Forgotten Legends: Tracy Harris Patterson

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By: Steve Gallegos

To be the son of a legend in boxing has it’s up’s and down’s. Some fighters get opportunities and breaks that they wouldn’t have gotten or don’t deserve because of their famous name. There was however one fighter who created a name for himself by coming up the hard way. That fighter was former two-time champion Tracy Harris Patterson.

Standing at only 5’5 1/2, Patterson was a little big man with excellent skill and power and he was a fan favorite amongst fight fans in the 1990’s. Tracy Harris was born in Grady, AL and his family would later relocate to New York. It was in New Paltz, NY that an 11 year old Tracy Harris would walk into a boxing gym operated by former two-time Heavyweight Champion Floyd Patterson. Patterson would get down on his knees so that he could work the mitts with young Tracy. Three years later Floyd Patterson would adopt Harris, thus becoming Tracy Harris Patterson.

The former Heavyweight champion guided his son through an outstanding amateur career in which he twice won the New York Golden Gloves championship. He would turn pro in 1985 at the age of 20 and would go 44-2 with 33 KO’s over the next seven years while claiming the North American Boxing Federation Jr. Featherweight title in 1990. Despite his excellent record as well as having his legendary father in his corner, Patterson didn’t get a shot at a world title until his 47th pro bout when he faced the tough Frenchman Thierry Jacob.

They met on 06/23/92 at the Knickerbocker Arena in Albany, NY and it was for the WBC Super Bantamweight title. Patterson came out throwing bombs in the first round, rocking Jacob and dropping him just before the bell. Jacob got up but was badly hurt. Patterson wasted no time in the second round as he went for the kill, putting Jacob down again, causing referee Arthur Mercante Jr. to stop the bout. Tracy Harris Patterson was finally a world champion and it was the first time that a son of a former champion would claim a world title.

Patterson would get a stiff test in his first title defense 5 1/2 months later when he fought the legendary Daniel Zaragoza of Mexico to a draw. Patterson would successfully defend his title three times over the next year, which included a technical decison win over Zaragoza in a rematch after the fight was stopped in the seventh round due to cuts. It was in his fifth defense of his title that he would suffer his first setback in five years as he dropped a close split decision to Hector Acero-Sanchez.

After the loss to Acero-Sanchez, Patterson made the very difficult decision to cut ties with father Floyd Patterson, who had trained him since he was a teenager. He then hired world class trainer Tommy Parks and after winning his next two bouts, he was back in line for a title shot, this time against undefeated Eddie Hopson.

The two met on 07/09/95 at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, NV and it was for the IBF Jr. Lightweight championship. Many were wondering if Patterson had brought his power up to 130 lbs. Patterson would quickly answer that question as he blasted Hopson in two rounds. Just as his legendary father had done before him, Tracy Patterson was now a two-time world champion. The glory would however be short lived.

In his first title defense, Patterson faced a young, determined slugger named Arturo Gatti. They met on 12/15/95 at Madison Square Garden and it was on the undercard of Oscar De La Hoya’s lightweight title defense against Jesse James Leija. Patterson got off to a slow start in this bout and was dropped in the second round by a  right uppercut. Throughout the middle rounds, the fight heated up and turned into a exciting, back and forth slugfest. Patterson would rally late, putting together good combinations while causing both of Gatti’s eyes to swell. Despite a strong finish, Patterson would come up short, losing a unanimous decision.

The fight was one of the most exciting bouts of 1995 and a rematch wasbinevitable. After winning his next three bouts, Patterson would get another crack at Arturo Gatti when they met on 02/22/97 at the Atlantic City Convention Center in Atlantic City, NJ and the IBF Jr. Lightweight title was once again at stake. Towards the end of the first round, Patterson rocked Gatti with a short right hand and he began to let his hands go. During this rally, Patterson landed a hard left hand to the body that put Gatti down. Gatti was clearly hurt and looked like he might stay down; however referee Rudy Battle ruled the punch a low blow instead of a knockdown.

