Posts Tagged ‘Birgit Lundgren’

The women of Ingemar Johansson

April 9, 2017






Jens Ingemar “Ingo” Johansson of Goteborg, Sweden (Sept. 22, 1932 at Gothenburg, Sweden – Jan. 30, 2009 at Kungsbacka, Sweden) held the world heavyweight boxing title from 1959 to 1960.  Ingemar won 26 of his 28 professional bouts with 17 wins by knockout.  His only two losses were to Floyd Patterson of the United States. (Ingemar, as a 4-1 underdog, beat Patterson on June 26, 1959 at Yankee Stadium in New York to win the heavyweight title.  He lost his two rematches to Patterson on June 20, 1960 at the Polo Grounds in New York and of March 13, 1961 at Miami Beach, Florida.)  Ingemar was also called the “Hammer of Thor.”

Ingemar’s father, Jens August Johansson, was born on Feb. 17, 1907 at Lommeland Ost Mork, Sweden.  Ingemar’s mother, Ebba Matilda Amalia Karlsson, was born on Sept. 7, 1911 at Morlanda Skafto Grundsund, Sweden.

An outstanding biography of Ingemar was published in 2016 by Ken Brooks titled Ingemar Johansson: Swedish Heavyweight Boxing Champion. (Hereafter “Brooks.”)  This article draws heavily from Mr. Brooks’ scholarship.  Brooks stated in the introduction to his book:

“There are full-length biographies of nearly every heavyweight champion, including four books on the life of Floyd Patterson, the Ali to Johansson’s Frazier. Yet there exists not a single prior full-length book on Ingemar, a boxer whose accomplishments have been sadly over-looked. Perhaps this is understandable so, for less than a year after Johansson’s final fight — against Brian London in April 1963 — the world had a new heavyweight champion in Muhammad Ali, a man whose prodigious talent and personal magnetism proceeded to overshadow everyone in his wake.” (Brooks at 3.)

When Ingemar was 13 he weighed 64 kilos (141 lb.) and before he was 16 he was boxing at heavyweight.  Source: Ingemar Johansson, Seconds Out of the Ring 28 (1959 — translated 1960).  Ingemar began boxing at Redbergslid’s Boxing Club (RBC) in Gothenburg, Sweden.  Id. at 31. In 1946, before Ingemar had ever had a fight, he had shown such promising talent that he was chosen for the Swedish Boxing Association’s training camp in Valsjobaden, where he was the youngest, heaviest and swiftest in the training activities.  Id.   In 1948, when Ingemar was 14, he was chosen to spar with Gunnar Barlund at RBC, and when he was 15, he was training with Swedish boxing promoter Edwin Ahlqvist’s professional boxers at Hindas, Sweden.  Id.

Ingemar finished school before he was 15 and began worked as a stone-setter’s hand.  Id. at 33.  Ingemar also “worked in the harbour, portered banana bunches, swept snow, thumped down stone sets, and one winter I worked for Edwin Ahlqvist’s company.”  Id. 

“Between February 1948 and August 1952 there lay a series of 71 amateur bouts, a sundry train of events and journeys.  I won 61 times, 32 fights before the distance, lost nine on points and was disqualified once.”  Id. at 34.  By the time Ingemar was 16 he was being referred to as “Sweden’s next really great heavyweight.”  Id. at 36.

Ingemar wanted to turn professional before the 1952 Olympic games at Helsinki, Finland.  But Ingemar’s manager, Edwin Ahlqvist, wanted Ingemar to first compete in the Olympics.  “I wasn’t in the mood for the journey to Helsinki,” Ingemar wrote.  “My mind was on professional boxing.  I wanted to work in the trade.  Amateur boxing didn’t interest me anymore.”  Id. at 57.

1952 Olympics at Helsinki — At the Olympics, Ingemar advanced to the finals by winning three bouts on points over three Finns: Horymir Netuka, Tomo Krizmanic and Iikka Koski.  In the finals he faced Ed Sanders of the United States.

“The gong rang and Sanders came at me with a weaving stance and a light, swaying guard. I got out of the way.  He came after me — without trying to attack. Sanders was a counter-boxer and had won all his bouts in the tournament with counter-punches against opponents he had waited for. He took aim time and again against my attack, but I stood back.  I stood right up in front of him.  Nothing prevented him making an attack himself. Sanders made a couple of clumsy tries — more in bluff than in earnest. Nothing came of them. At the end of the round we were both warned by the French referee, Roger Vaisberg, for failing to show fight. It was a just reprimand.  The crowd had been whistling from the middle of the round. In the interval I talked with [xxx] Suvio, who said that I should continue to keep out of the way. Sanders and I stood up in front of each other for the whole round without moving a glove.  He didn’t try to attack and nor did I.  The hall screamed. The referee stopped the fight in  the third minute but only warned me for failing to show fight. Sanders was just as passive and didn’t try to attack. But Vaisberg repeated his warning solely to me. The round ended without a blow attempted by either side.  The American had expected that i would give him a free chance to counter-box and I had refused. I had neither the strength nor the training to attack for three, or even two rounds.  If he wanted to try, he was free to do so. I intended to take my chance in the third round. In the interval Vaisberg conferred with the competition’s management, then went to Sanders’ corner, lifted up his hand and I was disqualified for failing to show fight.  I was ushered from the ring between policemen.  They refused me my silver medal.”  Id. at 64.

