/2014

    Floyd was a better boxer than Roy Jones Jr. Roy’s lack of technical skills were exposed once he slowed up which also exposed his fragile chin. Floyd’s boxing skills kept him around even after his prime. Opposite for Roy. Floyd was superior in every way except that Roy may have had slightly quicker hands. Floyd’s style would have been troublesome for Roy and at some point he would connect with Roy’s chin and it would be over.

  2. Eric 07:28pm, 08/12/2014

    We only have the Ruiz fight to judge Jones on as a heavyweight. But at heavyweight, Floyd was the harder puncher. Matter of fact, Floyd’s punching power is pretty underrated, take a look at how he leveled Ingo in the rematch, or Floyd’s bout with Henry Cooper. Floyd was no slouch at hand speed either, not as fast as Jones, but still not much slower. Jones had much better foot speed and movement, but Floyd was physically stronger. Tough match to call, but at heavyweight, I would have to go with Floyd.

  3. nicolas 06:51pm, 08/12/2014

    ROLLING THUNDER: I don’t know about Jones beating Patterson, as Patterson showed against Ingemar in the second fight, he hit pretty hard, and he was known to be quick. If Roy had decided to stay at heavyweight, perhaps we would have a better idea. remember that Patterson’s three losses by decision were controversial. Though I was surprised to read that when he beat Bonavena, there was some controversy as well, though when I saw the fight on TV at the time, I thought Floyd won. remember Paterson had 40 knockouts in his 55 wins, and showed how good he really was in his post Liston years. Ali said that Patterson was the best boxer he fought. Also was considered to be very quick with his hands. Also in the third fight with Ingo, decked twice in the first round, he came back from adversity, something Jones has really never accomplished.

  4. Rolling Thunder 02:00pm, 08/12/2014

    Floyd Patterson did indeed become hugely popular here in Sweden. I don’t think it had much to do with Ingo’s “tax evasion exile” though. Rather it was a matter of the Swedish people’s traditional appreciation of humble athletes who let the fists etc do the talking, and of course the friendship that grew between Johansson and Patterson was an important factor as well.

    Roy Jones Jr vs Floyd? I really can’t see Floyd winning more than a couple of rounds as Roy trumps him in almost every way including hand speed and power.

  5. nicolas 12:12pm, 08/12/2014

    ERIC: I think at that time trying to control your destiny as a fighter was much more difficult. He fought Terrel before he was champ, and that was I think before Terrell was WBA heavyweight champ. As for his fight with Frazer, that was for the heavyweight championship. When he fought Ali, he go probably the most money he ever received. I had read before the Frazier fight, he often was getting 15,000 dollars to defend his title. As for Moore fighting great competition, perhaps at heavyweight yes, when he did fight as heavyweight, but the light heavyweight competion that he had to fight at the time was not considered much, as another article in boxing.com attests to. I also seem to feel that after his forth fight with Harold, which he won by knockout, but was on the verge of losing, it seems to me that he and his team might have tired to avoid Johnson, though Johnson also fought as a heavyweight.

  6. Eric 07:02am, 08/12/2014

    Floyd vs Roy Jones at heavy or light heavy would have been an interesting fight. I would rank Roy Jones in the top 10 all time light heavy. People tend to forget just how talented Roy Jones was during his prime. I might even rank Jones at #6 or #7 on my all time 175lb list, either behind Conn or ahead of Conn, either way pretty close. Jones just didn’t have to face the same competition that Moore or Spinks faced, but Roy could’ve held his own with these legends and their opponents too. I think Roy Jones had the fastest hands of any boxer I’ve ever seen, with the possible exception of Meldrick Taylor. Jones had even better hand speed than Floyd, and that is saying a lot. I always thought Floyd performed best at about 190-195lbs which is more or less what he weighed against Quarry, Bonavena, and Chuvalo. Jones vs. Floyd? I would take Floyd, but I wouldn’t count out a prime Jones either. I would have loved to have seen Bob Foster take on Floyd or Jimmy Ellis back in the day. Why Bob chose to fight “big” heavies like Terrell, Ali, or a tank named Joe Frazier, instead of an Ellis or Patterson is a mystery.

