Heavyweight World/Lineal Champions & Their Championship Fights

 

 

The world bare-knuckle champion since 1882, with knuckles becoming unacceptable John L. Sullivan brought the curtain down on the ‘sport’ when defeating Jake Kilrain on 8 July 1889. He had also been claiming to be the Queensberry Rules title holder since 1885, but had only ever taken part in short distance bouts. Despite that, and the fact that he had put the ‘colour bar’ up Sullivan was still recognised by many as being the gloved champion after beating Dominick McCaffrey in a short-distance fight. The man who suffered most from this action was Peter Jackson, who was recognised as the ‘black’ champion after beating Boston George Godfrey (w rsc 19 at the Californian AC, San Francisco, California on 24 August 1888). Having continually ignored Jackson’s challenges, the man known as ‘The Boston Strongman’ was adamant that it had nothing to do with Jackson, but more to do with him being twice matched against Godfrey only for the fights to be called off by the promoter at the last minute following police interference. Eventually, it was James J. Corbett who grasped the opportunity to meet Sullivan in New Orleans when signing the articles on 15 March 1892, having earlier boxed a 61-round draw with Jackson that was considered to be a no contest by the referee. Seen by many as the man who brought skill to heavyweight boxing, being fast, mobile and accurate with the jab, in 12 contests prior to meeting Sullivan the unbeaten Corbett had listed Joe Choynski, Jake Kilrain and McCaffrey among his victims

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7 September 1892. James J. Corbett w co 21 (finish) John L. Sullivan

Venue: Olympic Club, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: John Duffy.

Fight Summary:  Forcing the fight from the opening bell Sullivan (212) found Corbett (178) a difficult target, and by the 15th round he seemed to be all-in, having been unable to dislodge the much younger man. At the age of 44 it was all getting too much for Sullivan. And although Corbett had boxed a defensive if not negative fight, when he began to open up Sullivan was dropped four times in the 21st session, the last time seeing him counted out. The fight was contested in regulation five-ounce gloves.

 

25 January 1894. James J. Corbett w co 3 (finish) Charley Mitchell

Venue: Duval AC, Jacksonville, Florida, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: John Kelly.

Fight Summary: Scheduled for 20 rounds or more in five-ounce gloves, Mitchell (158) made a reasonable start, despite being inactive for such a long time, before being knocked down in the second round. Fighting like a madman, when Corbett (184) proceeded to hit at the downed Mitchell he had to be pulled off, many believing he deserved to be disqualified at that point. The third session saw Mitchell battered to the floor three times, being counted out on the last occasion, but even then the referee had to hold Corbett back. Following the fight Mitchell announced his retirement.

 

It would be the English-born Bob Fitzsimmons, who had learned to box after emigrating to New Zealand at the age of nine, who would be next for Corbett. Starting out as a pro in Australia at the the age of 19, Fitzsimmons moved on to America in 1890, and had claimed the world 158lbs middleweight title when beating Jack ‘The Nonpareil’ Dempsey in January 1891. After extinguishing the 158lbs division, Fitzsimmons was up among the heavies by 1895 despite never weighing above 175lbs soaking wet. Further to claiming that title when knocking out Peter Maher inside a round he then lost to Tom Sharkey when disqualified by Wyatt Earp with the latter down and out. Nobody was fooled by Earp’s supposed betting coup and Fitzsimmons was contracted to meet Corbett a few weeks later. With a spindly lower frame and wide shoulders, his tremendous punching power to head and body was down to perfect balance. According to KR Robinson’s superb book, Lanky Bob, prior to the fight Fitz had put together a known record of 91 contests that comprised 58 wins, three draws, three losses and 27 no-decision affairs.

 

17 March 1897. Bob Fitzsimmons w co 14 (finish) James J. Corbett

Venue: Racetrack Arena, Carson City, Nevada, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: George Siler.

Fight Summary: From the start Corbett’s skilful boxing had Fitzsimmons (167) bleeding, especially from stiff left jabs, and when he was put down from a right to the jaw in the sixth it looked as though the end was not too far away. After getting up at the count of ‘nine’ (Corbett and his manager claimed it was at least 13 seconds), when Fitzsimmons started to go for the body, by the end of the tenth Corbett looked tired out, so much so that the odds had shrunk to evens. Corbett (183) still had something left, but it was not enough. In the 14th session, with the champion sufficiently weakened, Fitzsimmons, feigning a southpaw stance, drove in a tremendous left hook under the heart. Lifted off his feet by the sheer force of the punch, Corbett went crashing down to be counted out. It was a blow that Fitzsimmons had perfected over a long period of time and it gained fame as the ‘solar plexus punch’, a left hook to the body. It was Robert H. Davis, the author and reporter, who coined the phrase, but according to Joe Choynski it was a punch to the liver that paralysed Corbett.

