The chilly-eyed young man looking out at you between the boxing gloves (opposite) and the embittered young man staring into his dark and private thoughts (below) are about to settle an argument that began on a wet June night a year ago.
Heavyweight Champion Ingemar Johansson and ex-Champion Floyd Patterson will fight at New York's Polo Grounds on the night of June 20 so that boxing's disputatious world may know if a mere lucky punch won the world title for Johansson.
No one in the Johansson camp, not even anyone in the Patterson camp, believes it was a lucky punch—that straight right hand that thundered through Patterson's peekaboo defense in the third round for the first of seven successive knockdowns. But it came so suddenly, after so little other offensive action by Johansson, that many of Patterson's lay followers and a surprising lot of gamblers have rejected all other explanations.
Perhaps the Robert Riger drawings on these pages will persuade the skeptical that it was not plain luck but plane geometry that Floyd Patterson is up against. Last year Riger visited Johansson in his training camp and came away with a portfolio of drawings showing how Ingo hoped to defeat Floyd (SI, June 22, 1959). This time Riger went to see Patterson, and Floyd explained the various ideas he had for coping with Johansson. But the Johansson style is the very antithesis of the Patterson style, no matter how Floyd varies it. Johansson's basic punching is straight-line punching—the jab and the straight right. Patterson's basic punching is curved punching—hooks with either hand. The curves require Patterson to move in close, passing through an area of extreme danger if he is to do damage. But, like a battleship with 16-mile guns fighting a battleship with 14-mile guns, Johansson can stand off at a safe distance and still hit his opponent.
June 19, 1960
This fact is so clear to Patterson that in training he has made two obvious changes in his style. Instead of crouching, as in recent fights, he has reverted to his earlier, almost upright, stance, the one that served him so well against Archie Moore. This automatically brings his fists closer to his opponent. And he has put in long, dreary hours working on his jab, a straight punch he excels in but one that he seldom has bothered to use. After he won the title by knocking out Moore, Patterson settled deeper and deeper into the crouch, a defensive position from which it is impossible to jab.
"The crouch does not apply in this fight," Patterson told me a couple of weeks ago.
It certainly did not apply in the last fight. Patterson was starting to rise from a crouch when Johansson caught him with a left hook that moved his head directly into the path of the instantly following right.
This is not to say that Patterson has abandoned the bob and weave. He will have to bob and weave in order to present a moving target. He apparently has remembered the sound criticism Moore offered him after the first fight in a letter of brotherly sympathy. "You moved everything but your head," Archie told him.
Aside from these changes, Patterson will operate much as before. He will hold gloves against cheeks in the familiar peekaboo guard, he will almost certainly leap at Johansson at least once, and he will try to get close enough to start those six- and seven-punch combinations that used to work so beautifully.
He will be bigger, too. In training he has maintained his weight at a surprising 192 pounds, 10 pounds more than he weighed against Johansson the last time. Johansson has trained at 198 pounds and hopes to weigh 196 on the day of the fight. It is what he weighed a year ago.
Bigger and straighter though he be, Patterson's problem remains the same. He must find a way through Johansson's Leather Curtain. Johansson is issuing no visas. Shortly after the first fight, lunching on his usual black coffee, Johansson told me:
"I knew I must do one thing. I knew I must not let him start his whoosh-whoosh."
"Whoosh-whoosh" is Swedish for the swift Patterson combinations to body and head. Their characteristic pattern, though he varies it, is to start with a left hook to the body, then work up to the head with what once was incredible speed. Patterson's only happy memory of the last fight is a left hook that tore into Johansson's belly, forcing Johansson to clinch rather than counter. Patterson soothes himself that Johansson winced under the blow.
Though Johansson's massive arms and elbows usually are in the way of such attempts at body hooking, Patterson has worked diligently on a punch that may well penetrate the champion's lower guard. It is a hook (opposite page) that travels straighter than most, and upward, pointed for the opponent's heart. If Johansson's guard comes down to protect his body he will be in serious trouble. The Patterson of June 1960 is a chagrined young man savagely determined to put body and soul into his first knockout opportunity.
Defeat has changed Patterson to an extraordinary degree. A most retiring champion, he seldom made public appearances, spoke softly and deferentially when he did speak, and carried himself with a humility that, while it gave him a certain charm, did not seem to fit his title. Now he moves with an air of command about his training camp, a converted Connecticut roadhouse which has its ring on the dance floor. He talks freely, bluntly and sometimes brusquely. Perhaps this change is due partly to the fact that Cus D'Amato, the now unlicensed manager who guided him to the title, has been barred from the camp by New York state's attorney general. But it seems to be caused more by Patterson's resentment that the world has greeted Ingemar as champion far more cordially than it ever greeted Floyd.
