Fleischer and Ingemar Johansson display the Ring heavyweight title in 1960.
Even if you are a champion for one day, the prestige of the heavyweight championship endures for a lifetime. And that pretty much summarizes the life of former heavyweight titlist Ingemar Johannson.
Jens Ingemar Johansson was born on 22 September 1932 in Gottenburg, Sweden, and had a successful amateur career that ended in an anticlimactic manner. In the gold medal match of the Helsinki 1952 Olympics, the 19-year-old Johansson was disqualified and had his silver medal withheld from him for failing to engage his opponent, the eventual gold medalist Ed Sanders.
His DQ loss due to “excessive passivity” and the subsequent shame led Johansson to ponder retirement immediately thereafter, but he did end up going pro in December of that year, racking up 14 wins mostly in his home country before traveling to Italy to take the European championship from Franco Cavicchi in a stoppage win in 15 rounds.
He retained that belt against England’s Henry Cooper and Joe Erskine, and after defeating Eddie Machen he received a chance to face heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson for the title.
Against all odds, Johansson stopped Patterson at New York’s Yankee Stadium in three rounds on June 26, 1959, becoming only the fifth heavyweight champion born outside the United States in a monumental upset win.
The fight had an immediate rematch one year later, in which Patterson recovered his belt by knockout in five rounds in what became the very first time in which a heavyweight champion earned his belt back. A rubber match was staged for March of 1961, also won by Patterson in six episodes.
After only three more fights, Johansson retired after defeating Brian London in Sweden, holding a record of 26-2 with 17 knockouts.
He passed away in January 2009 at the age of 76, with his second wife Birgit by his side. His silver medal was presented to him in 1982 after being withheld for 30 years during his appeal for reinstatement. He was inducted in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2002.
Diego M. Morilla writes for The Ring since 2013. He also wrote for HBO.com, ESPN.com and many other magazines, websites, newspapers and other outlets since 1993. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He has won two first-place awards in the BWAA’s annual writing contest, and he is the moderator of The Ring’s Women’s Ratings Panel. He served as copy editor for the second era of The Ring en Español (2018-2020) and is currently a writer and editor for RingTV.com. Follow him on Twitter @MorillaBoxing