Tracy was furious as he knew the blow landed cleanly. Television replays clearly showed the punch landed clean to the body. Rudy Battle didn’t realize at the time that he robbed Tracy Patterson of a possible knockout. Gatti recovered from the shot and the fight continued. With the exception of a brief Patterson rally late in the fight, Arturo Gatti dominated the bout by boxing smart. The end result would be a unanimous decision win for Gatti.

Patterson was humbled in defeat, not blaming the referee for the bogus low blow call. He gave credit to Gatti as he said he was in the ring with a young, hungry warrior. Many felt that Tracy Harris Patterson’s career was done, despite only being 32 years old. Patterson would continue fighting on, determined to get back in the world title hunt by winning his four bouts, however that quest would come to a screeching hault in July of 1998 as he was dominated and stopped by Goyo Vargas in six rounds.

Although he lost to Vargas inside the ring, he gained an even bigger win outside the ring as he reconciled with his father Floyd, whom he didn’t speak to very much in the last four years. He would go 2-2-1 from 1999-2001, retiring with a record of 63-8-2 with 43 KO’s. He was one of the tougher, more exciting little big men of his era. He was a hardworking, blue collar type of fighter that didn’t rely on his father’s name as some fighter’s do today. He instead made his own name and we hope to someday see him inducted into Canastota alongside his legendary father.

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New York State Boxing Hall of Fame Class of 2015 Announced

Sunday, April 26 Induction Dinner
NEW YORK (January 7, 2015) – The New York State Boxing Hall of Fame (NYSBHOF), sponsored by Ring 8, has announced its Class of 2015 featuring 20 more inductees.
 
The fourth annual NYSBHOF induction dinner will be held Sunday afternoon (12:30-5:30 p.m. ET), April 26, at Russo’s On The Bay in Howard Beach, New York.
 
“The fourth class of the New York State Hall of Fame inductees matches up very nicely with the previous three,” NYSBHOF Nominating Committee Chairman Jack Hirsch said. “It feels good to give recognition to those who have done so much for the history of our sport in New York. I want to express my gratitude to my fellow committee members Don Majeski, Henry Hascup, Bobby Cassidy, Jr. Steve Farhood, Ron McNair and Neil Terens. They all take the process very seriously and a lot of thought and debate goes into our selections.”
 
Living boxers heading into the NYSBHOF are Bronx-born and Brooklyn resident Saoul Mamby (45-34-6, 19 KOs), a World Boxing Council (WBC) junior middleweight champion (1980-82) and Vietnam Veteran, Buffalo middleweight Joey Giambra (65-10-2, 31 KOs), Brooklyn light heavyweight and 1961 National Golden Gloves champion Johnny Persol (22-5-1, 7 KOs), two-time world welterweight title challenger Harold Weston (26-9-5, 7 KOs), and World Boxing Organization (WBO) middleweight champion (1995-97) and 1992 National Golden Gloves winner Lonnie Bradley (29-1-1, 21 KOs), of Harlem.
 
Posthumous participants being inducted are world light heavyweight champion (1925-26) Paul “Astoria Assassin” Berlenbach (40-8-3, 33 KOs), “uncrowned” world welterweight titlist Billy Graham (102-15-9, 102 KOs) from Manhattan’s East Side, two-time world flyweight champion (1929 & 1931) and 1920 Olympic gold medalist Frankie Genaro, Redwood’s world welterweight (1898-94) and Syracuse middleweight (1998-1907) champion Tommy Ryan (90-6-11, 71 KOs), and Buffalo’s world light heavyweight champion (1925 & 1930) Jimmy Slattery (114-13, 51 KOs).
 
Non-participants heading into the NYSBHOF are former NYSAC deputy commissioner and promoter, as well as current NYSBHOF/Ring 8 president Bob Duffy, former New York Times and New York Daily News boxing columnist Mike Katz, elite promoter Cedric Kushner, Albany promoter/cutman Bob Miller and the owner of the world renown Gleason’s Gym, Bruce Silverglade.
 
