SI Vault
September 29, 1958
To Each His Own
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September 29, 1958

Events & Discoveries

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First reports made it sound like a bloody brawl, and the parrots leaped to reply that it wasn't either bloody (or, anyway, it wasn't a brawl), and it wasn't much of a fight, and Babe Ruth did worse, and why do people insist on printing stories like that?

Well, of course, if they had been alert to the news value of the story when it happened and had written what happened and how and why, the tempest would have been much milder. In "protecting the players from undeserved publicity" they succeeded in making the publicity twice as bad.

Yes, sir, it was a bad week all around—for the Yankee players, the Yankee management and the Yankees writers.

The Kid from Gothenburg

The right that first knocked Machen down was the heaviest I have ever landed. I felt it right up in my shoulder. It was a long punch, but as it landed I felt it was a perfect one. I felt sorry for Machen then, but boxing is a rough sport and I could not afford to let up. I knew he would have handled me in the same way if the positions had been reversed. Would I like to meet Patterson? Yes, please." Thus spake Ingemar Johannson, 25, the heavyweight champion of Europe, after he had knocked out Eddie Machen in considerably less than one round at his native city of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Johannson spoke in his dressing room at the Nya Ullevi stadium. It was tranquil there and as homey as a living room. His mother Ebba was there, and his sister and his brother and his 19-year-old fiancee Birgit Lundgren. His father Jens is not particularly interested in boxing. Neither are the great majority of Swedes, although 53,684 of them showed up to witness the fight out of a major sense of loyalty. Neither they nor his adviser, Edwin Ahlquist, thought Johannson would win. "The outcome," said Ahlquist evenly, "was a surprise for me. I thought Ingemar would be beaten." Many Swedes, indeed, judged the knockout rather a fluke and felt quite sympathetic about Machen's misfortune.

If Johannson had won a victory of such magnitude in almost any other country he would, at the least, have got a torchlight parade, his life story in the papers and a medal from the government. But what did Ingemar get except several headlines? Why, nothing; or, as the phlegmatic Swedes would say, just what was coming to him. Swedes abhor violence; in fact, they even resent it. So when they get worked up about boxing it is usually to oppose the nasty game.

But what manner of man and fighter is Johannson? Ingemar started boxing as an amateur in 1948 when, as an exceptionally strong fellow for his age, he paved the streets of Gothenburg. He won all his senior amateur matches, including several fights on the streets which he had paved; fights critically recorded in the press. Johannson was disqualified in the finals of the 1952 Olympics and chastened in the press for "cowardly behavior" and "running away from his opponent," the title going to the late Ed Sanders. After turning professional, he won all 21 of his bouts, 12 by knockouts, including victories over Joe Bygraves, Franco Cavicchi, Archie McBride, Joe Erskine, Hein ten Hoff and Heinz Neuhaus. He is quite fast, and a fair boxer with a rather amateurish stand-up style, a straight left paving the way for a fast, short right-hand punch. He knows no other combinations and knows very little of American-style infighting. But he surely can hit. And he is a bear for training. He runs cross-country two hours every weekday, and sometimes on Sundays, spars a minimum of eight rounds each day when training for a fight and ends his training session with 15 minutes of Swedish relaxation calisthenics. He is also good-looking; when he was introduced to Sugar Ray Robinson, Ray said: "You shouldn't be a fighter. You should be in Hollywood."

Cars and airplanes are Johannson's favorite pursuits. He has had many sports cars and now owns a white Thunderbird which is well known in Stockholm as well as Gothenburg. Before the Machen fight he took flying lessons, and he intends to buy a small sports plane when he has obtained his flying certificate. He has, in addition, one interest about which he is extremely sensitive and which, indeed, he wishes to conceal—he has a fondness for modern Swedish and Finnish poetry. A friend caught him once at a bookstore selecting a volume of poetry. Ingemar flushed. "I will shoot you," he said, "if you ever breathe a word about this."

The Fortunes of Wham-O

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