Featherweight World Champions & Their Championship Fights (126lbs)

Although Johnny Dundee beat Danny Frush to win the NYSAC version of the 126lbs featherweight title on 15 August 1922, it was only when Johnny Kilbane, who had been to the post in 142 bouts and was seen as the world featherweight champion at the old weight of 122lbs, agreed to meet the EBU champion, Eugene Criqui, at 126lbs that the modern day featherweight division took off. Famous as a war veteran, having had surgery for a shattered jaw, Criqui had won the European title when defeating Arthur Wyns (w co 12 at The Circus, Paris on 7 July 1922) before making successful defences at the Winter Velodrome, Paris in 1922, when forcing Wyns to retire after six rounds on 9 September, and England’s Billy Matthews to do likewise after 17 sessions on 2 December, prior to sailing for the USA. At first, Dundee demanded that Kilbane must meet him before fighting Criqui, but after both Kilbane and Criqui each posted $10,000 and agreed to box him in NYC within 60 days, depending on who won, the junior lightweight champion backed down. This decision enabled the Kilbane v Criqui contest to take place in New York and be billed as a world title fight, despite the NYSAC continuing to recognise Dundee as the champion. Thus common sense prevailed. Criqui, who was a man with over 13 years and 128 fights (102 wins, 15 draws and 11 defeats) behind him after starting out as a flyweight, could look forward to emulating his friend and world light heavyweight champion, Georges Carpentier, by taking the title to France.

 

2 June 1923. Eugene Criqui w co 6 (15) Johnny Kilbane

Venue: Polo Grounds, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NBA/IBU. Referee: Jack Appell.

Fight Summary: Even though Criqui (123½) was always looking to force the fight, the first four rounds were relatively tame, the action only heating up in the fifth. Into the sixth session, with the challenger looking very strong, Kilbane (125) appeared to be weakened by body punches, and following a right to the jaw he went down to be counted out on the 1.54 mark, despite giving ringsiders the impression that he could have got to his feet had he wanted to.

 

Finally, Johnny Dundee, a veteran of 294 contests and the holder of the NYSAC title following his victory over Danny Frush, would get his chance to unify the title when being contracted as Criqui’s first challenger. A fast-moving, crafty fighter who knew his way around a ring blindfold, he had won 70 contests, drawn 18, lost 11, participated in one no contest and run up 194 no-decisions in a career that started in 1910.

 

26 July 1923. Johnny Dundee w pts 15 Eugene Criqui

Venue: Polo Grounds, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Jack O’Sullivan.

Fight Summary: Boxing at his supreme best to win the title by a unanimous decision, Dundee (124¼) was well on top of Criqui (124¼) throughout, flooring him heavily in the opening round, twice again in the second, and in the 15th. With his back to the ropes the Frenchman was being pounded without return when the final bell came to his aid. At no time did the NY/NBA junior lightweight title holder look likely to lose, but Criqui’s bravery under fire left a lasting impression on all who witnessed the contest, his ability to keep going when many would have been retired being truly remarkable.

 

When Dundee relinquished the title on 20 August 1924 due to difficulty in making the weight, the NYSAC organised an elimination tournament to be held exclusively in Madison Square Garden. Six men were invited to take part, namely Lou Paluso, Louis Kid Kaplan, Bobby Garcia, Mike Dundee, Jose Lombardo and Danny Kramer. Unfortunately, protests from Babe Herman and Billy DeFoe, which eventually found support, were filed too late as the first round had already been completed on 21 November 1924. Ten-round decisions being secured by Kaplan over Garcia, Kramer over Dundee and Lombardo over Paluso, before the semi-final leg saw Kaplan kayo Lombardo in four rounds on 12 December 1924, while Kramer received a bye. Becoming the NYSAC champion after stopping Kramer inside nine rounds on 2 January 1925, Kaplan was looking to make his first defence. Fighting on the same bill, Babe Herman (124½) stopped Billy DeFoe (126) in the eighth of a 12-rounder after the latter’s handlers threw the towel in, and in doing so was told by the NYSAC that he would now be considered as the next title challenger. It was then agreed by the NYSAC that if Herman could get by Bobby Garcia he would be Kaplan’s next challenger. Further to that, the fight was made for Madison Square Garden on 20 February at the featherweight limit. Following a 12-round draw, a rematch which went ahead at the Armoury, Waterbury, Connecticut on 13 March saw Garcia (124) outpoint Herman (125) over 12 rounds. Prior to that contest, it was stated that the winner would meet Kaplan for the title in Waterbury and would be recognised by the NBA. Unfortunately for Garcia, after losing two of his next three fights Herman was in poll position. Regardless of pressure mounting on Kaplan to make his first defence, the IBU announced on 7 June that they were recognising him as champion, a statement that was supported by the NBA soon after. A week or so later, it was reported that Kaplan had signed for a defence against Mascart in NYC, but when this was challenged by Herman the NYSAC stated that Kaplan’s first defence would have to be against the latter. It was then reported that the NYSAC would not be allowing Kaplan to fight again in the State until that fight had taken place. Eventually, on 2 July, Kaplan was told by the NYSAC that he could defend his title against Herman anywhere in the world, and having reached an agreement with the latter the match was made for Waterbury on 27 August. Kaplan, an aggressive fighter who did not believe in taking a backward step, had put together 51 wins, 11 draws, 12 losses and 20 no-decisions since starting out as a pro in 1918, while Herman had turned over a year later and had participated in 108 contests. A clever box-fighter with a dig, Herman had beaten men like Tommy Noble and Benny Gould in his surge to the top.

 

27 August 1925. Louis Kid Kaplan drew 15 Babe Herman

Venue: Brassco Park, Waterbury, Connecticut, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Jack Sheehan.

Fight Summary: With Kaplan (126) displaying none of his hitting powers and appearing listless after problems making the weight, Herman (125) seemed to be well on his way to the title, having given a great display of jabbing and crossing, especially to the body. Eventually, over the remaining three rounds, Kaplan put Herman under a good deal of pressure, but it certainly did not warrant him sharing the referee’s verdict with the latter. The verdict led to the NBA, among others, calling for a return bout as soon as possible in order to clear up the championship.

 

18 December 1925. Louis Kid Kaplan w pts 15 Babe Herman

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Tommy Sheridan.

Fight Summary: Although the winner would be generally recognised as the champion the return match between the pair was a disappointing affair, more grappling and mauling than real fighting, and while Kaplan (125) displayed what little aggression there was, Herman (125¼), the better boxer of the two, was content to hold. The one bright moment came in the tenth when the challenger was sent spinning to the floor having previously rocked Kaplan, but from then onwards he went back on the defensive without much thought of winning. The decision in Kaplan’s favour was unanimous.

 

28 June 1926. Louis Kid Kaplan w rsc 10 (15) Bobby Garcia

Venue: East Hartford Velodrome, Hartford, Connecticut, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Henry J. Gerrity.

Fight Summary: Defending his title in front of a 15,000 strong crowd, Kaplan (125½) floored Garcia (124½) seven times in all, three times in the eighth, three times in the ninth, and once in the tenth when a right hand to the left eye split it open and a vicious left hook to the body put the challenger down for a count of ‘nine’. On rising and grasping the referee, Garcia, who had been generally outclassed in every session bar the fourth, was rescued by the third man on the 54-second mark when it was clear that he could no longer carry on.

 

Continuing to have difficulty making the weight, and under pressure from the NYSAC to defend against his number one challenger, Red Chapman, who was already booked to meet him at Queensboro Stadium, Queens, NYC, New York on 27 July, Kaplan relinquished the title on 7 July. The world title would next be settled when the top-ranked Benny Bass, holder of the Pennsylvanian version of the title after defeating Red Chapman, was matched against Tony Canzoneri, ranked at number two. Nicknamed ‘The Fish’, the compact Bass, sporting power in either hand, was rated the hardest hitter in the division by several good judges, including Jack Dempsey, the former heavyweight champion, and was a great body puncher. He was also very experienced for a 23-year-old youngster, having won 70 of 121 contests, with two draws, six losses, 41 no-decision affairs and two no contests making up the number. Interestingly, in his last 66 contests only two men had beaten him - Andy Martin, who had twice done the trick, and Pete Sarmiento. Canzoneri had already been in contention for bantam honours, and despite not reaching his 20th birthday, with 56 fights under his belt comprising 44 wins, seven draws, three defeats and two no-decision affairs he was ready for the championship. After beating Johnny Dundee on points over 15 rounds, Canzoneri strengthened his position when taking ten-round decisions at 126lbs over Ignacio Fernandez and Bud Taylor. Unfortunately, with the Canzoneri v Bass fight made for 27 January 1928, Bass was forced to cancel due to a heavy cold and a badly-cut thumb which had become infected. Although the contest was rescheduled for 10 February 1928, the NYSAC suspended Bass and imposed a forfeit on both fighters to cover weight-making and illness, something that was unheard of. It was at this stage that the NYSAC recognised Canzoneri as their champion.

 

10 February 1928. Tony Canzoneri w pts 15 Benny Bass

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Donovan.

Fight Summary: Not favoured prior to the fight due to the boxing public reckoning he was not game enough, Bass (126), despite losing on points, made them eat their words as he finished on his feet after fighting on for 12 rounds with a broken collarbone. Outclassed in most of the first nine rounds, and being on the verge of a kayo in the third when the bell saved him following a terrific left hook on the jaw, Bass fought Canzoneri (125½) to a standstill for the remainder of the fight. In winning the split decision, Canzoneri displayed great ring generalship when staving off the desperate Bass, having earlier produced box-fighting of the highest order.

 

Canzoneri’s first defence would be against Andre Routis, who had first decided to ply his wares in America in August 1926, having lost his French bantam crown. Following a non-title defeat over 12 closely fought rounds at the hands of Canzoneri at the Broadway Arena, Brooklyn, NYC, New York on 22 November 1926, he mixed with varying success before popping back home to defeat the future bantamweight champion, Panama Al Brown, and draw with England’s Johnny Cuthbert. Postponed due to Canzoneri being ill, Routis beat Sammy Dorfman (2), Ignacio Fernandez, Carl Duane and Vic Burrone while biding his time for a crack at the title. In 77 contests, the clever Routis had won 52, drawn seven and lost 18.

 

28 September 1928. Andre Routis w pts 15 Tony Canzoneri

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Eddie Forbes.

Fight Summary: As strong as an ox and never once slackening, Routis (125½) set up a relentless body attack which gradually wore Canzoneri (125) down and gained him two of the three judges’ votes. Although he had concentrated on the body, Routis, cut on the left eye in the 11th, began to send in some stinging head punches, one of which gashed Canzoneri’s face in the 13th round. At the final bell Routis was as fresh as when he started.

 

27 May 1929. Andre Routis w rsc 3 (15) Buster Brown

Venue: Carlin’s Arena, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Harry Ertle.

Fight Summary: Although making it interesting for a couple of rounds it was soon clear that the challenger, Brown (125), was no match for Routis (125½), and early in the third session he was in real trouble, being soundly punished by rights and lefts to the body. Dropped for a count of seven, upon getting up he was immediately decked for another ‘seven’ count before being dumped by a vicious right to the pit of the stomach. With no way back, the referee halted the bout after the towel was thrown in by Brown’s corner.

 

After Routis was booked to defend his title in New York on 22 August, possibly against Kid Chocolate, the proposed promotion ultimately fell through when the NYSAC decided that because Routis’ manager, Joe Jacobs, was currently under suspension in New York the champion could not fight there. When Routis signed up to defend against Battling Battalino, Nat Fleischer, writing in The Ring magazine, stated that it was regrettable that the working agreement between the NYSAC and the Connecticut Boxing Commission was broken when Thomas E. Donaghue, the State’s lone arbiter, sanctioned the match for Hartford. Fleischer went on to say that Routis should not have been held responsible for his stablemate, Max Schmeling, and his manager’s indiscretions, while a working agreement was a working agreement and should have been respected. The hard-punching Battalino, who had been a pro for just over two years, had put together 21 contests, winning 18, drawing twice and losing just once. Prior to fighting for pay, he had been the 1927 American national AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) champion.

 

23 September 1929. Battling Battalino w pts 15 Andre Routis

Venue: Hurley’s Stadium, Hartford, Connecticut, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Billy Conway.

Fight Summary: Coming off the back of a ten-round points win over Panama Al Brown on 26 July in Hartford, Battalino (124½) was just too young and too fresh for a fighter who had lost his previous four contests and was just one more defeat away from retirement. A vicious fight from start to finish, Routis (125½), cut over the left eye in the first round, was always aggressively looking to work the body, while the challenger, the harder hitter of the pair, scored well with a mixture of longer punches and heavy hooks to the head to warrant the referee’s decision. With a maximum score of five points for each round, Conway, the sole arbiter, gave a perfect 75 to Battalino, who was unfortunately put out of action until January 1930 after breaking a hand.

 

15 July 1930. Battling Battalino w co 5 (15) Ignacio Fernandez

Venue: Hurley’s Stadium, Hartford, Connecticut, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Billy Conway.

Fight Summary: A disappointing affair saw Fernandez (126), who had never been decked previously, floored six times in round two by Battalino (125½) before somehow surviving through to the fifth when he was counted out at 2.50 of the session. According to newspaper reports the majority of the crowd thought it was a fake, especially with the challenger showing such poor form despite having gone the distance with Battalino in a non-title fight six months earlier.

 

12 December 1930. Battling Battalino w pts 15 Kid Chocolate

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Donovan.

Fight Summary: Boxing brilliantly, after sending the champion to the floor in the first round Chocolate (125) seemed well on his way to the title, his blinding fists doing much damage to Battalino’s features as he appeared to land the more correct punches. However, Battalino (124½), who never took a backward step while fighting both aggressively and resolutely throughout, was adjudged the winner on all three judges’ cards in what appeared to be a travesty of justice to erudite ringsiders. Nat Fleischer, of The Ring magazine, made the valid point that in New York fights were obviously being scored on aggression first and correctly delivered blows second.

 

22 May 1931. Battling Battalino w pts 15 Fidel LaBarba

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Kid McPartland.

Fight Summary: Right from the opening bell Battalino (126) pressured and hurt his challenger, hammering in blows from both hands to take the first four rounds. Battalino then proceeded to outbox as well as outfight LaBarba (125½), who futilely tried to keep him at bay with left jabs and hooks. Unfortunately for LaBarba he was generally too busy keeping his defences in place to be a threat, and although he put a few rounds in the bag later on the decision in Battalino's favour was unanimous.

 

23 July 1931. Battling Battalino w pts 10 Freddie Miller

Venue: Redland Field, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Lou Bauman.

Fight Summary: Tearing out at the opening bell, when Battalino (125½) significantly hurt Miller (124) with his first punch the latter got on his bike from then on. Not content with just winning the unanimous points decision, the champion put Miller down in the eighth with a brutal right to the solar plexus, and although the local boy fought back with vigour another right to the body sent him down for ‘four’ immediately prior to the final bell.

 

4 November 1931. Battling Battalino w pts 10 Earl Mastro

Venue: The Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Dave Barry.

Fight Summary: Battalino (125½) absorbed all that the challenger could throw before coming back with harder blows of his own. Twice Mastro (124¼) was down, in the second from a right hand to the jaw and in the sixth when a terrific right to the body dropped him for ‘seven’. For that Mastro claimed a foul, but he soon got up when the referee was not interested, and right through to the final bell both men ripped, slugged and whaled away with everything they had. It was close, with two judges, including the referee, voting for the champion and one making it a draw.

 

On 8 January 1932, the NYSAC vacated the title after Battalino had weighed in at 135½lbs for a prospective defence against Lew Feldman. The bout had been called off under the NYSAC ruling that if a featherweight scaled nine pounds more than his opponent it would not be sanctioned. Thus, when Feldman tried to claim the title it was pointed out to him that under the same set of rules a fighter could only win the title in the ring. Then, on 27 January 1932, at the Music Hall Sports Arena, Cincinnati, Ohio, Battalino forfeited the NBA version of the title on the scales after coming in three pounds overweight for a defence against stablemate, Freddie Miller. Although the fight went ahead, following the announcement that Miller had been declared the winner after Battalino visited the canvas in the third round without being hit the result was retrospectively declared a no contest. For these actions, Battalino was suspended and fined $5,000. The next time my version of the 'world' title was on the line came when the second-ranked Seaman Tommy Watson signed to meet Kid Chocolate, rated the leading man in the division for the latter’s NYSAC version of the world title. Always ready for a dust-up, the hardy Watson had an outstanding record of 91 wins, two draws and three losses, and had recently beaten Fidel LaBarba on his American debut, while the brilliant box-fighting Chocolate, nicknamed ‘The Cuban Bon Bon’, was also the junior lightweight champion. Having turned pro in 1927 Chocolate would come to the ring with 88 wins, one draw and five defeats on his slate, and since losing to Jack Kid Berg for the second time had run up wins over Eddie Shea, Johnny Farr (3), Lew Feldman for the vacant NYSAC title and LaBarba in his last 12 contests, the fight against the latter being a defence of his newly won NYSAC title.  

 

19 May 1933. Kid Chocolate w pts 15 Seaman Tommy Watson

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NY/GB. Referee: Pete Hartley.

Fight Summary: Rough, tough and willing, Watson (125½) gave it his best shot as he looked to bash up an off-key Chocolate (123½), who seemed to have gone backwards as a first-class fighter, his speed and skill of yore sadly missing. If Watson, who was downed somewhat luckily in the tenth round, had been able to vary his game plan instead of getting inside and banging to the body regardless it could have been different. Unfortunately for Watson he lacked the guile required to win, the unanimous decision against him coming as no surprise.

 

Unable to make the weight any longer, Chocolate relinquished all of his versions of the title on 17 February 1934. My version of the 'world' title title was next up for grabs when the top-ranked Freddie Miller’s next defence of the NBA title he had won when beating Tommy Paul would be against Nel Tarleton, rated at number two in the world by The Ring magazine. Miller, who had successfully defended the NBA title against Baby Arizmendi, Speedy Dado, Abie Israel, Jackie Sharkey, Paul Dazzo and Gene Espinosa, was a southpaw who would travel anywhere if the price was right, and had already packed 148 fights into a career of just seven-and-a-half years, winning 106, drawing twice, losing ten, and taking part in 29 no-decision affairs and a no contest. Having regained the British title that he had lost to Seaman Tommy Watson, coming into the Miller fight Tarleton’s record showed 88 wins, seven draws and 11 defeats in a career that kicked off in 1925. A brilliant technical fighter, despite lacking a knockout punch Tarleton could outbox anybody on his day.  

 

20 September 1934. Freddie Miller w pts 15 Nel Tarleton

Venue: Anfield Stadium, Liverpool, England. Recognition: NBA/GB. Referee: C. H. Douglas.

