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Ingemar Johansson

Ingemar Johansson
IngemarJohansson 2.jpg
Real name Ingemar Johansson
Nickname(s) Ingo
The Hammer of Thor[1]
Rated at Heavyweight
Nationality Swedish
Birth date September 22, 1932(1932-09-22)
Birth place Gothenburg, Sweden
Death date January 30, 2009 (aged 76)
Death place Kungsbacka, Sweden
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 28
Wins 26
Wins by KO 17
Losses 2
Draws 0
No contests 0
Olympic medal record
Men's Boxing
Silver 1952 Helsinki Heavyweight
Olympic medal record
Men's Boxing
Gold 1959 World Championships Heavyweight

Jens Ingemar Johansson[2] (September 22, 1932 ' January 30, 2009) was a Swedish boxer and former heavyweight champion of the world. Johansson was the fifth heavyweight champion born outside the United States. In 1959 he defeated Floyd Patterson by TKO in the third round, after flooring Patterson seven times in that round, to win the World Heavyweight Championship. As a result, Johansson won the Hickok Belt as top professional athlete of the year and was named the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year and Sports Illustrated magazine's "Sportsman of the Year".

Johansson enjoyed a successful career as a heavyweight. When he retired in 1963 he had a record of 26 wins, 17 by KO, and only 2 losses. He called his right fist "toonder and lightning" for its concussive power (it was also called "Ingo's Bingo" and the "Hammer of Thor"), and in 2003 he was named to the Ring Magazine's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time.[3][4]


[edit] Early career

Johansson's introduction to the sport's limelight was inauspicious. He was disqualified for running from the eventual Olympic gold medalist, Ed Sanders, during the final of the Helsinki 1952 Summer Olympics heavyweight competition. Johansson maintained he was not fleeing Sanders, but rather was trying to tire his huge opponent for a planned third round onslaught. Johansson said he had been limited to a 10-day training camp, he had been trained by novices and he had been told by his team leader to let Sanders be the aggressor. Nevertheless, his silver medal was withheld for this poor performance, but he was presented with the medal in 1982.

After the Olympics Johansson went into seclusion for six months, and considered quitting boxing. However he returned to the ring and turned professional under the guidance of the Swedish publisher and boxing promoter Edwin Ahlquist, and won his first 21 professional fights. He captured the Scandinavian pro Title by knocking down and outscoring the Dane Erik Jensen (breaking his vaunted right hand in the process) A broken hand and a one year military service kept him out of the ring until late 1954. In August 1955, in his twelfth professional fight, Johansson knocked out former European Heavyweight Champion Hein Ten Hoff in the first round. He took the Scandinavian heavyweight title in 1953 and September 30, 1956 he won the European Heavyweight championship by scoring a 13 round KO over Italy's Franco Cavicchi in 13 rounds in Milan for the European title.

Johansson successfully defended his European Crown against ranked heavyweights Henry Cooper (5th round KO on May 19, 1957) and Joe Erskine, whom he TKOed in 13 on February 21, 1958.[5]

[edit] Champion

Johansson earned his shot at the world heavyweight crown when he KOed top ranked contender Eddie Machen in the first round of their elimination match on September 14, 1958. In front of 53.615 screaming fans in Ullevi soccer Stadium, Johansson downed Machen three times, finally flattening him for a knockout at 2:16 of the first round. Johansson then signed to fight champion Floyd Patterson.

Johansson was a colorful figure in New York as he trained for the fight. Eschewing the monastic training regimen favored by Patterson and other fighters, Johansson trained at the Catskill resort of Grossingers. He didn't seem to train particularly hard, and was often seen at night spots with his attractive "secretary." Accordingly, he entered the ring on June 26, 1959, as a 5-1 underdog.

Johansson spent the first two rounds of the encounter retreating and flicking a light left jab at the champion. In the third round, Johansson threw a wide left hook that Patterson blocked with his right hand. When he moved his right hand away from its protective peek-a-boo position before his chin, Johansson drilled him with a short powerful right hand. Patterson went down, arose on unsteady legs and was out on his feet. Johansson followed up his advantage and sent Patterson down 6 more times in the round before the bout was stopped by referee Ruby Goldstein. Johansson celebrated with his girlfriend and future wife Birgit Lundgren and the next day a headline in a New York newspaper expressed the city's amazement. It read: "Ingo -- It's Bingo." [6] When Johansson returned to Sweden, he flew in on a helicopter, landing in the main soccer stadium Goteborg and was cheered by 20,000 people.[7] He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, as well as the cover of Life Magazine on July 20, 1959 alongside Birgit.

