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The plan which is afoot to throw Olympic Heavyweight Champion Pete Rademacher, live and in the full bloom of his young manhood, into a Seattle ring with Floyd Patterson on the fateful night of August 22 is about to be executed. The plan has been afoot for two years now—not, as most people think, for a mere month or so. It did not sprout suddenly, as a whim of millionaires who are backing Rademacher, but was watered and fertilized with the timing of a hothouse plant to bud only when conditions were right for the market—conditions that required as strange a combination of men and events as ever led up to a prizefight.
Announcement of the plan raised mushroom clouds of indignation. The hand of Julius Helfand was raised against it, as fast as a smart salute. The National Boxing Association refused to sanction it. A member of the sporting press called Rademacher a "potential corpse," which is a modest description of all mortal men, and demanded that Congress get into the act. There were unpleasant intimations that Rademacher was a naive boy in the hands of unscrupulous moneygrubbers willing to expose him to "serious injury, even death, for the sake of a fast dollar.
But Pete Rademacher is as naive as a cocked pistol. There really was a scheming mind behind the plan—Rademacher's. He dreamed it up and is about to make the dream come true, nightmare though it may turn out to be.
His mind is cold and calculating but at the same time warm and adventurous, even romantic. There is no contradiction here. Columbus did not coldly conceive and warmly execute his great adventure. The reverse is true. Neither did Lindbergh, in his exploration of the quick route to Paris. Once started on their way both were navigators, cold and precise. The fact is that ideas are generally warm in conception but their successful execution is cold. This one is proceeding frigidly to its destiny.
The only fighter extant who wears Bermuda shorts in training, Pete Rademacher has the dress and manner of a bright young businessman, clearly the executive type. His speech is direct, sometimes brusque, but he can be charming, too. He has a pretty, gracious wife and a cute 3-year-old daughter. Rademacher and his family make the very picture of a young corporation executive well and recently launched on a promising career. That, as it turns out, is exactly his situation, win or lose this fight.
Rademacher, the Olympic and national AAU (1953) heavyweight champion, will be fighting Patterson, the professional heavyweight champion, as vice-president of a corporation in which the amateur will make his business career. He is being paid a salary, not a share of the gate. If the fight draws extremely well, the president of the company has told him, he may expect a small bonus. But the challenger's share of the proceeds, which normally would go to the fighter himself and his manager ( Rademacher has no manager), will go instead to his company, a most unusual enterprise called Youth Unlimited.
It is, of course, unprecedented in heavyweight ranks for an amateur to fight for the professional title except in the dim, early history of prizefighting before boxing commissions, when distinctions between amateur and pro were not clearly marked. It was the assumption in the old days that any man who could get up an attractive purse had the right to fight the champion. That is what has happened in this case. Rademacher found wealthy patrons who were willing to put up the attractive guarantee of $250,000.
For two years—even before he won his Olympic gold medal—Rademacher, a boxer with a powerful punch and somewhat more than the rudiments of defense, daydreamed of making his professional debut by engaging the heavyweight champion of the world—no matter who and no one but. He was unwilling to break in by taking on four-round preliminary setups, as most fighters do. He would make the peak in a leap or he would stay in the valley.
Now and then during those two years he broached his idea to someone of influence or prestige in boxing, like Eddie Eagan, for instance, or Rocky Marciano, and for a moment the person broached would consider the possibility that this young fellow, so clear of eye and precise of speech, might nevertheless be just a little bit punchy from his amateur fights. Then there would be gentle and patient explanations of the impossibility of the thing and Rademacher would turn away to seek another buttonhole.
The many rejections and present uproar amuse him now. He remembers especially a meeting with Julius Helfand, the New York boxing commission chairman, who said to him, "Oh, you're the young fellow who can't make up his mind whether to turn professional." At that time Rademacher had already made up his mind. He just hadn't found out how to get it done the way he wanted it done.