The Hammer of Thor

April 12, 2007 - By Ron Lipton - I was standing in the upper loft of Floyd Patterson’s gym in New Paltz NY. It was 1990 and Floyd and I were alone. All the boxing and training for the day was over and everyone was gone but me. We were discussing the traveling arrangements for some upcoming fights where I was going to work the corner with him and do the 8 hours of driving while he was traveling with me in the same car.

We were all done talking about it and the conversation turned to one of the heavyweights in the gym, a guy named Richie Ozipinski, a friend of mine who tipped in at about 235lbs, a wonderful decent solid guy who supported his wife and 6 wonderful children. He wanted to have a few amateur fights for the fun of it. He was slow of foot and hand but had a right hand on the heavy bag like a ton of bricks. No real left hook to go with it but a slow and very heavy right hand.

I mentioned the power of it and Floyd shook his head in the negative. “He won’t be able to land it in a real fight so it doesn’t matter how hard it is on the bag.” It was the perfect segue to my comment as I am not a guy to pull punches with anyone.. I said, Yeah, maybe Champ, but Ingemar had a slow right hand and he took you out with it when it landed and then knocked you down a few times in the rematches before you got him, and you are as fast as lightning, what about that? How hard was his punch compared to Liston for example?

He stared straight ahead with his arms folded over a beautiful knotty lacquered beam.

He had a sweatshirt on and some old loose fitting pants and sneakers. His faded baseball cap did not hide his eyes. Those sad soul full eyes of such compassion and gentleness that could glaze over with competitive fire went introspective. It was a great boxing moment for me because I was all alone with him and I could see he realized it was a fair question and not one designed to insult him or criticize him.

His inner thoughts went to work and took hold of him and as his memory picked him up in a whirlwind through time. He went back, far back in the quiet of the gym and was feeling it again right in front of me. I was mesmerized while watching him work out the answer while on his own quantum leap through time, watching and feeling it in the silence. Then his thoughts brought it all back for him his eyes came back into focus and he turned slowly toward me.

Together we had stood there for about a full minute I was just about to say goodbye and leave because I knew that perhaps in his completely honest and earnest desire to answer my question his way, he had to truly recall how it felt to be there and it might have been too painful. He turned to me and in that moment we were both back in that ring when Ingemar Johannson’s Thunder and Lightning first struck.

I was with my father listening to it on the radio and later seeing the films. Patterson was listening to the count on the deck while looking into John Wayne’s eyes at ringside.

Floyd looked at me in a way to really make me understand this as a fighter. “Ron, I did not see the first right hand, it basically knocked me unconscious when it landed, I did not remember going down but I remember getting up.” I said, on the films you can see John Wayne sitting there and I remember reading that you looked right into his eyes. “That’s true,” he said. Ok how hard was his right hand compared to Liston?

“Harder, but different,” Floyd said. “No one and I mean no one hit me harder than Ingemar with that right hand.” I could not believe it, as Liston was so strong, so physically powerful with 15” fists to boot. Floyd, I said, harder than Liston, you serious?

He then said with finality, “His right hand would knock you unconscious and was very difficult to recover from it was so hard.” He then added for emphasis with a knowing smile, “It was so hard that on his best night he could knock out anyone with it if he trained right all the time.”

I said, thanks for telling me Floyd, I felt I was right there with you while you were thinking about it, “You were he said,” and we both laughed hard as we closed up the gym for the night.

I saw that right hand over and over again on film, in the Machen fight, and in the 3 Patterson fights. I saw Ingemar’s faults in the Ed Sanders bout in the Olympics and the Brian London fight where London floored him in the last round and I read about how Ingemar took out formidable Henry Cooper in five rounds, but that damn right hand of his was no joke.

I knew Eddie Machen went the distance with Cleveland Williams and Sonny Liston and was one of the best heavyweights of his time. When Ingemar took him out in one round a year after stopping Henry Cooper it was an all time show stopper for me. Ingemar knocked down Machen 3 times in one round.

In 1994 while in Seville Spain attending a WBC boxing convention I met Ingemar Johannson and had my chance to finally look at that famous right hand. I was having a drink with John Stracey and Ken Buchannan when I turned to look around the room. Ingemar was sitting in a very low sofa chair sunk deep into the cushions. He was sitting by himself all alone and seemed a bit out of it. The beginnings of pugilistic dementia were sadly and slowly beginning to manifest themselves and it grieved me to see the old champ like this.

I walked over to say hello and he shook my hand with his powerful right hand. His grip was firm but his gaze was without focus and I did my best assessment of the power paw with the moment fate had given me. He looked to be over 300lbs and his attention span and focus were severely damaged. I said, Mr. Johannson, it is an honor to meet you and shake the hand that stopped Henry Cooper and Eddie Machen. He looked up at me and said, “Most people only remember the Patterson fights.” I said Machen was some fighter and Cooper had a great left hook. He said, “Thank You.”

