|Like many, I was saddened the other day by the passing of Floyd Patterson. For more than one reason. I could sit here and talk about his Gold Medal win at the 1952 Olympics and up until Tyson, his being the youngest World Heavyweight Champion. I could sit and talk about the fact he was the first man to ever recapture the belt. I can tell you|
how he never lost to anyone but a top caliber opponent and overcame odds and size to become champion. I won't though.. I am sure you all know about those things and if you didn't I am sure you have read it in a hundred places since his passing. Instead I want to share a story with you about Floyd that I remember and was a big deal to me at the time it happened.
Ali was the first fighter I ever saw. I used to see my Dad watch fights on TV and would sit with him sometimes. Ali would come on and when he talked, I was mesmerized. Then I seen him actually box! Well after that I was a full fledged fan of not only him but the sport. To me he was everything he claimed and more. When he lost to Spinks, I was devastated and I couldn't understand. How could Ali lose? Then, he had his rematch and all seemed to be right again...now mind you, I was only five or six at the time so my knowledge of the sport and other fighters was limited; I had no idea about the sport and it's workings before Ali.
The next summer after Ali had beaten Spinks to regain the title, I went to spend two weeks with my aunt and uncle up in Saugerties, NY. I had went into Kinston ( about 15 min away) with my uncle and we had stopped at a diner to eat lunch. While we were eating, a man had come in for something to go. Before his order had come to him, we finished up and my uncle paid the bill. On the way out he stopped and looked at the man and said "Aren't you Floyd Patterson?" The man smiled, nodded yes and then stuck his hand out. My uncle shook his hand with a huge grin on his face and introduced me to him. My uncle then asked for his autograph which Floyd happily signed on a napkin. As we were getting ready to go he said nice to meet you and leaned over and shook my hand. On the way to the car I still had no clue who this Floyd guy was...
My uncle could tell that I was confused and explained who Floyd was. I still didn't know much about him but was happy as a pig in you know what because I had met not only a real live boxer but a Former World Champion! When I went home a few days later, Uncle Lou gave me the autograph and told me not to lose it. "That might be worth something someday," he said. When I got home, first thing I did was show it to my dad and started asking him a million questions about Patterson. By now my father was as excited as I was after seeing how gassed up I was over this. He went and dug out one of his films of Floyd; it was his second fight with Johanssen. When I saw the way Patterson handled the Swede, I really became excited. I couldn't wait until Robert Decker from down the street started to brag about his foul ball from Yankee stadium again...I Would Shut Him Up! I have Floyd Patterson's autograph!
Over the years, I had met Floyd five or six times more. Either at fights or other events concerning the sport. Each time he was just as courteous and polite as the first time we met. I had always wanted to ask him if he remembered that time at the diner, but never did. I was always afraid of his looking at me like I was crazy and ending up embarrassed. I am sure over the many years, he has met hundreds of people and kids and I would not be a standout memory in his head, especially since I never spoke (lol).
Although Floyd has always been criticized for his losses and never given his due for his wins, he is truly an American Sporting Icon. He always gave it his all and as champion never ducked a challenger. He always conducted himself as a champion and never embarrassed the sport. Floyd Patterson is a role model for all fighters and fans a like.
I want to say Thank You, Mr. Patterson for all the exciting moments you gave us in the ring. I want to Thank You for always being an ambassador of the sport outside it.
My condolences to the family of Floyd Patterson. He was a good man and will be sorely missed.