Sweden's Johansson remembered

Updated: February 13, 2009, 1:51 PM ET
Associated Press

GOTEBORG, Sweden -- Six members of Ingemar Johansson's amateur boxing club carried the former heavyweight champion's casket from a packed memorial on Friday, a sign on a garland of flowers reading "Once a Champ, always a Champ."

More than 1,000 people attended the funeral in Johansson's hometown of Goteborg. He died at a nursing home last Friday after having been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and dementia more than 10 years ago. He was 76.

Known as "Ingo" to Swedes, Johansson stunned the boxing world when he knocked out Floyd Patterson to win the heavyweight title at Yankee Stadium on June 26, 1959.

Raymond Patterson, Floyd Patterson's brother, honored Johansson by donating a gift to the Swedish fighter's memorial fund.

[+] EnlargeIngemar Johansson
AP Photo/Erik AbelMore than 1,000 mourners attended Ingemar Johansson's funeral at Vasa Church in his hometown.

The service in the Vasa church, Goteborg's second-largest, was open to the public.

Dean Bengt Inghammar said he was grateful that so many were able to attend the ceremony. He told a story of when he was a young boy and attended Johansson's fight against Eddie Machen in Goteborg, when both fighters were undefeated.

Johansson knocked out the American in the 12th round before 53,614 fans at Ullevi stadium to set up his title fight against Patterson.

Johansson knocked out Patterson in the third round to win the title. He floored the American seven times before referee Ruby Goldstein stopped the fight 2:03 into the round.

Back home, hundreds of thousands of Swedes listened to the live radio broadcast early in the morning as Johansson became only the fifth heavyweight champion born outside the United States. Swedish newspapers printed extra editions with Johansson on the cover.

Patterson avenged the upset loss a year later in New York, knocking Johansson out in the fifth round. In March 1961, the Swede floored Patterson twice in Miami before being knocked out in the sixth round of the rubber match. Patterson died in 2006.

Johansson had four more fights -- all wins, one of them a knockout of England's Dick Richardson for the European title in 1962 -- before retiring the following year. He finished his career with a 26-2 record, including 17 knockouts.

A well-schooled upright boxer, Johansson had a good jab that helped set up a tremendous knockout right hand dubbed "Ingo's Bingo" and the "Hammer of Thor."

Johansson went 61-10 with 31 KOs as a decorated amateur. His biggest disappointment came at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland, where he was disqualified in the heavyweight final for not giving his best.

Johansson always claimed that he backed away in that fight in an attempt to lure his American opponent, Ed Sanders, into his right-hand counter. The Swede eventually received his silver medal 30 years later from the International Olympic Committee.

Johansson became a businessman after finishing his boxing career. He owned a fishing boat and a bar called "Ingo's" in Goteborg, Sweden's second-biggest city.

Johansson later moved to Florida, where he operated a hotel in Pompano Beach and started playing golf. He also completed the Stockholm Marathon before hundreds of thousands of spectators in 1985.

In 2000, the Swedish Sports Academy selected Johansson as Sweden's third-best athlete of the 20th century, behind tennis star Bjorn Borg and Alpine skiing great Ingemar Stenmark.

Johansson was married and divorced twice, and is survived by six children.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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