Floyd knows that this stems largely from the glowing, outgoing personality of the new champion. Even so, he resented it when some writers—including this one—took the view that Ingemar's accession was good for boxing, on the ground that the sport saw its best days when colorful personalities ruled the heavyweight division. He is also shocked that many Americans rooted for the Swede, just as years ago many Americans rooted for the French Carpentier against the American Dempsey. He forgets that the world of sport should know neither race nor nationality and that, in fact, some few Swedes rooted and will be rooting for him.
Patterson admires, perhaps even envies, the way Johansson capitalized so heavily and quickly on his championship with movie and TV appearances, European exhibitions and product endorsements. (Johansson recently refused to pose with a pile of salami unless he was paid $5,000. Patterson, amused in an unbusinesslike way, was pleased to pose for nothing.) But there is a slight edge to Floyd's remark that "anybody who acts has to be ostentatious."
All of this means that Patterson, for the first time since he became champion, is in just the right mood for a fight. As the mood has developed, his old talents have sharpened. Except for size, he looks now very like the gifted stripling who became heavyweight champion younger than anyone before. At a mere 25 he challenges the legend that heavyweight champions can never come back. The legend was established by beaten champions far past their prime. Patterson is just entering his prime.
As for Johansson, he is, by contrast, a most happy fellow. Sometimes, between rounds of his arduous training at Grossinger's Catskill Mountains resort, he sings a few snatches of song. He is learning to cha-cha-cha, he basks by the swimming pool with his sweetheart Birgit, he plays fond uncle to Brother Rolf's new daughter, and he terrorizes the promoters by riding horseback inexpertly and flying small planes rather well.
But he also works astonishingly hard. He boxes as many as seven rounds each day, to Patterson's four or five, and then does up to nine more rounds of bag-punching, rope-skipping and banging around his special contraption, the erratic slungboll, a punching device he adapted from a Swedish sport for girls.
Just as he did last year, Johansson treats his sparring partners gently, though he occasionally has thrown the right hand he concealed so well in 1959. But he has not thrown it really hard. Once, miffed that a sparring partner was so fresh as to hit him after the bell, Johansson's temper flared and he cuffed the impudence out of him like an angry bear slapping an insolent cub. Actually, the only important change in Ingemar is that, at the insistence of the renowned Whitey Bimstein, his American trainer, he has been working on a stiffer, stronger jab.
The old jab, weak though it was, was one of the very important factors in his winning the title. It was, in the first place, a barrier to Patterson's lunges, but Johansson used it also as a stage magician uses misdirection. Constantly in Patterson's face, it served to fix Floyd's mind on the left hand. In time Floyd forgot about the right hand, which he never had believed in anyway.
Now that the right hand has been established as a reality it is a little startling that bookmaker odds around New York have been quoted at 6 to 5, take your choice, which is even money on a friend-to-friend basis and smells slightly of publicity. In realistic Las Vegas, where money talks louder than press agents, the odds have recently been a more sensible 8 to 5, Johansson favored. He was a 5-to-1 underdog last time.
Putting the odds aside, one must consider a Patterson who seems reborn to his true stature as a heavyweight against a Johansson with just the style to offset the standard Patterson moves. So far Johansson is undefeated as a professional, so far he has knocked out 14 of his 22 opponents, and it does seem here that he is about to do it again.
He might even do it with a left hook. Four of those 14 knockouts, as he recalls them, were made with the hook. Instead of going through the peekaboo with a straight right, as last time, he sees in the peekaboo a chance to use the left. To start an attack, Patterson must move one or the other of his gloves from its defensive position. At such an instant Johansson may be in a position to beat him to the punch with a hook.
The inventor of the peekaboo, Cus D'Amato, has conceded that the style is dangerous unless it is used by someone approximately as fast as the very speedy Patterson. It is also dangerous against someone like the very speedy, very powerful Johansson.
For the first time D'Amato will not be in Patterson's corner. Floyd insists that this will make no difference, but when the question was brought up he raised his voice in what seemed like anger.
"Cus is my manager," he barked. "He handles business matters. But in all my fights I have never once looked to my corner for advice."