Fight Summary: Even though Tarleton (126) put up good resistance, his boxing being a delight to watch, Miller (125½) was always one step ahead, especially when coming in under the defence to fire off southpaw blows to head and body. The referee’s verdict in Miller's favour did not come as a surprise. Smashed to the floor in round four it had looked all over for the challenger, but he came back well despite having great difficulty locating Miller’s right leads and being unable to get his own punches off effectively. Having been warned for a low blow in the 12th Tarleton was put under severe pressure for the remaining rounds, finishing the fight with his right eye completely closed.

 

17 February 1935. Freddie Miller w co 1 (15) Jose Girones

Venue: The Bullring, Barcelona, Spain. Recognition: NBA/IBU. Referee: Juan Casanovas.

Fight Summary: As a return fight there was tremendous anticipation in this one, due to the first meeting ending in a non-title disqualification win for the Spaniard some 12 weeks earlier. Unfortunately for the fans this time around Miller (122) left nothing to chance, and following a terrific left uppercut Girones (125) was counted out at 2.17 of the first round. At this moment in time Girones was not even the European champion, having been deposed for not defending the title since November 1933.

At this moment in time Girones was not even the European champion, having been deposed for not defending the title since November 1933. Eventually, that honour would soon be in the hands of France’s Maurice Holtzer, who outpointed Vittorio Tamagnini over 15 rounds at the Indoor Cycling Velodrome, Paris, France on 26 March. Not only did Holtzer become the European champion, but he was also given the number one rating by The Ring magazine, a position he held until January 1936. Despite being continually ignored when it came to world title fights, along with a number of European champions, the IBU would eventually recognise him as a world champion.

 

12 June 1935. Freddie Miller w pts 15 Nel Tarleton

Venue: Stanley Racetrack, Liverpool, England. Recognition: NBA/GB. Referee: Jack Smith.

Fight Summary: Having his second crack at Miller (125½), the classy Tarleton (126) looked like he would not be lasting the distance when put down in the opening round from a body punch, prior to taking a lot of punishment over the next four sessions. However, he surprised everyone by coming back strongly to win the middle rounds, only for the champion to come again and have his hand raised without hesitation by the referee at the final bell.

 

22 October 1935. Freddie Miller w pts 15 Vernon Cormier

Venue: The Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Recognition: NBA. Referee: Joe O’Connor.

Fight Summary: Boxing on the defensive for all but the 15th round, when he finally cut loose Miller (124½) looked a class above Cormier (125½) as he waltzed to the unanimous points decision in his favour. To be fair to the challenger he never stopped trying to get in a finishing blow, even managing to cut Miller on the left eye, but after taking a battering in the last session he was saved by the final bell.

 

18 February 1936. Freddie Miller w pts 12 Johnny Pena

Venue: Crystal Pool, Seattle, Washington, USA. Recognition: NBA. Referee: Tommy McCarthy.

Fight Summary: Outclassed, the brave Pena (123½), badly cut early on, took a beating round after round prior to being put down for a long count in the 11th. Earlier, in the fourth and eighth rounds, the referee had wanted to stop the fight but was overruled by the Washington Boxing Commissioners who felt that the challenger should continue. Although the unanimous points decision was in favour of Miller (124), the cheers were for Pena.

 

2 March 1936. Freddie Miller w pts 15 Petey Sarron

Venue: Coral Gables Coliseum, Miami, Florida, USA. Recognition: NBA. Referee: Leo Shea.

Scorecard: 6-3-6.

Fight Summary: A veteran of over 11 years and 127 contests in the ring, the unorthodox Sarron (125) gave the champion some bad moments, throwing punches in from all angles, and due to the ‘No-Foul Rule’ applying in Florida the unfortunate Miller (125) was twice forced to take time out after being struck at least half a dozen times with low blows in the last third of the fight. However, having won ten rounds in decisive fashion, Miller gamely struggled through to the finish to receive the referee’s decision.

 

Having taken in two more non-title contests, Miller’s next defence would be against the same man. Why Miller would want a return against against a man who had consistently fouled him in their previous contest was strange. With a record of 84 wins, 11 draws, 18 defeats and 15 no-decision contests since starting out in 1924, Sarron was a jumping-jack of a fighter who often appeared to have been wound up, such was his ability to keep going non-stop.

 

11 May 1936. Petey Sarron w pts 15 Freddie Miller

Venue: Griffith Stadium, Washington DC, USA. Recognition: NBA. Referee: Eddie Lafond.

Fight Summary: Having trouble making the weight, especially after being forced to take a five-mile walk in broiling sun to meet the championship requirement, Miller (126) was not his usual self. If you add in the fact that Sarron (125½) repeatedly held for at least half of every round and occasionally tossed his punches in low, it was hardly surprising. Even though the decision was by a majority, Nat Fleischer, writing in The Ring magazine, implied that Sarron should not have been given the verdict due to all the holding, pulling and other objectionable tactics that were used by him. Strangely, the challenger only had one round taken away for his misdemeanours.

 

22 July 1936. Petey Sarron w pts 15 Baby Manuel

Venue: The Sportatorium, Dallas, Texas, USA. Recognition: NBA. Referee: Bennie Bickers.

Fight Summary: This was Texas’ first titular battle, and Sarron (125¼) clearly won the unanimous decision over his southpaw challenger despite being dropped in the first and tenth rounds from solid crosses. He was just too busy for Manuel (124) in recording his second win over the swarthy Cuban, who was down himself in the 12th without a count being administered.

 

4 September 1937. Petey Sarron w pts 12 Freddie Miller

Venue: Wanderers’ Arena, Johannesburg, South Africa. Recognition: NBA/South Africa. Referee: Tiny Dean.

Fight Summary: Having lost on points over ten rounds at catchweights to Miller at the same venue on 31 July, according to some reports Sarron was lucky to win by a majority decision, the 20,000 plus crowd showing their displeasure on the result. It was certainly a battle of contrasting styles, with Miller (124¾) being cool and clever on the counter while Sarron (125¼) bounced around the ring tirelessly, bobbing, weaving and swinging in punches with no regard for defence. It was interesting to note that Miller, who landed the cleaner and heavier punches, accepted the decision in a sportsmanlike manner. Miller had one more contest in South Africa before leaving for a tour of Britain.

 

Sarron’s next defence would be against Henry Armstrong in a fight that would be recognised throughout America as settling the featherweight issue. The all-action Armstrong had won his last 22 contests, 21 of them inside the distance, and had 75 wins, six draws and 12 defeats to his name since starting out in 1931.

 

29 October 1937. Henry Armstrong w co 6 (15) Petey Sarron

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY. Referee: Arthur Donovan.

Fight Summary: Making a fast start, Sarron (124) punched his way through Armstrong’s defence in the opening two rounds, before the latter was penalised for a low blow in the third. Armstrong (126) then took the fight to the NBA champion in the fourth, winning a session that was action packed. The fifth round saw Armstrong put Sarron through the ropes from a body attack and land some heavy punches to the head before cutting loose in the sixth with a heavy bombardment to the body that had his man bewildered. A heavy right took all the wind out of him, but having somehow recovered Sarron came back trying to mix it before taking a big right to the jaw and being counted out in a sitting position on the 2.36 mark. This contest was recognised throughout America as being for the world title, and was followed by further recognition from the IBU on 20 April 1938.

 

Armstrong relinquished his titles on 13 September 1938 after becoming world champion at lightweight and welterweight in his two previous fights. The next time the world title was on the line came when the NYSAC champion, Joey Archibald, met Leo Rodak, the NBA title holder, in a unification contest on 18 April 1939. Rodak had won the Maryland version of the title when beating Jackie Wilson and had then successfully defended it against Freddie Miller. With 46 wins, five draws and eight losses on his slate, he had been appointed the NBA champion on 10 November 1938 after Joey Archibald, the NYSAC title holder following his win over Mike Belloise, had refused to give the body an affirmative regarding a unification fight. A pro since 1932, and a well-rounded fighter who knew his way around the ring, Archibald had participated in 69 contests, winning 53, drawing three, while losing 15.

 

18 April 1939. Joey Archibald w pts 15 Leo Rodak

Venue: The Auditorium, Providence, Rhode Island, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Tim Ferrick.

Fight Summary: Fighting to unify the title, Archibald (123¾), who was cut over the left eye in the second round, began to fall behind in the early stages. Then, coming back hard from the halfway mark to pick up the action by the scruff of the neck, Archibald was never headed from thereon in despite Rodak (125) giving it a real go in the 14th round. While there were no knockdowns it was certainly interesting, and had the NBA champion, Rodak, been more aggressive in what was a close fight, with just one round separating the pair, it would have been his hand that the referee held up at the final bell not Archibald’s.

 

28 September 1939. Joey Archibald w pts 15 Harry Jeffra

Venue: Griffith Stadium, Washington DC, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Benny Leonard.

Fight Summary: Starting fast, Jeffra (124¼) took five of the first seven rounds before Archibald (124¾) got into his stride, and from then on the fight see-sawed to and fro, with first one and then the other getting hard punches off. It was always going to be difficult to find a winner, Nat Fleischer, of The Ring magazine, giving it to Jeffra by one round on the basis of three big rounds in his favour when he carried the champion before him. Regardless, when the split decision was announced it was Archibald who got it.

 

After failing to defend his title within the six-month ruling and with Scalzo first in the queue, Archibald forfeited NBA recognition on 29 March 1940. Having come close in their first contest, the skilful Jeffra, a former NBA/NY bantamweight champion, would be the top-ranked Archibald’s next challenger. Since leaving the 118lb ranks, Jeffra had won 11 of 12 contests, beating Lou Transparenti, Al Mancini and Baby Yack, and was rated at number six by The Ring magazine.

 

20 May 1940. Harry Jeffra w pts 15 Joey Archibald

Venue: The Coliseum, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Recognition: Maryland/NY/Lineal. Referee: Arthur Donovan.

Fight Summary: Making a great start, Jeffra (123¼) had Archibald (122) down twice in the second round from cracking rights to the jaw, only for the latter to regain his strength and last the distance. The former NBA/NY bantamweight champion was always one step ahead even when both tired, and although Archibald concentrated on the mid-section to have some success Jeffra continued to hit back with heavy head punches to deserve the unanimous decision.

 

29 July 1940. Harry Jeffra w pts 15 Spider Armstrong

Venue: Carlin’s Park, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Recognition: Maryland/NY/Lineal. Referee: Nat Fleischer.

Scorecards: 76-74, 76-74, 78-72.

Fight Summary: Showing superior strength and conditioning, Jeffra (124½) was given his toughest defence when opposed by the two-fisted Armstrong (125). The Scottish-Canadian pushed all the way, only to be met by overarm rights and solid body blows in what was a see-saw battle in the heat that took a lot out of both men. After the opening third, Jeffra, who had a point deducted in round three, gradually assumed control, having Armstrong down from a short right to the jaw in the 12th. The final three rounds were hectic to say the least, and in the 15th Jeffra ripped open a cut on Armstrong’s left eye and swarmed all over him until the final bell.

 

Following on from his win over Armstrong, the Maryland promoters were looking to arrange a Jeffra return against Joey Archibald early in 1941, only for the champion to be put out of action after damaging his right hand on 6 January 1941 when winning a non-title contest on points over 12 rounds against Bill Speary. However, Jeffra would be back towards the end of April 1941 in a couple of warm-up contests before taking on Archibald.

 

12 May 1941. Joey Archibald w pts 15 Harry Jeffra

Venue: Griffith Stadium, Washington DC, USA. Recognition: Maryland/NY/Lineal. Referee: Eddie Lafond.

Fight Summary: Having been the aggressor most of the way, with Archibald (123) content to hold and occasionally use the left hook to advantage, it was some shock at the end of the scrap when the referee gave his vote to Jeffra (123¾) while the two judges saw the challenger as the winner. Writing in The Ring magazine, Nate Phillips reported that in his opinion Jeffra’s general aggression, relentless body attacks, harder punching and fast closing finish won him the fight. Both men were penalised for low blows, Jeffra twice and Archibald once.

 

The hard-hitting Chalky Wright would be the next challenger for Archibald. A veteran of the ring, having turned pro in 1928 and run up 169 contests, with 122 wins, 17 draws, 28 defeats and two no contests, he had beaten Claude Varner, Georgie Hansford (2), Everette Rightmire, Saverio Turielo, Paul Junior, Norment Quarles (2), Sal Bartolo, Lloyd Pine and Jackie Wilson, and had been on the verge of a breakthrough for some time.

 

11 September 1941. Chalky Wright w co 11 (15) Joey Archibald

Venue: Griffith Stadium, Washington DC, USA. Recognition: - Maryland/NY/Lineal. Referee: Harry Volkman.

Fight Summary: After 13 years of mitt tossing, and having been recognised as the uncrowned champion because of an outstanding record, the 30-year-old Wright (124) finally made his dream come true when kayoing Archibald (124) at 0.54 of the 11th round. Prior to the kayo from a cracking right cross, he had continually been the aggressor, having staggered his rival in the first, led all the way on points apart from the sixth, and had put Archibald down twice. It had been a long, hard road for the hard-hitting Wright, who had marked time by giving away bundles of weight and beating top-ranked men from higher divisions.

 

19 June 1942. Chalky Wright w rsc 10 (15) Harry Jeffra

Venue: Oriole Park, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Recognition: Maryland/NY/Lineal. Referee: Eddie Brockman.

Fight Summary: Although Jeffra (124½) started well, using the left jab to keep Wright (124) at bay, by the fourth round the champion was beginning to pin him in the corners where he would get in right-hand smashes to the body. By the sixth, Jeffra, now cut on the left eye, was starting to tire. In the ninth session when definitely weakening from the pace Jeffra was belted by a right hander to the jaw which put him down, only to be saved by the bell. There was no doubt now that it was going to be just a matter of time, and under heavy pressure he was rescued from taking further punishment by the referee in the tenth on the 1.50 mark. Despite having the seventh round docked after landing a low blow it was never in doubt that Wright would win, the only doubt being when. From thereon in, Wright would only adhere to the NYSAC ruling regarding title fights.

 

25 September 1942. Chalky Wright w pts 15 Lulu Costantino

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NY/Lineal. Referee: Billy Cavanagh.

Fight Summary: Pacing himself brilliantly, Wright (125¼) fairly sauntered through the 15 rounds to land the win, the only surprise being that it was by a split decision after the referee had voted for Costantino (125). According to one scribe the challenger could only have won five rounds at best, and one of those, the 13th, would have come by way of a foul as he back-pedalled all night, while merely flicking out the left. In not wasting a blow, Wright continuously tracked the youngster, hitting him with left hooks to the midriff along with the occasional right-hand smash to the jaw as he rolled on towards his next challenger.

 

Wright’s next defence would be against the unbeaten speedster, Willie Pep, who was on 53 straight wins with victories over Davey Crawford, Willie Roache, Johnny Compo, Spider Armstrong, Joey Archibald (2) and Bobby Poison Ivy under his belt. Pep was a brilliant boxer, who had speed of thought and hand that matched his footwork.

 

20 November 1942. Willie Pep w pts 15 Chalky Wright

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NY/Lineal. Referee: Arthur Donovan.

Scorecards: 10-4-1, 11-4, 11-4.

Fight Summary: Put simply, Pep (125½) literally ran away with the title as he boxed on the back foot non-stop along the ropes and in and out of corners, flicking out the left-hand to secure the verdict. Apart from rounds five through to seven, when Wright (125¾) cut Pep’s left eye and beat him around the body to shade the rounds, the challenger kept running to leave the older man punching away at thin air. For the many spectators, apart from Pep’s fans, it was a disappointment as they expected to see a winner coming forward not in retreat.

 

8 June 1943. Willie Pep w pts 15 Sal Bartolo

Venue: Braves’ Field, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Recognition: NY/Lineal. Referee: Johnny Martin.

Fight Summary: This was the pair’s second meeting, Pep having outpointed Bartolo over ten rounds in a catchweight bout on 9 April. While that scrap was relatively close this one was not as the champion won going away, his left-jab-and-hook routine working to perfection. There were only two rounds where Bartolo (125½) had any joy, the sixth and the tenth, and apart from that he was not at the races as Pep (126) jabbed and moved to a unanimous points win. Although the Massachusetts Boxing Commission gave their support to what was the New York version of the championship, having just three months earlier allowed an NBA title fight to take place in the State, it was more a matter of backing their own man, Bartolo, than taking sides politically. From here through to the beginning of April 1944 Pep was inactive due to being called up by the Navy, but back in the ring he was allowed the normal six-month period before having to make another defence.

 

29 September 1944. Willie Pep w pts 15 Chalky Wright

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NY/Lineal. Referee: Frank Fullam.

Scorecards: 10-5, 10-3-2, 12-3.

Fight Summary: Yet again giving Wright (125½) no chance to close him down, apart from in the sixth and seventh rounds, their return fight saw Pep (125¼) using every inch of the ring to jab, duck and move to make life difficult for the ageing challenger. Pep did not take any chances in what turned out to be a repetition of their first contest, the unanimous decision in his favour being a formality. Incidentally, this was the first live televised championship fight ever shown in America.

 

19 February 1945. Willie Pep w pts 15 Phil Terranova

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NY/Lineal. Referee: Arthur Donovan.

Scorecards: 10-5, 10-3-2, 12-2-1.

Fight Summary: Getting his left jab working overtime and fighting when he had to, Pep (124¾) gave his rugged challenger a boxing lesson, controlling the fight in all but a couple of rounds. Even when Terranova (125) caught him heavily, especially in the fourth round when he was sent reeling from a long left hook to the jaw that had him almost out on his feet, he was able to cover up and get out of harm's way in time to recover. Cut under the left eye in the 12th, Pep kept out of trouble from then on by back-pedalling continuously to the final bell.

 

A month later Pep was inducted into the US Army, and on getting back in the ring again in October a unification contest with Sal Bartolo, the NBA champion, was made.

 

7 June 1946. Willie Pep w co 12 (15) Sal Bartolo

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Frank Fullam.

Fight Summary: Content to stick to his boxing in the early rounds, Pep (126) merely bided his time while piling up the points, but in the fifth and eighth he gave the rugged Bartolo (125¼) a taste of things to come when cracking in some solid blows. Then, in the 12th session, after Pep finally opened up, a short right and left hook followed by a terrific right to the jaw left Bartolo on the floor to be counted out on the 2.41 mark. This was Pep’s 100th victory in 102 contests.

 

22 August 1947. Willie Pep w rsc 12 (15) Jock Leslie

Venue: Atwood Stadium, Flint, Michigan, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Clarence Rosen.

