Thomas and Annabelle Patterson’s third child, Floyd Patterson was born on January 4, 1935, in North Carolina. Consisting of 13 members, the family was financially weak and Patterson grew up to be an antisocial child who could not read or write until the age of 11. However, he improved both, inside and outside the classroom when he joined the Wiltwyck School for Boys in New York, where he learned how to box.
Returning to North Carolina, Patterson chose to stick to boxing and began training with the famous boxing coach, Cus D’Amato at the Gramercy Gym in Manhattan. His career as an amateur boxer began in 1950 highlighted by two consecutive wins for the New York Golden Gloves title in the following years. In 1952, Patterson also won the middleweight gold medal at the Summer Olympic Games in Finland.
Following the Olympic Games, Patterson turned into a professional light heavyweight boxer, facing only one defeat over the course of four years following his debut. Being underweight for a heavyweight, Patterson relied on his speed and a peek-a-boo style, fighting with his gloves close to his face, inside the ring. Making the most out of the retirement of Rocky Marciano and the availability of the heavyweight title, Patterson became the youngest heavyweight champion in the history of boxing by scoring a fifth-round knockout of Archie Moore in 1956.
Defending the heavyweight title for four years, the champion experienced an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Ingemar Johansson in 1959 and so had to give up on his title. However, the boxer was quick to regain his honor and became the first heavyweight to regain the championship after 1960’s rematch.
Floyd Patterson lost his title for the second time after Sonny Liston knocked him out in the first round of the 1962 championship. The former champion was given another opportunity to win back his title again in 1965 but his back injury lead Patterson to succumb to a defeat in the 12th round against Muhammad Ali.
Patterson retired as a professional boxer in 1972 with a total of 55 wins out of 64 fights, out of which 40 were knockouts. From 1977 to 1984, Patterson remained a member of the New York State Athletic Commission. The former boxer was inducted into United States Olympic Committee Hall of Fame in 1987 followed by a position in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991.
Patterson was named chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission in 1995 but Alzheimer’s forced him to retire just three years later. The same disease, along with prostate cancer, became the cause of Floyd Patterson’s death in 2006 and is buried in New Paltz, New York, where he spent many years of his retired life.