“I have therefore forgotten much of what happened at that time; but I remember that I refused completely to allow it to trouble me,” Ingemar wrote.  Id. at 65.

Ingemar’s first professional fight was on Dec. 5, 1952 at Gotherburg against Robert Masson, who was then ranked the No. 4 heavyweight boxer in France.  Ingemar knocked Masson out in the fourth round.  Ingemar was 21-0 when he won the title of Heavyweight Champion of the World on June 26, 1959 when he scored a third round technical knock out over then-heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson of the United States.

During Ingemar’s professional boxing career, before his fight with Werner Wiegand of Germany on Nov. 5, 1954, Ingemar served in the Swedish navy.  “The last three months I worked at Eriksberg; painted and scraped rust from a laid-up detroyer,” Ingemar wrote. “I enjoyed it. It was a bright end to a dark time.”  Id. at 80.  (Ingemar knocked out Weigand in the fifth round.)

Ingemar’s book was written after his first fight with Patterson in 1959.  Chapter 17 of Ingemar’s book is a postscript written by Peter Wilson titled “The two return fights.” Ingemar’s book did not discuss his relationship with women.  However, Ingemar was known to be a ladies’ man.

“By the time he was 17 he had fathered two illegitimate children by two Goteborg girls, with the infants put up for adoption.”  (Brooks at 18.)

In 1950, at age 18, Ingemar married Barbro Abrahamsson (also known as Barbara Abramson).  “Not surprisingly, Ingemar was in no mind to settle down, and the couple soon divorced. . . . In 1951 he fathered a son, Eddie, out of wedlock, with yet another neighborhood girl. . . . It was 48 years later that Ingemar met Eddie face-to-face.”  (Brooks at 18.)

In 1954, when Ingemar was 21, he met 17-year-old Birgit Lundgren, a “striking green-eyed brunette, the only child of a Goteborg garbage truck driver.”  (Brooks at 48.)

“This particular day, Birgit was playing handball at a park in Goteborg, in a skimpy outfit that accentuated her athletic frame. . . . Ingemar and a couple of his buddies were gawking and leering and making comments. Birgit took an instant dislike. . . . She knew who he was.  Everyone in Goteborg knew the Johansson kid.  ‘I knew he’d been married when he was still in his teens,’ she recalled, ‘and that he had children living with his former wife.’ Birgit, who had never had a serious  boyfriend, wasn’t interested.” (Brooks at 48.)

Despite Inegmar’s initial boorish behavior, Ingemar and Birgit began dating “and Birgit discovered, to her surprise, that this big lug was ‘a modest, honest, and ambitious young man with whom I had much in common — movies, music, athletics, and birthdays in September one day apart.  My opinion of him changed.'”  (Brooks at 48-49.)

“Ingemar and Birgit began spending all of their free time together” and “Ingemar taught Birgit to trap shoot and play golf” and by 1955 Birgit felt like she “had become part of the family.”  (Brooks at 48.)

Ingemar began his professional career in 1952 and won the European Heavyweight Championship on Sept. 30, 1956, when he knocked out Franco Cavicchi of Italy in a match at Bologna.

“When Birgit began traveling with Ingemar — London, Copenhagen, Paris — the media began arching its collective brow.  (This would be especially true when the two came to America.  . . . Unmarried couples, especially those in the public eye, simply didn’t openly cohabit in the Innocent ’50s.)  When reporters broached this subject, Birgit explained: ‘In my country we don’t make a big mystery of sex. We study it in school and accept it as a natural fact of life, not something . . . tempting but forbidden.'”  (Brooks at 49-50.)

“Press reports invariably described Birgit as shapely and stylish, and seldom failed to mention her job as Ingo’s ‘secretary.’ (She did in fact work for Ingemar, mostly answering his fan mail and warding off overzealous females.) And reporters who described [Birgit] as Ingemar’s financee were quick to add, with a cleverly worded wink, that no definite date for the nuptials had been set. Fact was, Ingemar had never quite gotten around to divorcing his first wife, which didn’t seem to bother Birgit in the least. She certainly sounded like the perfect girl for Ingo.” (Brooks at 50-51.)

“Ingemar was the first heavyweight champion to flaunt a female member of his entourage, Birgit Lundgren, later his wife.”  Dave Anderson, The New Plot for Ali, the Playboy (New York Times — Sept 29, 1975).

During 1957 and the first half of 1958, Ingemar knocked out Henry Cooper at Stockholm, defeated Archie McBride on points at Gothenburg and recorded a TKO over Joe Erskine at Gothenburg. On July 13, 1958, Ingemar was victorious over Germany’s Heinz Neuhaus by a technical knockout at 2:56 of the 12th round.  Neuhaus was 42-7 coming into the fight, which took place at Ingemar’s home town of Gothenburg.