Fight Summary: Even though he was dangerous at all times, and hurt the champion on occasion, especially in the early rounds, Leslie (125) was gradually dismantled as Pep (125¾) ducked inside most of what came his way before replying with lightning left jabs and right crosses. By the eighth it looked to be a foregone conclusion, with Leslie cut over the left eye and being jabbed silly, and in the 12th Pep cut loose to put his rival down for ‘nine’ with solid lefts and a heavy right. On Leslie staggering up unsteadily, Pep, ripping away to the body, dropped him again before the referee, who could have counted him out several times, stopped the contest at 0.45 of the session.

24 February 1948. Willie Pep w rsc 10 (15) Humberto Sierra

Venue: Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Jack Dempsey.

Fight Summary: It was little more than a workout for the champion as he put Sierra (126) down twice in the first two sessions before giving a brilliant display of defensive boxing and counter-punching until deciding it was time to pick up the pace again. With the rain coming down heavily in the seventh, Pep (125½) went to work, dealing out vicious two-handed punishment, and in the ninth he dropped Sierra for ‘five’ with a short right to the jaw. Although the Cuban made it to the bell the end was in sight. Coming out for the tenth Sierra was set upon and driven to the ropes before a heavy right sent him crashing. With 22 seconds on the clock, the referee had seen enough and immediately called it off.

 

For the best part of a year, Sandy Saddler, a tall, awkward, and extremely tough customer with an exceptional reach coupled to punching power, had been the outstanding challenger. He had beaten the future lightweight champion, Joe Brown, Oscar Calles, Miguel Acevedo, Orlando Zulueta and Willie Roache among others in 94 contests, so it came as no surprise that Pep’s next defence would be against him. The only blip on Saddler's copybook was a ten-round points defeat at the hands of Chico Rosa at The Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii on 29 June 1948, but had it not been for points being deducted in the fourth and seventh rounds he would have been returned the winner.

 

29 October 1948. Sandy Saddler w co 4 (15) Willie Pep

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Ruby Goldstein.

Fight Summary: Strangely uncertain and lacking his normal belief, Pep (125½) was but a shadow of his old self. Although outreached it was still a shock when he was floored twice by the challenger in the third round, first by a left and then by a right to the jaw. Many thought that he had been counted out the first time round when he still had one hand and a knee on the canvas after the referee called ‘ten’, but he was given the benefit of the doubt. Although Pep came out jabbing away in the fourth it did not fool Saddler (124), who stormed into his rival to drop him with a cracking right to the jaw. Pep tried in vain to get up, but with it being to no avail he was counted out on the 2.36 mark. Initially, Saddler was contracted to defend his title against Pep in line with the return clause agreement at the end of November before it was moved to February 1949.

 

11 February 1949. Willie Pep w pts 15 Sandy Saddler

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Eddie Joseph.

Scorecards: 10-5, 9-6, 9-5-1.

Fight Summary: Showing great resilience and a boxing brain to match, Pep (126) regained his old title with a brilliant display of hit-and-run boxing as he outgeneraled the hard-hitting champion to impress all three judges. Although Saddler (124) was the aggressor throughout he had great difficulty in dealing with Pep this time around, being constantly befuddled, especially when the little boxing master darted in, jabbing and hooking, moving this way and that, and ducking under punches while leaving him off balance with fast flurries of light blows. Saddler, continually stalking Pep, had his successes, nailing his man in the tenth and 14th sessions with heavy blows, but Pep survived. In the 15th Saddler cut loose, viciously pounding the head and body, but Pep, his face a mass of cuts and bruises, and holding on grimly, would not go down. It was a tremendous victory against the odds as well as being recognised as one of the most exciting fights ever held at the Garden.

 

20 September 1949. Willie Pep w rsc 7 (15) Eddie Compo

Venue: Municipal Stadium, Waterbury, Connecticut, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Bill Conway.

Fight Summary: Making the weight at the fourth attempt the champion won as he pleased when outboxing Compo (124½), who although a willing performer had never mixed at this level before. As early as the second round Compo was cut on the right eye, and despite crowding Pep (126) and making life difficult for him the latter opened up in the fifth to drop him for two counts of ‘nine’. In the sixth Compo’s left eye also began to close. Then, in the seventh, having been dropped for another ‘nine’ count, after Compo's corner threw in the towel 41 seconds into the round the referee called the fight off.

 

16 January 1950. Willie Pep w co 5 (15) Charley Riley

Venue: Kiel Auditorium, St Louis, Missouri, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Harry Kessler.

Fight Summary: Electing to box instead of moving in and looking for openings for power-packed rights, his normal style of fighting, Riley (125½) played right into the champion’s hands. Staying on the outside and dancing around his man, Pep (123½), merely biding his time, always looked to have plenty in hand. In the fifth, dispensing with what had gone before, after Pep unleashed a terrific right uppercut followed by a left hook Riley went down to be counted out after 1.05 of the round had elapsed.

 

17 March 1950. Willie Pep w pts 15 Ray Famechon

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Ruby Goldstein.

Scorecards: 10-3-2, 12-3, 9-3-3.

Fight Summary: Although Pep (124¾) took a commanding lead, scoring with stabbing lefts to the head and accurate counters as the challenger made the running, by the tenth round when beginning to tire his clever boxing began to falter. He still had too much for the Frenchman though, and as hard as Famechon (125) tried he could not break down Pep’s defences, which included a fair amount of grabbing and holding. The only time Famechon appeared to get through was in the 11th when two left hooks made their mark, but Pep, cut over the right eye, was ultimately good value for the unanimous verdict given to him by the judges.

 

Eventually, in early August, Sandy Saddler got his opportunity of a third meeting with Pep after giving way on financial issues. One of the reasons given for why it took so long to make the fight was because Charley Johnston, Saddler’s manager, was a prime mover in the Manager’s Guild which had been fighting a TV war with the International Boxing Club of New York that had only just been settled.

 

8 September 1950. Sandy Saddler w rtd 7 (15) Willie Pep

Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Ruby Goldstein.

Fight Summary: In what was a bitter contest, Saddler (124¾) regained the title from Pep (124¾) when the latter retired in his corner at the end of seventh round following a shoulder dislocation. Apart from being put down for ‘nine’ in the third by a hard left hook to the jaw and also losing the seventh, Pep was out in front, having given a superb exhibition of left-hand boxing, all three judges confirming that they had only managed to give Saddler two rounds at best. Following the fight, The Ring magazine intimated that it was the kidney punches delivered by Saddler in the seventh that had been the prime cause for Pep’s retirement.

 

With a rematch scheduled for 23 February 1951, Pep came back against the unknown Tommy Baker in a warm-up at The Auditorium, Hartford, Connecticut on 30 January 1951. However, despite winning easily inside four rounds he required 23 stitches to a head wound, an injury that saw the Saddler fight put back until the summer due to the latter’s commitments. At the end of May 1951, Saddler, now tired of waiting for Pep’s management to sort out a fight date, took in a tour of South America, winning four out of four before arriving home. Following that, the fight was set aside for the end of September 1951 in New York.

 

26 September 1951. Sandy Saddler w rtd 9 (15) Willie Pep

Venue: Polo Grounds, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Ray Miller.

Fight Summary: Quite clearly one of the dirtiest brawls ever seen in a championship contest, Saddler (125½) kept his hold on the title when Pep (125) retired at the end of the ninth round after being warned by the referee that if the holding and wrestling did not stop he would call the fight off. Right from the start the signs had been ominous, and in the second round Pep was dropped by a wicked left to the body for a count of ‘eight’, his right eye being damaged. But Pep came back to box beautifully at times before the fight degenerated into a free-for-all with Saddler twice wrestled to the floor, in the fifth and eighth, and both men and the referee finding themselves on the canvas in the sixth. The general feeling was that Saddler’s body-work, especially in round nine, was just too much for Pep and that the fight would possibly have been all over in the tenth if Pep had continued. Acting quickly, the NYSAC suspended both boxers for violating the rules, but by the end of October they lifted the suspension that had been placed on the champion on the grounds that he was more sinned against than sinner.

 

Prior to Saddler being called up for the Army in May 1952, it was agreed by all concerned that the title should be held in abeyance until he was once again available.

 

25 February 1955. Sandy Saddler w pts 15 Teddy Davis

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Harry Kessler.

Scorecards: 11-3-1, 11-3-1, 12-3.

Fight Summary: Not an awe-inspiring victory for Saddler (124½), but the successful defence of a title that had been dormant since September 1951. Although Saddler retained the title relatively easily against Davis (126), who became the most defeated challenger in history with 48 losses in 109 contests, he never looked like doing it inside the distance, and while dominating with long left jabs he failed to follow up any advantages. Davis, who finished with his left eye almost closed and a badly swollen right cheek, made Saddler miss a lot by dint of clever 18 movement, but recognised that his chance of winning the title went when he broke his right hand in the third.

 

18 January 1956. Sandy Saddler w rsc 13 (15) Flash Elorde

Venue: Cow Palace, San Francisco, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Ray Flores.

Fight Summary: Fighting mainly at close quarters in the early stages, Saddler (126) went to the front as his challenger seemed unable to fathom out what his next move was. However, Elorde (125) came alive in the sixth when he decided to fight his way out of the clinches and push Saddler to the ropes, this tactic holding him in good stead until he was cut over the left eye in the eighth. Fighting from a southpaw stance Elorde gave it everything in a supreme effort to turn the fight his way, but at 0.59 of the 13th the ringside doctor, having inspected his eye damage on three earlier occasions, advised the referee that he should call it off.

 

Saddler’s last appearance in the ring came on 14 April when he was outpointed by Larry Boardman in a non-title fight over ten rounds at The Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, which was followed by a bad car accident on 23 July that put him out of action for several months. When Saddler eventually got back into training towards the end of 1956 it was clear that all was not well, and with the weight division once again stagnating he was stripped by the NBA on 16 January 1957. Shortly after the NBA announcement the NYSAC called Saddler in for a physical examination and days later, on 21 January 1957, he relinquished his title when retiring as the undefeated champion. The reason given for his retirement was that he had suffered serious eye damage, but it was unclear at the time whether it was due to his ring career or the accident. Looking to find another world champion, following a series of eliminators set up by a World Championship Committee at its conclusion it would be Cherif Hamia who would meet Hogan Kid Bassey to decide the world title. Apart from walking into a right-hand punch and getting knocked out early on in his career, Hamia was a classy, sharp-punching fighter who had 30 wins, two draws and a single defeat on his record, having beaten Jacques Bataille, Aldo Pravisani, Jacques Dumnesnil, Francis Bonnardel, Manolo Garcia, Mohammed Chickaoui, Rudi Langer, Amleto Falcinelli, Robert Cohen, Carmelo Costa, Ike Chestnut, Berrios and Bobby Bell in the process. He was also noted for his speed of hand and foot. Since arriving in England at the end of 1951, Bassey had posted wins over Tommy Proffitt (2), Bobby Boland, Luis Romero (2), Sammy McCarthy, Sneyers (2), Percy Lewis (2) and Aldo Pravisani, and won the British Empire title from Billy Spider Kelly. Although he had suffered 11 defeats in 64 contests, while drawing twice, the steadily improving Bassey was right up there as a solid little box-fighter.

 

24 June 1957. Hogan Kid Bassey w rsc 10 (15) Cherif Hamia

Venue: Sports Palace, Paris, France. Recognition: World. Referee: Rene Schemann.

Fight Summary: Contested for the title relinquished by Sandy Saddler, Bassey (124¼) turned the odds upside down when defeating Hamia (125¾), but had to get off the floor at ‘seven’ from a cracking right hand in the second round as well as sustaining the following bombardment. However, by the fourth with his head cleared he was again controlling the rounds with excellent left jabs and vicious hooks to the body as Hamia began to lose heart. In the seventh, Hamia, now cut over the right eye, was badly wobbled as Bassey picked and banged his way to an opening which finally arrived in the tenth. In making a last-ditch effort, Hamia, his defences down, was caught by a left hook followed by a long right swing and a fusillade of blows that sent him to the floor, taking Bassey down with him. With both men back on their feet, Bassey really went to work, driving Hamia in front of him while raining in punches to send the Frenchman over the middle strand before he was rescued by the referee with 28 seconds of the round remaining.

 

1 April 1958. Hogan Kid Bassey w co 3 (15) Ricardo Moreno

Venue: Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Tommy Hart.

Fight Summary: After a torrid opening round in which both men hurt each other the champion boxed to instructions in the second, picking the dangerous, hard-punching Moreno (124¾) apart with well-placed shots while biding his time. At the start of the third, Bassey (124) let Moreno come to him before hammering in a couple of tremendous uppercuts which almost took the latter’s head off. Bassey then went after his man two-fistedly, cutting the space down and battering Moreno from one side of the ring to the other before unleashing a smashing right to the jaw which decked the Mexican, who desperately but unsuccessfully tried to get up prior to being counted out on the 2.56 mark.

 

As the number one contender was now Davey Moore, it was clear that Bassey’s next defence would almost certainly be against him. With the commissions waiving the six-month ruling on title defences, Bassey took in a tour of America, meeting and beating Willie Pep, Carmelo Costa and Ernesto Parra, while Moore knocked out Moreno inside a round at the Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles on 11 December to set up the title fight. Originally intended for February 1959, it was put back to allow Bassey’s manager, George Biddles, time to recover from a serious illness. Prior to destroying Moreno, Moore had scored 34 wins in 42 contests, but despite losing on five occasions and participating in a no contest he was unbeaten in his last ten. Very strong for a featherweight, the determined Moore augmented that with powerful combinations and good movement when beating Charley Riley, Eddie Burgin, Gil Cadilli, Isidro Martinez, Jose Luis Cotero, Fili Nava, Lauro Salas and Kid Anahuac (2).

 

18 March 1959. Davey Moore w rtd 13 (15) Hogan Kid Bassey

Venue: Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Tommy Hart.

Fight Summary: Moving into his stride early on, Bassey (125), working well with solid hooks to head and body, took the first five rounds relatively easily before disaster struck at the end of the seventh after the bell rang to end the round. It was then that the champion was caught by half a dozen solid punches when Moore (125½) failed to hear the bell before going back to his corner in a daze. He was also now affected by a series of bad cuts around the eyes, which were beginning to blind him. Regardless, Bassey fought on bravely, looking to pull the fight round, but after taking punches he would normally have avoided he was retired by his corner at the end of the 13th.

 

19 August 1959. Davey Moore w rtd 10 (15) Hogan Kid Bassey

Venue: Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Frankie Van.

Fight Summary: Having struggled to make the weight it was felt that Moore (126) might have some difficulty retaining his title against the man he won it from, but those fears ultimately proved unfounded. After the first seven rounds were closely contested, with both men having their successes, mid-way through the eighth Bassey (125) was hurt. Despite coming back well in the ninth, Bassey was knocked down by a long right to the head in the tenth, which was ruled not to be a knockdown, but after Bassey came right back and was punching away at the bell he was retired during the interval when asked by the referee whether he wanted to continue. With a bloody left eye which was beginning to close, and having damaged his right hand in the seventh, Bassey recognised he had missed his chance when making the decision to retire. He also retired from boxing there and then.

 

29 August 1960. Davey Moore w pts 15 Kazuo Takayama

Venue: Korakuen Stadium, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: World. Referee: Jimmy Wilson.

Scorecards: 74-62, 73-64, 73-66.

Fight Summary: Again experiencing difficulty making the weight after two trips to the scales, Moore (126) boxed well within himself for the first six rounds before stepping up the tempo with relentless body attacks and accurate shots to the head of the challenger, who took plenty of punishment but refused to go down. The further the fight went the more it became one-way traffic as Takayama (125), his left eye damaged, vainly fought on. But unable to administer the kayo Moore had to settle for a wide points win.

 

8 April 1961. Davey Moore w co 1 (15) Danny Valdez

Venue: Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: George Latka.

Fight Summary: Defending his title against the inexperienced Valdez turned out to be one of the champion’s least difficult fights to date, evidenced when he dropped the 21-year-old local with a right to the jaw midway through the first. This was the first time Valdez (125½) had been floored in 22 contests, and it was not to be the last. After clambering up at ‘seven’ still dazed, when an overarm right to the jaw from Moore (124¾) put him down again with just two seconds of the round left he was counted out.

 

13 November 1961. Davey Moore w pts 15 Kazuo Takayama

Venue: Kuramae Arena, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: World. Referee: Jimmy Wilson.

Scorecards: 73-59, 74-67, 72-64.

Fight Summary: Given another opportunity to grab the title, Takayama (125½), bobbing and weaving, held his own in the early rounds as he stayed close to Moore (126) in an effort to stop the champion from using his cleverness and speed to best advantage. Things went well for nine rounds but as Takayama tired, Moore, targeting the body, got on top prior to knocking his rival down for ‘nine’ in the 13th. On getting up, Takayama was then battered through to the bell before resuming in the 14th as if nothing was untoward. He then put in a barnstorming finish, being cheered to the rafters for his gameness.

 

17 August 1962. Davey Moore w rsc 2 (15) Olli Maki

Venue: Olympic Stadium, Helsinki, Finland. Recognition: World. Referee: Barney Ross.

Fight Summary: Following a quiet first round in which Maki (125½) danced around Moore (126) shooting out left jabs, the champion moved to close quarters in the second, and after sending out a couple of hard lefts a smashing right to the jaw put Maki down for ‘five’. By now stalking the dazed Finn Moore gave him no time to collect his senses, dropping him twice more before the referee called a halt at 2.31 of the session.

 

Having taken five months out, Moore came back to defeat Cisco Andrade and Mario Diaz in non-title fights, but despite all the pressure brought to bear by the WBA (formerly known as the NBA) to make him take on Sugar Ramos or face being stripped prior to the Maki fight the authorities were strangely quiet. However, at the end of November, he finally agreed to meet Ramos early in February 1963, which was eventually moved on to enable the promoter, George Parnassus, to present three world title bouts on the same show. The hard-hitting Ramos had punched his way to the number one spot with 38 (29 inside the distance) wins in 42 contests since turning pro in 1957, beating men such as Sonny Leon, Alfredo Urbina, Kid Anahuac, Rafiu King, Danny Valdez, Baby Vasquez (2), Eloy Sanchez and Jose Luis Cruz.

 

21 March 1963. Sugar Ramos w rtd 10 (15) Davey Moore

Venue: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: George Latka.

Fight Summary: For eight rounds it had been the challenger’s good footwork and two-fisted attacks against the steadier boxing of Moore (125¼), allied to his sharper punching, but all that changed in the ninth. In that round a tired-looking Moore, having sustained cuts to the nose and left eye, was hurt as Ramos (125¼) piled on the pressure. The tenth turned out to be the final session. With Ramos coming back strongly from a heavy left hook that nearly derailed him, Moore was dropped twice and left hanging over the middle rope before being retired by his corner during the interval. Tragedy then struck. After collapsing in the dressing room following the fight Moore failed to regain consciousness, dying in hospital two days later having suffered severe trauma of the brain.

