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Ingemar Johansson

Ingemar Johansson
Real name Ingemar Johansson
Nickname(s) Ingo
The Hammer of Thor[1]
Rated at Heavyweight
Height 1.84 m (6 ft 0 in)
Reach 183 cm (72 in)
Nationality Swedish
Born (1932-09-22)September 22, 1932
Gothenburg, Sweden
Died January 30, 2009(2009-01-30) (aged 76)
Kungsbacka, Sweden
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 28
Wins 26
Wins by KO 17
Losses 2
Draws 0
No contests 0
Ingemar Johansson
Medal record
Competitor for  Sweden
Men's Boxing
Olympic Games
1952 Helsinki 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 was awarded the Hickok Belt as top professional athlete of the year - the only non-American to do so in the belt's entire 27-year existence - and was named the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year and Sports Illustrated magazine's "Sportsman of the Year". He holds notable victories over Floyd Patterson, Eddie Machen, Joe Bygraves (twice), Henry Cooper, Brian London, Dick Richardson, and Joe Erskine among others.

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 two 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 ranked at No. 99 on The Ring's list of the 100 greatest punchers of all time.[3][4] He reputedly had bone trouble in his right hand on and off throughout his career as a result.


  • Early career 1
  • Champion 2
  • Rematch with Patterson 3
  • Third match with Patterson 4
  • Later career and retirement 5
  • Professional boxing record 6
  • Retired life 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Early career

Johansson's introduction to the top rank of the sport was inauspicious. At age eighteen he was disqualified for passivity at the Helsinki 1952 Summer Olympics in the heavyweight competition in a fight against eventual Olympic gold medalist Ed Sanders. Johansson maintained he was not evading Sanders (who also got a warning for passivity), but rather was trying to tire his opponent. Johansson said he had been limited to a 10-day training camp, had only trained with newcomers, and had been told by his coach to let Sanders be the aggressor. Nevertheless, his silver medal was withheld for poor performance and only presented to him in 1982.[5]

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, subsequently winning his first 21 professional fights. He won the Scandinavian pro title by knocking down and outscoring the Dane Erik Jensen (breaking his 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, on 30 September 1956, he won the European Heavyweight Championship by scoring a 13th round KO over Italy's Franco Cavicchi in Milan for the European title.

Johansson successfully defended his European Crown against ranked heavyweights Henry Cooper (fifth round KO on May 19, 1957) and Joe Erskine, with a TKO in 13 on February 21, 1958.[6]


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

Johansson earned his shot at the world heavyweight crown when he knocked out top ranked contender Eddie Machen in the first round of their elimination match on September 14, 1958. In front of 53,615 fans in Ullevi football stadium, Johansson downed Machen three times, finally finishing him with a barrage of punches at 2:16 of the first round. Johansson then signed to fight champion Floyd Patterson.

Johansson was a colourful 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 did not seem to train particularly hard, and was often seen at night spots with his attractive girlfriend, Elaine Sloane, whom he asked out while she was working for Sports Illustrated.

He entered the ring in Yankee Stadium on 26 June 1959, as a 5-1 underdog.[7] 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.[8] 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 six more times in the round before the bout was stopped by referee Ruby Goldstein.[7][8] 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." [9] When Johansson returned to Sweden, he flew in on a helicopter, landing in the main football stadium in Gothenburg, his home town, and was cheered by 20,000 people.[10] He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, as well as the cover of Life Magazine on 20 July 1959, alongside Birgit.[8]

Johansson was a flamboyant champion - a precursor to the "Swinging Sixties". One publication dubbed Johansson "boxing's Cary Grant" and in 1960 he appeared in 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, with paparazzi snapping pictures.[11]

To train for the third fight with Patterson, Ingemar sparred with a young Muhammad Ali, (known then as Cassius Clay) in Miami Beach. After Cassius had "boxed his way around the ring, as if it was he, using 'Ingo' as a sparring partner," somebody offered $100,000 to Ingemar to fight in a televised event with Ali, but Ingemar declined saying that the fight would not draw three ticket holders and that Ali did not have the ability to step in the ring with him at that time.[12]

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.[13] The two signed for a rematch on 20 June 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.