On Sept. 14, 1958, Ingemar fought Eddie Machen before 53,615 boxing fans at the Ullevi football stadium.  Machen, an American, had a record of 24-0-1 and was the number one ranked contender.  Machen was also a 2-1 favorite.  Ingemar knocked Machen out at 2:16 of the first round.  The knockout earned Ingemar a chance to fight Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight championship title.

On Feb. 1, 1959, Ingemar appeared on the popular CBS television show called What’s My Line?  Ingemar’s “line” was that he would be fighting Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight championship of the world.  On June 14, 1959, Birgit appeared on the same television show.  Birgit’s “line” was that she was a correspondent for a Swedish newspaper and she was the fiancee of boxer Ingemar Johansson of Sweden.

Birgit attended Ingemar’s training camp in New York before his first title fight with Patterson.

“Johansson . . . arrived at Grossinger’s [boxing training camp] with his stunning, brunette girlfriend, Birgit, in tow, and it wasn’t long before rumors were rampant that at night he was going to the body in a far different way than he did with his sparring partners earlier in the day.”  Source: Bernard Fernanez, RIP, Ingemar Johansson (The Sweet Science — Feb. 1, 2009).




“Yes, the man liked the ladies, and why not? But newspapermen questioned whether [Birgit] should even be in a boxing camp while her man was preparing to take on the heavyweight champion. Not only was she present as he sparred and punched the bag, but there were witnesses who claimed the two dance the night away when he should’ve been getting his proper bed rest.”  Source: Former heavyweight champ Ingemar Johansson lived a life of wins and losses (The Daily News — Feb. 7, 2009).

Birgit attended Ingemar’s championship fight with Patterson on June 26, 1959 when Ingemar knocked Patterson out.  “A reporter spied Birgit and asked how she felt. ‘Vunderful,’ she said.  Was she surprised he won? ‘No. I saw him as he left for the fight and his eyes, they were confident.'” (Brooks at 107.)

“The fight was shown on closed circuit TV in 170 locations in 135 cities. . . . The fight was broadcast live on ABC radio.  Patterson was guaranteed $300,000 and Johansson $100,000. . . . A gate of 21,961 was produced by a crowd of 21,961 at Yankee Stadium. Ticket prices ranged from $5 to $100.”  Source: Floyd Patterson v. Ingemar Johansson (1st meeting) (

“ESPN contributor Berg Sugar wrote: . . . [During the third round] Johansson was on him, battering Patterson with both hands until he collapsed on the mat. Floyd arose for the fifth time, only to be flattened again, this time by a right uppercut, followed by a left and a right.  The champion still refused to quit. Johansson walloped his now-helpless opponent with a left-right-left salvo until referee Rudy Goldstein mercifully stepped in and stopped the fight at 2:03 of Round 3.”  Id.  As a result of the fight, Ingemar was named TIME magazine’s “Person of the Year 2009.”




The day after Ingemar knocked out Patterson, there was a headline in a New York newspaper: “Ingo — It’s Bingo.”  When Ingemar returned to Sweden he flew in on a helicopter, landing on the main soccer stadium in Gothenburg, his home town, and was cheered by 20,000 people. A smiling Ingemar and Birgit were featured on the cover of the July 20, 1959 issue of LIFE magazine.  The caption read: “Johansson On Vacation With His Friend Birgit.” On June 28, 1959, Ingemar appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in New York. He showed his knockout punch to Mr. Sullivan.)  On Oct. 4, 1959, Ingemar appeared on the Dinah Shore Chevy Show and sang a Swedish duet with Ms. Shore.  (Ingemar also appear on the show on Jan. 24, 1960 and Feb. 5, 1961.)


(VIDEO: 5:44)

After winning the heavyweight championship, Ingemar was seen with women other than Birgit.

The late Bert Randolph Sugar, a famous boxing historian, wrote: “The new heavyweight champion of the world was an impishly handsome Romeo, who enjoyed night clubs more than fight clubs. The media loved him. ‘Ingo,’ as he was called familiarly — and he was called frequently — lived up to his new title and lived up to the hilt; he was wined and dined at the most fashionable watering holes on two continents.” Bert Randolph Sugar, Greatest Knockouts: Patterson vs. Johansson ( Sept. 28, 2006). 

Ingemar was reported to have had an affair with Elizabeth Taylor. During mid-November 1959, Ingemar attended the “opening night of Eddie Fisher’s four-week engagement at the Empire Room in Manhattan’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. . . . While Fisher was backstage between shows, Liz and Ingo snuck upstairs to a private suite.  ‘I was the guardian waiting in the living room while all the action took place in the bedroom,’ Richard Hanley, Liz’s traveling secretary, told Darwin Porter in 2012. Porter, a veteran Hollywood chronicleer and notorious celebrity blab-all, describes the Johannson-Taylor assignment as ‘one of Elizabeth’s least-known affairs.’ And it was no brief fling, either. The two enjoyed frequent surreptitious trysts in Montgomery Clift’s airy East 61st Street apartment, where ‘they couldn’t get enough of each other,’ Porter said. Liz reportedly told Hanley: ‘No wonder they call him the Hammer.'” (Brooks at 142-43, quoting Darwin Porter and Danforth Prince, Elizabeth Taylor: There’s Nothing Like A Dame at 441 (Blood Moon Productions 2012). (The unauthorized biography of Ms. Taylor also quotes Ms. Taylor in more graphic language about Ingemar’s “knockout punch.”).