 

13 July 1963. Sugar Ramos w pts 15 Rafiu King

Venue: City Bullring, Mexico City, Mexico. Recognition: World. Referee: Ramon Berumen.

Scorecards: 10-2-3, 7-2-6, 11-1-3.

Fight Summary: Even though he had almost lost his title on the scales, Ramos (126) then had to overcome damage to both of his hands, the right in the third and the left in the seventh, before taking a unanimous decision over the dangerous King (124¾), who pushed him all the way in a grimly-fought contest. While there were no knockdowns, having had King in some difficulty in the sixth Ramos himself had to hang on in the 12th as the Nigerian gave it his best shot.

 

1 March 1964. Sugar Ramos w rsc 6 (15) Mitsunori Seki

Venue: Kuramae Arena, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: World. Referee: Nicholas Pope.

Fight Summary: Leading up to the contest much was made of the champion’s difficulties in making the weight, but make it he did and for four rounds he was given a good scrap by Seki (125½), an awkward southpaw. Sustaining a cut over the left eye in the fifth, Seki was then put under a fair amount of pressure by the hard-hitting Ramos (126) before coming undone in the sixth after a right to the jaw dumped him for ‘eight’. Back in the fight, Seki walked into another right to take a further count of ‘eight’, and on getting up when it was clear that he was still groggy the referee stopped the contest after his corner threw the towel in, the finish being timed at 1.38.

 

9 May 1964. Sugar Ramos w pts 15 Floyd Robertson

Venue: Sports Stadium, Accra, Ghana. Recognition: World. Referee: Jack Hart.

Scorecards: 70-69, 70-69, 69-70.

Fight Summary: Never seriously troubled, the challenger gave as good as he got while Ramos (125¼), still having trouble at the weight, finished with cuts over both eyes and distinctly lucky to have two of the three judges voting in his favour. Robertson (124¼), who was cut on the right eye in the seventh, drove Ramos around the ring during the last three rounds, many thinking he had pegged back the champion’s early lead.

 

Following the fight the Ghanaian Boxing Commission altered the result to that of a no contest, eventually changing the decision in Robertson's favour despite the rest of the world continuing to recognise Ramos as the champion.

 

While Robertson remained inactive for well over a year, Ramos’ next challenger would be Vicente Saldivar, who outpointed Ismael Laguna over ten rounds at the Bullring, Tijuana, Mexico on 1 June to gain his opportunity. Saldivar, the Mexican champion, had turned pro in early 1961, quickly making his mark as a hard-punching, awkwardly effective southpaw who gave opponents no respite. In 26 contests, Saldivar had picked up 25 wins, 21 inside the distance, with just one loss to Baby Luis which he had quickly reversed. He had also beaten Jose Toluco Lopez, Dwight Hawkins and Eloy Sanchez.

 

26 September 1964. Vicente Saldivar w rtd 11 (15) Sugar Ramos

Venue: Four Roads Bullring, Mexico City, Mexico. Recognition: World. Referee: Ramon Berumen.

Fight Summary: After no incident of note, Saldivar (125), a southpaw, took up the running in the ninth, driving the champion back with two-handed attacks to the head and body before continuing the battering in the tenth. Down immediately prior to the bell, although Ramos (124) came out for the 11th, having been hit at will he was retired by his corner during the interval.

 

7 May 1965. Vicente Saldivar w rsc 15 (15) Raul Rojas

Venue: Municipal Coliseum, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Tommy Hart.

Fight Summary: Prior to the tenth round there had been little between the two fighters, but then the champion made his move for home when beginning to beat the tough Rojas (125½) to the punch, shaking him up considerably with fast southpaw lefts and rights. Both men were cut, Rojas over the left eye in the eighth and Saldivar on the left cheekbone in the ninth. By the 15th, with victory in the bag, Saldivar (124¾) drove the rapidly tiring Rojas around the ring, sending in punch after punch before the referee stopped it with just ten seconds remaining as the American slumped to the floor.

 

7 September 1965. Vicente Saldivar w pts 15 Howard Winstone

Venue: Exhibition Centre, Earls Court, London, England. Recognition: World. Referee: Bill Williams.

Fight Summary: Although a brilliant exponent of the left hand and despite having a useful reach advantage, Winstone (125) often elected to punch it out with the hard-hitting southpaw champion rather than try to outbox him. Cut over both eyes, the right in the fifth and the left in the 13th, Winstone continued to try and beat Saldivar (125¾) at his own game, but by the 13th he was suffering the effects of the body attacks. The last three rounds were hard for Winstone as Saldivar realised that the Welshman had nothing left. Despite unleashing his full arsenal, after Saldivar was unable to floor the gallant challenger he had to rely on the referee’s decision.

 

12 February 1966. Vicente Saldivar w co 2 (15) Floyd Robertson

Venue: City Bullring, Mexico City, Mexico. Recognition: World. Referee: Ramon Berumen.

Fight Summary: Reckoning to give Saldivar (123¾) his toughest defence and regarded in his homeland as the champion, Robertson (124¼) started slowly as did the champion, the first round passing without a hint of what was in the offing. Coming out of his corner for the second session with a rush Saldivar soon got down to work, and having paved the way a heavy left-right dropped Robertson for ‘eight’. Obviously hurt, Robertson became a target for more slashing punches before a solid right put him down for the count at 2.29 of the session.

 

7 August 1966. Vicente Saldivar w pts 15 Mitsunori Seki

Venue: City Bullring, Mexico City, Mexico. Recognition: World. Referee: Ramon Berumen.

Scorecards: 146-138, 145-141, 145-143.

Fight Summary: In a battle of southpaws, Saldivar (124½), dropped in the fourth by a right to the jaw and fighting from the sixth with a closed left eye, was taken to his limits by a challenger who looked to make every punch count. Having somehow got through the fourth and an equally tough fifth session, Saldivar came back to drop Seki (124) for the mandatory ‘eight’ in the seventh before building on that success to go on to a merited victory. The Ring magazine reported that in every one of the 15 rounds one fighter or the other was staggered.

 

29 January 1967. Vicente Saldivar w rsc 7 (15) Mitsunori Seki

Venue: City Bullring, Mexico City, Mexico. Recognition: World. Referee: Ramon Berumen.

Fight Summary: A rematch by public demand saw the challenger starting fast before Saldivar (124¾) began to take over in the second round with solid southpaw punches to head and body. Although the next few sessions were relatively close Saldivar was hurting Seki (125) more and more, and in the seventh he dropped the latter for ‘seven’ with a flurry of blows to the head. Still groggy, Seki was allowed to continue, being battered from one side of the ring to the other, but when he turned his back on Saldivar the referee called it off on the 1.53 mark.

 

15 June 1967. Vicente Saldivar w pts 15 Howard Winstone

Venue: Ninian Park, Cardiff, Wales. Recognition: World. Referee: Wally Thom.

Scorecard: 73¾-73¼.

Fight Summary: This was Winstone’s finest hour, with most of the onlookers feeling that the master boxer had done enough to annex the title. Making Saldivar (125¼) miss throughout, jabbing with the left and gliding out of range, Winstone (125) was almost in control until the champion began to come on strongly in the 12th, slamming away to the body and crowding his man out of it. In the 13th it was clear that it was going to be a survival of the fittest, and in the 14th when Winstone, now in dire trouble, was dropped for ‘eight’ the tide began to turn the way of Saldivar, who was much the stronger. The final three minutes saw Saldivar just about making it as he cornered Winstone again and again, but it was a close call.

 

14 October 1967. Vicente Saldivar w rsc 12 (15) Howard Winstone

Venue: Aztec Stadium, Mexico City, Mexico. Recognition: World. Referee: Ramon Berumen.

Fight Summary: Giving another tremendous display of skill and courage, the challenger held Saldivar (125½) at bay for round after round, his brilliant boxing making it difficult for the Mexican to get fully on top. However, from the fifth onwards it had seemed to be a matter of time as Winstone (125¼) gradually weakened, but Saldivar was unable to make his strength pay off until the 12th when a merciless attack saw Winstone on the floor with blood pouring from his nose. The end came at 2.12 of the round when the referee halted the contest after the towel was thrown in. At the finish, Winstone, who had been on the floor for a count of ‘nine’, was staggering around the ring, being battered by punches coming from all directions.

 

After Saldivar announced his retirement at the end of the fight my version of the 'world' title would next become available when the second-ranked Johnny Famechon was matched against the top-rated Jose Legra, the WBC champion. After taking the WBC title from Howard Winstone, the Cuban-born Legra, now a Spanish citizen, had a record of 105 wins, four draws and five defeats, having remained unbeaten in 51 contests since being outpointed in a non-title affair by Winstone in June 1965. An all-action fighter, carrying speed and power in both hands, Legra had beaten Luis Aisa (2), Jose Luis Martinez (2), Kid Tano (2), Mario Sitri, Manuel Calvo (2), Vincenzo Pitardi (2), Love Allotey, Rafiu King, Maurice Tavant, Don Johnson, Ernest Miranda (2) and Joe Tetteh, to name just a few of his victims. He had also won the European title when beating Yves Desmarets. Prior to this fight, fans in Australia had been clamouring for Johnny Famechon (the son of Andre and nephew of Ray and Emile, all members of the legendary French boxing family) to be given a world title opportunity, having won the British Empire title after stopping John O’Brien inside 11 rounds at the Festival Hall, Melbourne, Australia on 24 November 1967. In 1968 he went on to defeat Antonio Herrera (w pts 10 at the Festival Hall on 5 April). With this in mind, the promoters had billed his 15-round fight against Bobby Valdez, which he won on a 13th-round disqualification at The Stadium, Sydney on 20 May, for the world title. Although their intentions were good they were not supported by the Australian Boxing Federation. However, following wins over Billy McGrandle (when he successfully defended the Empire title with a 12th-round stoppage at the Festival Hall on 13 September) and Nevio Carbi, Famechon, now ranked number two in the world, was booked to challenge the WBC champion, Jose Legra, in London on 3 December. Although it soured somewhat when Legra pulled out the week before, after injuring a shoulder, Famechon made good use of his stay in England while preparing for the rescheduled date in January. In a career encompassing 47 wins, six draws and four defeats, other men that Famechon had beaten included Ollie Taylor, Mario Sitri, Lothar Abend, Gilberto Biondi, Don Johnson and Freddie Rengifo, and he had reversed all but one of his defeats.

 

21 January 1969. Johnny Famechon w pts 15 Jose Legra

Venue: Royal Albert Hall, Kensington, London, England. Recognition: WBC. Referee: George Smith.

Scorecard: 74½-73¼.

Fight Summary: Often posing and throwing punches for show, Legra (124½) could not subdue Famechon (125½) as hard as he tried, and in the final third when recognising that the Aussie was edging ahead he became desperate. However, much of the champion’s lack of point scoring was explained later when it transpired that he had broken his right thumb in the second round. It was not a pretty fight to watch, but Famechon, who was cut around both eyes, worked the body and countered well enough against an elusive opponent to justify his victory.

 

28 July 1969. Johnny Famechon w pts 15 Fighting Harada

Venue: The Stadium, Sydney, Australia. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Willie Pep.

Scorecard: 70-69.

Fight Summary: After Pep, the sole arbiter, had lifted both fighters’ hands in recognition of a draw at the final bell, Harada’s handlers, believing their man had won, successfully argued that the referee’s scorecard be rechecked. However, on following it up the officials discovered an additional error that showed Famechon (124½) should have been given the verdict. The crowd certainly thought that Harada (125¾) had won, having knocked the champion down in the second, 11th and 14th rounds. Harada impressed with his power and non-stop punching, which saw Famechon often getting on his bike and scuttling around the ring to avoid a stoppage. Only occasionally did Famechon look good, mainly when counter-punching and getting off the left lead, but by and large it was Harada’s fight with the former being completely flummoxed at times.

 

6 January 1970. Johnny Famechon w co 14 (15) Fighting Harada

Venue: Municipal Gym, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Nicholas Pope.

Fight Summary: In a return by public demand the champion was a far different proposition this time round, using his speed and countering left jabs to pick up the points and keep Harada (126) at bay. Harada finally got to Famechon (124¾) in the tenth round when a right cross put the latter down for the mandatory ‘eight’, and after going all out for a stoppage in the 11th he was himself knocked down for ‘eight’ by a hard left in the 12th. Now Famechon was on the warpath as he blitzed Harada throughout the 13th, before continuing where he left off in the 14th when forcing a standing ‘eight’ count on Harada who was helpless on the ropes. With the bit between the teeth Famechon would not be denied, solid left-rights battering Harada on to the ring apron where he was counted out at 1.09 of the session.

 

Following Famechon’s victory, the promoter, Mike Barrett, signed up the former world champion, Vicente Saldivar, as his next challenger. Having hung his gloves up for close on two years, Saldivar, who made a successful comeback when beating Jose Legra, would be coming to the ring with 35 wins and just one loss to Baby Luis on his tab.  Initially planned to take place in London, the fight eventually ended up in Rome after negotiations with several venues fell through.

 

9 May 1970. Vicente Saldivar w pts 15 Johnny Famechon

Venue: Sports Palace, Rome, Italy. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Harry Gibbs.

Scorecards: 72-68, 73-70, 71-68.

Fight Summary: Back in harness after nearly two years out of the ring and one comeback fight, while Saldivar (126) started fast with telling jabs and combinations it was not until the tenth round that the champion really opened up when concentrating on damage to his rival’s right eye. Although Famechon (124¼) was making progress, shaking Saldivar up in the 11th, he was also under pressure, being deemed to have been dropped in the 13th even though it appeared to have been more of a push. Twice Famechon went down from slips in the 14th, and despite continuing to fight back right to the final bell it was not to be.

 

The aggressive, hard-punching Kuniaki Shibata, rated at number three, would be Saldivar’s first challenger. Having won his last nine fights, five of them being inside the distance, although he was the reigning Japanese champion he was still an unknown quantity even though he had only lost twice in 35 contests.

 

11 December 1970. Kuniaki Shibata w rsc 12 (15) Vicente Saldivar

Venue: The Arena, Tijuana, Mexico. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Ray Solis.

Fight Summary: Attacking powerfully, the young challenger caused a big upset after Saldivar (125) had seemed to be well on the way to a win. Prior to the eighth round Saldivar appeared to have matters under control, but Shibata (126) had other ideas. Having gradually weakened the Mexican with heavy rights he drew blood in that session when gashing Saldivar’s right cheek. Maintaining his work-rate Shibata battered Saldivar throughout the tenth, and although the latter made a brave effort in the 11th the game was almost up as his injuries worsened in the 12th, leaving the referee no alternative but to stop the fight during the interval. It was clear at that point that if Saldivar, who had very little left in the tank, had continued permanent damage could have been inflicted.

 

3 June 1971. Kuniaki Shibata w co 1 (15) Raul Cruz

Venue: Municipal Gym, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Ken Morita.

Fight Summary: Showing terrific punching power, the champion scored a first-round win over a man expected to give him a lot of trouble. Always looking to get his punches off, Shibata (126) caught up with Cruz (125¾) towards the end of the first round with a heavy right to the jaw before unleashing a left-right combination to the head that dropped the latter flat on his back. There was no way Cruz was going to make it to his feet, being counted out four seconds after the round had ended.

 

11 November 1971. Kuniaki Shibata drew 15 Ernesto Marcel

Venue: Ehime Playground, Matsuyama, Japan. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Chung Yung-Soo.

Scorecards: 72-69, 65-71, 71-71.

Fight Summary: Badly cut over the right eye in the third round, Shibata (125¼) was often unable to get to close quarters as the challenger would jab him away before connecting with short hooks. Although Shibata came back strongly in the middle rounds, Marcel (125¾) came through in the 12th with a ferocious attack that had the former hanging on for grim death before he began to fight back strongly. The final three sessions saw both men going toe-to-toe as each looked to turn the contest their way, but although the action was desperate neither was able to land a blow that was decisive enough to do away with the cards.

 

Shibata’s next defence would be against Clemente Sanchez, a determined, hard-hitting Mexican, who had 38 wins, three draws and seven defeats to his name. Unbeaten in his last 14 fights, only Love Allotey had lasted the distance with him when gaining a draw. Sanchez was rated by The Ring magazine at number six.

19 May 1972. Clemente Sanchez w co 3 (15) Kuniaki Shibata

Venue: Nihon University Auditorium, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Hiroyuki Tezaki.

Fight Summary: Taking on the role of aggressor from the opening bell, the challenger bored in to score with lefts and rights to the body before both fighters took a good look at each other in the second round. Having taken stock, Sanchez (125¼) upped the pace in the third, working the body well before a left followed by an explosive right to the jaw dropped Shibata (125¼) for the full count, which was administered on the 2.26 mark.

 

Since losing his WBC title to Johnny Famechon, Legra had lost just three times, to Vicente Saldivar, Tahar Ben Hassen and Jonathan Dele, in 25 contests, and as the third-ranked fighter in The Ring ratings he was looking to get his old titles back when matched with Sanchez. 

 

16 December 1972. Jose Legra w rsc 10 Clemente Sanchez

Venue: Monumental Bullring, Monterrey, Mexico. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Octavio Meyran.

Fight Summary: Having lost his title on the scales, Sanchez (129¼) would meet Legra (123¼) for the vacant WBC title that only the latter could win. A beaten fighter even before the opening bell, Sanchez was floored three times in the first round and three times in the second after being battered by vicious rights. Although he somehow managed to hang in for a few sessions he was down again in the sixth and four times in the ninth as Legra continued to be in control. Finally, it was all over in the tenth after Sanchez went to the floor again and the referee stopped the fight in Legra’s favour.

 

Legra’s first defence would be against Eder Jofre, the former world bantamweight champion, who had recorded 61 wins, four draws and two defeats since turning pro in 1957. Having taken more than three years out of the ring after twice losing to Fighting Harada, Jofre had come back as a featherweight, beating men such as Rudy Corona, Nevio Carbi, Manny Elias and Shig Fukuyama in an unbeaten run of 14 (eight inside the distance) wins and was rated at number six.

 

5 May 1973. Eder Jofre w pts 15 Jose Legra

Venue: President Medici Gym, Brasilia, Brazil. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Jay Edison.

Scorecards: 146-141, 148-143, 143-143.

