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The Fighting Life of Boxing's Invisible Champion

by W.K. Stratton

Pub Date: July 10th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-15-101430-9
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Meet the nicest boxer ever.

A winner, then loser, then winner of the World Heavyweight Championship, boxer Floyd Patterson (1935–2006) was either born in the wrong era or chose the wrong profession. His dignified demeanor and thoughtful approach to life might have served him better in either the more genteel 1930s or in the halls of academia. Nonetheless, he was an impressive ring warrior of the ’50s and ’60s. After a troubled childhood defined by petty crime, Patterson hooked up with legendary ring guru Cus D'Amato, who molded his student into the 1952 Olympic gold medalist. Once he turned pro, Patterson moved up in weight classes, eventually battling heavyweight legends Ingemar Johansson, Sonny Liston and, most memorably, Muhammad Ali. But Patterson was far more than a mere fighting machine. Veteran sportswriter Stratton (Dreaming Sam Peckinpah, 2011, etc.) chronicles Patterson's triumphs and failures with a palpable affection and admiration for the boxer. While such reverence for one's subject can often lead to an off-putting sense of sycophancy, readers will welcome it here, if only because a gentleman like Patterson deserves it. Readers will root for Patterson to overcome a serious bout of depression, and they will feel his pain as an angry Ali all but tortured him in an infamous 1965 bout. Stratton’s attention to detail is impressive, and he seems to have uncovered every little tidbit about Patterson's life both in and out of the ring, making this warm biography a must for boxing fanatics.

An engaging, breezy portrait of an underappreciated boxing giant.