Posthumous non-participants inductees are Brooklyn trainer Charley Goldman (28-6-2, 19 KOs) who also fought professionally in the early 1900’s, Madison Square Garden matchmaker Jimmy Johnston, Madison Square Garden president Harry Markson, of Kingston, celebrated Bronx sportswriter Damon Runyon and manager/matchmaker Al Weill.
 
Each inductee will receive a custom-designed belt signifying his induction into the NYSBHOF. Plaques are on display at the New York State Athletic Commission and Waterfront Crabhouse.
 
All boxers needed to be inactive for at least three years, in order to be eligible for NYSBHOF induction, and all inductees must have resided in New York State for a significant portion of their boxing careers.
 
 
CLASS of 2012: Carmen Basilio, Mike McCallum, Mike Tyson, Jake LaMotta, Riddick Bowe, Carlos Ortiz, Vito Antuofermo, Emile Griffith, “Sugar” Ray Robinson, Gene Tunney, Benny Leonard, Tony Canzoneri, Harold Lederman, Steve Acunto, Jimmy Glenn, Gil Clancy, Ray Arcel, Nat Fleischer, Bill Gallo and Arthur Mercante, Sr.
 
CLASS of 2013: Jack Dempsey, Johnny Dundee, Sandy Saddler, Maxie Rosenbloom, Joey Archer, Iran Barkley, Mark Breland, Bobby Cassidy, Doug Jones, Junior Jones, James “Buddy” McGirt, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Bob Arum, Shelly Finkel, Tony Graziano, Larry Merchant, Teddy Brenner, Mike Jacobs, Tex Rickard and Don Dunphy.
 
CLASS OF 2014: Floyd Patterson, Tracy Harris Patterson, Billy Backus, Kevin Kelley, Juan LaPorte, Gerry Cooney, Mustafa Hamsho, Howard Davis, Jr., Lou Ambers, Jack Britton, Terry McGovern, Teddy Atlas, Lou DiBella, Steve Farhood, Gene Moore, Angelo Prospero, Whitey Bimstein, Cus D’Amato, William Muldoon and Tom O’Rourke.
 
 
Tickets are priced at $125.00 per adult and $50.00 for children (under 16), and includes a complete brunch and cocktail hour upon entry, starting at 12:30 p.m. / ET, as well as dinner (prime rib, fish or poultry) and open bar throughout the evening. Tickets are available by calling  NYSBHOF/Ring 8 president Bob Duffy at 516.313.2304. Ads for the NYSBHOF program are available, ranging from $50.00 to $250.00, by contacting Duffy.

Beyond the Ropes: Floyd Patterson

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By: Heath Harlem
Follow Heath @PittGrad0214

Credit: Dan Weiner—Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

Many fight fans and non-boxing enthusiasts (thanks to his recent TV reality shows, movie roles, and his Broadway shows); know the story of Mike Tyson. The juvenile delinquent out of Brooklyn, NY who found boxing, became mentored by the great Cus D’Amato and went on to become the youngest heavyweight champion ever. Following the success there was a fall from grace without D’Amato by his side. However, he was able to put much of that fall behind him by resurrecting his life after his boxing career. While Mike was D’Amato’s last protégé, in the 1950’s and early 1960’s it was Floyd Patterson who was D’Amato’s protégé. Patterson was a former juvenile delinquent who like Tyson, found boxing and went on to become the youngest world heavy weight champion. Like Mike, Patterson left Cus (by his choice vs. Tyson leaving D’Amato by way of his death) leading to controversy and a downfall in the public’s eye before he was able to turn his image around after his boxing career.