Fight Summary: Defending for the first time, Legra (125½) clowned his way through the first couple of rounds before sending Jofre (125) down from a right cross in the third. Although pressing for the next two sessions without further success, Legra then went on the back foot looking to rattle up the points with the left hand. By the sixth, Jofre was looking to get his punches off on the inside, but found it difficult to find the evasive Legra. Towards the end of the contest when it was clear that Jofre, who was cut over both eyes, was feeling the pace Legra finally launched himself into the attack right through to the final bell, only to lose the verdict. Afterwards it was felt that Legra lost the fight, having been deducted several points for rabbit punching and other various indiscretions. On winning, Jofre became a two-weight world champion.

 

21 October 1973. Eder Jofre w co 4 (15) Vicente Saldivar

Venue: Antonio Balbino Gym, Salvador, Brazil. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Moyses Sister.

Fight Summary: Stalking the challenger for the first three rounds while punishing him on the ropes, following fierce exchanges, the 37-year-old Jofre (124¼) finished his opponent off in the fourth. Coming out fast and closing in on Saldivar (125¾), Jofre had him bending at the knees from a right to the body. Then, after a burst of punches a heavy left hook finally sent the former champion to the floor to be counted out on the 1.40 mark.

 

Thought to have retired, Jofre forfeited WBC recognition on 17 June 1974 for failing to defend against Alfredo Marcano. My version of the 'world' title was once again on the line when the top-ranked Bobby Chacon, the WBC champion, defended his title against Ruben Olivares, rated at number three. Chacon, who had won the WBC belt when defeating Alfredo Marcano and had successfully defended it against Jesus Estrada, would come to the ring with 26 wins and one loss at the hands of Olivares in June 1973. Since leaving the bantamweight ranks after losing his world title to Rafael Herrera, the explosive, hard-hitting Olivares had beaten Zensuke Utagawa to win the vacant WBA title before losing it to Alexis Arguello. With 79 wins, one draw and five defeats on his slate, Olivares was looking to repeat his earlier victory over Chacon. 

 

20 June 1975. Ruben Olivares w rsc 2 (15) Bobby Chacon

Venue: Inglewood Forum, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Larry Rozadilla.

Fight Summary: Having to get off 16 pounds in ten days left Chacon (124½) so weak that he should not have been allowed to fight. Although the contest started slowly, and there was little to talk about in the first round, once the second was underway Olivares (125¼) took over, soon having Chacon on the floor from a left-right combination. Back on his feet but taking a beating, Chacon was then dropped by a vicious left hook. That should have been it, but after scrambling up and being subjected to a hail of blows that left him helpless on the ropes the referee came to his rescue at 2.29.

 

Olivares’ next challenger would be the unrated David Kotey, with 30 wins, two draws and two defeats on his record. Having turned pro in 1966, Kotey had only recently broken through with a win over Evan Armstrong for the Commonwealth title.

 

20 September 1975. David Kotey w pts 15 Ruben Olivares

Venue: Inglewood Forum, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Rudy Jordan.

Scorecards: 143-142, 144-143, 143-144.

Fight Summary: Scoring a first-round knockdown after a left hook to the head dropped Olivares (126) settled Kotey (126), and he again forced the Mexican to touch down in the second before consistently setting him up with left jabs followed by rights and left hook combinations. The fight became sloppy at the midway stage, with both men being wrestled over and Olivares trying to bull his way inside. Cut over the left eye following a head clash in the 12th, the champion desperately tried to get stuck into Kotey, but the latter kept his boxing together to just about make it much to the displeasure of Olivares and his supporters, who violently vented their anger until quelled by the security.

 

6 March 1976. David Kotey w rsc 12 (15) Flipper Uehara

Venue: The Sports Stadium, Accra, Ghana. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Harry Gibbs.

Fight Summary: Showing his class, Kotey (126) speared the shorter Uehara (124½) with left jabs, followed by hooks and uppercuts to head and body from the opening bell, and for five rounds the challenger looked to be on his way out. However, recharging his batteries, Uehara came back strongly in rounds six and seven as he tried to find the punch that would turn things around, but it was Kotey all the way from the eighth onwards. With Uehara noticeably puffy around the eyes the referee called for a doctor’s inspection in the 11th. Although the man from Japan was allowed to continue the referee’s intervention eventually arrived in the 12th when Kotey opened up to have his rival defenceless.

 

16 July 1976. David Kotey w rsc 3 (15) Shig Fukuyama

Venue: Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Harry Gibbs.

Fight Summary: Ultimately making full use of his considerable reach advantages Kotey (126) took his time feeling out the challenger before going to work, and a big left hook followed by a right cross dropped Fukuyama (125¾) in the second round. Gamely up at ‘five’ he was put down again by another left hook and rescued by the bell. Coming out for the third, Fukuyama, now cut over the left eye, was almost immediately dropped by a right to the head. Although getting up, with Fukuyama in no position to continue, the referee halted it with just 21 seconds of the round gone. It was confirmed afterwards that Fukuyama had broken his right ankle.

 

The top-rated Danny Lopez, known as ‘Little Red’, would be next for Kotey, having beaten 30 of his 34 opponents inside the distance. Although losing to Bobby Chacon, Fukuyama and Octavio Gomez, he was on a run of seven straight wins after defeating men of the calibre of Chucho Castillo, Raul Cruz, Antonio Nava, Ruben Olivares, Sean O'Grady, Gomez and Art Hafey. He had also knocked out Tury Pineda and Benny Rodriguez.

 

6 November 1976. Danny Lopez w pts 15 David Kotey

Venue: Sports Stadium, Accra, Ghana. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Harry Gibbs.

Fight Summary: Contested in 90-degree heat, with both men concentrating on the head Lopez (126) was cut over the left eye while Kotey (125½) carried cuts to both eyes as well as severe damage to his mouth as they went for a knockout in what turned into a war of attrition. It was amazing that the fight lasted the full distance with so much blood about. After the challenger weathered the early storm he began to take control by the eighth, hammering Kotey incessantly throughout the rest of the fight, dropping him with a left hook in the 11th, while almost finishing him on several occasions. With neither man giving way, their determination and guts made it a truly memorable contest, culminating in the unanimous decision being awarded to Lopez.

 

13 September 1977. Danny Lopez w rtd 7 (15) Jose Torres

Venue: Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Larry Rozadilla.

Fight Summary: Having made a good start, the champion was shocked in the second round when he was countered by a straight right over the top and decked by Torres (126) who was close to being overwhelmed at the time. Back in action, Lopez (125) put Torres down once in the third and twice in the fourth, but after the latter bravely came back Lopez looked almost punched out in the fifth. At this point Torres had some success with solid left-right combinations, but as Lopez came back into it Torres was given such a battering in the seventh that his corner decided to retire him at the end of the round.

 

15 February 1978. Danny Lopez w rsc 6 (15) David Kotey

Venue: Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Ray Solis.

Fight Summary: Although the challenger made a fair start in taking the opening two rounds it was clear in the third that Lopez (126), landing right after right, had too much power and aggression for his rival. And by the fourth Kotey (125) was really feeling the heat. In the fifth Lopez continued to pour it on to head and body, but was hurt by a socking right to the head before regrouping. About a minute into the sixth Kotey was dropped by a fast right hand, and after struggling to get off the floor he was being belted unmercifully on the ropes when the referee came to his rescue on the 1.18 mark.

 

23 April 1978. Danny Lopez w rsc 6 (15) Jose De Paula

Venue: Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Dick Young.

Fight Summary: Being a late substitute did not help De Paula (125), but he did reasonably well until being finally overpowered by the hard-punching champion after some free-hitting exchanges. Lopez (126) always held the upper hand, his counter-punching with left hooks and rights to the head being particularly prominent, and in the fifth it was that combination which dropped De Paula for the first time in his career. Coming out for the sixth, De Paula was quickly under attack as Lopez lined him up with the jab for crashing rights to the head and body. Immediately prior to the towel being thrown in, De Paula was pulled out by the referee on the 1.30 mark when in no position to defend himself.

 

15 September 1978. Danny Lopez w co 2 (15) Juan Malvarez

Venue: The Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Marcello Bertini.

Fight Summary: Ripping holes in the champion’s defences with good shots going in from both hands, Malvarez (125½) made a great start which got even better when he decked Lopez (125½) with a right-left-right. Forced to take the mandatory ‘eight’, Lopez survived the round but was under a lot of pressure as Malvarez looked for a finish. Coming out for the second Lopez was again ambushed, this time by a cracking left hook, but in looking to get the job over quickly, Malvarez, walking straight on to a tremendous right to the jaw, was counted out on the 1.45 mark.

 

21 October 1978. Danny Lopez w disq 4 (15) Fel Clemente

Venue: Sports Palace, Pesaro, Italy. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Gujelmo Ajon.

Fight Summary: After holding his own for the opening three rounds, and taking the eye with some good punches to the champion’s head, Clemente (125¾) came under fire in the fourth as Lopez (125½) started to back him against the ropes where he could work him over with both hands. With Lopez going for the finish, after a clash of heads left his right eye bleeding profusely the referee had no other option than to disqualify Clemente at 2.15 of the round for butting.

 

10 March 1979. Danny Lopez w co 2 (15) Roberto Castanon

Venue: Salt Palace, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Carlos Padilla.

Fight Summary: Swarming all over Lopez (125¾) from the opening bell, Castanon (125¾) found the champion easy to hit despite him having a big reach advantage, and surged through the punches coming his way to get his own blows off. The second round saw a transformation as Lopez, now into his stride, measured Castanon with terrific rights to the jaw that dropped him for the mandatory ‘eight’. Back on his feet, Castanon landed a cracking right to the head before being driven to his knees to be counted out after taking a straight left followed by a solid right to the jaw. The finish was timed at 2.57.

 

17 June 1979. Danny Lopez w co 15 (15) Mike Ayala

Venue: The Auditorium, San Antonio, Texas, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Carlos Padilla.

Fight Summary: Forced to stand up to some terrific punches, the champion showed his mettle when coming through the blitz to drop Ayala (125½) with a short left in the seventh. Although Ayala came back strongly, often hurting Lopez (125), with the latter gradually getting on top in the 11th he was put down again and actually counted out. However, after protests from his camp that the referee had taken up the count too early were supported by the timekeeper Ayala was allowed to continue. By now Lopez had Ayala well in his sights, and following some exciting exchanges he finally caught up with his rival in the 15th when smashing him to the floor with three clubbing rights that led to a count-out on the 1.09 mark.

 

25 September 1979. Danny Lopez w rsc 3 (15) Jose Caba

Venue: Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Marty Denkin.

Fight Summary: Lopez (125½) once again came through the punches to get the win as Caba (126) became overconfident and paid the price. Having found Lopez easy to hit in the opening two rounds the third session saw Caba under pressure as the champion began to pick his punches better, a flurry of blows putting him on to the ring apron for ‘eight’. Back in the ring Caba came under a hail of heavy blows from both hands, and after being stretched over the ropes before being floored again the referee stopped the fight on the 1.41 mark.

 

Lopez’s next defence would be against Salvador Sanchez, who was sitting at number eight in the rankings after beating Salvador Torres, Fel Clemente and Richard Rozelle. A clever boxer, who hit hard with both hands, Sanchez had compiled a record showing 33 wins, one draw and one defeat since turning pro in 1975.

 

2 February 1980. Salvador Sanchez w rsc 13 (15) Danny Lopez

Venue: Memorial Coliseum, Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Waldemar Schmidt.

Fight Summary: Right from the start Sanchez (125¾) imposed his authority on Lopez (125¼) with heavy rights and lefts numbing the champion after he had been opened up with left jabs. By the fifth round Lopez was a mess, with damage to his nose and both eyes. However, Lopez hung in there despite being effectively countered virtually every time he attacked Sanchez. Although Lopez had a better round in the eighth when using the jab it was apparent that he was tiring, and in the tenth he was fighting on heart alone as Sanchez, now cut on the left eye, poured in the punches. Eventually Lopez, his legs buckling under the drubbing, was finally saved from having to take further punishment when the referee called it off after 51 seconds of the 13th.

 

12 April 1980. Salvador Sanchez w pts 15 Ruben Castillo

Venue: Civic Auditorium, Tucson, Arizona, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Marcelo Bertini.

Scorecards: 145-141, 147-144, 146-142.

Fight Summary: After little activity in the first five rounds, Sanchez (126), who was in front at that stage, opened a cut over the challenger’s right eye with a short left. That did not seem to deter Castillo (125½) and by the eighth he was fighting back strongly before going on to dominate rounds nine, ten and 11 with snappy combinations allied to speed of foot. Sanchez came back well in the 12th to rock his rival, but after a difficult 13th he picked it up again with great body shots to drive Castillo before him into the final session. The verdict was hotly disputed by the Californian fighter, who felt he had done enough to win.

 

21 June 1980. Salvador Sanchez w rsc 14 (15) Danny Lopez

Venue: Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Mills Lane.

Fight Summary: A return match saw Lopez (126), a normally slow starter, coming out fast in order to keep the champion on the end of his long left, tactics which put him ahead by the sixth. Subsequently, though, all rounds went to Sanchez (126), who picked Lopez off almost as he pleased while consistently banging in countering right hands to shake the former champion up. In the 12th it was clear that Sanchez was looking to finish it, pressurising Lopez right through to the 13th. With Lopez weakening fast and with vicious combinations and uppercuts finding their target, at 1.42 of the 14th the referee intervened.

 

13 September 1980. Salvador Sanchez w pts 15 Pat Ford

Venue: Freeman Coliseum, San Antonio, Texas, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Lou Filippo.

Scorecards: 148-139, 145-141, 145-145.

Fight Summary: This was a tough fight for Sanchez (126) against a lanky challenger sporting a seven-inch-reach advantage. With Ford (126) using the jab well it took Sanchez several rounds before fathoming a way to get inside where he could do some damage. There was no doubt that Ford, consistently jabbing away, was giving Sanchez all the trouble he could handle, but by the 11th when he had begun to tire, the latter’s aggression especially the body-work was beginning to pay off. At this point it was nearly all Sanchez, and apart from being rocked in the 13th by a solid uppercut he opened Ford up to warrant the split decision.

 

13 December 1980. Salvador Sanchez w pts 15 Juan Laporte

Venue: County Coliseum, El Paso, Texas, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Davy Pearl.

Scorecards: 147-140, 146-139, 148-142.

Fight Summary: Showing great stamina, Sanchez (126) continued to pressure Laporte (124½) throughout, and even though each round was fiercely contested he appeared to have the edge with accurate shots as opposed to the often wild punches that the challenger threw. Although Laporte was always trying, nailing Sanchez on occasion, it was mainly due to the champion’s evasiveness that he was not caught more often. It was in the middle rounds that Sanchez really showed his class as he picked up points with the jab and cracked in right hands for good measure. Laporte, though, was never out of it, always looking to end matters summarily right to the final bell.

 

22 March 1981. Salvador Sanchez w rsc 10 (15) Roberto Castanon

Venue: Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Davy Pearl.

Fight Summary: Although superior to his wild-swinging challenger in almost every sense, in the early stages Sanchez (126) appeared content to make good use of his five-inch-reach advantage to score points rather than look for a quick finish. Eventually, the fight came to life in the ninth round as Sanchez began to hammer Castanon (126) with lefts and rights, and continuing his advance in the next session he picked up where he left off and put Castanon down. Having taken a mandatory ‘eight’, Castanon was again pounded non-stop as Sanchez went for home, and at 1.09 of the session with the Spaniard stumbling backwards the referee stopped the contest.

 

21 August 1981. Salvador Sanchez w rsc 8 (15) Wilfredo Gomez

Venue: Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Carlos Padilla.

Fight Summary: Right from the opening bell the pair went for it, and just when it looked as though the undefeated challenger was getting the upper hand Sanchez put him on the deck for a count of ‘eight’ with a left-right. Miraculously getting through the round as Sanchez (126) smashed away at him, Gomez (126) came out firing in the second to win three of the next six sessions on all three judges’ scorecards. Regardless, Sanchez was still in front of him, taking his best punches, using the ring well and jabbing and crossing strongly. It was no surprise that Gomez suddenly looked tired in the eighth as Sanchez set about him with a vengeance. And with the punches hitting their mark it was inevitable that the end was near. Finally, Gomez, with both of his eyes, his nose and mouth damaged, sagged under the barrage of blows and dropped. At this point the referee had already seen enough, stopping the fight at 1.09 regardless of the fact that Gomez had somehow got to his feet at the count of ‘eight’.

 

12 December 1981. Salvador Sanchez w pts 15 Pat Cowdell

Venue: The Astrodome, Houston, Texas, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Steve Crosson.

Scorecards: 148-137, 146-140, 144-145.

Fight Summary: Following a couple of feeling-out rounds the champion came looking for Cowdell (125¼) with body punches. However, with the Englishman settling into a bobbing-and-weaving routine Sanchez found it difficult to pin his man down. Before too long, Cowdell, using the left jab well, was causing Sanchez (126) problems, but in the ninth a heavy right brought about a deep cut over his right eye. Although Sanchez was now getting through Cowdell’s defences the latter came back strongly with the jab in the 13th to give himself a chance. Sensing that things were not going to plan, Sanchez bombed into Cowdell in the 14th with heavy rights, and in the final session he put the latter down with a thunderous right to the head. Up at ‘eight’, after Cowdell hung in relentlessly to hear the bell he gained the respect of all who witnessed his courageous challenge.

 

8 May 1982. Salvador Sanchez w pts 15 Rocky Garcia

Venue: Reunion Arena, Dallas, Texas, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Steve Crosson.

Scorecards: 147-138, 146-141, 147-141.

Fight Summary: Battling away stubbornly, the challenger held up well against the hard-hitting Sanchez (126), landing solid counters of his own as he was being backed up. Garcia (125¾) never gave up the fight even after was dropped by a left hook that went low, and both men slugged it out during the last five rounds to the delight of the crowd. Sanchez was the most accurate of the pair, but Garcia, a more capable fighter than expected, matched him in many other categories while showing an excellent chin.

 

21 July 1982. Salvador Sanchez w rsc 15 (15) Azumah Nelson

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Tony Perez.

Fight Summary: With only 13 fights on his record, and a substitute for the injured Mario Miranda, Nelson (124) showed himself to be a worthy challenger, often outfighting Sanchez (126) in the earlier rounds before being put down in the seventh and taking a beating for the remainder of the session. Back in control for a round or so, Sanchez again found himself in a war right through to the 15th, but like every great champion he eventually found the punches to terminate the contest. A left hook to the jaw had Nelson in big trouble before a four-punch combination put him down. Up again, Nelson did not seem to know where he was and after taking several big punches the referee came to his rescue with just 11 seconds of the fight remaining.

