THE PLOT SO FAR: Cus D'Amato, manager of the rising young heavyweight Floyd Patterson, and the International Boxing Club (James D. Norris, president), colossus of the sport, were feuding. Neither would speak to the other. Patterson could get no TV fights. Rocky Marciano, world's heavyweight champion, was about to retire. Archie Moore, aging, crafty pretender to the throne, plotted a coup d'état which might be unpopular with the citizenry. But Patterson, young, handsome, virile, bided his time, putting full confidence in the rightness of his cause and the astute guidance of D'Amato. As our last instalment (April 16 issue) ended, pride and obstinacy were keeping D'Amato and the IBC apart. Would they gel together? And if so, whose will was the stronger? Would the haughty, powerful IBC swallow its pride and make the one gesture, a telephone call (GR 5-9203), that could lead to a reconciliation with Cus? Now go on with the story:
A few days after Rocky Marciano announced his retirement, Jim Norris, his ruggedly handsome features grim with decision, turned to a secretary in the IBC offices.
"Get me Cus D'Amato on the telephone," he said curtly.
It was something like that, anyhow, and pretty soon he and Cus were seated together to talk over the impending heavyweight elimination tournament and, most especially, the role in it to be played by Floyd Patterson. There was no disagreement on the proper opponent for Patterson. It would have to be Hurricane Jackson, who had risen to the No. 2 challenger's position by losing every once in a while to Jimmy Slade but also by destroying the emotional stability of such opponents as Ezzard Charles and Bob Baker with the most confusing attack ever launched against sound, orthodox boxing men.
May 20, 1956
It was settled, finally, that Patterson and Jackson would meet on the night of June 8 at Madison Square Garden in the second of the IBC's elimination fights. Each would get a minimum of $40,000 (10 times what D'Amato had previously been offered). The fight would be televised.
So, at long last, one of boxing's very biggest plums was served to Floyd Patterson.
The D'Amato-Patterson camp, certain of victory over Jackson, would be happy to meet Archie Moore for the title in September but the IBC has other notions. It would like very much to drag out the eliminations and, in this respect, got off to a fine, slow start the other night in Miami Beach, where Bob Baker and Johnny Holman, two ponderous hulks, poked at each other with little effect for 12 rounds. Baker, who in the presence of Holman can seem faster than he is, won easily. What the victory established, beyond a poverty of high-ranking heavyweights, is not too apparent. Even Jackson has beaten Baker. But the IBC is thinking of throwing him into the same ring with either Patterson or Archie Moore, who kayoed Baker a couple of years ago.
Some further confusion was contributed by Jack (Doc) Kearns, a wanderer who turned up in the fistic wasteland of Phoenix, Ariz. the other day to propose that Archie Moore, in whom he has an interest, very likely could be induced to fight none other than Zora Folley (surely you recognize the name) in what Kearns lightly referred to as "a heavyweight title bout." The feats of Folley include being knocked out by Johnny Summerlin, a true contender, and Young Jack Johnson, California heavyweight. Kearns was talking, in rather specific terms, of making Phoenix a big fight center and in this seems to have the backing of Honest Bill Daly, manager of Vince Martinez, the once-grounded welterweight. At any rate Kearns talked of staging a welterweight championship fight in Phoenix, another fight between Martinez and the winner of the Sugar Ray Robinson-Bobo Olson fight and the aforementioned "title bout" between Moore and Folley. Kearns makes interesting conversation wherever he goes.
Meanwhile, back at Long Pond Inn on the shores of Greenwood Lake, N.Y., Floyd Patterson was introduced to a busload of boxing writers, many of whom had not seen him in action since he knocked out Archie McBride at the Garden almost a year ago.
He has grown some, they agreed, with massive muscle now mounting his broad shoulders. His neck is sturdier. His arms suggest the authentic power of a heavyweight. He has been training and is down to 182 pounds.
Then, as he did a month before in a more private showing, Floyd boxed for three rounds with Julio Mederos, a courageous 194-pound Cuban who has nonetheless grown weary of absorbing the punishment Patterson inflicts on sparring partners. It was Julio's farewell appearance in the role of punching bag, and whereas previously he had given Patterson his very best, this time Julio did his best to stay away. He jabbed and retreated and Patterson was able to show off his punching speed and power only when he crowded Mederos into corners. Then his series punching, which he starts sometimes with a left hook, sometimes with a right to the body, sounded like a fast tattoo on a big bass drum.
One fact more than any other was impressive. When Patterson is hit hard his instant response is not a retreat but an attack. Scarcely would Mederos land one of his solid rights than Patterson would swarm over him with a series of four and even five punches, all delivered with incredible speed. Punching Patterson hard is a little like walking up to a big gun and pulling the trigger while it is pointed in your face.
After that Mederos looked almost happy as he departed. He would box Patterson no more.
There was excited discussion over the fact that, should Patterson win the championship in September, he would be the youngest ever to take the heavyweight title. He was 21 last January. Joe Louis, who holds the youth record, was 23 when he defeated Jim Braddock. This kind of talk indicates the trend of everyone's thinking.
NOT EASILY FLUSTERED
Least excited of anyone was Floyd Patterson, whose poise is that of a champion even now. He says little, and that very softly. He might be described as pleasantly taciturn.
Did he expect that Hurricane Jackson's weird style would bother him?
"Well, I hope not."
Did he think he could KO Jackson?
"I'm going to try."
This, clearly, is no Archie Moore. He has a willingness to accept the facts as they are. He has been knocked down only once in his professional career—the result of a right to the head while coming out of a clinch. D'Amato soon gave up referring to it as "a slip," because Floyd stubbornly insisted that it was a true knockdown.
This fellow, then, is not likely to be flustered by the eerie style of a Hurricane Jackson. He is, in fact, very likely to knock out Jackson in one of the earlier of the 12 rounds.
And after that he will be but a step or two away from the world's heavyweight championship, at a time when the prospects for true competition are reasonably bright. While the upper ranks of the division are poorly staffed with such as Baker and Holman, there are younger men coming along who may well stir up such excitement as has not been seen among the big fighters in many a year. These include Summerlin and Eddie Machen, neither of whom has fought in the upper brackets. But each has shown such promise that the outlook is bright.