Born on January 4, 1935 in Waco, TX Floyd Patterson was the youngest of 11 children. When Floyd was still young, the family relocated to Brooklyn, NY. Floyd quickly found trouble in Brooklyn and he was constantly involved with the law for truancy violations and theft. Do to his delinquency he was sent upstate to reform school at Wiltwyck School for Boys. Patterson spent 2 years at the school and later in life he credited his time at Wiltwyck to changing his life for the better. Following his time at Wiltwyck He attended New Paltz High School. In high school Patterson blossomed into an all-around athlete, staring in football while boxing under the guidance of legendary trainer Cus D’Amato out of the Gramercy Gym. Quickly Patterson dominated the amateur ranks under the watchful eyes of D’Amato. Floyd used a unique fighting style nicknamed the Peek A Boo Style by the press (keeping the hands covering the fighters face before unleashing punch patterns of 3 2 3 (body head body) or 3 3 2 (body body head), that was developed by Cus D’Amato. This fighting style along with his athleticism provided him with amazing success. When he was 17 in 1952, only three years into his boxing career, he won the middleweight title at the NY Golden Gloves, United States Championships and also captured the Gold Medal at the Summer Olympics in Helsinki.

The Olympics capped off an impressive amateur career and soon following, Patterson turned pro and began fighting in the Light Heavyweight division following a plan designed by D’Amato for Floyd, with the goal to have him ultimately fight in and become world champion of the Heavyweight Division. Floyd’s pro career started without a hitch and he won his first 13 fights at light heavyweight until he suffered a defeat to former light heavyweight champion Joey Maxim in his 14th pro bout. Maxim, who had wins in his career against Sugar Ray Robinson and Irish Bob Murphy won a controversial decision. The loss to Maxim hardly derailed Patterson’s plan to become World Heavyweight Champion. Floyd went out and won the next 17 fights before facing former Light Heavyweight Champion Archie Moore on November 30, 1956 for the vacant World Heavyweight Championship. Patterson overmatched the older and more experienced Moore, and won the championship by scoring a knockout victory in the fifth round at Chicago Stadium. With the win, Patterson became the youngest World Heavyweight champion in boxing history at 21 years 10 months of age. In addition he also became the first gold medalist to become the Heavyweight Champion of the World.

Patterson defended his title four times over the next two and a half years with ease before he faced Ingemar Johansson of Sweden at Yankee Stadium on June 26, 1959. This fight turned out to be the first of what ultimately became a three fight trilogy and was the start of one of the greatest rivalries in boxing history. Patterson who was not on his game during the fight, lost via TKO in the third round when his corner finally stopped the fight following the seventh time he was knocked down. After the defeat Patterson did not fight for one year and finally returned to the ring on June 20, 1960 for a rematch with Johansson at the Polo Grounds in New York City. The 2nd fight with Johansson was named by Ring Magazine as fight of the year and Patterson won this rematch via a fifth round knockout. With this win he became the first person ever to regain the Heavyweight Title. On March 13th, 1961 Patterson faced Johansson for the third time and final time, with all three of the fights being consecutive fights for both fighters. During the first round of the rubber match, Patterson hit the canvas twice and Johansson was knocked down once. By the sixth round Floyd had worn down his opponent and future friend and retained his title by knocking him out.

Patterson defended his title for a final time on April 12, 1961 in Canada against Tom McNealy winning via an easy fourth round knockout. From 1959 through 1961 Patterson was tempted to face Sonny Liston. Liston the great heavyweight was managed my known organized crime members and Cus D’Amato wouldn’t allow Patterson to face any fighter with ties to organized crime. D’Amato had been growing frustrated with organized crime’s influence in the fight game (ultimately leaving New York City and becoming a somewhat recluse in Catskill; New York due to a riot in Madison square Garden after his fighter lost by what many felt was a fixed decision) drew a line with sand and Patterson over this issue. Ultimately Patterson fired Cus D’Amato and agreed to fight Liston. Later in life Patterson shared that not only was D’Amato against him fighting Liston, so was the NAACP and President Kennedy. They were fearful that if Liston could defeat Patterson and become World Heavyweight Champion, due to Liston’s organized crime ties, it could set the civil rights movement back. Despite all of the objections, Patterson entered the fight with Liston as a huge betting favorite on September 25, 1962. The crowd at Comeskey Park was stunned when Floyd Patterson was knocked out 2 minutes and 5 seconds into the first round. Floyd lost the World Title and would never again be able to regain it. Due to the quick knockdown many fight fans in America questioned whether there was a fix in place to setup a more lucrative rematch the following year as well as a big payday against the sport’s books due to Patterson being the overwhelming favorite. They did have a rematch on July 22, 1963 in Las Vegas. Patterson was knocked down 3 times in the first round and only lasted 2 minutes and 10 seconds. Due to the accusations of the fixed fight, the split with Cus D’Amato so he could fight those with unethical ties and the poor performance in the fights with Liston, the public began to sour Patterson and no longer saw him as one of the countries great athletic heroes.