 

After Sanchez died in a road crash on 12 August, the next time that my version of the 'world' title was up for grabs came when the WBA’s Eusebio Pedroza, the top ranked man in the division, defended his title against Rocky Lockridge, rated fourth. With 33 wins, one draw, three defeats and a no contest on his record, Pedroza had moved up to the featherweight ranks after losing to Alfonso Zamora, the WBA bantam champion. An aggressive, solid puncher, he had won the WBA title when defeating Cecilio Lastra and had successfully defended it against Ernesto Herrera, Enrique Solis, Royal Kobayashi, Hector Carrasquilla, Ruben Olivares, Johnny Aba, Spider Nemoto, Juan Malvarez and Sa-Wang Kim, Lockridge, Pat Ford, Carlos Pinango, Bashew Sibaca, Juan Laporte and Bernard Taylor (draw). Having already lost to Pedroza, Lockridge came to the ring with 29 wins and two losses since turning pro in 1978. As a hard-punching box-fighter, Lockridge had beaten Sammy Goss, Fel Clemente, Livio Nolasco and Refugio Rojas. His only other defeat had come when pitched against Laporte.

 

24 April 1983. Eusebio Pedroza w pts 15 Rocky Lockridge

Venue: Circus Tent, San Remo, Italy. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Ole Oveson.

Scorecards: 146-145, 147-146, 147-142.

Fight Summary: In a return match, with the challenger holding on much better this time round two judges found him just one point away at the finish. Although Lockridge (122½) was always in contention when working well with jabs and hooks, Pedroza (126) reasserted the pressure over the last five rounds with good body punches to get the nod.

 

22 October 1983. Eusebio Pedroza w pts 15 Jose Caba

Venue: Sports Palace, St Vincent, Italy. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Stan Christodoulou.

Scorecards: 146-143, 148-145, 148-144.

Fight Summary: Overcoming weight problems, and despite being cut over the left eye in round two, Pedroza (126) showed no lack of stamina while controlling most of the contest with his left jab, an important weapon for him. Some sessions were closely fought, but Pedroza always had the edge even though Caba (125¾), badly cut over the left eye in the 11th, had success inside with hooks to the body and rights over the top. The last four rounds saw Caba belted along the ropes as he tried to pick up the pace, and although he came back to give Pedroza plenty of trouble the champion answered with quick, accurate punches from both hands.

 

27 May 1984. Eusebio Pedroza w pts 15 Angel Mayor

Venue: Lakeside Hotel & Casino, Maracaibo, Venezuela. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Bernie Soto.

Scorecards: 147-140, 149-138, 145-140.

Fight Summary: Again right on the limit, the champion ultimately had too much for the brave Mayor (125¼) but was made to fight all the way. Mayor, to his credit, would not be subdued, despite being cut over the left eye in the ninth round, and occasionally fired in useful left hooks and hard rights. Always in control though, Pedroza (126) fought a rough, tough fight, being warned for low blows and use of the elbow and kidney punching. Fighting on regardless of the warnings, Pedroza continued to punch away with both hands to head and body to build up the points.

 

2 February 1985. Eusebio Pedroza w pts 15 Jorge Lujan

Venue: New City Gym, Panama City, Panama. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Rudy Jordan.

Scorecards: 149-148, 147-141, 147-140.

Fight Summary: Starting well, Lujan (126) took the fight to Pedroza (126) for the opening five rounds, matching his rival punch for punch before the champion pulled ahead during the middle sessions when digging in solid body shots and dealing out an assortment of blows to the head. Stubbornly refusing to fold, Lujan occasionally hit back with solid blows of his own until being eventually dropped by short right to the jaw in the 14th. Despite that, Lujan came back strongly to win the 15th, backing Pedroza up and driving in some good punches before the bell denoted the end of the contest.

 

Rated at number three by The Ring magazine, Barry McGuigan would be Pedroza’s next opponent. With 26 wins and a defeat that was quickly avenged, McGuigan was an exciting, all-action fighter who carried a hard dig in either hand. Coming to the ring as the British and European champion, McGuigan had wins over Valerio Nati, Jose Caba, Felipe Orozco and Juan Laporte, and was ready.

 

8 June 1985. Barry McGuigan w pts 15 Eusebio Pedroza

Venue: Loftus Road Stadium, Shepherds Bush, London, England. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Stan Christodoulou.

Scorecards: 148-138, 149-139, 147-140.

Fight Summary: Arguably the greatest performance in a British ring by a British fighter since Randy Turpin licked the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson, McGuigan (125¾) ultimately beat the excellent Pedroza (126) with a brilliant display of box-fighting that had 26,000 fans at the Queen’s Park Rangers football ground cheering wildly throughout the 15 rounds. Fairly well balanced until the seventh, McGuigan dropped the champion for ‘three’ after landing a solid right, and from then on began to dominate, his speed and variety puzzling Pedroza. Badly hurt in both the ninth and 13th rounds, the brave champion continued to jab and counter right up to the final bell, having held his boxing together against all odds. Prior to the contest, Pedroza had made 19 successful defences of the WBA title.

 

28 September 1985. Barry McGuigan w rtd 8 (15) Bernard Taylor

Venue: King's Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Isidro Rodriguez.

Fight Summary: In his first defence, McGuigan (125½) was forced to chase the elusive Taylor (125½) for five rounds before he began to nail him. With McGuigan working away from head to body and Taylor less able to get away the fight got tougher for the latter, and after being badly hurt during the eighth it came as no surprise when he was retired by his corner at the end of the round.

 

15 February 1986. Barry McGuigan w rsc 14 (15) Danilo Cabrera

Venue: Simonscourt Pavilion, Dublin, Ireland. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Eddie Eckert.

Fight Summary: A late substitute, Cabrera (125¼) gave the champion all the trouble he could handle, cutting both of his eyes before beginning to slow in the final third of the fight. It was then that McGuigan (125¾) started the drive for home. Although it was still blow for blow he was the stronger, eventually catching Cabrera with two cracking lefts to the head which dropped him for ‘eight’ in the 14th. It should have been stopped at that point but it was not. However, after Cabrera twice stumbled over, appearing to be defenceless, the referee stepped in belatedly at 1.40 of the 14th.

 

McGuigan would next defend his title against Steve Cruz. Coming in as a substitute for Fernando Sosa, and ranked at number 12 by The Ring magazine, Cruz had come in under the radar despite beating good men like Nicky Perez (2) and Rocky Garcia and sporting a record that listed 25 wins with just one defeat.

 

23 June 1986. Steve Cruz w pts 15 Barry McGuigan

Venue: Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Richard Steele.

Scorecards: 143-142, 143-139, 142-141.

Fight Summary: In a major upset, Cruz (126) shocked the champion with a display that was not only not in line with a 9-1 outsider but one that was good enough to beat the ‘Golden Boy’ of British boxing. At times it looked as though McGuigan (126) had too much for his rival, but in the sixth round Cruz got through with some solid blows, and in the seventh when the former was cut on the left eye things began to look tough. Although McGuigan came back strongly to have Cruz on the back foot, in the tenth when he was put down by a left hook the fight began to swing the American's way. Regardless of the notion that McGuigan might have been just ahead at the start of the 15th, any chance he may have had simply disappeared after he was dropped twice more to finish a spent force as the savage heat took its toll of him.

 

Cruz’s first defence would come against Antonio Esparragoza, a tough, big-hitting Venezuelan with 23 wins, three draws and one defeat on his record. Ranked at number seven, Esparragoza had not only avenged his only loss, but beaten men of the calibre of Johnny De La Rosa and Bernardo Checa.  

 

6 March 1987. Antonio Esparragoza w rsc 12 (15) Steve Cruz

Venue: Will Rogers’ Coliseum, Fort Worth, Texas, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Ismael Fernandes.

Fight Summary: In his first defence, Cruz (126) was under pressure almost from the opening bell as the tough Esparragoza (125¾) matched him punch for punch and more. Eventually, it became apparent that Cruz could not keep the hard-hitting, relentless challenger away, and in the 12th he was dropped by a terrific left hook. Although Cruz, swollen around both eyes, got up at ‘nine’ he was immediately smashed down again just as the referee called the fight off with 32 seconds remaining.

 

26 July 1987. Antonio Esparragoza w rsc 10 (15) Pascual Aranda

Venue: The Astrodome, Houston, Texas, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Lou Moret.

Fight Summary: Displaying a great defence against a tough challenger, Esparragoza (125½) weathered the deluge of blows to head and body coming his way over the first half of the contest before moving up a gear to batter his rival down. Aranda (125) was no mug, but having had his left eye cut and being belted by an array of short lefts to the head he was dropped in the tenth and rescued by the referee at 2.36 of the round.

 

23 June 1988. Antonio Esparragoza drew 12 Marcos Villasana

Venue: Sports Arena, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Larry Rozadilla.

Scorecards: 116-112, 111-116, 114-114.

Fight Summary: Piling up points in the early rounds from both hands the champion got away to a good start, but by the tenth he was reeling under the weight of punches coming his way. The 11th and 12th were also a big rounds for Villasana (126) as he walked through Esparragoza (126) with shots to head and body, and it was only the point deducted from him in the fifth for a low blow that stopped him from winning.

 

5 November 1988. Antonio Esparragoza w co 8 Jose Marmolejo

Venue: Sports Palace, Marsala, Italy. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Bernie Soto.

Fight Summary: The challenger started well enough, having had the better of the early exchanges, but it was clear by the end of the opening session that the power was with Esparragoza (125¾). Despite one judge having Marmolejo (126) doing rather better than he actually was the Panamanian was soon falling behind, and by the midway stage he was beginning to take a beating. Knocked down twice and pounded incessantly, Marmolejo was eventually counted out at 1.26 of the eighth after taking heavy blows to the head and body.

 

26 March 1989. Antonio Esparragoza w co 10 Mitsuru Sugiya

Venue: City Arena, Kawasaki, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Eddie Eckert.

Fight Summary: While Sugiya (125¾) proved to be a worthy challenger and kept coming back with heavy punches of his own, especially in the fourth round, he was floored four times by right hands, once in the third, twice in the sixth, and finally in the tenth when he was counted out on the 2.07 mark. With both men looking weary during the middle rounds, Esparragoza (125¾), having damaged his right hand, was obviously conserving his energy at that stage prior to opening up.

 

2 June 1989. Antonio Esparragoza w co 6 Jean-Marc Renard

Venue: Exhibition Centre, Namur, Belgium. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Lou Moret.

Fight Summary: Getting off to a great start, Renard (126) went clear with good left jabs and hooks that penetrated the champion’s guard, but by the end of the fifth round it was clear that Esparragoza (125½), having begun to counter heavily, was boxing well within himself. Changing tactics in the sixth, the former WBA junior featherweight title holder upped the pace when switching from head to body with two-fisted combinations, before a sharp short left sent Renard down to be counted out with 40 seconds of the round remaining.

 

22 September 1989. Antonio Esparragoza w co 5 Eduardo Montoya

Venue: Calafia Bullring, Mexicali, Mexico. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Larry Rozadilla.

Fight Summary: Starting quicker than normal, after the hard-hitting Esparragoza (126) began dishing out punishment as early as the second round, by the third his slashing fists had inflicted a cut over the challenger’s left eye which was followed by a knockdown in the fourth. The fifth saw Esparragoza move in quickly to take advantage of his supremacy, and having prepared the ground three successive left-right combinations to the head and body saw Montoya (125¾) counted out on the 1.13 mark.

 

12 May 1990. Antonio Esparragoza w pts 12 Chan-Mok Park

Venue: Hilton Hotel, Seoul, South Korea. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Rudy Battle.

Scorecards: 116-111, 116-113, 115-114.

Fight Summary: With height and reach in his favour, the challenger, Park (125¾), worked off the back foot throughout. Because of his negative tactics Park was never in the contest with a chance of winning, even having a point deducted for butting in the ninth. At various stages, Esparragoza (125½), stalking and chasing, became extremely frustrated, but he did enough to win what was described by one reporter as the worst fight he had ever seen in the Orient.

 

Esparragoza’s next defence would be against the aggressive Young-Kyun Park, who had powered his way to the South Korean and OPBF titles and offered a real threat. With a knockout victory over Leon Collins, his record showed 17 wins, one draw and one defeat.

 

30 March 1991. Young-Kyun Park w pts 12 Antonio Esparragoza

Venue: Mudeungsan Hotel, Kwangju, South Korea. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Stan Christodoulou.

Scorecards: 118-110, 116-112, 117-111.

Fight Summary: The aggressor throughout, Park (125¼) created something of a surprise when ending the champion’s four-year reign. Esparragoza (126) could not get going, finding Park’s furious combinations difficult to handle, and although fighting back with long uppercuts and solid left hooks of his own he was unable to stop the flow of punches coming his way. Certainly a surprise package, according to The Ring magazine Park reminded them of a miniature Gene Fullmer type of pressure fighter.

 

15 June 1991. Young-Kyun Park w rsc 6 Masuaki Takeda

Venue: Taegu Indoor Gym, Seoul, South Korea. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Bernard Soto.

Fight Summary: Making his first defence, the rough and rugged Park (125½) came through successfully when getting on top of Takeda (124¾) from the opening bell. Constantly hurt by two-fisted attacks, and in danger of being stopped on several occasions, the referee finally rescued the game Takeda 80 seconds into the sixth round.

 

14 September 1991. Young-Kyun Park w pts 12 Eloy Rojas

Venue: KBS Hall, Mokpo, Seoul, South Korea. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Larry Rozadilla.

Scorecards: 118-110, 116-111, 118-114.

Fight Summary: Starting well and looking to get his challenger out of the fight quickly, Park (125½) dropped Rojas (124½) with a heavy right hook, and when the latter got up he was put under immense pressure before making it to the bell. Using his greater strength to push Rojas back Park continued with his offensive, but after both men were cut in the sixth, Rojas over the right eye and Park over the left optic, the fight took a late turn in the eighth as the champion tired. However, it was too little and too late as Park held on to thwart Rojas’ late rally.

 

25 January 1992. Young-Kyun Park w co 9 Seiji Asakawa

Venue: Indoor Stadium, Inchon, South Korea. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Larry Rozadilla.

Fight Summary: Building on his reputation as a dangerous in-fighter, Park (125¾) demolished his challenger with a single left hook in the ninth round, having earlier dropped him in the second. Prior to the finish, timed at 1.43, Asakawa (125¾) had given it his best shot, but had been outspeeded and outpunched, and although standing toe-to-toe at times he ultimately lacked the power to damage Park.

 

25 April 1992. Young-Kyun Park w rsc 11 Koji Matsumoto

Venue: Olympic Memorial National Arena, Ansan, South Korea. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Julio Cesar     Alvarado.

Fight Summary: Showing much gameness, the challenger was dropped in round two by a solid right before getting up to take all Park (125½) could throw at him until the ninth when he was downed again. Park also had a point deducted in that session for ignoring the bell. The finish came in the 11th after good combinations to head and body had sent Matsumoto (126) to his knees, whereupon the referee stepped in and called it off on the 45-second marker.

 

29 August 1992. Young-Kyun Park w pts 12 Giovanni Nieves

Venue: Hyundai Hotel, Kyongju, South Korea. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Waldemar Schmidt.

Scorecards: 116-113, 116-113, 115-113.

Fight Summary: In a hard-fought, close-quarter battle it was the challenger who took the initiative, winning the opening two rounds before Park (125½) started to score with non-stop combinations that gave him a mid-point lead. From there on, however, it was difficult to score as both men wearied and held more, but the edge appeared to be with Park as he looked to knock Nieves (124¾) over. Continuing to work hard, Park took the last two sessions to give him the victory on all three cards. Although Park was cut over the right eye in the 12th it came too late to be an advantage to his opponent.

 

19 December 1992. Young-Kyun Park w pts 12 Ever Beleno

Venue: KBS Hall, Changwon, South Korea. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Kazumasa Kuwata.

Scorecards: 117-112, 117-112, 115-114.

Fight Summary: Displaying both aggression and durability, Park (125½) held on to his title against Beleno (124¾), an unbeaten southpaw, in what was often a tough and uncompromising close-quarter battle. Although taking control from the third round, Park lacked the accuracy to go with his heavier punches, and as he tired in the latter stages Beleno came through strongly during the eighth and ninth sessions before he too ran out of steam.

 

20 March 1993. Young-Kyun Park w rsc 4 Thanomchit Kiatkriengkrai

Venue: Halla Gym, Seoul, South Korea. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Ken Morita.

Fight Summary: Making his seventh successful defence, Park (125¼) pressed from the opening bell, but with Kiatkriengkrai (125¾) refusing to back off it was toe-to-toe for the first three rounds. In the fourth, Park got to the challenger with a solid southpaw left to the head which decidedly hurt him. Then, following a non-stop barrage of blows, mainly uppercuts, the referee stopped the contest with just 12 seconds of the round remaining in order to rescue the brave Thai from taking further punishment.

.

4 September 1993. Young-Kyun Park w pts 12 Tae-Shik Chun

Venue: The Arena, Damyang, South Korea. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Wan-Soo Yuh.

Scorecards: 118-112, 117-110, 118-110.

Fight Summary: Proving to be the stronger right from the start the champion took the fight to Chun (125¾), pushing him back to the ropes before sending in wads of big punches, some missing but others doing a fair amount of damage. Although Chun came back strongly in the ninth and 12th rounds, hurting Park (125) with big right hands, unable to sustain his attacks for long he lost by a fair margin.

 

Looking to gain revenge for the only defeat on his record, Eloy Rojas would be Park’s next challenger. Having lost his previous title challenge to Park, the skilful, hard-punching Rojas had gone on to defeat Carlos Uribe (2) and Giovanni Nieves, while taking his record to 26 wins, one draw and one defeat.

 

4 December 1993. Eloy Rojas w pts 12 Young-Kyun Park

Venue: The Gym, Kwangmyong, South Korea. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Larry Rozadilla.

Scorecards: 113-112, 115-111, 111-114.

Fight Summary: Pounding Park (125¼) from the opening bell, Rojas (125¾) built up a fair lead before the brawling champion fought back in the fifth round to close the gap. It then became fast and furious, with plenty of fouls thrown in for good measure as both men were guilty of breaking the rules, and in the tenth they actually wrestled each other to the ground. With two rounds to go and the fight on a knife-edge it was Rojas who showed up better with right crosses and uppercuts staggering Park as he made his run for home.

 

19 March 1994. Eloy Rojas w rsc 5 Seiji Asakawa

Venue: World Memorial Hall, Kobe, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Pinit Prayadsab.

Fight Summary: Very much give and take, Rojas (124¾), who seemed intent on getting his challenger out of there as soon as possible, was prepared to take blows in order to do so. Although Asakawa (126) survived the first two sessions to come back with some overarm swings of his own in the third, he was soon under the cosh again in the fourth, and in the fifth after he was smashed down twice the referee halted the action 48 seconds into the round.

