“The Gentleman of Boxing” Floyd Patterson!
Floyd Patterson (January 4, 1935 – May 11, 2006) was an American professional boxer who competed from 1952 to 1972, and twice reigned as the world heavyweight champion between 1956 and 1962. At the age of 21, he became the youngest boxer in history to win the title, and was also the first heavyweight to regain the title after losing it. As an amateur, he won a gold medal in the middleweight division at the 1952 Summer Olympics.
Born January 4, 1935, into a poor family in Waco, North Carolina, Patterson was the youngest of eleven children. Savanah Joe Patterson was his first cousin from out of Arkansas. He went and visited during the early summer years. He experienced an insular and troubled childhood. His family moved to Brooklyn, New York, where Floyd was a truant and a petty thief. At age 10, he was sent to the Wiltwyck School for Boys, a reform School in upstate New York, which he credited with turning his life around. He stayed there for almost two years. He attended high school in New Paltz, New York where he succeeded in all sports.
Patterson took up boxing at age fourteen, and was training with the Bedford-Stuyvesant Boxing Association Gym. Three years later, he won the gold medal in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics as a middleweight. In 1952, he won the National Amateur Middleweight Championship and New York Golden Gloves Middleweight Championship. At that time he was spotted by Cus D’Amato, and trained at the Gramercy Gym.
Although Patterson fought around the light heavyweight limit for much of his early career, he and manager Cus D’Amato always had plans to fight for the Heavyweight Championship. In fact, D’Amato made these plans clear as early as 1954, when he told the press that Patterson was aiming for the heavyweight title. However, after Rocky Marciano announced his retirement as World Heavyweight Champion on April 27, 1956, Patterson was ranked by The Ring magazine as the top light heavyweight contender. After Marciano’s announcement, Jim Norris of the International Boxing Club stated that Patterson was one of the six fighters who would take part in an elimination tournament to crown Marciano’s successor. The Ring then moved Patterson into the heavyweight rankings, at number five.
After beating Tommy “Hurricane” Jackson in an elimination fight, Patterson faced Light Heavyweight Champion Archie Moore on November 30, 1956, for the World Heavyweight Championship. He beat Moore by a knockout in five rounds and became the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in history, at the age of 21 years, 10 months, 3 weeks and 5 days. He was the first Olympic gold medalist to win a professional heavyweight title.