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For the first time since he won the heavyweight championship of the world almost three years ago Floyd Patterson is about to peek out between his six-ounce gloves at a fighter who has a reasonable chance to beat him. The chance depends almost entirely on his challenger's right hand. Everyone Patterson has fought in recent years—with the possible exception of the inept Hurricane Jackson—has hit him with a solid right-hand punch. One of these right-handers, the amateur Pete Rademacher, even knocked the champion down. Conceivably, a really powerful right-hand puncher could knock Patterson out.
The champion's latest opponent knows all this. The new man, with the biggest right hand of them all, is Ingemar Johansson, who used it one chilly, fateful evening in G�teborg, Sweden to turn the heavyweight ratings and Eddie Machen topsy-turvy in a single round. Machen was then the fellow Patterson was supposed to be afraid to fight.
Thanks to that right-hand punch, which has served him well in his 18 professional fights, Johansson became No. 1 contender in all ratings. So, on the night of June 25, he is to meet Patterson at Yankee Stadium before a crowd that will include hundreds who paid $100 for a single "red carpet" ringside seat to see the handsome, dimpled Swede make his ultimate bid. Such a price has been paid only three times before in heavyweight history—when James J. Corbett beat Peter Jackson in 1891, when Corbett defeated John L. Sullivan in 1892 and when Joe Louis beat Billy Conn the second time in 1946.
This spendthrift crowd will include hundreds who paid even a higher price to be flown across the Atlantic from Sweden in the hope that they may tell their grandchildren that they were there on the night a Swede named Ingo brought home the smorgasbord, just as a Negro heavyweight named Jack Johnson once made good on a promise to bring home the bacon and so contributed to our language a deathless piece of pith.
The fight will come off despite a mountain of legal obstacles. All were scaled by the poker-faced young man on your left—Bill Rosensohn, an Ivy League grad buzzing about in a jungle of Venus's-flytraps but relentlessly promoting what is only his second heavyweight championship, gambling on it for half a year as something that would make or break him as a promoter, at first with the calm of a croupier spinning a fixed wheel, later with the sad look of a waif who has just been kicked. More sales-killing news of court actions and boxing commission decisions has been printed about this fight than news of the abilities of the two young men—Patterson, 24, Johansson, 26—who in the end must settle all the issues with their fists.
But, 10 days before the fight, with ticket sales in the lower-priced (up to $50) seats picking up, Rosensohn began to smile again and to foresee a gate of about $750,000. He begins to make money at $500,000. The $100 seats went well from the start.
The fight will not be on home television. Irving B. Kahn of TelePrompTer Corporation bought the theater TV, movie and radio rights for $300,000, then sold domestic radio rights for $100,000. In addition, the fight will be radioed to Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Cuba and perhaps to Australia and other countries.
Kahn expects record attendance for theater TV, surpassing the previous figure of almost 400,000 viewers set by the large-screen telecast of the second Sugar Ray Robinson- Carmen Basilio fight in March 1958. Close to 550,000 theater seats will be available for this fight at an average price of $4.
From any sensible standpoint, the fight is a natural. Whether it goes long or short there should be suspense in every round. No one has yet hit Patterson hard enough to test him truly. No one the champion has met since Archie Moore has been able to punch as hard as Johansson.
The quality of the challenger is what makes an attractive fight when a championship is at stake. Challenger Johansson has attractive fighting and personal qualities. He is a fellow of great social charm, and at the same time he is an excellent businessman. He is pleasantly aware that the title he seeks is worth, to pluck a good round figure out of the potential, a million dollars. That is a lot of money to a Swedish boy who once worked as a street laborer. Ingo is about to go after the million.