Ingemar Johansson was a Swedish heavyweight boxer and former champion of the world. Born in Gothenburg, Sweden on September 22, 1932, he came to be known as one of Ring Magazine’s 100 greatest boxers of all time.
In 1952, he was disqualified in the finals of the 1952 Helsinki heavyweight competition for running against his opponent. He was not awarded his Olympic silver medal until in 1982.
During his 12th fight as a professional in 1955, Johansson defeated former European Heavyweight Champion Hein Ten Hoff in the first round via knockout. The following year, in 1956, he defeated the European Heavyweight champion Franco Cavicchi to claim the title and was able to defend it by defeating by knockout, Henry Cooper in 1957 and later Joe Erskine in 1958. It was also in 1958 that he won the first match of the elimination round for the World Heavyweight title when he won against Eddie Machen by KO in the first round. This paved way for his boxing bout against Floyd Patterson.
In 1959, Johansson won the World Heavyweight Championship title by defeating the champion Patterson. Although he entered the ring a 5-1 underdog, he sent Patterson to the ground 7 times in the third round before the referee had to stop the game. As a result, he became Sweden’s first heavyweight champion and Europe’s first boxer since 1933 to defeat an American for that title. In that same year, Johansson, who was then also known as “Ingo” or “The Hammer of Thor”, was awarded the Hickok Belt as the top professional athlete of the year and was named as “Male Athlete of the Year” by Associated Press and “Sportsman of the Year” by Sports Illustrated.
A rematch was scheduled between Johansson and Patterson in 1960. Patterson came back with a bang and defeated him by KO in the fifth round. Before their third rematch, Johansson sparred Cassius Clay, who would soon to be known as three-time Heavyweight Champion of the World, Muhammad Ali. During their third fight in 1961, Patterson still managed to defeat Johansson, knocking the latter out during the sixth round.
In 1962, Johansson won the European crown again by defeating Dick Rickardson via knockout in the eighth round. His last fight was against Brian London in 1963, where although London managed to knock Johansson on the ground moments before the bell rang, the judges declared Johansson as the winner.
When he retired in 1963, Johansson had 28 fights, where he only lost twice and out of 26 wins, he won 17 by knockout. Johansson made several films and with his friend Patterson, they promoted boxing cards in Sweden. Johansson and Patterson continued to be friends until they were both incapacitated by Alzheimer’s disease.