 

Undefeated in 13 contests, comprising ten wins, two draws and one no-decision affair, the 24-year-old James J. Jeffries would be Fitzsimmons’ next opponent. Having beaten Joe Goddard, Peter Jackson, Tom Sharkey and Bob Armstrong he had earned his opportunity, and although taking over Sharkey’s title claim Jeffries stated that he would not see himself as the champion until he had beaten Fitzsimmons. The powerful, hard-hitting Jeffries who turned pro in 1895 had also drawn with Gus Ruhlin and Joe Choynski.

 

9 June 1899. James J. Jeffries w co 11 (25) Bob Fitzsimmons

Venue: Greater New York AC, Brooklyn, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: George Siler.

Fight Summary: Fitzsimmons (167) made the early running but found it difficult to reach the crouching Jeffries’ body before he was dropped in the second round from a straight left. Swinging rights to the ribs were also beginning to hurt Fitzsimmons. By now fighting an uphill battle, having hit the challenger with his best punches to no avail Fitzsimmons was floored twice in the tenth prior to being taken out by a left-right to the jaw in the 11th. Having won the championship after just 14 contests, history shows Jeffries (206) to have then drawn the ‘colour bar’, an action that precluded great fighters such as Jack Johnson from getting the chance to fight for the title during his tenure.

 

3 November 1899. James J. Jeffries w pts 25 Tom Sharkey

Venue: Greater New York AC, Brooklyn, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: George Siler.

Fight Summary: Fighting under the glare of 400 arc lights to enable filming, the arena was like a hot house but it did not appear to affect Jeffries (215) or Sharkey (183) who battled away throughout. After putting Sharkey down in the second round, despite the majority of the crowd thinking that the champion would finish his rival off, the tough sailor got up and went toe-to-toe. Neither took a backward step, and when Jeffries was given the verdict in what was a close fight Sharkey lost any claim he may have had to the title.

 

6 April 1900. James J. Jeffries w co 1 (10) Jack Finnegan

Venue: Light Guard Armoury, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: George Siler.

Fight Summary: Only scheduled for ten rounds, Jeffries (240) did not even know who his opponent was until three days before the fight. Even though there was little or no media coverage whatsoever, it has to be seen as a defence of Jeffries' title. As a warm-up for his forthcoming contest against James J. Corbett the champion wasted little time in scoring a 55-second kayo win, flooring Finnegan (180) twice before knocking him out with a left to the body.

 

11 May 1900. James J. Jeffries w co 23 (25) James J. Corbett

Venue: Greater New York AC, Brooklyn, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Charlie White.

Fight Summary: Having almost walked the first 22 rounds Corbett (188) was entitled to think that he was well on the way to getting his title back, especially as Jeffries’ left eye was closed and his face was a mess. Told that he was miles behind on points Jeffries (218) prepared himself for one almighty effort in the 23rd, and when the dancing Corbett slowed to deliver a right cross he was beaten to the punch by a mighty left hook thrown by a desperate champion. With Corbett badly shaken, when the second punch went in a moment later he crashed to the floor to be counted out.

 

15 November 1901. James J. Jeffries w rtd 5 (20) Gus Ruhlin

Venue: Mechanics’ Pavilion, San Francisco, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Harry Corbett.

Fight Summary: Ruhlin (194) was hammered throughout by Jeffries (211), it being only his cleverness that enabled him to last as long as he did. Knocked down in the third round and saved by the bell he was immediately under pressure in the fourth as Jeffries hooked in short rights to the body. However, by the end of the fifth, with Ruhlin appearing to have recuperated, it was a surprise when he failed to answer the bell to open the sixth.

 

25 July 1902. James J. Jeffries w co 8 (20) Bob Fitzsimmons

Venue: Athletic Club Arena, San Francisco, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Ed Graney.

Fight Summary: Given the opportunity to regain his old title Fitzsimmons (172) started well, his left hand picking off the slower champion whose face was covered in blood after three rounds. At the end of the fifth Fitzsimmons was still going strong, making Jeffries (219) miss while jabbing and dropping in right hands. In the sixth Jeffries at last began to weaken Fitzsimmons with tremendous rights to the body. Although Fitzsimmons came back well to take the seventh, after being caught by a cracking right to the body in the eighth he dropped down in agony to be counted out.

 

14 August 1903. James J. Jeffries w rtd 10 (20) James J. Corbett

Venue: Mechanics’ Pavilion, San Francisco, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Ed Graney.

Fight Summary: Given another chance to regain his old title, Corbett (190) boxed well enough in the opening round before being put down for ‘nine’ by a left to the body in the second. Corbett, who felt that his ribs had gone on the right side, later estimated that he had been down for at least 17 seconds but had been given a break by the referee. Although in terrible pain Corbett fought on bravely, but with Jeffries (220) showing great improvement in speed and skill, five times over the next few rounds the challenger went to the floor. Then, after being dropped twice from heavy blows to the body in the tenth Corbett was rescued at the count of ‘seven’ on the second occasion when his corner threw the towel in.

 

26 August 1904. James J. Jeffries w rsc 2 (20) Jack Munroe

Venue: Mechanics’ Pavilion, San Francisco, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Ed Graney.

