- read the headlines in three of Sweden's largest newspapers reporting the death of Ingemar Johansson, January 30, 2009. The photo here shows the new champ at Yankee Stadium and Nordstjernan columnist Lars Ottoson to the right, joining him in the ring after the K-O.
The greatest Swedish athlete of all time is gone, and some sportswriters even feel he deserved recognition for being one of the greatest Swedes. Two friends of 'Ingo' contribute their views in Nordstjernan issue 03—Ulf Nilson and Lars Ottoson. Ottoson, who at the time reported the game over Radio Luxemburg to Swedish households, is clear: The world’s most famous Swede of all times is Ingemar Johansson. Period.
When he knocked out Floyd Patterson at Yankee Stadium in New York on June 26, 1959, in 2 minutes and 3 seconds of the third round his name was broadcast around the world and he topped the headlines of the sport pages from Tokyo to Toronto, from Casablanca to Calcutta. He was known to gauchos on pampas, cattle herders in the outbacks of Australia and of course to every kid on a settlement block in America - to all those who had never heard of Alfred Nobel, Greta Garbo or Ingrid Bergman. He is up there on the same list with legends like Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney and Joe Louis. And he got there when the world had only one heavyweight champion. When only one man could wear the crown. Since John L Sullivan in 1890 the world had had only twenty champions. Ingo became the 21 st. There were only eight weight divisions in those days. Today there are seventeen, governed by four bodies creating 68 championships Since Ingo there have been 35 heavy weight champions, many of them just trading titles. Ingemar Johansson was only the third European champion after Primo Carnera and Max Schmeling in the 1930's. And he is the last white boxer to wear the heavy weight belt (if you don't count one body bit players like Bonecrusher Smith and Tim Morrison).
The champ passed away quietly at his home at Bedagården outside Göteborg, Sweden. His death at 77 came after several years of fighting dementia and Alzheimers, which brought a tragic twist to the fighter and independent soul of Sweden's champ of the ages. Much more in our next printed issue.
To listen to Lars Ottoson's reporting from Yankee Stadium and hear Ingo's own comments, visit http://i186.photobucket.com/albums/x74/hobsala/?action=view¤t=matchen_1959.flv