“The champ proved adroit at juggling lovers. During his year at the top, Ingemar was frequently spotted at trendy Manhattan nightspots with actress and Playboy playmate Stella Stevens on his arm.  Then there was Italian supermodel Maria Benna, who loved showing off the dazzling six-carat ‘friendship ring’ on her finger, a gift from her heavyweight beau. One afternoon in the spring of 1960, Ingemar cut short an interview . . . in order to rendezvous in a hotel suite with an unnamed ‘regal blonde movie star.'” (Brooks at 143.) (Emphasis added.)  A fan page for Ms. Stevens said that in November 1959 “world heavyweight champion Ingemar Johansson is said cutting a wide swath with her and singer Peggy Lee.”  (Source: (Emphasis added.)




In 1959, Ingemar spent time with Elaine Sloane, “an attractive twenty-something brunette working as a secretary for Sport magazine in New York. . . . She quickly found herself under the chap’s spell. ‘He looks like a little boy,’ she gushed to a reporter, ‘and he’s got the biggest dimple on his chin. Some girl ought to have that dimple. He took me out three times that weekend.  He can really dance up a storm.'”  (Brooks at 143.)

At this time, the press would usually “ignore the romantic indiscretions of celebrities and public figures. . . . The closest Ingemar came to being outed was a cryptic passage in a Sport magazine profile that ran in the December 1960 issue: ‘As far as playboying goes . . . the only female that interests him now is Birgit. As a hangover from his Navy days, though, Ingo still has a girl in every port.’ Birgit remained tight-lipped on the subject of Ingemar’s womanizing. Certainly, she had to have known. But in the manner of wives of athletes, movie stars, and politicians of the era, she chose to look the other way. Today she will only say: ‘It was not in my nature to be jealous.'” (Brooks at 143-44.)

On June 20, 1960, Ingemar suffered his first professional boxing defeat when during his re-match with Patterson at the Polo Grounds in New York.  Ingemar was knocked out at 1:51 of the fifth round.  Another re-match was scheduled for 1961.

Before Ingemar’s 1961 rematch with Floyd Patterson, an article in Sports Illustrated stated: “So the lovely Birgit is with him this time, too.  Officially registered at the Sea Breeze, she spends most of her time helping Ingemar relax at the Holiday Inn, frolicking with him in the pool or surf, strolling with him along the beach of lolling on Ingebar’s veranda.”  (Source: Martin Kane, New Ingo With A Left (Sports Illustrated — Feb. 13, 1961).

On March 13, 1961, Patterson knocked Ingemar out again at 2:45 of the sixth round of a match at Miami Beach.  Boxing historian Bert Randolph Sugar called Patterson’s knockout of Ingemar one of boxing’s “greatest knockouts.”  Source: Bert Randolph Sugar: Greatest Knockouts: Patterson vs. Johansson ( Sept. 28, 2006).

Ingemar fought four more professional fights before he retired.  He won all four: a TKO on Feb. 9, 1962 over England’s Joe Bygraes at Gothenburg, a KO on April 15, 1962 over Wim Snok of the Netherlands at Stockholm, a KO on June 17, 1972 of Dick Richardson of Wales at Gothenburg and a win on points on April 21, 1963 over England’s Brian London at Stockholm.  He retired with a record of professional record of 26-2.

Ingemar appeared as a United States Marine in the 1960 Korean War film titled All the Young Men.  Alan Ladd and Sidney Poitier were the lead actors in the film.

On April 29, 1962, shortly after Ingemar’s fight with Snok, Ingemar and Birgit were married in a private ceremony at an apartment in Goteborg.  “Birgit [was] radiant in a lime green bridal gown” and Ingemar wore a blue suit.  “It was all very hush-hush. Even the pastor was lined up at the last minute, arriving on a moped from Birgit’s church in nearby Harlanda. Immediately after the nuptials the newlyweds left for a week-long honeymoon in Geneva.” (Brooks at 183.)

Time magazine reported: “Married. Ingemar Johansson, 29, dimpled former world heavyweight boxing champion; and Birgit Lundgren, 25, his right-hand gal since 1954 and official fiancee since 1959; he for the second time, she for the first, in Stockholm.”  (Time magazine — May 11, 1962.)

[NOTE — Other reports state that they were married on May 11, 1962.]

On March 26, 1963, just before Ingemar’s final fight against London, Ingemar and Birgit had a son, Jens Patrick.  About two months later, “Ingemar appeared on Swedish television and made it official: ‘I quit,’ he said, ‘and I won’t change my mind. . . . There’s nothing left that incites me to go on boxing. I don’t need fame anymore. I’m fed up with glory.'” (Brooks at 189.)

Ingemar and Birgit lived in an apartment in Geneva.  They had a daughter, Maria. (Born May 24, 1965.) (Ingemar’s other children included Thomas Johansson, Jean Johansson and Ann Johansson.)

