Sports Outside the Beltway

Floyd Patterson, Former Heavyweight Champ, Dies at 71

Floyd Patterson, who came back from an embarrassing loss to become the first boxer to regain the heavyweight title, died Thursday. He was 71. Patterson died at his home. He had Alzheimer’s disease for about eight years and prostate cancer, nephew Sherman Patterson said.

Patterson’s career was marked by historic highs and humiliating lows. He emerged from a troubled childhood in Brooklyn to win the Olympic middleweight championship in 1952. In 1956, the undersized heavyweight became at age 21 the youngest man to win the title with a fifth-round knockout of Archie Moore. But three years later, Patterson was knocked down seven times in the third round in losing the title to Ingemar Johansson at the Polo Grounds in New York City.

Patterson returned with a vengeance at the same site in 1960, knocking out Johansson with a tremendous left hook to retake the title. “They said I was the fighter who got knocked down the most, but I also got up the most,” Patterson said later.

Despite his accomplishment, he was so humiliated when he lost the title on a first-round knockout to Sonny Liston in 1962 that he left Comiskey Park in Chicago wearing dark glasses and a fake beard. Patterson again was knocked out in the first round by Liston in 1963.

Patterson got two more shots at winning the title a third time. Battered and taunted for most of the fight by Muhammad Ali, Patterson was stopped in the 12th round in 1965. He lost a disputed 15-round decision to WBA champion Jimmy Ellis in 1968.

Overall, Patterson finished 55-8-1 with 40 knockouts. He was knocked out five times and knocked down a total of at least 15 times. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991.

After retiring in 1972, Patterson remained close to the sport. He served twice as chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission.

Patterson retired right before I became aware of the sport.

Bill Jempty has thoughts on his passing.

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