I said, Floyd is a dear friend of mine and it was an amazing victory to have beaten such a great fighter the way you did. It is so nice you became friends with him after the fights were all over. He said, “I like Floyd very much and we always stayed friends.” I asked him if I could ask him a boxing question and he said “Sure.” I said your right hand did not seem to be very fast, but very hard, what was the secret of its power?

He said, “I knew when to throw it, and it was fast enough to win me the heavyweight title, anyone I hit with it,” he paused and motioned with his fingers, in a downward gesture to the floor simulating a knockdown, and then brought his hands to his face to imitate a man sleeping.

I laughed and said thank you champ, it was an honor to meet you. He said, “Thank you.” and I left him alone in the chair where he remained for hours.

With all the years that have gone by in studying the big one shot punchers, I have to rate Ingemar high for shocking one shot stopping power.

The old pros would know the secret of changing the rhythm of their punching in exchanges. They could get a man used to faster punches and then change the speed to tag them right.

On his best night Ingemar stopped a gold medal winner and one of the fastest punching heavyweights who ever lived in Floyd Patterson. He also stopped in one round one of the craftiest and sophisticated heavyweight boxers in Eddie Machen who nullified all the power of a Sonny Liston in 12 rounds.

His proclivity for being lax in training while having his fiancé Brigit with him proved to be his undoing in the rematch with Floyd. I enjoyed seeing Ingo in the war movie None But The Brave while he was on top. He only lost twice, that being to Floyd and yet Ingemar knocked Floyd down in those shootouts.

The Thunder dissipated with time in that right hand, but when he was on top of his game his right hand chop was devastating in its ponderous impact. It lost power in its roundhouse delivery but the chopping right hand was akin to the rights that Frankie DePaula had when dropping Dick Tiger.

Hurricane Carter used this punch to dispose of Florentino Fernandez in one round after he arose from the first knockdown and he put it behind a short left hook.

It is the kind of punch I teach daily as the Manager and Chief Trainer at Snoop’s Boxing Gym in the City of Poughkeepsie

Ingemar’s crunching right hand was referred to as his “Toonder and lightning.”

When he got a man into serious jeopardy with that short chopping right hand that would blur out of nowhere the end of the fight was not far behind. Once Ingemar stunned his opponent with it he then had his way with the delirious fighter, looping it over and under and around the gloves, scoring concussive knockdowns.

Yet his initial shocking punch, with his thick heavy handed delivery was packed with the power he inherited from his father and grandfather. The husky Swede was blessed with a thick and sturdy skeletal frame which he could launch into a surprising deadly offense.

It was enough to garner him the heavyweight championship of the world and eliminate two of the most dangerous heavyweights in that division at the time. One the ultimate ring craftsman in Eddie Machen and the other Henry Cooper who possessed a left hook hard enough to deposit a young and rising Cassius Clay dead on his ashcan.

I believe that the success of that right hand of Ingemar’s was due to his ability to be explosive and sneaky with that bomb and gird it with deceptive timing. It had enough kinetic energy on it to pierce and shake a chin carved out of Mount Rushmore.

The lack of skills that went with that inherent power defused his ability to get that punch onto the mark successfully later in his career. Once the power of it was revealed to the boxing world we all knew what to look for. Brian London showed that in his fight with Johannson.

Guys were looking for it after that and it wasn’t a secret anymore. However for sheer one shot power Ingo’s right hand was up there with the best.

Baer’s had more torque and was a looping roundhouse shot, Dempsey’s was an iron fisted right hand delivered in a different manner, heavy, fast and with crunch, Liston was a clubbing machine which was like getting hit with a baseball bat, Tyson’s had more snap and he could loop it around your gloves with great bicep and tricep power behind it or over the top to drop an older Larry Holmes with a sound of leather exploding on skull,

Foreman right hand was thrown by a 6’3” muscular roundhouse master with a clubbing right which was devastating in an uppercut or a roundhouse loop.

Ingo’s right hand was made on Odin’s Anvil, forged into a hammer with a short handle and although from Sweden, his right hand was devised, forged and embedded in Norse mythology.

They say the God of Thunder’s hammer, Thor’s hammer was being created as a weapon and gift for the God of Thunder. The God of Mischief Loki, turned himself into a fly and stung the mythical blacksmith in the eyes. He made a mistake from the pain while tempering the hammer on the anvil in Valhalla’s fiery forge. Its handle was too short but the weapon was still able to be launched, slay giants, and return to the hand of its owner, Thor.

Obviously the God of Thunder leant this hammer to Ingemar Johannson in his fights with Patterson and Machen. His short right hand was at one with Thor’s hammer. Then when those missions were accomplished the Gods said he had to give it back, it was only on loan.

Article posted on 13.04.2007

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