Johansson was a flamboyant champion - a precursor to the "Swinging Sixties". One publication dubbed Johansson as "boxing's Cary Grant," and in 1960 he appeared the movie, All the Young Men as a Marine, alongside stars Alan Ladd and Sidney Poitier. Wherever he went, in the U.S. or in Sweden he had a beautiful woman on his arm and paparazzi snapping pictures.[8]

To train for the fight with Patterson, Ingemar sparred with Muhammad Ali, known then as Cassius Clay. Somebody even offered $100,000 to Ingemar to fight in a televised event with Cassius Clay, but Ingemar declined saying that the fight wouldn't draw three ticket holders and that Clay didn't have the ability to step in the ring with him at that time.[9]

[edit] Rematch with Patterson

Johansson proposed to girlfriend Birgit in April, 1960 after the champion visited Egypt. Then he turned his attention to defending his title against Floyd Patterson.[10] The two signed for a rematch on June 20, 1960. Patterson knocked Johansson out in the fifth round with a leaping left hook to become the first man to recover the world's undisputed heavyweight title. The punch caught Johansson's chin and he hit the canvas with a thud, out cold before he landed flat on his back. With blood trickling from his mouth, his glazed eyes staring up at the ring lights, and his left foot twitching the Swede was counted out. After the count, Patterson showed his concern for Johansson by cradling his motionless opponent, and promising him a second rematch. Johansson lay flat on his back on the canvas for five minutes before he was placed on a stool brought into the ring. He was still dazed and unsteady fifteen minutes after the knockout as he was helped out of the ring.

Ingemar Johansson knocks out Floyd Patterson and becomes boxing heavyweight champion of the world, June 26, 1959.

Patterson and Johansson fought once more on March 13, 1961. Although Johansson appeared to be in the worst physical condition of his three bouts with Patterson. A. J. Liebling, writing in The New Yorker, said the outcome seemed preordained and that Johansson was not dieting for the fight eating creamed chicken, strawberry shortcake, and cherry cheesecake. Nonethess he caught Patterson leaping at him in the very first round and knocked him down. He followed his advantage up by scoring another knockdown, but was himself caught going in wide open by a Patterson left hook that knocked him down. As the fight progressed, it became obvious that Johansson was spent. Patterson eventually knocked him out in round six.

[edit] Later Career and Retirement

Johansson then returned to Europe, and recaptured the European crown from Dick Richardson by an eight round KO on June 17, 1962. By this time Sonny Liston had captured the heavyweight crown from Patterson, and efforts were underway to match Johansson with Liston. Johansson, however, fought journeyman heavyweight Brian London on April 21, 1963, in a non-title twelve-round match. Johansson won most of the eleven preceding rounds but in round twelve with four seconds remaining in the fight London tagged Johansson with a powerful right hand that knocked him down flat on his back. Johansson arose at the count of four just as the bell rang to end the fight. It is widely believed that Johansson was out cold or on his back but the film of this fight clearly illustrates Ingo was upright but groggy at the sound of the bell. The next day's Stockholm newspaper first page showed photo of him dizzy climbing the ropes with the headline "Wake up Ingo ' You won!" After seeing this he sat down and wrote a letter to the European Boxing Union resigning his title and retiring from boxing.[11]

Legend:       Win       Loss       Draw/No contest       Notes

[edit] Retired life

Ingemar Johansson and Floyd Patterson became good friends who flew across the Atlantic to visit each other every year.

Johansson made several films in Sweden and appeared as a Marine in the Korean War film All the Young Men (1960).

In the 1960s along with other business interests, Johansson co-promoted boxing cards in Sweden, including several with ex-champ Sonny Liston (1966 and 1967). On April 22, 1966, he boxed a five-round exhibition with European Heavyweight Champion Karl Mildenberger for his first co-promotion. He also owned a fishing boat and a bar called "Ingo's".

By the 1970s he resided in Pompano Beach, Florida, for part of each year and ran in marathons (including the Boston Marathon) all over the world until the mid-1980s. In 1985 he completed the Stockholm Marathon.

During the 1990s Johansson and Patterson would attend boxing conventions and also sign their autographs on boxing memorabilia. They continued to be friends until the onset of Alzheimer's disease incapacitated them both. In the 1990s Johansson's business interests in Sweden included sports apparel and a light lager beer entitled HAMMER, named for his punching prowess.

In 2000, the Swedish Sports Academy selected Johansson as Sweden's third-best athlete of the 20th century, behind tennis great Bjorn Borg and Alpine skiing great Ingemar Stenmark. In 2002, he was inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Having suffered from Alzheimer's disease and dementia since the mid 1990s, he lived in a nursing home in Kungsbacka while his health deteriorated. In the later stages of his illness, he was reunited with his second wife, Birgit, who was at his side when he died on January 30, 2009, from complications following pneumonia.[12] At the time of his death, he was the oldest living heavyweight champion. Johansson was married and divorced twice, and is survived by five children.[13]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Ingemar Johansson - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  2. ^ According to the Swedish Taxation Agency, Johansson was registered as Jens Ingmar Johansson
  3. ^ http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1151470/index.htm
  4. ^ http://sports.espn.go.com/sports/boxing/news/story?id=3905121 Sweden's Johansson remembered
  5. ^ http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article5633893.ece
  6. ^ http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE50U1CE20090131
  7. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/01/sports/othersports/01johansson.html?pagewanted=all
  8. ^ http://www.thesweetscience.com/boxing-article/6533/rip-ingemar-johansson/
  9. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QP6wZPuAZp8
  10. ^ http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,826221-3,00.html
  11. ^ http://www.boxingnewsonline.net/BN08/detail.asp?id=986
  12. ^ Boxing News: Ingemar Johansson dies
  13. ^ http://www.cbc.ca/sports/story/2009/01/31/ingemar-johansson.html

[edit] External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Floyd Patterson
World Heavyweight Champion
Succeeded by
Floyd Patterson
Preceded by
Herb Elliott
Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year
Succeeded by
Rafer Johnson
Preceded by
Bob Turley
Hickok Belt Winner
Succeeded by
Arnold Palmer

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