Third match with Patterson

Patterson and Johansson fought their final match on 13 March 1961. 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. Nonetheless the fight was competitive. Johansson 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 that famous Patterson left hook. It knocked him down. As the fight progressed, it became obvious that Johansson was spent. Patterson won when the referee swiftly stopped the contest in round six after Johansson had been down.

Later career and retirement

Johansson, then only 29, returned to Europe. He 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 21 April 1963, in a non-title twelve-round match. Johansson won most of the rounds by boxing fairly well but not throwing a serious right hand punch throughout the entire fight. 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. Film of this fight clearly illustrates Ingo was upright but groggy at the sound of the bell.

The next day, the front page of Stockholm's newspapers showed a 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 at the age of 30, somewhat younger than many.

Professional boxing record

26 wins (17 knockouts, 8 decisions, 1 disqualification), 2 losses (2 knockouts)
Res. Record Opponent Type Round Date Location Notes
Win 26-2 Brian London Pts 12 21/04/1963 Johanneshov Ice Stadium, Stockholm, Sweden
Win 25-2 Dick Richardson KO 8 (15) 17/06/1962 Nya Ullevi, Gothenburg, Sweden Won EBU (European) heavyweight title.
Win 24-2 Wim Snoek KO 5 (10) 15/04/1962 Kungliga tennishallen, Stockholm, Sweden
Win 23-2 Joe Bygraves TKO 7 (12) 02/09/1962 Maesshallen Sports Hall, Gothenburg, Sweden
Loss 22-2 Floyd Patterson KO 6 (15) 13/03/1961 Convention Hall, Miami Beach, Florida, United States For world heavyweight title
Loss 22-1 Floyd Patterson KO 5 (15) 20/06/1960 Polo Grounds, New York City, New York, United States Lost world heavyweight title
Win 22-0 Floyd Patterson TKO 3 (15) 26/06/1959 Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York, United States Won world heavyweight title
Win 21-0 Eddie Machen KO 1 (12) 14/09/1958 Nya Ullevi, Gothenburg, Sweden Spectator record for Swedish boxing
Win 20-0 Heinz Neuhaus TKO 4 (12) 13/07/1958 Nya Ullevi, Gothenburg, Sweden
Win 19-0 Joe Erskine TKO 13 (15) 21/02/1958 Maesshallen Sports Hall, Gothenburg, Sweden Retained EBU (European) heavyweight title
Win 18-0 Archie McBride Pts 10 13/12/1957 Maesshallen Sports Hall, Gothenburg, Sweden
Win 17-0 Henry Cooper KO 5 (15) 19/05/1957 Råsunda Stadium Stockholm, Sweden Retained EBU (European) heavyweight title
Win 16-0 Peter Bates KO 2 (10) 28/12/1956 Maesshallen Sports Hall, Gothenburg, Sweden
Win 15-0 Franco Cavicchi KO 13 (15) 30/09/1956 Palazzo Dello Sport, Bologna, Italy Won EBU (European) heavyweight title
Win 14-0 Hans Friedrich Pts 10 15/04/1956 Kungliga tennishallen, Stockholm, Sweden
Win 13-0 Joe Bygraves Pts 8 24/02/1956 Maesshallen Sports Hall, Gothenburg, Sweden
Win 12-0 Hein ten Hoff KO 1 (8) 28/08/1955 Ullevi, Gothenburg, Sweden
Win 11-0 Guenter Nurnberg KO 7 (8) 12/06/1955 Westfalenhalle, Dortmund, Germany
Win 10-0 Uber Bacilieri UD 8 03/04/1955 Kungliga tennishallen, Stockholm, Sweden
Win 9-0 Aldo Pellegrini DQ 5 (8) 04/03/1955 Maesshallen Sports Hall, Gothenburg, Sweden
Win 8-0 Kurt Schiegl TKO 5 (8) 13/02/1955 Kungliga tennishallen, Stockholm, Sweden
Win 7-0 Ansell Adams Pts 8 06/01/1955 Maesshallen Sports Hall, Gothenburg, Sweden
Win 6-0 Werner Wiegand TKO 5 (8) 05/11/1954 Maesshallen Sports Hall, Gothenburg, Sweden
Win 5-0 Raymond Degl'lnnocenti KO 2 (6) 03/12/1953 Maesshallen Sports Hall, Gothenburg, Sweden
Win 4-0 Erik Jensen Pts 6 12/03/1953 K.B. Hallen Sports Hall, Copenhagen, Denmark Won Scandinavian heavyweight title
Win 3-0 Lloyd Barnett Pts 8 06/03/1953 Maesshallen Sports Hall, Gothenburg, Sweden
Win 2-0 Emile Bentz KO 2 (6) 06/02/1953 Maesshallen Sports Hall, Gothenburg, Sweden
Win 1-0 Robert Masson KO 4 (8) 05/12/1952 Maesshallen Sports Hall, Gothenburg, Sweden

