The left hook often catches opponents blind. It comes from the outside and can infiltrate a tight guard. When thrown properly, it has terrific weight and leverage to enhance it. It can end a fight by erasing consciousness or by inflicting excruciating and paralyzing pain to the liver. Many artists have crafted their game around it and made quite a living with it. Some have borrowed it and made history.
After reviewing tapes of Patterson-Johansson II, I tested my left hook on my dog, Steve. I retreated with his bone and then hooked off a jab but it just made him sad and inquisitive about what he may have done wrong. It didn’t even produce a cut. Ok…I don’t own a dog, and wouldn’t test the left hook on him if I did. So, animal rights activists, please sit back down. The closest this gets to truth is that I once owned a parakeet named Steve, but he was treated with the dignity and respect he deserved and owned a small turtleneck sweater for the really cold nights when his little heater was on the blink.
Ok, back to the thread.
June 20, 1960, Floyd Patterson borrowed the most lethal form of the weapon of choice of many brutally efficient knockout artists. A speedy boxer-puncher with a gentle disposition, Floyd was driven to a level of intensity he had never utilized and never would again. Ridiculed in the media for his heavyweight title losing knockout at the hands of hard punching Swede Ingemar Johansson just a year earlier, his rapid fire combinations had an extra edge on them at the Polo Grounds in New York City for the rematch.
Patterson had become the youngest fighter ever to win the heavyweight crown when he stopped Archie Moore in 1956 in a battle for Rocky Marciano’s vacant title. In 1959, Johansson knocked Patterson down seven times in three rounds. Patterson was so out of it that he walked to a neutral corner after rising from a knockdown, thinking he had knocked Ingemar down. For his confusion, he received more leather on his way and was put down again.
Driven by anger and vengeance, motivators alien to Patterson’s psyche, he was one of the most lethal offensive machines in heavyweight history on that night. He struck much like a cobra, often leaping from his feet.
In round 5, Patterson struck with an awesome left hook that put Ingemar down. Shortly after he arose, he resumed his two-fisted attack. Johansson bounced off the ropes and Floyd put all his momentum into a sweeping left hook that nearly removed Ingemar’s head from his shoulders. The Swede went down, unconscious before he hit the canvas. His left foot twitched involuntarily and from the right side of his mouth ran a single line of crimson. He was on the canvas for nearly ten minutes.
Floyd Patterson had proven himself. For that he was pleased, but he also thought he might’ve killed Ingemar Johansson. He never wanted to fight with that kind of anger in his heart again, and he never again turned in that kind of performance.
Ingemar Johansson got a third fight with Patterson, and was stopped in six. He was never the same fighter after the Polo Grounds in 1960. His last fight was in 1963 against Brian London. He won, but was put on the canvas and extended the distance.
Patterson-Johansson II gave us a piece of history. Patterson was the first to regain the heavyweight crown and wasn’t joined until Ali whipped Foreman in Zaire in 1974.
But more than that, we had one of the most incredible punches ever thrown, a testimony to the power of the left hook. The punch echoes still across the pages of boxing history. It burned a brand into the record books that can never be diminished, and took its seat in the fascinating hall of one-punch knockouts.
This brings up an interesting question, in closing. What would have happened if Patterson had hit Sonny Liston with the same exact punch? I have my theory. What’s yours?
With this edition of Scar Tissue, I begin a secondary theme to go along with the dream matches. The theme will be the dissection, analysis and commentary on some of the most devastating single punches of all time. It should be fun.
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 1: Louis vs. Ali
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 2: Holmes vs. Frazier
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 3: Liston vs. Foreman
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 4: Imposters unmasked
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 5: Going after Goliath
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 6: Marciano vs. Holyfield
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