Olympic Champ Was Only Man
To Challenge For The Heavyweight Title
In His First Pro Bout
By Bobby Franklin
(Pete Rademacher passed away on June 4th. I wrote this column for the Boston Post Gazette last year.)
Pete Rademacher had an outstanding amateur career culminating with a Gold Medal in the heavyweight division at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia. Rademacher won all three of his bouts by knockout and won the final in first round for a very impressive finale to his performance.
Leading up to his Olympic victory Pete showed he was one of the best amateur boxers in the word.. He won numerous titles including the Seattle Golden Gloves, the Chicago Golden Gloves, the All-Army Championship, and the National AAU Title in Boston in 1953. He had a final amateur record of 72 wins against 7 losses.
After winning the Olympic Gold, Rademacher got it into his head that he was ready to fight for the world heavyweight championship. Rocky Marciano had just retired and Floyd Patterson and Archie Moore were signed to fight for the vacant title. This bout would take place in November of 1956, just months after Pete competed in the Olympics. He was convinced he could beat either man.
When Patterson won the title Rademacher approached Cus D’Amato, Floyd’s manager, with the idea. Cus, always looking for a soft touch for Floyd, agreed, but told Pete he had to raise $250,000.00 for Patterson’s end of the purse plus put an additional $100,000.00 into escrow in order to ensure a rematch if the unthinkable happened and Floyd lost.
Pete found two backers and they set up a company called Unlimited Enterprises a small manufacturing firm. The idea was for the fight to publicize the new company and Pete’s purse would be his salary as vice president.
The fight was set in Rademacher’s home state of Washington both because it was the only place it would draw a crowd and the commission there was the only one that would sanction such a bout. Pete has said he was a 10 to 1 favorite not to show up. Truth is, the fight was thought to be so one sided that the odds of 10 to 1 in Patterson’s favor were meaningless as no one was taking bets.
The fight took place on August 22, 1957 in Sick’s Stadium in Seattle. Former light heavyweight champion Tommy Loughran was the referee. A crowd of 16,961 showed up producing a gate of $243,030 far short of the anticipated sell out that would have brought in $400,000.00. There was no live home TV or closed circuit broadcast of the fight.
The United Press called the match “weird” and Rademacher a “sacrificial lamb”. It is not an exaggeration to say this fight was an embarrassment to boxing. The two leading contenders for the title at that time were Eddie Machen and Zora Folley, and they were both being passed over in favor of an amateur getting a shot at the title. The heavyweight championship had now sunk to perhaps its lowest point ever with this circus. What’s really crazy is that Rademacher managed to come up with the $250,000.00 to pay Patterson.
As for the fight; well, it went longer than anyone expected and Pete showed plenty of courage. He even managed to floor Patterson for a count of four in the second round. The plodding challenger landed a right hand that did the job, but it would be his one moment of glory in the bout. Later, Pete would say it was his biggest mistake as it only made the champion mad.
Patterson would score six knockdowns before sending Rademacher to the canvas for the seventh time for the full count in round six. After the fight referee Loughran said about Pete “He is the most courageous fighter I have ever seen.”
Patterson would continue ducking the top contenders after this fight facing the likes of Brian London and Roy Harris before losing the title to Ingemar Johansson. He would go on to win the title back from Ingo and then fight him a third time. After that he would take on the unranked Tom McNeely before losing the title for the final time to Sonny Liston.
Rademacher would continue fighting and in his next bout was stopped by Zora Folley. He and Folley had been opponents in the amateurs where they traded wins over each other. Pete had a final professional record of 15 wins (8 by KO), 7 losses (6 by KO), and 1 draw. His biggest wins were over George Chuvalo and Bobo Olson. He lost to such men as Brian London, Karl Mildenberger, Archie Moore, and Doug Jones. He would later become a boxing judge and referee.
Pete eventually went to work for the McNeil Corporation of Akron, Ohio. The company manufactured swimming pool products and Rademacher earned nine patents for products he invented, things such as kick-board training devices for competitive swimmers and wave-quelling lane dividers for pools. After retirement, he served as golf director for the American Cancer Society helping to raise over $1 million for cancer treatment.
The last I have been able to find out about him is he is living in a nursing home in Sandusky, Ohio.
While the fight with Patterson was something that never should have been allowed to happen, Pete Rademacher did show real courage in the bout. He was also pretty creative in how he made it all come about. He went on to do a lot of good things for worthy causes, using his fifteen minutes of fame to good advantage, so some good did come from it all.