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Exiled in New Jersey

My high school graduation present was tickets for four to see the second Patterson-Johannson fight on closed circuit TV at the old Stanley theater in Camden NJ. Patterson gave a fine impression of a human yo-yo in the first fight, and most of us expected the same.

In a way, Floyd Patterson was the last Great White Hope. The sports establishment loved him, but we, growing up in Philly where Liston trained, knew the title was the bully's for the asking. It wasn't just weight, but also the baleful stare of Sonny. Every account of Liston at that time used 'baleful.' Liston's left jab moved people back. Every so often you can catch a tape of him fighting Zora Folley, another man who might have taken Floyd's crown. Liston was inexorable, not in a Joe Frazier way, but like a robot, taking Folley's best and beating the bejabbers out of him. The saying went that if you cut off Sonny's head, he would get up and turn on the television. Sometimes I think I will go to my grave thinking Liston took a bundle to be a stiff for Ali, who was Clay in the first fight, twice.

Poor Floyd; a number of his defenses were against nobodies like Pete Rademacher, the next Olympic champ and perhaps Johannson, supposedly a nothing.

Great little piece, Lance.


Apparently he was a pretty good Boxing Commissioner for the State of New York until the Alzheimer's got too bad, too. Imagine any other former champ since Patterson as a state's Commissioner of anything; the mind boggles.

NPR had an interview with a friend of Patterson's this morning; he tried very hard to put to rest the idea that boxing had led to the death. Patterson's parents both died of Alzheimer's, too, the guy said.


nick tosches wrote a fine book-
the devil and sonny liston-
has a great couple of chapters
about patterson. an honorable and complicated man.
anybody who romanticizes
professional boxing should be forced to read
the transcript of patterson barely able to
understand a line of questioning- then watch ali shuffle and shake, then watch present-day joe frazier and riddick bowe
get lost in their sentences.
the consequences to them have been inexorable. at least in olympic boxing there
are headguards and shorter bouts.

Kevin Wolf

I like boxing - the sport, not the behind-the-scenes idiocy that allows for fights that should not happen. (Riddick, etc.)

But the fight game itself: I don't know why, given my aversion to brutality, but I'm there for a good fight. It must be the elemental match of one man against another.


Kevin - I feel the same way. I once had an odd role-reversal argument with a rather macho ex, who maintained that boxing is essentially bear-baiting with humans. But I find a certain beauty in it. I think my admiration may be also due to the fact that the "elemental match of one man against another" has made for so many good movies.

Lance, that isn't a very a nice story about Ali, is it? he has been almost canonized now but he was (and I suppose is) a rough, difficult man.

Gray Lensman

Boxing is one man humiliating another man with his fists. Ali was simply providing the bloodthirsty consumers their show. Otherwise he could have beaten up Patterson in an alley. He knew that better than anyone.

All competitive sport is basically about humiliation, looked at from the viewpoint of the loser. We would rather identify with the winner.


Norm's Martin & Lewis line refers to a similar bit of shtick from Sailor Beware (1952), in which unlikely bantamweight Jerry claims to have fought Gene Tierney. "Wait a minute," says Dean. "Don't you mean Gene Tunney?" To which Jerry replies, "You fight who you want, I'll fight who I want."

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