NEW YORK -- The 2012 Olympic Games marks the sixtieth anniversary of an extraordinary moment in boxing history—when 17-year-old middleweight fighter Floyd Patterson secured gold for the United States—as documented in W.K. Stratton’s fascinating new book, Floyd Patterson: The Fighting Life of Boxing’s Invisible Champion.
Released by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in July 2012, the book recalls the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, when all five members of the American men’s boxing team brought home gold medals—the most in U.S. Olympic boxing history. It was a momentous victory that all five members of the team were African American in a time when black athletes had limited visibility in major sports. Among the five, young Floyd Patterson knocked out Soviet-bloc contender Vasile Tita from Romania, just twenty seconds after the opening bell, securing gold for the USA.
Stratton, for the first time, focuses on the cultural significance of the five African Americans boxers who won gold medals at the 1952 Olympics.
Patterson went on to become the youngest heavyweight champion and the first boxer to lose the title and then regain it. He was a civil rights leader who refused to fight at segregated arenas and was an outspoken voice in the movement. But Patterson always said winning the Olympic gold medal for his country was among his greatest achievements.
Stratton attempts to untangle the mystery of Patterson—a fighter who wouldn’t engage in trash-talking; a kind-hearted boxer dubbed the Gentle Gladiator, who once kissed an opponent after a fight—to reveal who this invisible champion was.
W. K. STRATTON is the author of Backyard Brawl, Chasing the Rodeo, and Boxing Shadows. An amateur boxer, Stratton lives near Austin, and is the president of the Texas Institute of Letters.
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