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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 May 2006, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK
Heavyweight great Patterson dies
Floyd Patterson
Patterson enjoyed Olympic gold at the 1952 Games in Helsinki
Floyd Patterson, the first man to regain the world heavyweight title, has died at the age of 71.

The American, who had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease and prostate cancer, passed away at his home in New Paltz, New York on Thursday.

Patterson won Olympic middleweight gold in 1952 before becoming the youngest world heavyweight champion in 1956 when he stopped Archie Moore aged just 21.

He lost his crown to Ingemar Johansson in 1959 before regaining it in 1960.

Speaking to BBC World Service Sport, former world heavyweight champion Joe Frazier paid his respects.

"Floyd was a quiet guy, he was a champion," said Frazier. "He was a hard-hitting guy. Floyd was a tough guy and he got the job done.

"Good things can happen to the champion when you've got good people with you and you live clean.

As a small man he got the job done and any of us that put that belt around our waist, we are number one
Joe Frazier

"I would say he took on everybody - he didn't bypass a lot of guys.

"Muhammad (Ali) was there, Sonny (Liston) was there, so therefore Floyd thought he was just as great as those guys - or greater."

Ricky Hatton, who met Patterson when he was preparing for his first fight in America in 1997, paid tribute from Boston, where he challenges WBA light welterweight champion Luis Collazo on Saturday.

"Floyd was a gentleman and really polite and that is exactly what being a champion is all about," said Hatton. "A lot of boxing hearts have been broken today.

"As the first man to regain the world heavyweight title he was a history maker. As I try to write my first page in history here we are saying goodbye to a great champion."

Patterson was a relatively slight heavyweight, who made up for his lack of physical prowess by developing a defensive style known as 'peek-a-boo' which enabled him to get the better of much bigger opponents.

Patterson also came off second best to Muhammad Ali (right)
Patterson (left) lost to Muhammad Ali twice

Born in Brooklyn in 1935, Patterson overcame a period of teenage delinquency before learning to box in reform school.

After claiming Olympic gold in Helsinki, he turned pro and was taken under the wing of Mike Tyson's future mentor Cus D'Amato.

Patterson excelled in the professional ranks with the only blot on his early record a controversial loss to future light heavyweight champion Joey Maxim.

In 1956, Patterson was invited to participate in an elimination tournament to establish a new heavyweight champion following Rocky Marciano's retirement.

He stopped the 39-year-old Moore convincingly in the fifth round to win the title aged just 21.

He defended the title four times before running into relatively unknown Swede Johansson at Yankee Stadium in New York three years later.

Patterson was knocked down seven times in the third round as he lost his title, but recovered to regain it one year later with a fourth-round knockout win.

But Patterson could never deal with the brooding menace of Sonny Liston, who knocked him out in the first round in Chicago and did the same in Las Vegas 10 months later.

Such was his embarrassment after losing his title in Chicago, Patterson fled the arena wearing a false beard and moustache and dark glasses.

Patterson was unsuccessful in two attempts to regain the world title for a second time, stopped by Muhammad Ali in the final round in 1965 and dropping a decision to Jimmy Ellis for the WBA title in 1968.

Patterson's last fight was a second meeting with the re-emerging Ali in 1972, when he was stopped in the seventh round and decided to retire.

Patterson remained in boxing and in 1995 was named Boxing Commissioner for the State of New York, before increasing ill health forced to him to give up the role.

Frazier insisted that Patterson could take his place alongside the other great heavyweight names.

"I would say he's got to be number one because he won the title," said Frazier.

"As a small man he got the job done and any of us that put that belt around our waist, we are number one."


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