After the two fights with Liston, Floyd continued to fight at a high level winning his next five fights including a twelve round unanimous decision against George Chuvalo on January 2, 1965 that was named Ring Magazine Fight of the Year. After a tune up fight in May of 1965 in Sweden (where Patterson was extremely popular due to the trilogy of with Johansson) Patterson was given the opportunity to win the World Heavyweight Title for a third time in a match against Muhammad Ali. There was a lot of bad blood leading up to their fight on November 22, 1965 as Liston who was against Black Muslims refused to call Ali by any name other than his birth name of Clay. This upset Ali and he took it into the ring with him. While calling Patterson “Uncle Tom” and asking him over and over “what’s my name” Ali beat Patterson to a pulp. Though he was dominating the fight and inflicting a high level of pain Ali refused to knock Floyd out, wanting him to suffer as much as possible. Finally in the 12th round the fight was mercifully put to an end. The attitude and performance demonstrated by Patterson in the lead up and during the Ali fight added to the souring opinion the public was taking towards Floyd Patterson.

Following the ugly defeat to Ali, Patterson continued to face top level competition winning his next 3 fights including a 4th round knockout of Henry Cooper in London, England in 1966. Patterson then fought Jerry Quarry to a draw on September 6, 1967 and four months later lost via a close majority decision in the rematch. On September 14, 1968 in Sweden, Patterson faced Jimmy Ellis for the WBA Heavyweight Title, the final time that Floyd Patterson would fight for the World Championship. Patterson fought a competitive fight, knocking Ellis down but ultimately lost via referee’s decision. Following the Ellis fight, Patterson scored nine more wins in his next 9 fights facing inferior competition. On September 28, 1972 Floyd Patterson stepped in the ring for the final time to face Muhammad Ali in a rematch at Madison Square Garden. Ali dominated the fight, ultimately winning via TKO in the 7th. Without an official retirement announcement at 37 years of age Floyd Patterson, the youngest man and first ever Olympic gold medalist to win the Worlds Heavyweight title quietly left the fight game.

Over time the public’s opinion of Patterson changed as he fell deeper into retirement. Floyd stayed active in retirement. He tried his hand at acting and he also turned to training fighters. Floyd had moderate success as a trainer, with his most notable students being his adopted son Tracy Patterson and Razor Ruddock. Floyd also became a chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission. Following their legendary trilogy, Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johansson became close friends and they traveled regularly to visit each other. They both stayed in great physical shape and together they competed in the Stockholm marathon in 1982 and 1983. As time passed and the public got to see Patterson in his active retired life, they were able to put the memories of the Liston and Ali fights behind them and once again remembered how great of a talent Floyd Patterson really was. In 1991 Floyd was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame as part of the Hall of Fame’s second ever class.

At the end of his life Floyd Patterson suffered from Alzheimer’s and prostate cancer and ultimately passed away on May 11th, 2006. Like the more recent Mike Tyson, Floyd Patterson was a troubled kid from Brooklyn who was mentored by the great Cus D’Amato. Under D’Amato’s watchful eye Patterson captured the sports world’s attention by becoming the youngest World’s Heavyweight Champion. Patterson was a dominating fighter and like the more well-known Tyson, fell from the top of his game when D’Amato was no longer mentoring him through life. Like Tyson, Patterson was able to move past those bad experiences in his post fighting career and that allowed the public to look back and appreciate the talent that he was and all that he was able to accomplish.

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