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Pete Rademacher


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His case is unique in boxing history: Pete Rademacher was the only boxer to fight for a world title in his very first professional match. An Olympic champion at heavyweight in 1956, Rademacher fought Floyd Patterson for the world title and lost to him by knockout in 6 rounds. He fought several other top heavyweights of that era, defeating some of them, like George Chuvalo and former middleweight champion Bobo Olson. 

Thomas Peter Rademacher was born 20 November 1928 in Tieton, Washington state, to a German-American father and a mother whose parents were Finnish immigrants. He first played football and was a Washington State college player, standing just below 6’2 or 187 cm. After contracting rheumatic fever in military school, he took up boxing as a form of rehabilitation. He was a four-time Seattle Golden Gloves champion as amateur and also won the Chicago Golden Gloves, the All-Army Championship and Service championship, before qualifying for the Olympic team and going to Melbourne. There, he won the gold, sensationally knocking out the Soviet favorite Lev Mukhin in the first round. 

This made him very popular in USA naturally, to the extent that when he announced he was going pro, he got to fight for the world title in his first match. He himself also stated that he believed he was able of becoming a world champion in his very first fight. He therefore got to fight Floyd Patterson on 22 August 1957 at Sicks’ Stadium in Seattle. Patterson had a record of 32-1 and was making his second defense. Rademacher got off to a surprisingly good start by dropping Patterson in the second round, but Patterson rebounded and put him down six times before the fight was over at 2:57 of round 6. So much for that boast. 

He also lost his second pro fight by KO4 to Zora Folley, a world class contender back then. He won his first pro fight in his third attempt, stopping the journeyman Tommy Thompson by corner retirement in 5. He won 4 more fights before going to Frankfurt in Germany to fight the 13-0 Ulli Nitzschke and knocking him out in 7. He then drew against another German, Ulli Ritter, before going to Wembley to fight Brian London on 26 April 1960. London had a record of 22-6 and Rademacher was expected to beat him, but he got knocked out in 7 by the heavier London. He rebounded by beating 42-1 LaMar Clark by TKO10 and then went to Toronto to fight their hopeful George Chuvalo, winning by UD10. He also decisioned the fringe contender Willi Besmanoff in December of 1960, but then ran into a bad streak and was first knocked out by Doug Jones in 5, then George Logan stopped him by TKO2 and finally Archie Moore by TKO6, all in 1961. 

After stopping Buddy Turman by TKO9, he again went to Germany to fight Karl Mildenberger, then a promising contender, and dropped a decision to him on 20 January 1962. His last fight was on 3 April that year in Honolulu, home of his opponent and former middleweight world champion Bobo Olson. Olson was outweighed by 15 pounds and lost a clear decision in ten rounds. Rademacher retired aged 33 and with a record of 15 wins, scoring 8 knockouts, 7 losses and 1 draw. In addition to boxing, he was also a salesman and inventor. He died on 4 June 2020 at the age of 91 and his brain was donated for medical research. 

The story of Pete Rademacher was an example how being successful at amateur boxing did not guarantee success in the professional world as well. Many other Olympic champions would fail in winning a world title after him, save for a few. The big difference of having to take the full force of a punch just became too much for Pete it seems. Maybe 50 years earlier he would have succeeded, but not in the post- world war 2 boxing. 

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--- 50 yrs earlier they didn't have extensive Olympic preparatory training worth anything. 

iPete had wins over former middle champ Bobo Olson, and the three amigos Ali fought later, Willie Besmanoff, George Chuvalo, and Lamar Clark, so he wasn't hopeless, just maybe needed extra prepping before taking on Floyd.

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