Called a "good guy in the bad world of boxing" by the New York Times, heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson (1935-2006) was born on this day in a cabin in Waco, North Carolina. The third of 11 children, he took up boxing at the age 14.
"It's easy to do anything in victory. It's in defeat that a man reveals himself," he once said.
A protégé of legendary trainer Cus D'Amato, Patterson won the 1952 Olympics middleweight gold medal with five knockouts in five matches. Four years later he defeated Archie Moore and became the youngest man (at 21) to win the heavyweight title.
Barely weighing in over 180 pounds, he had fast hands, fast reflexes, and could move well in the ring with his signature crouch and weave. "Fear accelerates reflexes," Patterson said.
He lost an embarrassing match to Sweden's Ingemar Johansson in 1959, then "with focus and fury" knocked him out the next year to become the first to ever regain the heavyweight title.
"When you're knocked down with a good shot you don't feel pain," said Patterson who lost the championship in two minutes and six seconds to the power jab of Sonny Liston in 1962.
Losing twice to Muhammad Ali, Patterson retired in 1972 at age 37 with a professional record of 55-8-1, with 40 knockouts and a then-record $8 million in purses. "I wouldn't change a thing about my boxing days. It made me what I am," he said.
A celebration of dignity and integrity, Patterson was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame (1991) and served two terms as boxing commissioner for New York State, becoming an advocate for better safety measures in the sport.
"They said I was the fighter who got knocked down the most, but I also got up the most," he said.