The winner of the fight between Eddie Machen and Floyd Patterson in Stockholm this Sunday may be the first man to challenge Cassius Clay for the heavyweight championship. The loser, quite possibly, will never fight again, and the loser, most probably, will be Floyd Patterson. Patterson, after two brief and disastrous appearances against Sonny Liston, won a notably unimpressive victory over Sante Amonti in Stockholm on January 6. He needs a win against Machen to prove that he is a competent enough challenger for Clay. Machen, at 31, is making a belated comeback after having been sidelined for a year by a nervous breakdown brought on in almost equal measure by financial trouble and the frustrations of a boxing career that often brought him to the brink of a championship fight without ever putting him in the ring with a champion.
As the two men prepared for the bout last week, it was Machen who seemed the more confident and in the better frame of mind. "I been waiting seven years for Patterson," he said cheerfully. "It has been a very long time and, quite naturally, I became impatient. But I fully believe that I am ready. I have viewed several motion pictures of Patterson and of course I have seen him fight, and I am sure I can defeat him."
He was in the living room of a small suite in the comfortable Apollonia Hotel in Stockholm, where he has lived since the first of June. "Floyd used to say I was an IBC fighter and for that reason he declined to meet me in the ring. That was when he was with Cus D'Amato, and there were quite a few IBC fighters around. At least what he called IBC, which was the same thing as good." Machen looked at his hands, inspecting carefully manicured nails. "Quite naturally, I am not underestimating Floyd," he said. "He is a very good man."
Patterson is training in Ronneby, a resort town on the southern coast of Sweden, about 300 miles from Stockholm. Not far from Ronneby, in Denmark, is Elsinore, where Hamlet played out his tragedy. Elsinore would have been a good camp for Patterson. Withdrawn and introspective, he works out in a warehouse that was converted into a gym by Dan Florio, his trainer. His workouts are attended by standing-room-only crowds of Swedes who cheer every time he lays a glove on one of his sparring partners, but Patterson's face never changes expression.
One day last week he boxed three rounds—one each with Greatest Crawford, Shotgun Shelton and his brother Ray—to the intense delight of the spectators. After he had finished sparring, he punched the light bag briefly, stopping once to beckon to one of his trainers, who trotted over quickly. "Air," said Patterson. The trainer trotted back to his equipment bag and returned with a bicycle pump with which he inflated the punching bag a bit more. Patterson finished his workout and the crowd cheered lustily. He ducked his head in acknowledgment and left the arena, having said one word during the 30-odd minutes he had worked out.
"He is in a much better mood than he was before the Liston fights," insisted Dan Florio, who has been Patterson's trainer for 12 years. "I can tell by the way he works and by the way he runs. He ain't training any different, because why should he? But he is happier."
Patterson has broken his routine several times to appear in small towns around Ronneby to make luncheon talks, at one of which he told the audience that he would like to live in Sweden six months of the year after he retires. He spends some of his time looking at movies of Machen's fight with Hurricane Jackson. He has sent movies of his last fight with Ingemar Johannson and his fight with Roy Harris to the Machen camp.
"If Patterson is looking to see the same Machen as fought Jackson, he's going to be surprised." said Al Silvani, who has been training Machen since August of last year. "I been working with Eddie for a year, but I used to watch him a long time before that. I see him fight guys like Zora Folley. He stands back all the time. He jabs. He don't go in underneath. I say to myself, what is this? If this boy can go inside, if he can be aggressive, who is going to beat him? No one, that's who."
Silvani was in the small room he occupies in the Apollonia and he got up from his chair. "He was fighting straight up with a stiff left leg," he said. "Like this." He stood up straight with a stiff left leg. "He couldn't move in and bob and weave and rip and tear underneath. You got to get down a little to do that, and you got to bend your left leg to get down. So when Walter Minskoff got Eddie's contract and asked me to train him, I was very happy to."
He sat down. "I didn't come on strong with Eddie," he said. "I had him for three months, when he was first coming back from his trouble, before he ever went into the ring with anyone. I didn't let on like I was the big man knew everything. Everybody in his own mind, he is a superior person, so you don't start off by telling him, look I know everything and you don't know nothing. So I moved very gentle with Eddie and finally I says to him, 'Eddie, why don't you move in underneath and fight on the inside?' And he says to me with his own mouth, 'Al, I don't know the moves.' So I taught him the moves. I didn't change his style because he has got a good style and a great left hook, but I give him some moves so he can go underneath and become aggressive."