SI Vault
Martin Kane
January 04, 1960
Ingemar Johansson won world acclaim by winning the heavyweight championship. As Sportsman of the Year he now lends his support to a blueprint to save boxing
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January 04, 1960

The Man And The Plan

Ingemar Johansson won world acclaim by winning the heavyweight championship. As Sportsman of the Year he now lends his support to a blueprint to save boxing

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For the revelation of pure excellence


The Sportsman of the Year


This Grecian Vase, or amphora, is the trophy that SPORTS ILLUSTRATED awards to its Sportsman of the Year. The original, which dates from about 510 B.C., is on permanent display in the Time & Life Building in New York. A reproduction is given each year to that individual who, in the opinion of the editors, has most closely approached the degree of excellence suggested by the ancient Greek concept of arete—a unity of 'virtues of mind and body to which the complete man of every age must aspire. Victory in sport is usually his, but it is not for victory alone that he is honored. Rather, it is for the way he has competed, his manner, his attitude, his acceptance of the responsibilities of his fame. Whether his achievement was over an extended period of time or only for an hour or for an instant, it was such that his fellow men could not fail to recognize it as the revelation of pure excellence—arete. The five previous winners of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's Sportsman of the Year award are listed above. Martin Kane's story of Ingemar Johansson, the Sportsman of the Year for 1959, begins on page 23.

The June drizzle stopped and the puddle-shiny cover on the Yankee Stadium ring was rolled back. Down the soggy aisles trooped the champion and his challenger, surrounded by their handlers. The roar of the crowd swelled. Champion Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johansson had come up to sport's most dramatic scratch, the line that separates the heavyweight champion of the world from his challenger.

In less than nine minutes of fighting the main issue was settled by a single punch—a punch that had been derided as a publicity man's hoax. But this punch soon raised a cloud of other vital issues, still unsettled. Ingemar Johansson, an obscure Swede, suddenly became the world's champion and thereby turned the world of boxing upside down. For the first time since the days of the freakish Primo Camera a European was heavyweight champion, the fifth such champion born outside the U.S. since John L. Sullivan established the modern title.

It was to some extent coincidence, to another extent much more significant than coincidence, that Ingemar Johansson's assumption of the championship marked the end of an era in boxing. It had been an era of American domination, an era of glory, but also an era of shame, in which U.S. prizefighting had rotted to a dirty business in the hands of monopolists and hoodlums working in cahoots.

Ingemar had almost instant personal experience of this and as a result has come to some pertinent conclusions which SPORTS ILLUSTRATED has long shared (see box on next page).

"Boxing is in a bad state around the world," he told SPORTS ILLUSTRATED last week. "It needs a new international organization to control it to decide who are the champions and what contenders they should fight. This organization will be useless without the full support of the U.S. The purpose of this organization must be to restore public confidence in boxing, which has been badly hurt by scandals and to protect the fighters, who have been too often manipulated by powerful promoters and unscrupulous managers."

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