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02 Aug 1952
Helsinki 1952

Teenager Patterson makes his mark in the Olympic ring

Boxer Floyd Patterson’s early performances in the Olympic arena marked him out as a rare talent.

His childhood had been tough. The youngest of 11 children, he grew up in New York’s Brooklyn district, where he got into trouble for playing truant from school and had various run-ins with the police over minor offences. He found his salvation, though, in boxing, rapidly developed from a talented rookie and keen student into an amateur champion.

By the time he arrived in Helsinki to challenge for the middleweight gold medal, the 17-year-old had already won six major amateur titles.

He won his first three bouts easily to reach the final, where he found himself up against Romania's Vasile Tiţă, who was expected to give him a much tougher challenge. Patterson started the fight by spinning round in a circle the moment the bell sounded, which bemused Tiţă and led to a warning from the judge.

It mattered little – barely a minute later, Patterson produced a crunching upper cut that struck Tiţă square on the chin, and knocked him to the ground. In what was to be Patterson's final fight as an amateur, he had secured Olympic gold.

Having won 40 out of 44 amateur contests, he turned professional shortly after the Olympics, and proved to be every bit as good as his amateur form had suggested. He moved up through the weight divisions, first stepping up to light-heavyweight and, just four years after taking Olympic gold, he was crowned the world heavyweight champion, at that time the youngest in history.

He later lost his title to another 1952 Olympian, the Swede Ingemar Johansson, but then became the first heavyweight champion to regain the title when he beat Johansson in a rematch. Patterson retired from boxing at the age of 37, two decades after his Helsinki gold.

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