“Among the millionaires attracted to the area were Swedish Formula One race driver Joakim Bonnier and wife Marianne, who lived in the tax-free municipality of Arzier, thirty minutes from Geneva. The Johanssons and the Bonniers had become close friends. On one visit, Ingemar and Birgit spied a nearby parcel of land along Arzier’s Alpine slopes, 2,600 feet above Lake Geneva. It was here they would build their dream home, a 10,000 square foot, five-bedroom log cabin.”  (Brooks at 189.)

Ingemar and Birgit were saddened on June 11, 1972 when, during the running of Le Mans in Paris, Bonnier’s race car crashed and he was killed instantly.  Bonnier’s open-top Lola-Cosworth collided with  Ferrari Daytona.  Bonnier’s car then catapulted over the barriers and into trees next to the track.

Ingemar and Birgit began to have marital problems

“By the late 1960s, growing antagonisms were tearing apart the storybook life of Ingo and Birgit. Ingemar, who had always reveled in the company of others, now began spending more and more time hitting Swiss taverns and nightclubs and making the party circuit, a lifestyle the reserved Birgit, with two small children at home, increasingly rejected. ‘I wanted to live life, have a drink now and then,’ Ingemar told a confidant. ‘Birgit did not like that.  In the end, it was so she did not like anything I liked. We drifted apart. I constantly had the feeling that she taunted me and thought I was punchy.'” (Brooks at 198.)

In December 1968, Ingemar bought an expensive Mercedes 280 SL convertible and promptly managed to wreck it with his two children in the car.  (No one was seriously hurt.)  Six months later, Ingemar crashed another car.  “Ingemar escaped with only minor cuts and bruises, while his companion, an unidentified young lady, received not a scratch.”  Three weeks later, Ingemar fought with a man outside a nightclub in Goteborg and then drove away in his car.  “Pulled over by the cops, Ingemar flunked a breathalyzer test, which resulted in a conviction for drunk driving and assault.” (Brooks at 198.)

In early 1969, Birgit moved alone to a studio apartment in Kungsbacka, a suburb of Goteborg. “She began her new life by taking a job, as a receptionist at a hotel.”  Ingemar decided that he was unable to properly care for the two children so he brought them to their mother to care for.  (Brooks at 198-99.)

In March 1969, Judy Garland made a singing tour in Europe. Birgit was Ms. Garland’s personal attendant.  “Less than three months later, Garland would be dead of a drug overdose at age 47.”  (Brooks at 199.)

“For a time, Birgit enjoyed a brief career as a singer as well, appearing in local clubs accompanied by some of Sweden’s finest musicians. ‘I have not just lived vicariously through Ingemar,’ she told an interviewer in 2005. ‘I’ve lived my own life.  I earned a college degree. Now I am mostly retired, working in moderation, running my own law firm in Goteborg.’ Birgit, who never remarried, remains unflinchingly unsentimental. ‘There is no point in looking in the past,’ she says today. ‘There is no future in it.'” (Brooks at 199-200.)

After their separation, Ingemar and Birgit would see each other from time to time.

“For Ingemar, the early 1970s constituted a lost weekend of late nights and high life. He and Birgit continued to see each other and spent extended time together with the children on the Bohuslan archipelago, in a gray house between the mountains and the sea. But things would never again be as they were.”  (Brooks at 200.)

In 1974, Ingemar moved to a small bungalow at Lighthouse Point, Florida, just north of Pompano Beach.  In 1979, Ingemar purchased a motel called the Sea of Cay in Pompano Beach. “[T]he place suited Ingemar to the marrow, and he ran it as a virtual one-man operation where he served as maid, carpenter, painter, plumber, pool-cleaner, and desk clerk. His son Thomas (from his first marriage), then in his mid-twenties, spent summers there and pitched in.”  (Brooks at 201.)

In 1979, Edna Alsterlund, 31, was a Stockholm journalist for a Swedish lifestyle magazine. She was sent to Pompano Beach to write an article on Ingemar, who was then 47-years-old.

“It was sunny with a hint of a chill when Edna walked into the Sea of Cay for her first face-to-face with the champ. It was instant magic, as if the Hammer of Thor had been replaced with Cupid’s arrow. Edna describes herself, as being ‘totally overwhelmed by his personality.’ She was shocked to find this ex-pug ‘well-versed in art, music, poetry,’ his sly, subtle humor disarming, his shy, innate sweetness endearing in an old-world sort of way.”  (Brooks at 204.)

Ingemar and Edna began to fall in love.

“Within days the two were inseparable. Too soon, however, it was time for Edna to return to Sweden.  If it was just a fling, so be it. Edna was devoted to her work. As one of the country’s top journalists, she might interview a drug addict one day and Sweden’s royal couple the next.  For Edna, who never married, the idea of a long-distance relationship seemed out of the question. And certainly not with Ingo. Too old, she remembered thinking, plus too many ex-wives, too many children.” (Brooks at 204-05.)

But romance between Ingemar and Edna continued.

“Apart, the two began a romance by phone. It wasn’t long before Edna began making trips to South Florida. In early 1981 she packed up and moved to Pompano Beach, into a two bedroom apartment . . . and set up shop as a foreign correspondent for the Swedish newspaper Expressen. These were idyllic times. Ingo taught Edna how to fish, swing a golf club, and cook Chicken a la King.  Most of all, Edna remembers Ingo’s unconditional love. . . . [I]t pleased Edna when, following a lover’s quarrel, Ingo would typically respond, ‘Dearest, I not made at you. I’m mad at what you said.'”  (Brooks at 205.)

