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Pete Rademacher, the amateur boxer brazenly aspiring to Floyd Patterson's heavyweight title, came into the ring at Sick's Stadium in Seattle looking like Willard before Toledo. Five rounds and a fraction later he was rolling on the canvas for the seventh time, a helpless hulk but a hero nonetheless. He was groggy and reeling as deputy sheriffs all but carried him to his dressing room, but he had a sense of unprecedented achievement to bear him up, too. And 20 minutes after that he was once again the man in the gray flannel boxing trunks, serenely poised and issuing concise, precisely phrased statements to a somewhat embarrassed press, most of which had predicted he would last no more than a round or two, some of which had demanded bitterly that the fight be banned.
But Pete Rademacher, though badly beaten, seven times on the canvas and the seventh time knocked out, was still a hero. He had in some degree justified a preposterous fight, not because he ever had more than a minimal chance to win it, but because he had given a full measure of courage, some measure of quite unexpected ability and a large measure of devotion to an ideal. He enjoys boxing ("I loved every minute of the fight") and takes defeat with grace. He believes that the fighter's essential qualities, courage and skill, can be an inspiration to the young.
The young who saw Pete Rademacher, Olympic heavyweight champion, take on Floyd Patterson, world's professional champion, must surely have been inspired. Some were even inspired to climb over the fence to see him fight. This rank amateur, fighting for the first time in a professional ring, fighting for the first time for more than three two-minute rounds, succeeded in knocking down, by official account, the heavyweight champion of the world and actually outfought him in the first two rounds. What it added up to, in the end, was a moral victory for Rademacher and for Youth Unlimited, that strange organization of which he is a vice-president and for which he fought on salary. Youth Unlimited (SI, Aug. 19) has won itself a place in the sporting sun and in one night has acquired a nationally known executive.
The fight had its mysterious moments, some of which were explained in dressing room postludes. The pattern was simple, however. Rademacher attacked early, was winded early and succumbed in time to a succession of knockdowns. "Each time it was a little harder to get up," he recalled.
One mystery was that during the first two rounds Patterson threw little more than a dozen punches and missed often, while Rademacher was landing with awkward hooks and rights. Awkward indeed, Patterson said later, but made effective by their very clumsiness. "He is a sneaky puncher," the champion explained. "You don't know when to expect a punch." That did not explain why Patterson refused to return the fire. "It was the strategy of my fight," Patterson said. "I wanted him to get tired in the early rounds so I could open him up later."
That, of course, is what happened. Rademacher was clearly tired by the third round, though he insists that he got his second wind in the fourth. He had shown this tendency to tire in training, when he would puff badly after a few rounds of sparring. Boxing's amateurs start their professional careers with four-round bouts.
Another mystery was the so-called second-round knockdown of Patterson, which gave Rademacher four seconds of glory. To many ringsiders, including this one, it appeared that Patterson slipped after taking a right to the head. Certainly he did not take his sudden fall too seriously. On the canvas the champion's face wore an embarrassed, quizzical grin. Referee Tommy Loughran, former light heavyweight champion, did not start a count, though the timekeeper reached four. But Patterson insisted he really was knocked down, and Loughran insisted he had regarded it as a knockdown.
STILL ANOTHER MYSTERY
Then there was the third-round mystery when, fighting at close quarters, Patterson stung Rademacher with a left uppercut. Rademacher sagged and Patterson slipped a left arm around his waist and held him up, seemed even to lift him. There were two explanations of this, one by Patterson and one by Cus D'Amato, his manager.