  7. Mike Silver 11:47pm, 08/11/2014

    Ironically Floyd became a huge star in Sweden after he flattened Ingo who had angered his fellow countrymen by moving to Switzerland to avoid paying taxes. As I recall, Floyd later married a Swedish woman, further enhancing his image there. I think the general consensus is that Floyd would have been a great light heavyweight champion but the big money was in the heavyweight division. He was better than Roy Jones, Jr. in both divisions.

  8. Clarence George 01:07pm, 08/11/2014

    Thanks very much, Nicolas, and if your career hasn’t been with the State Department…they missed out big time.

  9. nicolas 12:50pm, 08/11/2014

    Yes Mike, Ingo was a shot in the arm to boxing, but lot of it had to do with his being caucasian, and of course good looking. He was said to have dinner with his wife by candle light. Ingo later I believe lived in Florida, and I believe that when he had landed there while being heavy weight champ, he got what amounted to a hero’s welcome, which irked Floyd. Yes, the Patterson heavyweight champion years were bad, and I would even say worse than then now. I have always stated that while Louis made the black man acceptable as world heavyweight champ, Muhammed Ali made the black man acceptable as challenger. I think when you look at Patterson’s title defenses you will notice, as with Louis, the great majority were white. Marciano had made more defenses against black challengers, This also is why that Patterson did not make defenses against these other black fighters, even though Patterson would defeat Machen later on. Also to note, that Sonny Liston, even the NAACP did not want him to defend his title against Liston, because he was looked upon as a bad image of black people for white America. It was also suggested, because of possible organized crime issues at the time, and am not sure if Machen and Folley were involved like Liston, if that is why Cus steered Patterson away form the other balck fighters.

  10. nicolas 12:34pm, 08/11/2014

    When your birthday comes up, I wish you happy birthday Clarence. I’m older than you by two years, born in 57. I thought you were older than me, but that is because of the great wisdom that you have.

  11. Eric 08:07am, 08/11/2014

    Patterson was knocked down plenty of times but you have to think early on the guy weighed only a couple of pounds more than the light heavy limit. He spotted Ingo 14 lbs in their first bout. He actually looked about 20lbs lighter than the Swede in their first bout. I think Floyd might’ve reached 200lbs once in his entire career. Even in his last fight against Ali, I think Patterson was below 190lbs. He spotted Bonavena 14lbs in their 1972 fight. Floyd was nearly always the smaller man while he was fighting as a heavyweight. The guy was just too small to compete against Liston or Ali, but did well against bruisers like Chuvalo and Bonavena.

  12. Clarence George 05:39pm, 08/10/2014

    Tex:  Not that easy to stop, at least earlier in his career (Ingo was the first to do so), but mighty easy to put down.  Was he tough enough to get up?  Sure, but the point is that he found himself on the canvas way too often.

    Frank:  Ha!  You are grossly impertinent.

    Mike:  I think “disgrace” is putting it a bit too strongly, but I do indeed agree that Patterson is among the least impressive and interesting of the heavyweight champs.

  13. Mike Silver 05:24pm, 08/10/2014

    Ingo energized boxing that year like few have ever done. Everybody was talking about the handsome Swede. He was the “shot in the arm” that boxing needed after three years of an almost invisible world heavyweight champion who studiously avoided Machen, Folley and Liston while romping with Harris, Rademacher, London and McNeely. Floyd, who wore his heart on his sleeve, became one of the most beloved of champions after he nearly killed Ingo in the rematch but until he redeemed himself by disobeying D’Amato and fighting Liston he was a disgrace as world heavyweight champion.

  14. FrankinDallas 03:04pm, 08/10/2014

    Only 55? Hell I’m 63…..and I thought you saw Greb fight
    in person.

  15. Tex Hassler 02:53pm, 08/10/2014

    Many people say “Floyd had a suspect chin!” If Patterson’s chin was weak how could he get up from such thunderous punches. Floyd was tough and came back to beat Ingo twice.