In the spring of 1981, Ingemar decided to run the Stockholm Marathon that was scheduled during August 1981. He was 49-years-old and 300 pounds.  Ingemar started training and reduced his weight to “a comparatively svelte 247 pounds.” There were 8,000 runners and some 300,000 spectators.  “He looked like a sumo wrestler who’d turned up at the wrong event. Fans along the route roared with delight as Ingemar passed, the response so tumultuous that two motorcycle cops were forced to clear a path for him as he covered the final six miles. . . . Johansson was back in the spotlight, and for something positive for a change. . . . Now, improbably, he was a hero again, a role model for overweight, out-of-shape middle-agers everywhere.”  (Brooks at 206.)




“Through the mid-1980s, Ingemar and Edna traveled frequently together but not always together. Story assignments kept Edna globe-trotting, while Ingemar provided boxing commentary for the Nordic network TV 1000, a gig requiring weekly flights to a London studio. For Ingemar there were also marathons, promotional tours, charity events, and memorabilia shows where fans paid to meet the champ and get his autograph.” (Brooks at 213.)

“To Edna, Ingemar was an incurable and chronic romantic.  When Edna would leave on assignment, Ingo’s parting words were always the same: ‘I miss you already.’ Sometimes Ingemar would miss Edna so badly he’d hop a flight and join her on assignment.” (Brooks at 214.)

In the late 1980s Ingemar sold his real estate in Florida and joined Edna in Stockholm. They also purchased an apartment in Puerto Portals in Mallorca, located off Spain’s east coast in the Western Mediterranean.  “Mallorca was a fall retreat. . . . [T]he rest of the year . . . Ingemar . . . preferred Sweden’s east coast to the Goteborg of his youth and bought a plot of land in Dalaro . . . in the Swedish archipelago. Here, in 1989, the couple built their dream house.” (Brooks at 214.)

Ingemar and Edna married in 1996.  (Brooks at 3.)

In the mid-1990s, Edna began noticing that Ingemar had some memory problems. “TV 1000 executives began asking Edna to accompany Ingemar on broadcast gigs. There were other troubling signs. Ingemar, never more than a social drinker, had begun consuming more heavily. By the mid 1990s the alcohol was turning the once cheery Ingo increasingly glum. As Ingemar began relying on Edna to manage his daily affairs, she gradually accepted fewer and fewer writing assignments. Still, Edna remembers thinking: A bit of rest was all Ingo needed, and life could be as it ever was.” The mid-1996 death of Ingemar’s father, Jens Johansson, was also hard on Ingemar.  (Brooks at 218-19.)

“[T]he normally taciturn Johansson began to display flashes of temper. He refused to attend one party because he was convinced that the host had fallen in love with Edna.” (Brooks at 219.)

In November 1996, Ingemar and Edna went to Las Vegas to watch a heavyweight title fight between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. “Longtime friend Gene Kilroy, a casino executive . . . suggested the time had come, after 16 years together, for Edna and Ingo to tie the knot. . . . Kilroy set the event in motion, booking Las Vegas’ Treasure Island resort for the occasion.  TV 1000 arranged for the wedding to be broadcast on Swedish television as a prelude to the big fight. The ceremony took place at mid-night, Swedish time. . . . Following the nuptials, Ingemar joined the broadcast team as color man.” (Brooks at 222.)

In 1997, Edna started doing research on Alzheimer’s disease.  “She knew some things, naturally — that Ronald Reagan suffered from it, that it was a disease of forgetfulness.   . . Some days, the champ seemed like Ingo of old. . . . Gradually, Ingemar’s behavior grew increasingly strange. He began peppering Edna with the same questions, over and over: What is today? Is our money safe? When are we leaving? Are you sure no one is living in Dalaro while we’re away? What day is today? Is our money safe? In the evenings he began watching the same three movies night after night: The Godfather, Death Wish, and Dirty Harry. Ingemar would ask Edna how Jens [his father] was doing, as if he were still alive.” (Brooks at 222-23.)

“The Johanssons flew to Pompano Beach in October of 1998 in what would be their final winter in Florida. Ingemar was becoming increasingly disoriented. At times neighbors would find him wandering the Pompano neighborhood, lost. . . . Their Florida days at an end, Edna packed their belongings for the last time in preparation for a permanent move back to Sweden.” (Brooks at 224)

“In September 1998, Momma Ebba [Ingemar’s mother], age 87, suffered a stroke at her home in Goteborg. She was rushed to the hospital, but died before Edna and Ingemar could arrive. Thomas broke the news to his father, who seemed, briefly, to understand. Minutes later, Ingemar asked Thomas: ‘How are mother and father feeling?’ . . . While in Goteborg, Edna and Ingemar spent nights at Ebba’s apartment, where Ingemar paced from room to room, searching for his parents.”  (Brooks at 225.)

