The chilly-eyed young man looking out at you between the boxing gloves (opposite) and the embittered young man staring into his dark and private thoughts (below) are about to settle an argument that began on a wet June night a year ago.
Heavyweight Champion Ingemar Johansson and ex-Champion Floyd Patterson will fight at New York's Polo Grounds on the night of June 20 so that boxing's disputatious world may know if a mere lucky punch won the world title for Johansson.
No one in the Johansson camp, not even anyone in the Patterson camp, believes it was a lucky punch—that straight right hand that thundered through Patterson's peekaboo defense in the third round for the first of seven successive knockdowns. But it came so suddenly, after so little other offensive action by Johansson, that many of Patterson's lay followers and a surprising lot of gamblers have rejected all other explanations.
Perhaps the Robert Riger drawings on these pages will persuade the skeptical that it was not plain luck but plane geometry that Floyd Patterson is up against. Last year Riger visited Johansson in his training camp and came away with a portfolio of drawings showing how Ingo hoped to defeat Floyd (SI, June 22, 1959). This time Riger went to see Patterson, and Floyd explained the various ideas he had for coping with Johansson. But the Johansson style is the very antithesis of the Patterson style, no matter how Floyd varies it. Johansson's basic punching is straight-line punching—the jab and the straight right. Patterson's basic punching is curved punching—hooks with either hand. The curves require Patterson to move in close, passing through an area of extreme danger if he is to do damage. But, like a battleship with 16-mile guns fighting a battleship with 14-mile guns, Johansson can stand off at a safe distance and still hit his opponent.
This fact is so clear to Patterson that in training he has made two obvious changes in his style. Instead of crouching, as in recent fights, he has reverted to his earlier, almost upright, stance, the one that served him so well against Archie Moore. This automatically brings his fists closer to his opponent. And he has put in long, dreary hours working on his jab, a straight punch he excels in but one that he seldom has bothered to use. After he won the title by knocking out Moore, Patterson settled deeper and deeper into the crouch, a defensive position from which it is impossible to jab.
"The crouch does not apply in this fight," Patterson told me a couple of weeks ago.
It certainly did not apply in the last fight. Patterson was starting to rise from a crouch when Johansson caught him with a left hook that moved his head directly into the path of the instantly following right.
This is not to say that Patterson has abandoned the bob and weave. He will have to bob and weave in order to present a moving target. He apparently has remembered the sound criticism Moore offered him after the first fight in a letter of brotherly sympathy. "You moved everything but your head," Archie told him.
Aside from these changes, Patterson will operate much as before. He will hold gloves against cheeks in the familiar peekaboo guard, he will almost certainly leap at Johansson at least once, and he will try to get close enough to start those six- and seven-punch combinations that used to work so beautifully.
He will be bigger, too. In training he has maintained his weight at a surprising 192 pounds, 10 pounds more than he weighed against Johansson the last time. Johansson has trained at 198 pounds and hopes to weigh 196 on the day of the fight. It is what he weighed a year ago.