Many famous faces of the Swedish sporting world were at the ceremony in Vasakyrkan in Gothenburg to honour “Ingo” who died in his sleep at his home in Kungsbacka in western Sweden on January 30th.
Johansson established his status as a Swedish sporting legend when he defeated Floyd Patterson to win the World Heavyweight Championship in 1959.
More than two million Swedish radio listeners tuned in as “Ingo” knocked out Patterson in the third round of their fight in Yankee stadium in New York City in what was to prove to be the highlight of his career.
He enjoyed a successful career as a heavyweight retiring in 1963 with a record of 26 wins, 17 by knock out, and only 2 losses, and in 2003 was named in Ring Magazine’s list of 100 greatest punchers of all time.
Johansson’s funeral was not televised on national television. A decision by Sveriges Television (SVT) that has been criticized in some quarters.
Gothenburg mayor Anneli Hulthén had a well publicised spat with SVT’s Jan Axelsson earlier in the week.
“He was not only a Gothenburg personality, he was a sportsman for the whole of Sweden,” Hulthén argued.
“I think that the funeral is a big enough event (to be broadcast) and I firmly believe that many Swedes want to see him on his final journey.”
Axelsson explained that SVT policy regarding the broadcast of funerals is very restrictive and usually only “state funerals and the like” are shown on national television.
SVT did however broadcast parts of the event on its regional channels in western Sweden.
The argument became something of a moot point when Ingemar Johansson’s family announced a ban on filming the church ceremony.
Johansson’s coffin was carried from Vasakyrkan to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s “My way” by a group of boxers from Redbergslids boxing club – where it all began for the man who was destined to fight for Sweden under the bright lights of Yankee Stadium in New York, capturing the imagination of a generation in the process.