In 1999, Ingemar received a phone call from 48-year-old Eddie Henriksson of Goteborg. The name Eddie Henriksson “meant nothing to Ingemar.  Not until Henriksson told him, ‘I’m your son.’ This was Ingo’s forgotten son, conceived out of wedlock during his wild teenage years. ‘I was afraid he would tell me to stay away,’ Eddie remembered, ‘but he immediately said, “Oh my God, come visit.” Eddie drove to Stockholm and met his father for the first time. He and daughter Paula, 28, spent a weekend with Ingemar and Edna. . . . The reunion was short-lived. They kept in phone contact for a short time . . . [b]ut as Ingemar’s illness progressed, the calls stopped coming . . . and Eddie never saw his father again.”  (Brooks at 226.)

“By the fall of 2000 Ingemar was sleeping 14 to 18 hours a day, would go days without shaving, weeks without showering. His diet dwindled to Danish pastry, blueberry jam, and milk. For the first time, Edna tried explaining to Ingemar the nature of his affliction. Ingemar shrugged it off.”  (Brooks at 229.)

“In the fall of 2001 a desperate Edna arranged for a dementia-trained nurse named Anna to come two days a week.  On Thanksgiving, Edna marked the American holiday with a new mantra: ‘It is best not to remember Ingemar as he was,’ she pledged, ‘but to learn to love him as he is.'”  (Brooks at 231.)

“In January 2003, Edna received word that a unit was available in a group home in Saltsjobaden . . . twenty minutes from downtown Stockholm and 300 miles west of Goteborg.  . . . Come move-in day, Ingemar was surprisingly compliant. He was told he was being treated for ulcers. ‘How long will I be here?’ Ingemar asked.”  (Brooks at 233.)

“Ingemar adjusted quickly to his new life.  Edna visited nearly every day and invariably found him freshly shaved, showered, and in good spirits. He had even begun eating regularly.  The vagaries of Ingemar’s affliction were such that he had no idea how long Edna had been away.  Each time she arrived, it was as if mere moments had passed since he’d seen her last. . . . Never did Ingemar seem happier than when Edna brought Dixie to Saltsjobaden. The little jack terrier would leap to her master’s lap while Ingo gushed: ‘Daddy’s girl, how’s Daddy’s girl?'” (Brooks at 234.)

“In the summer of 2003, on a visit to Saltsjobaden, [Ingemar’s brother Rolf Johansson] had Ingemar sign an application requesting a move to a municipality run group home just outside Goteborg. . . . The application was then filed by Birgit, who lived in the municipality.  Now it became clear to Edna: her husband’s ex-wife, who had been apart from Ingemar since the late 1970s, was in league with Rolf.  Their goal, Edna knew, ‘was to engineer a divorce over our heads and against our wills.’ The internecine battle for control, which now included a signed public document, convinced Edna to go public with Ingemar’s dementia, before the media could turn this sordid mess into tabloid fodder. Edna phoned a trusted friend, a journalist for Aftonbladet, whom she felt could handle the story with sensitivity. The next morning, the story was front-page news.  Edna was suddenly inundated with calls from morning shows and magazines. She declined them all.”  (Brooks at 234-35.)

On Aug. 12, 2003, there was a headline in the newspaper: “Ingo Applying for Divorce.”  “Edna slumped to the floor.  The anti-Edna faction had scored a knockout blow. The fact that Ingemar could scarcely have understood the complexities of whatever documents he was signing seemed lost in the noise and clutter. . . . Edna consulted a trusted counselor. . . . [H]e delivered the bad news. She could contest the divorce, certainly, but the case would undoubtedly drag on for years, their private lives played out in open court and sensationalized by the press, none of which would benefit Ingemar in the least. Edna was beaten.” (Brooks at 235.)

An article about the coerced divorce stated: “Then came the next slap. Some of Ingemar’s relatives wanted to move him to a place in Gothenburg, Sweden, where they lived. To achieve this, they got Ingemar to sign a petition for divorce.”  Source: Anna Carsall, Edna Alsterlund, everything collapsed when Ingo became ill (MaBra — date unknown).

“It was like they wanted to erase his years as a mature, adult male, the 22 years he had had with me, Edna said. “I was heartbroken for both my and Ingemar’s sake. It was so horrible and ruthlessly they wanted to spread us.  I had probably won the dispute in court. But I could not see our life’s tragedy be replayed as a serial in the press.  The most important thing, I thought, was to create calm around Ingemar.”  (Carsall article.)

On Dec. 13, 2003, Edna “and Thomas sat with Ingemar as he slept in his bed at Saltsjobaden. The room was empty now, stripped of his belongings. . . . Rolf had taken everything to the facility near Goteborg. Maria [Johansson] would be arriving soon to carry her father to his new home. Edna leaned in and kissed Ingemar gently on the cheek. Just before she left, she pressed her lips to his ear. ‘I will always love you,’ she whispered. It was the last time she would see Ingemar.” (Brooks at 235.)




“Ingemar spent his last years in a nursing home on Sweden’s west coast, in Kungsbaka, a few kilometers from his childhood home. . . . [W]hen Olof [Johansson] visited in the fall of 2008, Ingemar’s inexorable decline was evident: ‘He got up from a chair and took one step and froze. The doctors said it was because his brain did not remember how to tell his body to move the other foot.’ . . . Mostly, Ingemar slipped between sleep and increasingly brief moments of consciousness. . . . Now he was unable to utter a word. On Saturday, January 24, the nursing staff informed the family that Ingemar’s condition had turned critical.” (Brooks at 239.)

