New Paltz, N.Y. Floyd Patterson, an undersized champion who avenged an embarrassing loss to Ingemar Johansson by beating him a year later to become the first boxer to regain the heavyweight title, died Thursday. He was 71.
Patterson died at his home in New Paltz, N.Y. He had Alzheimer's disease for about eight years and prostate cancer, nephew Sherman Patterson said.
Patterson's career was marked by historic highs and humiliating lows. He won the title twice, but took a beating from Muhammad Ali in a title fight and was knocked out twice in the first round by Sonny Liston.
Patterson, who weighed only 189 pounds for the first fight, was a tenacious boxer who often fought bigger opponents - and almost as often found himself on the canvas. He was down a total of 19 times in his career, getting up 17 of them.
"They said I was the fighter who got knocked down the most, but I also got up the most," Patterson once said.
Following the first knockout to Liston, Patterson was so embarrassed he wore a disguise. The two fought a rematch only 10 months later in Las Vegas, in 1963, and Patterson fared even worse.
Liston dropped him to the canvas three times before the fight was halted at 2:09 of the first round.
Patterson emerged from a troubled childhood in Brooklyn to win the Olympic middleweight championship in 1952.
In 1956, the undersized heavyweight became, at age 21, the youngest man to win the title with a fifth-round knockout of Archie Moore.
But three years later, Patterson was knocked down seven times in the third round in losing the title to Johansson at the Polo Grounds in New York. Patterson returned with a vengeance at the same site in 1960, knocking out Johansson with a tremendous left hook to retake the title.
Despite his accomplishment, he was so humiliated when he lost the title on a first-round knockout to Liston in 1962 that he left Comiskey Park in Chicago wearing dark glasses and a fake beard.
Overall, Patterson finished 55-8-1 with 40 knockouts. He was knocked out five times and knocked down a total of at least 15 times. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991.