With Patterson's smoldering umbrage at all that has happened to him since he lost the title, with the reawakening of his basically fine talents, with his new knowledge of and respect for Johansson's big punch, it ought to be a far better fight than the last one. But for some reason the promotion, perhaps because of a late and uncertain start, has failed to stimulate the interest in the return that burned so brightly after that dramatic night in Yankee Stadium. Simple financial success seems certain, because TelePrompTer, main backer of the first fight, bid itself into this one with a sufficiency of $700,000 for theater television, radio and such rights, but the Polo Grounds gate may not be as big as it should be.
If so, it is a pity. It could be a night to remember.
FLOYD: "You have to understand..."
TOLD TO ROBERT RIGER
"The most important thing you can't get any picture of, because the most important thing for me is my mental attitude."
"I'd say he was a coy fighter.... He would do anything not to get hit."
"I think Johansson is strictly a counterpuncher.... He doesn't take chances. He lets you come first."
"What I'm banking on in this next fight, is that he will be overconfident, that he will come out and box with me."
"What you have to understand is that [in the last fight] I had no respect for Johansson at all. This was the trouble."
"I would say Ingemar's jab doesn't have real power.... It doesn't annoy you much."
"When you're fighting Johansson it wouldn't do you much good to slip his jab because he's always moving back."
"I never saw anyone carry the right hand the way he does. He carries it like he got diamonds in it."
"If I lose then I still will have the most thrilling thing of all—the money."
PATTERSON'S VIEW OF THE RIGHT
Ingo's lethal punch, underrated by Floyd, shot through peekaboo defense last time.
Patterson will retain the peekaboo ("I won the title with it"), but he will fight from a more upright stance, abandoning the crouch he's used in recent years.
PATTERSON TO THE LEFT
Floyd can jab to body (as above) or head and then try to use the hook, which is the most powerful punch he has in his arsenal.
INGEMAR'S DEFENSIVE PERIMETER
The overhead views on these two pages dramatically illustrate the circular barrier Floyd Patterson must penetrate if he is to win back the championship he lost a year ago. Johansson's odd stance and constantly extended left hand, which swings in a wide arc to meet any advance by his opponent, is basic to his defense and is the launching pad for his big offensive weapon, the right hand. His right foot is far back to permit instant retreat. The champion's jab has been derided as very weak, but it is the key to his defense. He turns the key by circling to his left, away from Patterson's left hook. This circling might represent an opportunity for Patterson's right hand, except that Johansson's left shoulder then protects his chin (see below). Johansson's offensive advantage lies in another geometric principle: a straight line is the shortest distance between two points. He defeated Patterson in the last fight with a straight right.
PATTERSON TO THE RIGHT
Johansson's typical response is to hide his chin behind his shoulder.
JOHANSSON'S STRATEGIC RETREAT
In their first fight Patterson found himself confronted by a fading ghost. Only once was he able to get close to Johansson, and when that happened, in the second round, he was instantly clinched. Johansson has astonishingly fast feet for such a big man (his footwork is superior to Patterson's), and he uses them to keep out of harm's way while he chooses his own time to attack. One reason Patterson has stopped crouching is that he discovered last year that he was unable to catch the swift Johansson from a crouch. By brushing the jab to the left, Patterson has a fair chance to cross his right over the jab at the brief instant when Johansson's chin is not protected by his shoulder. Or, as he has done so many times in other fights, Patterson might try his famous "kangaroo" leap (see right) to get within range.
It is dangerous and depends on surprise to avoid a right or left counter.
THE LEFT STARTS
Most Patterson combinations, for which he became famous, start with a hook to the side.
THE LEFT INSIDE
Patterson must get in close because his punches travel in arcs rather than straight lines (see left). He has used this left to the body before and has been digging it to sparring partners' bodies with significant frequency. One reason he has been concentrating on this punch is that Johansson's elbows usually are in the way of standard hooks to the side. The blow shown here combines the virtues of the standard hook with the virtues of the uppercut. Landing under the heart, it can do enormous damage, severely weakening the opponent and forcing him to drop the hands that protect his chin. The effect of such a punch, fighters say, is sometimes not fully felt until the following round. Patterson last used it with devastating effect against Pete Rademacher. Since he does not ordinarily take fighters out with a single punch, but depends on attrition, Patterson must find his way to Johansson's body, perhaps by dropping suddenly under Johansson's raised fists (above right) to close.
DUCKING UNDER INGO'S LEFT
This bobbing move might open the door for Patterson to find Ingemar's body.
COMBOS TO THE HEAD
Patterson fights well inside, can throw flurries of punches to head.
INGO HAS A LEFT
Earlier Johansson victims could warn Patterson he may be knocked out by a left hook while guarding against famous right.