31.01.09 – by James Slater – In sad news, it has been reported that former Olympian and world heavyweight champion Ingemar Johansson of Sweden passed away late last night at the age of 76. Johansson, whose lethal right hand became universally known as “Ingo’s Bingo,” or “The Hammer of Thor,” had been suffering from Alzheimer’s decease and he spent his last few years in a Swedish nursing home..
Without a doubt the finest boxer, if not sportsman period, to have ever come out of Sweden, the man who ruled as heavyweight king from June of 1959 to June of 1960 is expected to be given a true hero’s send-off in his homeland.
Originally deemed something of a letdown and even a coward, Ingemar was famously disqualified in the final of the 1952 Olympic games for “running” against American fighter Ed Sanders. Shamefully, the Swede was then denied the heavyweight silver medal he had won. It was only a long thirty years later that Ingo was finally awarded with his silver medal, the original ruling to withhold it from him having been overruled in 1982.
Upon turning pro in December of 1952, fans were sceptical of the 20-year-old’s heart and commitment. This soon changed, however, when, in June of 1959, Johansson stunned reigning heavyweight king Floyd Patterson in the 3rd round of their fight held in Yankee Stadium. Seven times in total the underdog challenger decked the heavyweight champ, and Ingemar was an overnight sensation and a hero to millions of fans back home.
Apparently, hundreds of thousands of fans stayed up until 3A.M local time to listen to the fight on the radio. “What he did was the biggest feat ever in Swedish sporting history,” friend and former sparring partner Stig Calderborn is quoted as saying by BBC Sport.
Something of a playboy who liked to party when he should have been training, the new champion lost the title in his very first defence – a return battle with Patterson. Floyd became the first man in boxing history to regain the heavyweight crown when he sent Johansson down and out in the 5th round of the 1960 rematch. The two rivals would fight a memorable rubber-match in March of 1961 (all three fights took place in the US), and once again Ingo decked Patterson (in a highly exciting opening round, both men went down). This time, though, Floyd got up and proceeded to stop his man in the 6th round. Theirs was a truly riveting series.
Johansson, aside from his bouts with Patterson, also met and defeated such top names as Henry Cooper (KO 5), Joe Erskine (TKO 13), and Eddie Machen, who he stopped in August 1958, in just one round, to earn his crack at the world title.
After an April 1964 points win over Brian London, Johansson called it a day and retired. A former European champion as well as being world heavyweight king, Ingo retired with a fine 26-2(17) record.
He may not have been one of the all-time greats, but Ingemar Johansson earned himself a special place in boxing history. May he rest in peace.