  16. Clarence George 10:04am, 08/10/2014

    As I said earlier, Eric, I never much cared for Patterson the boxer, but he was certainly gutsy and tough.  So was Frazier, of course, but Smokin’ Joe’s style was music to Foreman’s fists, er, ears.

  17. Clarence George 09:59am, 08/10/2014

    Eric:  I remember a photo of Ingo from the late ‘60s, when he briefly considered a return to the ring.  Sitting there, shirtless,  looking very much like an out-of-shape Tony Galento, he wisely decided against it.  Still, he was a very good-looking guy.  When an elderly gentleman, he bore an uncanny resemblance to my grandfather.  Rather odd, that, as my grandfather could have been Lou Costello’s twin when a young man.  The only movie I know in which Ingo appeared was “All the Young Men.”  Anyway, the Swede’s a favorite of mine.

    Didn’t realize Adams was also born in ‘59.  Yeah, I was very happy in the early ‘80s, what with the girls saying I looked like Richard Gere in “An Officer and a Gentleman.”  I liked “The Addams Family,” but greatly preferred “The Munsters,” one of my all-time favorite shows.  The Donna Douglas episode you’re thinking of is “Eye of the Beholder.”  I don’t remember who played the handsome guy at the end, but it might have been Mark Goddard, who was good friends with…Karyn Kupcinet.

  18. Eric 09:53am, 08/10/2014

    Patterson came back from this terrible beating to defeat Ingo not once, but twice. The beating Floyd received in his first bout with Ingo was even worse than the beating Foreman put on Frazier. Now can you imagine Joe coming back from the Foreman beating and defeating Big George in two subsequent bouts?

  19. Eric 09:23am, 08/10/2014

    Did a search on Bryan Adams for the hell of it. Seems Bryan was born in ‘59 also. The 80’s, didn’t seem that great at the time, but brother, they seem great now. “The Munsters” were much better than “The Adams Family” IMO. Herman, Lily and crew had the lovely Marilyn convinced she was homely. Reminds me of some old “Twilight Zone” where Donna Douglas aka Elly Mae Clampet was living in some society with a bunch of hideous creatures, and the lovely Ms. Douglas was thought to be the homely one.

  20. Eric 09:03am, 08/10/2014

    @Clarence…No idea Floyd was on “The Wild Wild West,” but I do remember seeing Jerry Quarry on “I Dream Of Jeannie,” “Adam 12,” and a few other programs. Didn’t see Quarry on “Batman” until just recently on Youtube. Quarry was all over the place, sitcoms, commercials, etc. Quarry was also IMO the best ringside commentator ever. Loved hearing Jerry call the fights back in the day.

    Regarding Ingo & Floyd, both class acts, especially Patterson. Floyd was indeed “shy” and “introverted” and that is what makes him so appealing to me. Ingo had a lot going for him and probably could’ve been regarded much higher had he taken boxing more seriously, but who could blame him. Who wouldn’t rather hang around some lovely Swedish babes instead of a boxing gym. Ingo, like Quarry, could’ve possibly made a career in the movies, both had the looks and a certain “it factor.”

  21. Clarence George 02:36pm, 08/09/2014

    So, I’m the “Top,” eh?  Well, as long as friend Irish thinks so, that’s the main thing.

    I always heard that Patterson was a very good guy, though I never cared much for him as a boxer.  Incidentally, he and Ingo wound up being the best of friends.  A bit of trivia that might interest friend Eric:  Patterson appeared in an episode of “The Wild Wild West.”  Is there no end to the synchronicity?

    Oh, just my opinion, but I think Goldstein could have stopped the fight after the first knockdown, and probably no later than after the second.

  22. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 02:06pm, 08/09/2014

    Clarence George-You’re a rose, You’re Inferno’s Dante, You’re the nose on the great Durante!.....which reminds me…..never liked Patterson….ever….shy?....introverted?....he was creepy as fuk!...that’s what he was…..and yes he tried harder against Ingo than he did with Sonny.

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