LONELY problem-child who found himself through boxing, Patterson became youngest heavyweight champion in history at 21 when he beat Archie Moore in five rounds in 1956. Lost title to Ingemar Johansson, but became the first man to regain it when he knocked Johansson out in 1960. Sonny Liston ended his reign in 1962. Patterson fought until he was 37, and has stayed in top shape, training and managing fighters. Proudest moment when his adopted son, Tracy Harris Patterson, became WBC super-bantamweight champion in 1992. Still trim at 60, he is chairman of New York State Athletic Commission.
`Bonecrusher' Smith (1986-87)
SMITH, who was the first man to beat Frank Bruno, became WBA heavyweight champion in 1986 by stopping Tim Witherspoon in the first round. He lost his title on points to Mike Tyson in March 1987. Smith is still fighting at the age of 43 (though he claims he is 41). He is a university graduate and runs a telecommunications company near his home in Lillington, North Carolina. His wife is a lawyer. Smith was refused permission to box in Britain two years ago following a brain scan irregularity, but continues to fight - which is not entirely surprising as he is chairman of the North Carolina Commission.
Ingemar Johansson (1959-60)
THE famous "Hammer of Thor" - his thunderous right hand - exploded on Floyd Patterson's chin in Yankee Stadium, New York, in 1959. Patterson was down seven times in round three before the massacre was stopped. Johansson, from Gothenburg, installed his girlfriend in training camp and ignored all the time-honoured rules about a spartan life while preparing for a fight. Lost title back to Patterson in 1960 and retired three years later. Comfortable after investing ring earnings, he is now a cheerfully rotund gentleman of 63 who travels to all the big fights as a commentator for Scandinavian TV.
George Foreman (1973-74, 94-95)
ONCE a formidable, brooding giant, Foreman is now a Baptist preacher in Humble, Texas, and also happens to hold the linear world heavyweight championship - that is, the one traditionally handed down from generation to generation, rather than awarded by a governing body. Foreman won the title in 1973 by hammering Joe Frazier in two rounds, but lost it in the famous Rumble in the Jungle with Muhammad Ali in 1974. He regained the title by knocking out Michael Moorer in 10 rounds in 1994. Major authorities withdrew recognition, but he recently announced a "farewell tour" this year. Foreman is 47.
Leon Spinks (1978)
A MAN-CHILD from a housing project in St Louis, "Neon Leon" Spinks shot to fame when, in only his eighth professional fight, he beat an under-trained Muhammad Ali to become world champion in February 1978. For the next seven months Leon had a party - until a motivated Ali outboxed him in New Orleans. Out of the ring, Spinks continued to party until he simply wasn't capable of being a quality athlete any more. He still fights from time to time, but has been washed up for a decade. Recently he tried wrestling - and flopped. At 42, his future seems uncertain.
Compiled by Bob MeeReuse content