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World-class heavyweight contender of the 1950's and 60's
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NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE December 4, 1961


FLOYD PATTERSON HOOKS INGEMAR JOHANSSON Patterson at work vs. Ingemar Johannson: 'I'll be better'   [Associated Press]

Who's killing boxing?

"Not me," says the boxer. "My manager don't get me fights."

"Not me," says the manager. "The promoters froze me out."

"Not me," says the promoter. "Television's closed my clubs."

"Not me," says the television executive. "Fighters today just don't sell."

Against this setting of muddled recriminations, boxing, once a flourishing $50 million-a-year business, has declined steadily in the past decade. Today champions act in movies and appear in court, but rarely fight; managers are likely to be lawyers who know little about boxing, and promoters often are stockbrokers and travel agents who know nothing about building a gate.

Yet in the next tow weeks, eight major fights, involving five world champions, are scheduled from Montreal to Manila and from Las Vegas to London. Strangely, fighters are fighting again.

The heavyweights:
Champion Floyd Patterson, disappointing in his last title defense, takes on a challenger of his own choosing — unbeaten but unranked Tom McNeeley — in Toronto next Monday. McNeeley, a 4-1 underdog, is supremely rugged and superbly conditioned but, at 6 feet 2 and 203 pounds, he surprisingly lacks a knockout punch. "I was too heavy [195] the last time," said Patterson, who will weigh 184 for McNeeley. "This time I'll be better."

To prepare for Patterson, McNeeley, 24, a former Michigan State lineman, managed by Boston millionaire Peter Fuller, already has boxed some 350 rounds and run more than 1,000 miles. One unpredictable — and unpublicized — factor: McNeeley underwent analysis two years ago because he became uncontrollably vicious against Negro opponents. The psychiatrist thinks he knows why: As a kid in Cambridge, Mass., McNeeley was beaten up by Negro gangs.

McNeeley at work: 'I know I can get to him and put him away.'   (Associated Press)

Patterson apparently has his mind on another matter — a fight with No. 1 challenger Sonny Liston. Coupled as part of a closed-circuit, single-ticket TV doubleheader with Patterson-McNeeley, Liston will meet German heavyweight Albert Westphal in Philadelphia. "I plan to get him by the third round," Liston said. "Am I looking past this fight to one with Patterson? I was looking past Westphal before he ever came up."

McNeeley is convinced that Liston is looking toward the wrong man. "I've been studying films of Patterson's fights and I know I can get to him and put him away," McNeeley said. "My plan? Win early, get a good night's sleep, and fly to Montreal for the Moore-Cleroux fight the next day."

Fat and nearing 50, light-heavyweight champion Archie Moore may have trouble in a non-title fight with Robert Cleroux, an aggressive, 204-pound, 23-year-old Canadian, in Montreal.

Two other major heavyweight fights: Britain's Henry Cooper against Zora Folley in London next Tuesday, and Eddie Machen against Doug Jones in Miami Beach this Saturday.

The middleweights:
In a battle of two punch-weary champions, middleweight Gene Fullmer will risk his title against welterweight Benny Paret in Las Vegas next Saturday. Fullmer a 2 -1 favorite, doesn't anticipate much difficulty in handling his smaller opponent.

Five-time middleweight champion Ray Robinson, 41, determined to regain the crown, is now hitting small towns and small fighters. His next opponent: Wilfie Greaves. a tired trialhorse, at Pittsburgh next Friday.

The lightweights:
In Manila, Dec. 16, Flash Elorde will defend his junior lightweight title against Sergio Caprari of Italy. "I have no stomach for all this talk about boxing," said Elorde, a Manila favorite. "I like to talk with my fists."

Is this a rebirth — or boxing's last gasp? "Don't let all them fights fool you," said Jack (Doc) Kearns, 77, who guided Jack Dempsey through four $1 million gates and now represents Archie Moore. "They're all small-time promotions. Outside of Montreal, our fight wouldn't draw flies. There's nothing in any division now except old men, and there aren't any kids coming up. People are bored. Boxing is entertainment, and the boys today aren't entertaining.

Other people agree that Doc Kearns has his finger on the fight game's fading pulse. The past champions (Moore and Robinson) now only go through the motions for the check; the present champions (Patterson and Fullmer) create meager excitement, and the future champions (possibly Liston and Cassius Clay) offer little hope. "The way it is today," Kearns said last week, "the game's small pickings and every man's got to hustle for himself."

This article appeared in the December 4, 1961 issue of Newsweek.