By Shawn M. Murphy
Recently I spoke with former 1956 Olympic Gold medalist Pete Rademacher. In what was the first and likely will be the last time, Rademacher made history by fighting for the title in his first pro fight. Rademacher dropped the Heavyweight Champion, Floyd Patterson, in the second round, but was later stopped in the sixth. Rademacher would fight such notables as Zora Foley, Brian London, Karl Mildenberger, Archie Moore, Doug Jones, and George Chuvalo. He retired in 1962 with a record of 15-7-1.
BoxingInsider.com: Mr. Rademacher, what kind of amateur career did you have?
Pete Rademacher: My first amateur fight was up in Washington as an 8th grader. After that I didn’t box for awhile until my father was able to make enough money to send my brother and I to the Military Academy in Tennessee. I played my trombone in the band for awhile and then I applied for boxing. I was all ready and then I developed Rheumatic Fever and was in the hospital for four months. Eventually I started boxing and won the Mid-South Championships three times as a Light- Heavyweight. I also fought in the Golden Gloves in Seattle and won the Nationals in Boston.
BoxingInsider.com: What do you remember most about the 1956 Olympics?
Pete Rademacher: I was married then. I won several tournaments leading up to the games. I have a side note to mention too. While in college at this time, the most exciting thing to happen there was that I did a demonstration on artificial insemination for a visit by Bing Crosby. I was majoring in Animal Science at the time and I guess because I had fast hands I drew the long straw! I got to know Bing quite well. Back to boxing. I then fought through the Army boxing tournaments and ended up in the Olympic games. The Olympic village was beautiful and the food was so good that two of my teammates ate themselves right out of the Olympics. I fought a Czech, a South African, and then in the finals against the big Russian. I took him out in one round. The Hungarians rushed the ring and put me on their shoulders. I carried the American flag, leading the American athletes from the Olympic village to the closing ceremony.
BoxingInsider.com: I know you have been asked this probably a million times, but how did you get a
title shot in your first pro fight?
Pete Rademacher: I knew that Rocky Marciano was retiring as the undefeated Heavyweight Champ. I knew that Cus D’ Amato, Doc Kearns and Archie Moore were going to get together with Floyd Patterson and fight for the vacant title. I thought that if I could win that Olympic Gold that I would have a shot to fight for the title. When I came home I called two friends who had some money. We called Cus and proposed the idea. He said it would take $250,000 guaranteed. We called back in two days, signed the contract, and went into serious training.
BoxingInsider.com: You dropped Patterson in round two, what were you thinking when you saw him
hit the canvas?
Pete Rademacher: I made one mistake in that fight; I knocked him down and made him mad. I was excited at first and then I thought STAY DOWN. But he got up and my amateur conditioning began to show and he KO’D me in the 6th.
BoxingInsider.com: Do you wish now you would have had a few fights before the title shot?
Pete Rademacher: I think that had I been ten rounds once or twice in my life that I could have beat Patterson. Mechanically I was solid; I just didn’t have the stamina and endurance.
BoxingInsider.com: Zora Folley KO’D you as well in your second fight. Were there any doubts at that
time about continuing to fight?
Pete Rademacher: I beat Zora in Seattle in I think 1950 and earlier in Boston in the Nationals. I just took a terrible whipping in that fight. I was quite discouraged. I went home, talked to my wife and decided I wanted to continue. I fought all over the world.
BoxingInsider.com: Your last fight was against “Bobo” Olson in 1962. What made you hang up the
gloves after that fight?
Pete Rademacher: Well I got $8000 for that fight and won and decided that it was just over. I came home and went to work for a living. I was 35, in good shape, and my noodle was good. I had a wonderful wife and kids and it was time to do something else.
BoxingInsider.com: Who was your toughest opponent?
Pete Rademacher: Probably Zora Folley. He rapped me the hardest. Floyd was next of course. I also lost a split decision to Karl Mildenberger. I’m winning the fight and in the last round he clips me, my knee hits the canvas and I take an 8 count. If I would have won that fight I would have got another shot at Patterson. I also lost a fight to Brian London over in London. I was doing a good job, got nailed and woke up flat on my back. I heard the referee say 10, and I was out!
BoxingInsider.com: Looking back, any regrets about your career?
Pete Rademacher: Absolutely none. I was well trained and well schooled by George Chemeres. He taught me how to move my feet to avoid the most punishment. So no regrets at all.
BoxingInsider.com: Do you follow boxing much today?
Pete Rademacher: You don’t see much on television anymore. I read about it in the papers, I subscribe to a boxing magazine. I did referee a lot for Don king around the USA. I still judge boxing a little. Still love the game and appreciate the opportunities I had.
BoxingInsider.com: After you retired from the ring what did you do?
Pete Rademacher: I lived in Columbus Georgia for awhile. I managed the world’s greatest two-eyed trap game shooter. I met a building contractor from Medina, Ohio while on the road and went to work for him. After that I went into business with the McNeil Corporation. I developed a BB trap range. I was on Johnny Carson and toured all over the US with it. I stayed with McNeil for about twenty years and then worked for the American Cancer Society as a Golf Director. I helped raise over $1,000,000 a year for cancer treatment in Ohio. I’ve had a lucky life and I’m still solid physically. I also still do a lot of parades with my one-wheeled motorcycle that I developed. I’ve done 384 parades with it so far. It’s my traveling gymnasium.
BoxingInsider.com: Mr. Rademacher, anything else you want to tell the readers out there?
Pete Rademacher: Just that I loved growing up in the State of Washington. I relish the opportunity to go back and visit family and friends. I have a great wife, great kids and grandkids, and God bless the State of Washington!