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Floyd Patterson was born on this date in 1935. He was a Black boxer.
He was raised in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, from a poor family in Waco, N.C. Patterson was one of eleven children and an insular and troubled child. Often skipping school and getting caught stealing, he was sent to New York City’s Wiltwyck reform school at age ten, credited with turning his life around. Four years later, he started boxing and training under Cus D'Amato at the Grammercy Gym. Patterson won a gold medal at the 1952 Olympics while fighting as a middleweight.
As an early pro, he fought as a light heavyweight. The first career loss was a controversial decision to former 175-pound champ Joey Maxim. When Rocky Marciano retired in 1956, Patterson seized his opportunity. With the heavyweight title vacant, Patterson beat Tommy Jackson in a title elimination bout and then knocked out 42-year-old light heavyweight champion Archie Moore in the fifth round to win the vacant crown. He was 21 and 10 months old, the youngest man to ever capture the heavyweight title. At the time, Moore was the oldest man to ever challenge for that title.
Patterson weighed only 182 1/4 pounds when he beat Moore for the heavyweight title in 1956. He was still only 188 1/2 pounds when he was stopped in the seventh round by Muhammad Ali in his last fight in 1972.
Patterson made four successful title defenses, but his reign ended in June 1959, when Sweden's Ingemar Johansson knocked him out in the third round. Again Patterson would find himself in the record books when he stopped Johansson in a rematch to become the first man in history to regain the heavyweight title. Patterson's time as champ ended for good when Sonny Liston knocked him out in one round in 1962 and then again in a rematch ten months later. Ali was challenged for the crown again in 1965 but stopped in 12 rounds. His final chance at the title came in 1968 when he lost a 15-round decision to Jimmy Ellis for the vacant WBA crown.
Patterson retired after a 1972 loss to Ali. In 1995, he was named Boxing Commissioner for the State of New York. He also was inducted into the International Boxing Hall Of Fame. He had a record of 55 wins, eight losses, and one draw, with 40 wins by knockout.
Although Patterson has often been physically called one of the least able men ever to hold a boxing title, he was a gentleman outside of the sport. He once said that a champion should conduct himself as one in life and the ring.
Floyd Patterson died on May 11, 2006, at his home in New Paltz, N.Y., at 71. He had Alzheimer's disease for about eight years and prostate cancer.
Boxing Album: An Illustrated History
by Peter Brooke Bell
Smithmark Publisher, 1995