By Jim Amato
He was one of the best heavyweights of his era and possibly one of the best heavyweights to have never claimed the title. He fought the best of the late 1950’s and 60’s with a high degree of success.
Eddie Machen was born on July 15, 1932 in Redding, California and he entered the punch for pay ranks in 1955. Eddie won all eleven of his bouts during his maiden year including a knockout over highly regarded Howard King.
In 1956 Eddie added eight more victories and established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the heavyweight division. He twice defeated Julio Mederos and also won two bouts against the dangerous Nino Valdes. Eddie closed 1956 with a points victory over tough Johnny Summerlin.
Machen opened 1957 with a pair of wins over the clever former light heavyweight champion Joey Maxim of Cleveland. He also defeated Bob Baker and closed the year with a kayo over Tommy ” Hurricane ” Jackson. Eddie was now a leading contender for Floyd Patterson’s heavyweight title.
It was in 1958 that the fortunes of Eddie Machen’s career began to take a turn. He opened the year by battling to a draw with the slick Zora Folley. Then came the bout that shocked the boxing world. Eddie traveled to Sweden to meet Ingemar Johansson. the fight would last only 2:16 but it would thrust Ingo into a title fight against Patterson and leave Eddie on a long waiting list. Ingo would upset Floyd to win the crown and then Patterson would roar back to regain it. That would set up a rubber match that Floyd would win. From the time Eddie lost to Ingo and the conclusion of the Patterson-Johansson trilogy, two and a half years had passed.
After the loss to Ingo, Eddie won seven straight and then was matched again with Zora Folley. This time Zora got the verdict. Machen rebounded with three more wins including Alex Miteff and Alonzo Johnson among his victims.
On September 7, 1960 Eddie stepped into the ring to face the feared Sonny Liston. To many Liston was the ” Uncrowned Heavyweight Champion ” and a bout with Patterson was being called for by the fans and press alike. Only Eddie stood in Sonny’s way.The bout took place in Seattle and Eddie gave the brutish Liston all he could handle. In the end Sonny took a unanimous decision despite losing three points for low blows. Nevertheless, Eddie’s game showing won him the admiration of boxing fans. Despite the win over the highly ranked Machen, Sonny would have to wait two more years to get Patterson into the ring with him.
Eddie would come back to win three in a row but then he was upset over ten rounds by the cagey Harold Johnson. Machen would regroup and put together a streak of ten wins and one draw. The draw was with the murderous punching Cleveland Williams. Among the boxers Eddie beat during this streak were Mike DeJohn, Brian London, Doug Jones and Bert Whitehurst. This finally led Eddie to the ghost that had long eluded him, Floyd Patterson.
By now it was 1964 and Eddie returned to Sweden, the place of his disasterous loss to Johansson to face Floyd. This was one of of Patterson’s best career performances as won a hard fought decision over Machen. Still Eddie had done well enough to qualify for a title fight.
On March 5, 1965 Eddie met tall, lanky Ernie Terrell for the ” vacant ” World Boxing Association title. Cassius Clay, a.k.a., Muhammad Ali had been stripped of his title by the WBA. The Terrell-Machen battle was not a good pairing of styles and after a rather boring fifteen rounds, Terrell was awarded the championship. Eddie would close 1965 by drawing with Elmer Rush.
Machen would open 1966 with back to back decision losses to Karl Mildenberger and Manuel Ramos. He would the outfight the tough Joey Orbillo. Next Eddie would show flashes of his former greatness and pull off a major upset with a points win over top prospect Jerry Quarry.
Two fights after the upset of Quarry, Eddie would meet another streaking prospect, 1964 Olympic champion, Joe Frazier. This time Lady Luck looked the other way for Eddie and he was halted by ” Smokin’ Joe ” in the tenth round.
Machen was now relegated to the role of a trail horse. In 1967 he dropped a decision to up and coming Henry Clark. In his last professional fight, Eddie was stopped in three by hard hitting Boone Kirkman.
In all Eddie had 64 pro fights. He won 50 of them. He took out 29 opponents. He fought champions Liston, Patterson, Johansson, Terrell, Frazier, Maxim and Harold Johnson.He also did battle with top contenders like Zora Folley, Cleveland Williams, Alex Mitiff, Mike DeJohn, Willie Besmanoff, Doug Jones, Tommy Jackson, Nino Valdes, Karl Mildenberger, Jerry Quarry, Bob Baker, Bert Whitehurst, Howard King, Henry Clark, Julio Mederos, Joey Orbillo, Brian London, Wayne Bethea and Boone Kirkman. That is very impressive !
Eddie Machen was only forty years old when he left this world. It was only five years after his last fight but he left a legacy that will live forever.