 

11 September 1994. Eloy Rojas w rsc 8 Samart Payakaroon

Venue: Clarion MP Resort, Trang, Thailand. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Larry Rozadilla.

Fight Summary: Although he started slowly, the champion, despite being cut over the left eye, got going in the third round with jabs and combinations before going toe-to-toe with Payakaroon (126) and knocking him over in the fourth with a fierce right hook. With Rojas (125½) attacking the body and Payakaroon replying with solid lefts and uppercuts that appeared to weaken the Venezuelan it was anybody’s fight. Then, in the eighth, Rojas sent in a stream of right uppercuts to the body that sent the Thai to his knees for a count of ‘eight’. Back on his feet Payakaroon looked done in, and after being dropped again the fight was stopped 55 seconds into the round.

 

3 December 1994. Eloy Rojas w pts 12 Luis Mendoza

Venue: Campin Coliseum, Bogota, Colombia. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Carlos Berrocal.

Scorecards: 117-111, 116-114, 115-113.

Fight Summary: There was no doubt that both men came to fight, and while the champion proved to be the better puncher of the two Mendoza (125¾) certainly gave him plenty of problems, especially when countering heavily in the sixth and seventh rounds. The aggressive Rojas (126) scored well at times, but it was only when he dropped Mendoza twice in the final session with heavy rights to the head that he made sure of victory.

 

27 May 1995. Eloy Rojas w pts 12 Young-Kyun Park

Venue: Shinyang Park Hotel, Seoul, South Korea. Recognition: WBA. Referee: John Coyle.

Scorecards: 118-109, 114-113, 113-114.

Fight Summary: Defending his title against the man he won it from, Rojas (125¾) staged a grandstand finish to make sure of victory in an action-packed encounter, coming on strongly to have Park (126) staggering over the last three rounds. Although one judge had Rojas winning ten rounds, which was nonsense, the other two had one point between them, and if the uncompromising Park (126) had not had a point deducted in the eighth round for repeated use of the head the result could have been rather different. There were no knockdowns, but the better quality came from Rojas while the southpaw Park occasionally caused problems with his wild boxing and trademark left hand.

 

13 August 1995. Eloy Rojas w pts 12 Nobutoshi Hiranaka

Venue: Municipal Gym, Tagawa City, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Larry Rozadilla.

Scorecards: 116-112, 116-111, 116-112.

Fight Summary: After controlling the first seven rounds with good jabs and combinations, Rojas (125¼) surprisingly went down in the eighth from a fairly innocuous left. But when the aggressive Hiranaka (125¾), who had been cut on the right eye in the third, was unable to assert himself the champion soon got back into his stride. Although Hiranaka gave it his best shot in the ninth, on tiring rapidly a big left hook almost put him away in the final session as Rojas continued his boxing lesson.

 

27 January 1996. Eloy Rojas w pts 12 Miguel Arrozal

Venue: Veterans’ Memorial Coliseum, Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Tony Weeks.

Scorecards: 118-110, 118-110, 120-110.

Fight Summary: This was a fight that was reckoned to be much closer than the scorecards showed, the challenger crowding Rojas (125½) from the start, letting go with two-handed body attacks before the latter picked it up to get himself in front by the halfway stage. There was no doubt in the minds of those at ringside that Arrozal (124¼) could cause a surprise prior to the ninth, having continued to force the pace, but Rojas dominated the last four sessions, cutting the Filipino over the left eye while generally marking him up with good combinations and jabs to earn the decision.

 

Rojas’ next defence would come against the aggressive, two-fisted Wilfredo Vazquez, the former WBA bantamweight and junior featherweight champion, whose record showed 45 wins, two draws, seven defeats and one no contest. Vazquez, who had only lost to the very best, would be a tough man to overcome. 

 

18 May 1996. Wilfredo Vazquez w rsc 11 Eloy Rojas

Venue: Mirage Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Mitch Halpern.

Fight Summary: Carrying a seven-inch-reach advantage into the ring enabled the champion to dictate matters for much of the time, with Vazquez (126), cut over left eye in the sixth, winning just two rounds prior to the 11th. Having pressed the fight with very little success, and making a supreme effort in the 11th to close in on a tiring Rojas (125½), about a minute into the session Vazquez staggered the champion with two left hooks before a follow-up right sent him down. Back on his feet Rojas was immediately set upon, a left-right-right hook sending him crashing. At this point the referee called the fight off while saving his head from cracking against the floor at the same time, the finish being timed at 1.21. Vazquez became a three-weight world champion on the result.

 

7 December 1996. Wilfredo Vazquez w rsc 5 Bernardo Mendoza

Venue: Fantasy Springs Resort & Casino, Indio, California, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Mitch Halpern.

Fight Summary: From the moment the bell rang to start the opening session it was difficult to see just how the veteran challenger would cope with Vazquez (126), being way down on reach and power. And so it proved. Trying all he knew, including jabbing and moving, Mendoza (123) failed on that score before resorting to holding on, and in the fifth round he was caught by a solid one-two and dropped as he charged in, barely beating the count. Back on his feet Mendoza was at the mercy of Vazquez, who landed some heavy, hurtful unreturned shots before the referee called it off with 23 seconds of the round remaining.

 

30 March 1997. Wilfredo Vazquez w co 5 Yuji Watanabe

Venue: Ryogoku Sumo Arena, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: John Coyle.

Fight Summary: Punching with great force, Vazquez (126) almost finished Watanabe (125¼) off in the second round, two vicious right hands dropping the challenger and leaving him in a precarious state. Although Watanabe came back gamely with the jab he was countered heavily over the top, and in the fourth he was again left on shaky legs when forced to absorb solid overarm rights and left hooks. The end came after a heavy right and left uppercut to the jaw put Watanabe down for the count in the fifth, the finish being timed at 31 seconds.

 

23 August 1997. Wilfredo Vazquez w pts 12 Roque Cassiani

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Carl Schroeder.

Scorecards: 118-110, 116-112, 116-110.

Fight Summary: Despite winning clearly on the cards the champion was unable to dislodge Cassiani (125½), who proved to be a very tough customer when taking everything that was thrown at him and coming back for more. Indeed, immediately after a left hook slammed into his head Cassiani dropped Vazquez (126) with a right to the jaw early in the tenth, thus enforcing the mandatory ‘eight’ count. Although stunned, the champion battled on strongly through to the final bell and victory.

 

8 November 1997. Wilfredo Vazquez w pts 12 Genaro Rios

Venue: Thomas & Mack Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Joe Cortez.

Scorecards: 116-112, 117-113, 115-114.

Fight Summary: Bringing a hit-and-run style to the ring, the challenger gave Vazquez (126) all the problems he could muster as he danced in and out, making difficult angles, and keeping the left jab going. Although Vazquez was the bigger puncher, occasionally catching Rios (126) with combinations of solid blows, he was unable to subdue the Nicaraguan who always came back for more. He also looked to have won as far as the fans were concerned.

 

Vazquez forfeited the WBA version of the title on 21 March 1998 when failing to agree to a defence against Antonio Cermeno before making a fight with the unbeaten Naseem Hamed for the latter’s WBO title. Having turned pro in 1992, the brilliant hard-punching switch-hitter had accounted for 29 opponents and had only ever gone the distance on one occasion. After beating Steve Robinson for the WBO title, he had defended the belt with solid wins over Said Lawal, Daniel Alicea, Manuel Medina, Remigio Molina, Tom Johnson, Billy Hardy, Juan Cabrera, Jose Badillo and Kevin Kelley. He had also held the IBF title for a short while before discarding it.

 

18 April 1998. Naseem Hamed w rsc 7 Wilfredo Vazquez

Venue: Nynex Arena, Manchester, England. Recognition: WBO. Referee: Genaro Rodriguez.

Fight Summary: Showing much more caution in the wake of recent performances, Hamed (125¾) gave few opportunities to his challenger despite being caught to the body on occasion and taking a hefty right in the second. That was really it as far as Vazquez (126) was concerned, being put down in the third and sixth rounds - the first time from a cracking left to the jaw and the second time being more of a slip - before he was taken apart in the seventh. Having been dropped by a solid left counter early on in the session, Vazquez got up, only to be assaulted by heavy shots from all angles. Although he somehow kept his feet, even when a couple of right uppercuts crashed home, he was finally toppled by a booming left for an ‘eight’ count. With Vazquez now completely at the mercy of Hamed, a couple of punches later, at 2.29, the referee brought matters to a halt.

 

31 October 1998. Naseem Hamed w pts 12 Wayne McCullough

Venue: Boardwalk Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: WBO. Referee: Joe Cortez.

Scorecards: 116-112, 118-110, 117-111.

Fight Summary: Although starting with three-punch combinations, after Hamed (125) tired of trying to put his tough challenger on the floor he began to showboat, an action that incensed the fans. The light-punching McCullough (124) always took the fight to Hamed, being prepared to take blows to land his own, but he could not dictate the way the fight went and was unable to hurt the latter. Having predicted he would take McCullough out inside three rounds and failed, Hamed was advised by many of the boxing fraternity to concentrate on his boxing skills before it was too late.

 

10 April 1999. Naseem Hamed w rsc 11 Paul Ingle

Venue: MEN Arena, Manchester, England. Recognition: WBO. Referee: Joe Cortez.

Fight Summary: Despite retaining for the 12th time, Hamed (126) again looked less than convincing despite dropping Ingle (125½) for ‘eight’ in the first round having landed with two solid lefts to head and body. As the fight wore on, regardless of the fact that he had Ingle on the floor from a body shot in the sixth, it was noticeable that whenever Hamed opened up he was caught by solid counters, and though he was winning the rounds it remained competitive. All that changed in ninth and tenth as Ingle began to force Hamed back with stinging attacks. However, early in the 11th things changed again after the champion drove in a terrific left to his oncoming rival’s head which dropped him and brought about a stoppage after 45 seconds of the round had elapsed.

 

22 October 1999. Naseem Hamed w pts 12 Cesar Soto

Venue: Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Recognition: WBC/WBO. Referee: Dale Grable.

Scorecards: 115-110, 116-109, 115-110.

Fight Summary: Coming together to decide two titles neither the WBC’s Soto (126) nor the WBO’s Hamed (126) covered themselves in glory, and with the former butting and the latter holding it certainly fell well below world title standards. Hamed, at least did land the more solid blows and produce the better boxing when able, but had two points taken away for a headlock in the fourth and a throw in the fifth before Soto was deducted a point in the eighth for blatant butting. With the contest gradually petering out, even though Hamed caught Soto with a solid right uppercut in the final session there was no more real action.

 

Hamed forfeited the WBC version of the title on 9 January 2000 when not being available to meet their leading contender.

 

11 March 2000. Naseem Hamed w co 4 Vuyani Bungu

Venue: Olympia, Kensington, London, England. Recognition: WBO. Referee: Joe Cortez.

Fight Summary: Having been so disappointing in his last three contests, Hamed (126) at last got back to something approaching his normal self when making a successful defence against Bungu (125½), a former IBF champion. Controlling the action from the opening bell, when Hamed opened up a cut over Bungu’s left eye in the third round, and with the South African concentrating on defence alone, it was no contest. The finish came after the challenger was dropped by a cracker of a straight left and counted out at 1.38 of the fourth.

 

19 August 2000. Naseem Hamed w rsc 4 Augie Sanchez

Venue: Foxwoods Resort Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut, USA. Recognition: WBO. Referee: Michael Ortega.

Fight Summary: Although being given a bit of a scare when put down twice by solid right hands in the second round, despite the referee not counting them as such and being tagged with some ease in the third, Hamed (126) soon focused on turning things around in the fourth. Nailed early on in the fourth by two rights and a big left, Sanchez (126) was dropped, and on getting to his feet he was soon floored again after Hamed had been deducted a point for hitting him while down the first time. Hamed was now in full cry. When a cracking left hook followed by a right-left-right parted Sanchez from his senses it left the referee no alternative but to stop the contest immediately, the finish being timed at 2.34.

 

Hamed relinquished the WBO version of the title on 30 September in order to take on Marco Antonio Barrera.

 

In 54 fights, including one no-decision bout, Barrera had lost just three times, to Junior Jones (2) and Erik Morales, and was the current WBO junior featherweight champion with some big names on his record. He had also held the same title twice previously. A man who could both box and punch in equal measure, he represented Hamed’s toughest test to date.

 

7 April 2001. Marco Antonio Barrera w pts 12 Naseem Hamed

Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Referee: Joe Cortez.

Scorecards: 116-111, 115-112, 115-112.

Fight Summary: Although supported by the International Boxing Organisation this fight was more to do with both Barrera and Hamed wanting to decide the best man in the world at the weight, being the richest ever featherweight contest. Right from the opening bell Barrera (125½) got the left jab working well against the switch-hitting Hamed (126), doubling up and finding the target again and again. By round six it had become a master-class as Barrera hit and moved before Hamed could get set, and although the latter was still in the fight he was having no success with his heavier punches. Whenever Barrera was caught by a solid shot he would hold before getting back to business. And he was always on the outside of Hamed’s lunges. Even a point deduction in the 12th for bouncing Hamed’s head off a ring post made no difference, Barrera having landed 89 more punches on his rival than he had received himself in what was a comprehensive victory. Barrera, who became a two-weight world champion on winning, relinquished his WBO junior featherweight title the following month. He had earlier relinquished the IBO title, claiming to be a fighter who would not be tied down by any of the self-styled boxing commissions.

 

8 September 2001. Marco Antonio Barrera w rtd 6 Enrique Sanchez

Venue: Lawlor Events Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada. Referee: Jay Nady.

Fight Summary: In a fight billed as being for ‘The People’s Championship’, Barrera (126), was too good for his southpaw opponent, outpunching him in the second and dropping him in the third with a vicious right hand to the face. Coming out for the fourth, it was more of the same for Sanchez (125), who just about made it to the end of the round after a big left hook had him over again. Bravely making it through the fifth, Sanchez looked at his wit’s end coming into the sixth before somehow making it through to the bell. At that point, carrying a damaged eardum, his corner wisely retired him. Sanchez had shown his class at times, but it was not enough.   

 

22 June 2002. Marco Antonio Barrera w pts 12 Erik Morales

Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC/The Ring. Referee: Jay Nady.

Scorecards: 116-112, 115-113, 115-113.

Fight Summary: With his WBC title at stake had Morales (126) taken the last round he would have received the decision. Morales, who finished with his right eye almost closed, also claimed that the long right to the body which dropped Barrera (126) in the seventh should have been recorded as a knockdown not a slip. Very much a tactical affair this time, being contested at range, it all depended on the last round. This went to the former three-time WBO junior featherweight title holder, who took the initiative by sending in punches to head and body before reverting to the jab. The Ring Championship Belt was also on the line in this one.

 

Having taken the fight in order to gain revenge over Morales and not interested in the WBC title, Barrera relinquished it on winning while carrying on claiming to be the champion of the people.

 

2 November 2002. Marco Antonio Barrera w pts 12 Johnny Tapia

Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: The Ring. Referee: Jay Nady.

Scorecards: 116-112, 118-110, 118-110.

Fight Summary: Putting up his Ring Championship Belt, Barrera (126) proved to be far too clever for the hardy Tapia (126), who never stopped trying even though he was outsmarted most of the way. There were no knockdowns, but from the eighth onwards Tapia picked up the pace, especially after being stung by heavy blows to the head as Barrera followed up the jab. Despite being caught by heavy rights, with Tapia always looking for a fight he slipped over in the 11th after taking several quick punches. Afterwards, Tapia complained that he had hurt his left hand early on, making things even tougher for him.

 

12 April 2003. Marco Antonio Barrera w rsc 4 Kevin Kelley

Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: The Ring. Referee: Robert Byrd.

Fight Summary: Barrera’s Ring Championship Belt was on the line in this one and he made a successful defence when battering Kelley (126) to defeat at 1.32 of the fourth round. Knocked down in the opening session by a right cross-left hook, Kelley somehow made it up before taking a battering and being saved by the bell on drunken legs. Boxing in a composed fashion, picking his punches well, Barrera (126) knocked the stuffing out of his southpaw opponent in rounds two and three prior to dropping him heavily in the fourth with cracking body shots followed up by a right uppercut to the head. Allowed to carry on after the ‘eight’ count, when Kelley was caught by a right-left and was lurching on the ropes the referee had seen enough.

 

Manny Pacquiao, the current IBF junior featherweight champion, would be Barrera’s next opponent. With a record showing 37 (28 inside the distance) wins, one technical draw and two defeats, the Filipino southpaw, who had also been a WBC flyweight champion, was an all-action fighter with power to burn. Having started his career as a junior flyweight, Pacquiao had beaten many top fighters such as Chatchai Sasakul, Gabriel Mira, Reynante Jamili, Arnel Barotillo, Lehlo Ledwaba, Jorge Elicier Julio and Emmanuel Lucero, and was still only 25 years old.  

 

15 November 2003. Manny Pacquiao w rsc 11 Marco Antonio Barrera

Venue: The Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas, USA. Recognition: The Ring. Referee: Laurence Cole.

Fight Summary: Defending his Ring Championship Belt, Barrera (126) lost to Pacquiao (125). Dropped in the third, and again in the sixth, Barrera had run out of ideas by the end of the tenth against a southpaw opponent who just kept throwing leather. Cut over the left eye from an accidentally butt in the seventh, although Barrera made it to his feet after being put down again in the 11th he was taking punches without reply when pulled out of the fight by the referee with just four seconds remaining. Even when Pacquiao had been counted over in the opening session it was clearly a slip and not a knockdown, and from that moment on he dominated. Pacquiao, who had become a three-weight world champion on winning, relinquished his IBF junior featherweight title following the fight.

 

8 May 2004. Manny Pacquiao drew 12 Juan Manuel Marquez

Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/The Ring. Referee: Joe Cortez.

Scorecards: 115-110, 110-115, 113-113.

Fight Summary: Down three times in the first, the Mexican champion came back like a lion to get a share of the decision after it seemed certain that Pacquiao (125) was going to take Marquez's IBF and WBA titles home with him. There were no further knockdowns, Pacquiao, a southpaw, complaining afterwards that his left hand had been injured in the second round and had restricted his ability to finish the job. In a fight as intense as this one it was no surprise that both men were carrying the signs of battle afterwards, Marquez (125) swollen around both eyes, while Pacquiao’s right eye was cut along the brow and almost closed. With two judges in complete disagreement as to who won, the other judge admitted the following day that he had marked the opening round as 10-7, not 10-6, a mistake which cost Pacquiao victory. However, the extraordinary comeback by Marquez deserved a share of the laurels, if not more, as he appeared to have outboxed the tough little Filipino from the third onwards.

 

11 December 2004. Manny Pacquiao w rsc 4 Fahsan 3K Battery

Venue: MC Home Depot Open Air Arena, Manila, Philippines. Recognition: The Ring. Referee: Ferdinand Estrella.

