Floyd Patterson was an absolute gentleman.
Barely a discussion can be had about the gentle and well-mannered souls of boxing history without Floyd Patterson being mentioned. No trash-talking, never speaking out of turn, and a good and honest sport even towards Sonny Liston, the man who humiliated and brutalized him twice with two first round knockouts. He was a veritable saint in a game played regularly by wife-beaters and other troubled souls.
One could say he was the perfect gentleman in the classical sense. He was quiet and modest, but he could definitely defend himself. Sporting some of the quickest hands in the heavyweight divisions history (certainly some of the quickest to still keep significant fight-changing power) few would argue he couldn’t defend himself.
History shows Patterson to have two quick losses to Sonny Liston. These losses have done a lot to diminish Patterson’s standing in hypothetical discussion. Before the victory he was America’s golden boy. John F. Kennedy himself had a phone line ready to congratulate him for when he beat Liston, but this was not to be. Patterson quickly succumbed to Liston in two of the shortest heavyweight title bouts in history.
One could argue that there are few people worse to meet in a boxing ring than Sonny Liston (perhaps George Foreman and Mike Tyson). But this doesn’t seem to make any difference that most have of Patterson, as a fluke champ who would go to sleep the second a stiff breeze passed over his chin. Unfortunately for him, the respect he gave out in abundance to everyone he met, is not returned to him for what he did achieve in the ring.
Ingemar Johannson x2
Yvon Durelle x2
One could also arguably place Jimmy Ellis up there but for the sake of credibility, I won't.
In my view this is absolutely a respectable heavyweight resume for a man who took a gold medal in the Olympics. At middleweight
. On this list you find three big punchers in Ingemarr Johannson, Archie Moore and Henry Cooper. Not bad for someone who is perceived to have carried his chin up from middleweight.
Some of these were after he popped up off the canvas Liston put him on. He bounced back up and got back to fighting. He himself is quoted as saying "It's easy to do anything in victory. It's in defeat that a man reveals himself." What more could we want from him?
That last quote says a lot about Patterson. You could harp on and on about his character and how you’d have to dig very deep to get something bad out of it (I do not have anything off the top of my head). So I will end with a simple story about Floyd, courtesy one of his peers.
The story goes that there was a fighter and a gangster. A mean, rough, intimidating man who was all about his bad reputation. His life was built off of it at this point, perhaps it wasn’t an accurate representation of his character, but it was his living.
This man had reached great heights (sadly he was despised all the way) and was recently humbled by the newest coming champion. He was sulking in his hotel room alone, fresh after being beaten and knocked out by an underdog in a fight for what was at one stage his title.
Floyd Patterson went and slipped into his hotel room, to see him of his own volition, and told him that he knew how he felt. Even though he was apparently met with a mean glare, he stayed and talked while the fighter remained silent. Patterson said that knew how it felt to be humiliated in front of all the cameras and press, and that the fighter needed to stay strong and keep fighting.
Patterson knew all this because the man he was talking to was Sonny Liston, the same man who put him in the same situation. Liston admits he was very confused by this occurrence, and when Patterson was done talking, he nervously hugged Liston and left the room.
Would you fight this man twice, then surprise him in his room and hug him while he stares at you, either confused or angry (you probably couldn't tell hypothetically)?
Do not get the point of my writing wrong. I am not trying to sneak Floyd into a top 10 list based on his unimpeachable character, but if there was ever a fighter who deserves more respect as a warrior (inside and outside the ring) than he gets at this moment. I’ve got Floyd Patterson.
"They said I was the fighter who got knocked down the most, but I also got up the most." - Floyd Patterson