The death of Rasputin was accomplished only after he had eaten with relish and no immediate ill effect some cakes containing a soup√ßon of potassium cyanide, got lightly fuddled on wine laced with the same deadly poison and been shot four times with a revolver held close to his chest. He was still alive and kicking feebly when Prince Felix Youssoupov ended him with a weighted club. Some people take a lot of killing.
Among them is Tommy (Hurricane) Jackson, prizefighting's preposterous son, who survived 12 rounds of exposure to the lightning of Floyd Patterson's terrible swift fists the other night and came out of Madison Square Garden with only a dent to his considerable pride. Patterson had meticulously measured him for the kill a dozen times and then delivered punches of such velocity that it seemed no human jaw could withstand them. Hurricane's jaw withstood them just fine.
In the end it was Floyd Patterson who suffered the damage. Jackson's firm and unyielding head broke the fourth metacarpal (a finger bone between knuckle and wrist) of Patterson's right hand. It happened in the sixth round, a fateful one for Patterson because, though he won the fight by decision and thereby the right to meet Archie Moore for the world's heavyweight championship in September, the broken hand could postpone that dream meeting. Still, the fracture has been set neatly and should heal well.
Though Patterson may not appreciate it until he is older and wiser, delay could yet be a blessing. On his showing against the inept but incredibly durable Hurricane, Floyd Patterson at 21 may not yet be quite ready to beat Archie Moore at 42, or whatever the old boy's age may be. In comparing them, not all the points are in Moore's favor, but some of the more important ones are. Moore is old and Floyd is young, but Moore's age is packed with experience and craftiness. Floyd hits hard but he weighed 178 pounds for this fight, less than he has weighed in six months, and his punching power seems to suffer a trifle for lack of weight. Moore scores clean knockouts. The great majority of Patterson's victories have been by TKO. When Floyd grows a bit more, learns to follow instructions better, and has discovered how to plant his feet firmly for the big punches, adding power to their speed (note feet in pictures on pages 25-27), then his essential greatness will come through. There is time for all this. As Floyd put it, with the grace of an earnest student, "I still have a lot to learn." He did not seem disappointed. Just coolly analytical of himself.
June 17, 1956
He has now matriculated at the very exclusive college of big-time heavyweight boxing. Criticized for fighting his inferiors, he has fought and licked the No. 2 man, spotting him 15½ pounds. Suspected of no great staying power because his fights have ended so early, Patterson demonstrated that he can go 12 fast rounds against the ring's most exhausting fighter and still be ready for at least three more. He did not demonstrate that he can take a punch, for, as he pointed out, "Jackson is not known as a puncher."
What was seen Friday night by a crowd of 11,000 who paid $66,000 in spite of the fact that New York TV was not blacked out, was a wildly exciting fight between two perfectly conditioned men, a melodrama so filled with unrelenting action that, at the end, the crowd stood and cheered. That is a rare compliment nowadays, but this was a rare fight.
BREAKS HIS HAND
Patterson had trained for stamina to match Jackson's vaunted ability to outstay Tennyson's brook, but he also wanted a quick knockout. He tried from the opening bell, charging under the long, flailing arms of his opponent and, to the delight of the roaring crowd, crashing his fists against the body and head of Jackson in a blaze of fury. Jackson took it and fought back, not effectually, but in the best way he can.
During the first six rounds Patterson tried again and again and in the sixth seemed close. Hurricane blocked the touchdown try with his hard head. Patterson's right hand broke, back of the knuckle next to the pinkie. Next day it turned out to be an overriding fracture, probably incurred when Floyd was delivering a series of short, jolting rights to Hurricane's head. Improper taping may have done it.
Shortly after this series Patterson missed with his right a few times and, though he felt no pain in his hand until the round was over, the misses may have been an instinctive response to the damage. He said nothing in his corner and lost the next three rounds on all official cards. After the ninth round, Cus D'Amato, his manager, asked Floyd if he was tired. Floyd came out to prove that he was not, perhaps influenced by the growing impertinence of Hurricane, who was following him about the ring with a mincing but somehow challenging dance step.
He used his right in those three rounds, but sparingly, depending mostly on his left. Jackson threw more punches, but with little power, and they continued to land mostly on arms and gloves. That, in fact, was what they had done throughout the fight.
The match took some of the gloss off Patterson, solely because he did not win by a knockout. This will be compared to Nino Valdes' knockout of Jackson, which, however, counted as such only under the three-knockdown rule, which automatically stops the fight on the third knockdown. Valdes' blows had more push than punch. No one has ever truly KO'd the Hurricane, who in this fight won himself a full measure of respect for courage, tenacity and the rawest kind of toughness. The Patterson onslaught was the worst he has ever suffered, but for all his freakishness, his moody rages, the Hurricane is a heroic kind of fellow. He should no longer be called "The Animal." He is very much a man.
The decision was a split victory for Patterson by one of those mysteries of judging that occur so often. The two judges had it 7-5 and 8-4 for Patterson, SI had it 9-3, but Referee Harry Kessler voted 6-5-1 for Jackson. His explanation is that Hurricane threw the most punches, which is true, but scarcely any landed effectively. He says Floyd fought only in the closing minutes of a round, which is certainly not true of most rounds. But Kessler, the highly publicized sportsman-engineer (metallurgy), distinguished for his Fancy Dan footwork, may once more have been caught flat-footed on that pink cloud he rested on in the second round of the Marciano-Moore fight. That time he forgot that the mandatory eight-count for knockdowns does not apply in championship fights and thereby gave Rocky precious seconds to recover from a state of total grogginess. It was most unfair to Moore, who thus blew his big chance. Kessler's vote was most unfair to Patterson. He not only may have been wrong, as he admits. He was wrong.