Fight Summary: Defending The Ring Championship Belt, Pacquiao (125) was far too good for 3K Battery (124), quickly getting into his stride when throwing lightning-quick southpaw punches to head and body. Overwhelmed, all 3K Battery could do was to cover up and try to fight back, but after he had been dropped heavily in rounds two and three it was clear that this one would not be lasting much longer. Twice in the fourth session 3K Battery was blasted to the floor by cracking lefts and rights, and although he made it to his feet on the first occasion the second time around the referee did not even bother to take up the count, stopping the contest on the 1.26 mark.

 

Pacquiao continued to be recognised by The Ring magazine as their champion until the end of May 2005, but to all intents and purposes he had moved up to junior lightweight after winning the WBC International title at 130lbs on 19 March 2005. Immediately following that, Juan Manuel Marquez, who had unified the IBF and WBA titles when defeating Derrick Gainer on 1 November 2003, prior to defending against Pacquiao and Orlando Salido, should be seen as the holder of my version of the 'world' title. Having earlier won the IBF title when beating Manuel Medina, Marquez had 43 wins, one draw and two defeats from 46 contests. He had come close to beating Pacquiao on 8 May 2004, proving to be a tough all-action fighter who never knew when he was beaten.

 

7 May 2005. Juan Manuel Marquez w pts 12 Victor Polo

Venue: Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA. Referee: Richard Steele.

Scorecards: 119-108, 118-109, 120-107.

Fight Summary: As in his previous defence Marquez (125) was up against another counter-puncher, but although he won by a large margin on the cards it was anything but interesting. Despite Polo (126) being the taller of the pair whenever he threw the southpaw jab he was countered by a left hook, and through the opening six rounds Marquez edged each round before dropping his rival in the seventh with a hard right. That looked to be the signal for Marquez to move up a gear, but for the next few sessions he went back to playing the waiting game. Even though Marquez eventually upped the pace in the 11th and 12th he was ultimately content to settle for the points.

 

On 15 August, Marquez was stripped of the IBF Championship Belt after he had failed to negotiate a match against the body’s mandatory challenger, Fahprakorb Rakkiatgym, while forfeiting the WBA ‘super’ title on 22 August after for rejecting a rematch against Manny Pacquiao. Unbeaten after 37 fights, which included a technical draw, the WBA champion, John, had patiently been waiting to make a fight against Marquez. John had been appointed as the WBA champion on 22 August 2005, having previously held their ‘second tier’ title, would get his wish next time out.

 

4 March 2006. Chris John w pts 12 Juan Manuel Marquez

Venue: Golden Gate Arena, Tenggarong City, Borneo, Indonesia. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Guillermo Perez Pineda.

Scorecards: 116-110, 117-111, 116-112.

Fight Summary: John (125) was defending the WBA title that was handed to him after it was forfeited by Marquez (125), who failed to win it back when the unanimous decision went against him. With John jabbing and moving, and occasionally throwing heavy counters, it was left to Marquez to force the fight when getting in close before firing off blows to head and body. There was never a great deal in it, but when Marquez had points deducted in the tenth and 11th for low blows the fight slipped away from him. Even though he caught a few solid shots in the last two sessions as Marquez pressed hard, John remained calm to see the contest out.

 

9 September 2006. Chris John w pts 12 Renan Acosta

Venue: Soemantri Brodjonegoro Hall, Jakarta, Indonesia. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Derek Milham.

Scorecards: 119-108, 119-109, 120-107.

Fight Summary: Although this was a wide win for John (124¼) on the scorecards, Acosta (125) was always in the fight, and in the second round he showed his intent when sending in a cracking right to the head that made the champion pay attention. In the sixth, John's extra energy was beginning to count, Acosta being badly hurt by a big right before losing a point in the eighth for going low. From thereon in, Acosta showed his toughness as he took all that John could dish out while still making it competitive.

 

3 March 2007. Chris John w pts 12 Jose Rojas

Venue: Bung Karno Indoor Tennis Stadium, Senayan, Jakarta, Indonesia. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Derek Milham.

Scorecards: 118-108, 117-109, 116-110.

Fight Summary: Trying to turn the contest into a brawl, Rojas (125½) went after the champion early on until a countering right put him over for a short count. Although John (126) had the boxing skills to deal with Rojas he seemed to be more intent on slugging it out with his southpaw opponent, putting him down again the fourth with more of a push than a punch. Coming back hard in the fifth, Rojas landed solidly, only for John to respond. In the ninth an unintentional head butt left a gash over John's left eye, but by now Rojas, who was almost spent, was forced back before coming again in what had been a competitive contest.

 

19 August 2007. Chris John w rtd 9 Zaiki Takemoto

Venue: Fashion Mart Arena, Kobe, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Steve Smoger.

Fight Summary: Although trying to the very last ounce of energy, Takemoto (126) was no match for the skilful champion before being retired by his corner at the end of the ninth. Prior to that Takemoto had been battered by John (125¾), who was in control throughout. Cut over the left eye and floored in the sixth, Takemoto was still trying to take the fight to John when another combination of lefts and rights to the head dropped him again in the eighth. After fighting on bravely in the ninth it was clear that there was nothing left, and on staggering back to his stool his handlers did the right thing.

 

26 January 2008. Chris John w rtd 7 Roinet Caballero

Venue: Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, Jakarta, Indonesia. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Raul Caiz Jnr.

Fight Summary: Winning every round but the first according to the cards, although there was nothing in it the skilful champion was soon banging in stiff jabs and countering rights as Caballero (125½) tried to get to him. By the fourth, however, it was clear that Caballero did not belong in the same league as John (126) despite being brave and resilient. When John opened up in the seventh the writing was on the wall when Caballero was slammed by left hooks to the body again and again, and it was no surprise when his corner pulled him out at the end of the session.

 

24 October 2008. Chris John w pts 12 Hiroyuki Enoki

Venue: Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Silvestre Abainza.

Scorecards: 118-110, 118-110, 117-111.

Fight Summary: This was a tough defence for John (125½) and he was made to fight every step of the way against the tough, unbeaten Enoki (126). Although the scorecards show a wide margin of victory for John, who picked up a gash on the right eye in the fifth, they do not tell the full story as many of the rounds were extremely close. Having to take more punches than normal, the classy John proved that he had a good chin, especially when being caught by heavy lefts and rights on occasion. It was John's quicker blows and adroitness that ultimately won the day, and in the closing rounds he outpunched the tiring Enoki, who finished with his left eye closed to go with his badly swollen face.

 

28 February 2009. Chris John drew 12 Rocky Juarez

Venue: Toyota Centre, Houston, Texas, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Laurence Cole.

Scorecards: 114-114, 114-114, 114-114.

Fight Summary: Extremely tight, both men did enough to warrant the unanimous draw in a hard-fought contest. Although the champion had more output, it was the never-say-die spirit of Juarez (125½) that made the contest what it was, always aggressive and always chasing an inside-the-distance win. Finishing with his right eye closed and his left cut, Juarez continually surged forward as John (125¼) showed his mettle as well as ability to avoid many of the blows tossed at him. However, while John took more than he normally would have, he showed his ability when countering heavily as Juarez came forward, scoring with more than 600 solid jabs.

 

19 September 2009. Chris John w pts 12 Rocky Juarez

Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Joe Cortez.

Scorecards: 114-113, 119-109, 117-111.

Fight Summary: In a return match, this time round the champion made it his fight when boxing off the back foot while keeping plenty of space between himself and the dangerous Juarez (126). It was this tactic that was paramount to his victory, and it was only in the latter stages when tiring that Juarez caught up with him. Winning two or three rounds at most up until then, Juarez had failed to make his punching power count as John (126) caught him with solid left jabs, hooks and uppercuts whenever he was in range. Making one almighty effort in the 12th, Juarez finally got to John with a left hook that buckled the Indonesian's knees prior to a right uppercut staggering him before the bell came to his rescue.

 

5 December 2010. Chris John w pts 12 Fernando David Saucedo

Venue: Senayan Indoor Tennis Stadium, Jakarta, Indonesia. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Rafael Ramos.

Scorecards: 119-109, 119-109, 120-108.

Fight Summary: Dominating the contest from the off with the left jab and hook working well, the champion pushed Saucedo (125) on to the back foot before coming under fire in the middle rounds as he took a breather. Following this, it was clear that the Argentine was in survival mode as he tightened up his defence. With Saucedo difficult to break down, although John (125½) gave it his best shot he was ultimately forced to settle for a wide points victory having taken virtually every round on the cards.

 

17 April 2011. Chris John w pts 12 Daud Cino Yordan

Venue: Exhibition Hall, Jakarta, Indonesia. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Raul Caiz.

Scorecards: 116-112, 116-112, 117-111.

Fight Summary: Getting away well, John (125¾) appeared happy take on the challenger at his own game, fighting at close quarters virtually throughout the contest. Although Yordan (126) took the second and seventh rounds, he was always running second best to John, who put on one of his best displays for a long time when finding the blows to unpick his rival's defences. Taking his foot off the pedal in the last two sessions, John cruised through to the finishing post without undue difficulty.

 

30 November 2011. Chris John w pts 12 Stanyslav Merdov

Venue: Challenge Stadium, Mount Claremont, Australia. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Pinit Prayadsab.

Scorecards: 115-112, 116-111, 116-111.

Fight Summary: John (125½) stepped on the gas from the start when mixing up overarm rights to the head with his normal repertoire, and in the second one such punch had Merdov (126) over. Although Merdov boxed on he was badly hurt by a similar blow in the fourth before coming back into the fight as John tired. Winning the sixth and eighth when keeping John on the outside, Merdov came more and more into it as the fight progressed, but John had already done enough even though the Ukranian wrapped up the last two sessions.

 

5 May 2012. Chris John w pts 12 Shoji Kimura

Venue: Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Ferlin Marsh.

Scorecards: 118-109, 117-110, 119-108.

Fight Summary: This was no easy fight for the champion, but he showed his ability to good effect when battering the tough Kimura (125½) throughout on his way to a wide points decision. Kimura was always right in front of John (126), but was only able to get to him with solid blows on occasion. However, in the seventh a tremendous left hook almost had John over, and had another one found its mark it could have been curtains for the champion. Following that there would be no more opportunities for Kimura, who was set upon for the remainder of the contest.

 

9 November 2012. Chris John w pts 12 Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo

Venue: Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Mark Nelson.

Scorecards: 119-109, 119-109, 117-111.

Fight Summary: Whilst the cards showed that it was an easy win for the champion, it was anything but as the tough unbeaten Piriyapinyo (125¼) stuck with him throughout, always looking to get big punches off. John (125¾) was badly rattled and hurt in the sixth as both men loaded up, the round seeing the latter landing a blow to the back of the head as well as a low blow for which he was not cautioned. As Piriyapinyo swung hard and often he dropped John near the end of the ninth, only for the referee to see it as a slip, and with the champion in difficulty in the 12th as the Thai went for a stoppage it was probably good for him that the bell went when it did.

 

14 April 2013. Chris John tdraw 3 Satoshi Hosono

Venue: Bung Karno Stadium, Jakarta, Indonesia. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Rafael Ramos.

Fight Summary: The contest had barely got underway when the champion was nicked over his left eye as Hosono (126) tore in with his head low and, although he tried to box the latter off, it had obviously bothered him, especially when dropping the second on the cards. In the third, the shorter Hosono repeatedly went in, head down, before another clash of heads left John (125½) bleeding badly from the right eye. Clearly impairing John's vision, the referee called the fight off on the 2.14 mark following a doctor's inspection. As the contest had ended inside four rounds a technical draw was announced.

 

John’s next opponent would be Simpiwe Vetyeka, a tough, strong fighter from South Africa, who had 25 wins and two defeats on his record. With victories over Roberto Carlos Leyva and Daud Cino Yordan, which involved the IBO title, he was ready.

 

6 December 2013. Simpiwe Vetyeka w rtd 6 Chris John

Venue: Metro City Thunderdome, Northbridge, Perth, Australia. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Gustavo Padilla.

Fight Summary: Despite his reach advantage, the champion was never able to hold Vetyeka (125½) up for long with the jab and was soon slugging it out with the South African in what would turn out to be to his disadvantage. Fighting wildly at times, John (125¾) was badly hurt in the fifth before going down from clubbing blows to the head. Although looking in trouble the referee strangely called it a slip. Managing to make it to the bell John came out for the sixth, only to be battered down again for yet another slip according to the referee. Things then got even worse for him. Smashed to the floor by a cracking right to the jaw the previously unbeaten John somehow managed to last the round out before being retired by his corner at the end of the session, a thoroughly beaten fighter.

 

Vetyeka’s first defence would be against Nonito Donaire, the former undefeated IBF flyweight champion, undefeated WBC/WBO bantamweight champion and undefeated IBF and WBO junior featherweight champion. Donaire, who had recently beaten Vic Darchinyan after stepping up to featherweight, had a record of 32 wins and two defeats.

 

31 May 2014. Nonito Donaire w tdec 5 Simpiwe Vetyeka

Venue: Cotai Arena, Venetian Resort, Macao, SAR, China. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Luis Pabon.

Scorecards: 49-46, 49-46, 49-46.

Fight Summary: With both men looking to settle, Donaire (126) was badly cut at the end of the opening session when heads twice collided and left him nursing a badly gashed left eye that would eventually require 11 stitches. Regardless of visits by the ringside doctor, Donaire fought on and almost had the champion over in the third following a terrific right hand. Trying to come back from that, Vetyeka (125½) ran into a cracking right-left hook in the fourth that dropped him for a short count before making it back to his corner. One second into the fifth, as both men left their corners, the referee stopped the fight on the instruction of the ringside doctor before calling for the cards. On winning the technical decision, Donaire became a four-weight world champion.

 

A contest on the same bill saw Nicholas Walters retain his WBA 'second tier' title following a fifth-round kayo win over Vic Darchinyan, prior to being given a crack at Donaire for the full title on 18 October. Having won all his 24 contests since turning pro, the heavy-handed Walters had beaten 20 of those men inside the distance, Irving Berry, Daulis Prescott and Alberto Garza being among them.

 

18 October 2014. Nicholas Walters w rsc 6 Nonito Donaire

Venue: StubHub Centre, Carson, California, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Raul Caiz Jnr.

Fight Summary: While not looking his normal self, the champion made a reasonable start before being dumped on the seat of his pants by a solid right uppercut to the chin in the third. From thereon in it was all downhill for Donaire (125¾), as Walters (125¾) kept him on the end of firm left jabs and cut him over the right eye in the fourth. In the fifth heavy punches, both up and down, hurt Donaire, and although he had the faster hands of the pair he was gradually being worn down by the ‘second tier’ title holder. With Donaire looking shaky in the sixth when he was dropped by a terrific right to the side of his head, despite making it to his feet the referee stopped it with just one second of the session remaining. The decision was the correct one, it being clear that Donaire was in no fit state to continue.

 

Although Walters outpointed Miguel Marriaga over 12 rounds at the MSG Theatre, NYC, New York, USA on 13 June 2015, he had already been stripped of the WBA title a day earlier for failing to make the weight. When the top-rated Carl Frampton was lined up to defend his WBA title against Leo Santa Cruz, ranked at number four, it was a return contest that would also involve my version of the 'world' title. Frampton’s ranking was based on the fact that The Ring’s number one, Gary Russell Jnr, had not faced a top-ten opponent for 22 months. Unbeaten in 23 contests, Frampton was hoping to do the double over Cruz, while the latter was looking for revenge after feeling that he had left his fight at home in their previous go. An undefeated IBF bantamweight and WBC junior featherweight champion before beating Abner Mares for the WBA featherweight title, Cruz’s record showed 32 wins, one draw and one defeat.

 

28 January 2017. Leo Santa Cruz w pts 12 Carl Frampton

Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Kenny Bayless.

Scorecards: 115-113, 115-113, 114-114.

Fight Summary: Determined to gain revenge for his only defeat to date, Santa Cruz (125) surprised the champion by staying on the back foot for much of the time where he could use his height and reach advantages to good effect. There was never much between them, both men taking it in turns to land solid blows, and it was only in the ninth that Santa Cruz began to forge ahead. Even though Frampton (125) was still getting solid punches off during those sessions Santa Cruz was outworking him. With both men going all out in the 12th, science went out of the window, but although winning the round on two of the cards, Frampton just failed to make up the leeway.

 

14 October 2017. Leo Santa Cruz w rsc 8 Chris Avalos

Venue: StubHub Centre, Carson, California, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Tom Taylor.

Fight Summary: Having lost three of his last five contests was not the best form for Avalos (126) to take into the ring when up against a formidable champion such as Santa Cruz (125¼). Starting brightly, Santa Cruz was soon in charge, cracking in long rights and lefts from the outside when using his reach advantage. In the fourth he nearly took Avalos out with a heavy right, but the latter showed how durable he was when surviving Santa Cruz’s all-out attack. Santa Cruz took his time from there on before catching Avalos with a countering left hook that stunned him in the eighth. Following up with heavy combinations, although the champion could not drop Avalos, the referee brought matters to a close on the 1.34 mark in order to save the latter from taking excessive punishment.

 

9 June 2018. Leo Santa Cruz w pts 12 Abner Mares

Venue: Staples Centre, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Tom Taylor.

Scorecards: 115-113, 117-111, 116-112.

Fight Summary: In what was a rematch, with Mares (125¾), the ‘second tier’ title holder, going for the champion right from the start, the fight developed into a brawl before Santa Cruz (125½) began to box from range using the jab, both up and down. Mares came back strongly in the eighth when a clash of heads opened a cut over Santa Cruz’s left eye, and he went on to take the ninth with good body work. An explosive last three sessions saw both men going for it, Santa Cruz winning two of the rounds with more effective blows landed to make sure the verdict was his. 

 

16 February 2019. Leo Santa Cruz w pts 12 Rafael Rivera

Venue: Microsoft Theatre, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Tom Taylor.

Scorecards: 119-109, 119-109, 119-109.

Fight Summary: With many of the onlookers feeling that the contest resembled more of a sparring session rather than a title affair, Santa Cruz (125½) easily held on to his WBA title against a challenger who went down on the cards in every round bar the eighth. Although Rivera (125¼) had made a fast start, throwing lefts and rights, by the third round Santa Cruz began to step it up with effective scoring punches that were more often than not followed up by solid lefts to the body. To his credit Rivera tried hard enough, but ultimately he lacked the know-how required at this level to put his fellow Mexican under real pressure.   

Santa Cruz has been removed as champion due to the fact that he has not boxed at 126lbs for over two years and it is unclear whether he has retired or not. His last contest, which saw him badly beaten, was against Gervonta Davis at 130lbs.