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Old 06-17-2007, 10:25 PM   #1
Marciano Frazier
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Default Ingemar Johansson was not knocked out cold by Brian London

The story of Ingemar Johansson, after outboxing Brian London for most of their 12-round fight, being knocked out cold in the last 10 seconds of the fight and laying unconscious on the floor for several minutes, not regaining his senses until after the decision had already been announced in his favor, is an old and widespread tale, the veracity of which a lot of boxing fans seem to take for granted. I've noticed it popping up repeatedly in recent discussions I've had(generally being used to discredit Johansson, and often accompanied by claims that he was a "joke" or a fluke champion and that he would be knocked out by most any real top fighter), and when someone brings it up, it is never challenged or questioned, so I thought creating a new thread rather than leaving it inside a discussion where it could be overlooked would be the best solution to try and get the truth out here.

Johansson was not knocked out cold against London. He was knocked down in the last few seconds of the fight, but was up at the count of about four or five. If you examine the contemporary newspaper accounts, you'll find that they say Johansson was put down at the end of the fight and that London lost the opportunity to go for a knockout because of the timing of the knockdown, but none of them claim that he was knocked out for minutes or wasn't even conscious as the decision was announced. According to the Associated Press account, "The count had reached four fall and Johansson had just lurched to his feet when the final bell rang." Although I've never seen the film, I have read that, in fact, it is clearly visible that Johansson is back on his feet about four seconds after being put down and is very much conscious as the decision is announced. The claim that Johansson was knocked out cold as a doorknob and didn't move for minutes afterwards is a tall tale which has gradually crept its way into the realm of what the public at large considers historical- I've seldom seen such a patently false claim go so unchallenged and fully accepted among knowledgeable fans as this one has.

This also brings me to the larger point that Johansson is a very underrated, underappreciated and devalued fighter. He was an Olympic Silver medalist, may even have won the Gold if he hadn't been prematurely disqualified in the championship match, fought very tough professional opposition from an extremely early stage (in fact, he never faced an opponent with a losing record in his entire career), was routinely taking on and dominantly beating the top European heavyweights of his era within his first 15 fights, had completely cleaned out the major European scene by his 20th pro fight, and then moved up to the world-class level and utterly annihilated the top two heavyweights in the world, back-to-back. That right there places him far, far ahead of the overwhelming majority of heavyweight contenders and ahead of a good few champions as well.
He did proceed to lose the title, fatten up to 200+ pounds and fade in his last few performances, but he still had Patterson down twice and nearly out in their third fight, and went on to string together four more wins against solid opposition before retiring. His only career losses were against Patterson(he beat every man he ever faced, in fact), who he mopped the floor with in their first fight and nearly blew out again in their third meeting. Patterson faced nearly all the best contenders and champions of the mid-'50s through early '70s, and no one aside from Liston blew him out the way Johansson did. Similarly, Machen had an extended career in which he took on numerous elite fighters all the way from the mid-'50s through the end of the '60s, and no one ever even came close to replicating what Johansson did to him, including the likes of Sonny Liston, Cleveland Williams, Jerry Quarry and Smokin' Joe Frazier.
Johansson was a force to be reckoned with and a very legitimate elite-level fighter at his best. It's unfortunate that so many people remember him mainly for the famous "leg-twitch" knockout he suffered in the second Patterson fight and being knocked out cold by London and saved by the bell, a story which isn't even true. I consider Johansson a clear top 25 all-time heavyweight.
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