“Five minutes before midnight on Friday, January 30, Ingemar Johansson, 76, slipped out of this ring and into the next.”  ‘He took three deep breaths,’ Thomas said, ‘and then it was as if he fell asleep.  There was no pain.  I felt peace. He was beyond his misery.” (Brooks at 240.)

It was reported that Ingemar “was reunited by his second wife, Birgit, who was at his side when he died . . . .”  Frank Litsky, Ingemar Johansson, Who Beat Patterson for Heavyweight Title, Dies at 76 (New York Times — Jan. 31, 2009).

“Even the selection of pallbearers fell victim to the family schism, as finding six non-feuding Johanssons seemed unlikely. . . . Instead . . . the simple brown casket was borne into Vasa Church by representatives of Ingo’s old Redbergslids Boxing Club. Inside the church lay a multitude of wreaths with banners. “You Made an Entire Nation Proud,” read one. “Once a Champ, Always a Champ,” read another. Among the mourners was Raymond Patterson, representing his brother Floyd, who had passed away in 2006 from complications resulting from boxing-induced dementia.”  (Brooks at 241.)  (Ingemar and Floyd Patterson became close friends after they retired from boxing.  They visited each other several times during their retirement.)

“The coffin left the church accompanied by Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way,’ Ingo’s personal favorite, a song Sinatra had sung to Ingemar on several occasions.”  (Brooks at 243.)

Ingemar was named The Ring Fighter of the Year for 1958 and 1959, the Boxing Writers Association of America Fighter of the Year for 1959, Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year for 1959 and the Associated Press’ Male Athlete of the Year in 1959. Ingemar was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1988 and into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2000, Ingemar was ranked as the third best Swedish athlete of the 20th Century by the Swedish Sports Academy.

Ingemar participated for Sweden in the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland. He was disqualified for alleged passivity in a match against eventual Olympic gold medalist Ed Sanders of the United States.  However, in 1982 the International Olympic Committee reconsidered Ingemar’s disqualification and awarded him the silver medal.  Ingemar discussed his amateur and professional boxing career in his 1961 English language autobiography titled Second Out of the Ring.  (The book was originally published in 1959 under the title Sekonderna Lamnar Ringen.  The book was translated into English by Rodger and Jan Jonsjo.)

Edna wrote a book in 2011 about caring for Ingemar while he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.  Edna’s book is titled Den Langsta Ronden (The longest round).

Reviews of Mr. Brooks’ excellent book on Ingemar Johansson include Doug Gibson, Johansson boxing biography harkens back to a different culture (Ogden Standard-Examiner Feb. 13, 2016); Thomas Hauser, Thoughts from the Colonies on Ingemar Johansson (Box Nation — May 7, 2016); Dan Cuoco, Ingemar Johansson Swedish Heavyweight Boxing Champion (International Boxing Research Organization — July 9, 2016); Bobby Franklin, There’s A Lot More to Ingo (Boxing Over Broadway — Sept. 13, 2016) and Benjamin Dettmar, Review of Ingemar Johansson: Swedish Heavyweight Boxing Champion (Sports in American History — Sept. 24, 2016).

There are three Swedish documentary films about Ingemar: En Dag med Ingo (1960) (“A Day with Ingo”), Avgorandet Floyd – Ingo (1961), Med Krut i Navarna (1969)(With Gunpowder In His Fists”) and Det Finns Bara en Ingemar Johansson (2004) (“There is Only One Ingemar Johansson).  The 2004 film (1:39.50) can be viewed on YouTube by searching “Med Krut I Navarna.”  The commentary is in Swedish.

Ingemar had a small acting part in All the Young Men, a 1960 Korean War film starring Alan Ladd and Sidney Poitier.  Ingemar also appeared in Tre dar pa luffen, a 1964 Swedish comedy, For tapperhet i talt, a 1965 Swedish comedy and Drra pa —  kul grej pa vag till Gotet, a 1967 Swedish comedy starring Eva Rydberg.  He also appeared in the TV movie Inger Stevens in Sweden (1965) and the Swedish television shows Gast hos Haggeg (1975), Allsang pa Skansen (1990).

In January 2011, the 1959 Johnny Lion song “Ingemar Johansson” written by Bert Caroll and Russell Moody was re-released on the album “From the Vault” The Coed Records Lost Master Tapes, Volume 1.”  The partial lyrics are:

Ingemar Johansson, Ingemar Johanson, Ingemar Johanson’s a mighty big Swede / He kept a saying, he kept a saying, this right hand is all that I’ll need / He came all the way from Sweden to the U.S.A., he said that he would take home the title away / From the heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson, who vowed that he would keep the crown that he had won / Well everyone who saw him at his training camp, said this big Swede will never beat the champ / They couldn’t make him throw his mysterious right / He said he was saving it for the fight . . . The newspapers wrote that Ingemar was a fool / For he was busy breaking all the training rules . . .