Scholar Sundays: Ingemar Johansson – Bad left hook
Swedish heavyweight Ingemar Johnasson fought from 1953 to 1963, finishing his career with a 26-2 record and losing to only one man, Floyd Patterson. 19 of his first 21 fights took place in Scandinavia, the others in Germany and Italy. Johansson dominated that regional scene before making his US debut at Yankee Stadium, defeating the legendary Patterson in just three rounds in 1959.
This win earned Johansson the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year award, making him the third international athlete to have received this award to date. But Patterson avenged the loss a year later at the Polo Grounds in New York, and a rubber match in Miami in 1961 also went Patterson’s way, both by KO. Johnasson fought four more fights after the Patterson trilogy before hanging up his gloves at the age of 30.
dimensions and style
Johansson is billed at 6ft 0in and generally weighed near the 200lb mark, a stature typical of his heavyweight era. As an orthodox fighter, Johansson was great with the jab. He either had his right hand closed and loaded against his chest, ready to unleash devastating follow-up shots, or he was shuffling his gloves on his jaw. He was a patient fighter who knew when to fire, and he had textbook footwork and plenty of wrestling experience. He would alternate between a conventional and a broader stance.
There aren’t many Johansson fight shots out there, but let’s take a look at what’s available in full form.
Ingemar Johansson vs. Eddiemachen (1958)
Johannson must have circledmachen at least 10 times before ending this fight at 2:16 of the first round. His movement was not poetic but effective and consistent. He was very active with his jab and keptmachen in check. machen marked him up with a right hook but Johansson absorbed the contact well and came back fighting.
Johansson was a bit choppy with his stride before setting up a short right with another left jab that sentmachen to the canvas. machen got back up and they tangled a few times, wheremachen banged Johansson’s head to try to gain ground. A barrage of uppercuts and crosses against a defenselessmachen brought him down for the second and third time, giving Johansson the win.
Ingemar Johnasson vs. Floyd Patterson (1959)
Patterson went deep and leaned over to give Johansson different looks while choosing his shots sparingly. Johansson once again took the outside of the ring in this fight and was busy with his jab, defending well against cross attempts from Patterson.
Most of Johansson’s jabs didn’t land as the second round progressed. It seemed more like he was trying to distance himself from Patterson and keep him from exploding to the top like he was famous for. Johansson fired an impressive series of 1-2 combinations, including an uppercut straight right combo, which were his first impactful punches to land on the round.
Johansson’s footwork and posture repeatedly forced Patterson to almost sidestep before lunging. It worked at the end of the second when he caught Johansson flush with a left hook to the face. A right cross followed a left, and Patterson didn’t know what happened except that he was lying on his back. When he got up, he was visibly confused and walked away from Johansson. The Swede finished the job with five more knockdowns, including a very dangerous shot to the back of the head, ending the night in under nine minutes.
Ingemar Johannson vs. Floyd Patterson III (1961)
For the first time in heavyweight history, the mandatory count of eights was introduced in this fight. This was crucial due to the amount of knockdowns. Johansson wasted no time using his jab with the sole intention of guiding it with powerful rights – something he didn’t do that often in their first fight.
Johansson knocked down Patterson within two minutes with a pinpoint straight right that followed his jab. Throughout the fight, Johansson was in a very wide stance with great posture. A right cross and a left uppercut sent Patterson spiraling again.
Patterson returned the favor with a phantom hand on his hind legs, which Johansson placed on his butt in as action-packed a first round as possible. As the fight went on and Patterson’s tally increased, Johansson wasn’t particularly adept at leveling his barrage or making him pay for mistakes.
Patterson lunged at Johansson with a scathing jab and two right hooks to the temple that sent Johansson to the canvas and the eight count got the win over him.
Johansson’s jab was incredible, and not too many fighters can be a jab artist And throwing consistently with as much panache as he could. He mastered all the basics.
Johansson was missing here: he wasn’t a great counterattack. When one fighter brought out the pain to the fullest, it slowed him down. Also, despite being able to throw a greater variety of shots, Johansson loved that jab so much that, like Antonio Cervantes, it was his primary weapon for scoring.
Heavyweights who, like Patterson, throw every punch in the book would probably give him problems in theoretical matchups. His head movement was very solid but not otherworldly. Still, Johansson got many things right, enough for his career to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2002. His strength was there, as was his footwork, and it’s evident that his fundamentals were cultivated early in his boxing career.