Legend:       Win       Loss       Draw/no contest       Notes

Retired life

"Ingo the Champ", Peter Linde´s statue in bronze of world heavyweight champion in boxing Ingemar Johansson was unveiled in his home town Gothenburg on Saturday, September 17, 2011, outside Ullevi - the stadium where Johansson won a match in 1958 against Eddie Machen.

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, where he owned a hotel. He 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. It is thought the illness was of the type linked to boxing, although his career was fairly short compared to some champions.[14] In the 1990s Johansson's business interests in Sweden included sports apparel and a light lager beer called "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 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.[10][15] At the time of his death, he was at age 76 the oldest living heavyweight champion. Johansson was married three times[10] and is survived by five children.[16]

In January 2011, the 1959 Johnny Lion song "Ingemar Johansson", which chronicles the 1959 Patterson fight, was re-released on the compilation album From The Vault: The Coed Records Lost Master Tapes, Volume 1.[17]

See also


  1. ^ "Ingemar Johansson". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  2. ^ According to the Swedish Taxation Agency, Johansson was registered as Jens Ingmar Johansson
  3. ^ Sports Illustrated - Johansson
  4. ^ [2]
  5. ^ Ingemar Johansson: Boxer who beat Floyd Patterson to win the world heavyweight title February 3, 2009. The Independent
  6. ^ "Login". Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Sveriges Radio. """Ingemar Johansson – "The Champ. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c New York Times - Johansson Retrieved 24 June 2015
  9. ^ "OBITUARY: Johansson confounded skeptics against Patterson". Reuters. 31 January 2009. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  10. ^ a b c Ingemar Johansson, Who Beat Patterson for Heavyweight Title, Dies at 76 New York Times. January 31, 2009.
  11. ^ "Boxing News". The Sweet Science. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  12. ^ Video on YouTube
  13. ^ "People, Apr. 11, 1960". 11 April 1960. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  14. ^ WorldHeritage's own Pugilistica Demenia article
  15. ^ "Ingemar Johansson Dies". Boxing News 24. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  16. ^ "Boxing legend Ingemar Johansson dead". CBC News. 31 January 2009. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  17. ^ Baptista, Todd (March 2011). "Lost and Found", Goldmine, Volume 37, Issue 797, Page 97.

External links

  • Ingemar Johansson at Find a Grave
  • Ingemar Johansson at IMDB
  • Professional boxing record for Ingemar Johansson from BoxRec
  • Interview with Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johansson
Preceded by
Floyd Patterson
World Heavyweight Champion
Succeeded by
Floyd Patterson
Preceded by
Franco Cavicchi
European Heavyweight Champion
September 30, 1956 - March 27, 1960
World Champion
Succeeded by
Dick Richardson
Preceded by
Dick Richardson
European Heavyweight Champion
June 17, 1962 - April 22, 1963
Succeeded by
Henry Cooper
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Max Schmeling
Oldest Living Heavyweight Champion
February 2, 2005 – January 30, 2009
Succeeded by
Ernie Terrell
Preceded by
Archie Moore
Edward J. Neil Trophy
(BWAA Fighter of the Year)

Succeeded by
Floyd Patterson
Preceded by
Carmen Basilio
Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year
1958, 1959
Succeeded by
Floyd Patterson
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