Fight Summary: Three times Munroe (186) was sent to the floor from rights and lefts to the jaw in the first round, and it would have been curtains had the bell not rung to end the session. With Jeffries (219) unrelenting in the second the referee stopped the contest on the 1.45 mark after Munroe had been dropped twice, firstly from body blows and then by a terrific right to the head. Munroe, who had failed to land a punch worthy of a title battle, had been a huge disappointment.

Jeffries relinquished the title on announcing his retirement as undefeated champion on 15 May 1905, having run out of worthy ‘white’ opposition. He then nominated the winner of a match between Marvin Hart and Jack Root as his successor. At the same time, Philadelphia Jack O'Brien, Bob Fitzsimmons, Al Kaufman and Tommy Burns all laid claim to the title. Although Hart knocked out Root inside 12 rounds, his first defence of the synthetic title saw him outscored by Burns. Having met some good men at the middleweight limit and taken over Hart’s claim on 23 February 1906, Burns then successfully defended it against Fireman Jim Flynn, Philadelphia Jack O’Brien (one draw and a points win) and Bill Squires before being challenged by England’s Gunner Moir on 10 July 1907 to defend his world title claim against him either in the USA or Britain. With Moir having much support in Britain it was clear that if Burns wanted worldwide recognition he would have to eliminate the British champion. Before meeting Moir the 5’7” Burns had put together 36 wins, eight draws, two defeats and one no-decision in 47 contests. He remains the shortest world heavyweight champion on record, but with a boxing brain and a hard punch, especially on the inside, he was no mug. Unbeaten in his last 11 contests, having lost three of his first four, Moir was felt by his backers to have a puncher’s chance. 

 

2 December 1907. Tommy Burns w co 10 (20) Gunner Moir

Venue: NSC, Covent Garden, London, England. Recognition: World. Referee: Eugene Corri.

Fight Summary: Billed for the undisputed world heavyweight championship (Jack Johnson would have had something to say about that), Burns (177) was far too good for the Englishman, whether it be boxing or landing solidly, and apart from the fourth round he was on top all the way. Badly cut over the right eye in the fifth and nearly put out in the ninth Moir (204) was in a bad state, and when Burns dropped him three times in the tenth he was unable to make it to his feet after the third knockdown.

 

10 February 1908. Tommy Burns w co 4 (20) Jack Palmer

Venue: Wonderland, Mile End, London, England. Recognition: World. Referee: Robert Watson.

Fight Summary: On the attack right from the start as Palmer (168) froze, Burns (175), who had the Englishman down twice in the first round, continued to batter away at him during the next two sessions. Finally, in the fourth, after Burns put Palmer down several more times the latter was counted out on his knees.

 

17 March 1908. Tommy Burns w co 1 (20) Jem Roche

Venue: Theatre Royal, Dublin, Ireland. Recognition: World. Referee: Robert Watson.

Fight Summary: As soon as the fight began it could be seen that the challenger would be out of his depth, and after Burns (176) feinted his left and shot over a right to the jaw Roche (180) went crashing on to his face to be counted out at 1.28 of the opening session.

 

18 April 1908. Tommy Burns w co 5 (10) Jewey Smith

Venue: Neuilly Bowling Palace, Paris, France. Recognition: World. Referee: Dr Phelin Roux.

Fight Summary: Although billed as a world title defence for Burns (176¼), this was really scraping the barrel as Smith (187½) was little more than a novice fighting only his third traced pro fight. What is more, the Englishman received just £25 plus expenses for two. Although Smith started reasonably well, sending in some lusty hits to the body, he was soon being taken apart by Burns who had him down with a left to the head in the third. Knocked down twice in the fourth Smith rallied gamely in the fifth, but had no answer to the agile champion before being put down and out following a terrific right to the jaw.

 

13 June 1908. Tommy Burns w co 8 (10) Bill Squires

Venue: Neuilly Bowling Palace, Paris, France. Recognition: World. Referee: Dr Phelin Roux.

Fight Summary: Squires (183) gave Burns (184) a fair bit of bother until tiring in the seventh round, having gone punch for punch at times. Coming out for the eighth, mustering all of his remaining energy, Squires tore into Burns, only to be stopped in his tracks by a blow to the body that dropped him for the full count.

 

24 August 1908. Tommy Burns w co 13 (20) Bill Squires

Venue: The Stadium, Sydney, Australia. Recognition: World. Referee: Harry Nathan.

Fight Summary: A return match between the pair, only this time in Australia, Squires (184), who gave the champion all the trouble he could handle in many of the rounds, had his man groggy on at least two occasions. As the fight progressed it became difficult to call, but having hurt Squires in the 12th when Burns (181) opened up in the 13th he soon put the Australian down for ‘nine’. Although Squires was soon back on his feet, after taking another count a right hand to the jaw put him down and out.

 

3 September 1908. Tommy Burns w co 6 (20) Bill Lang

Venue: West Melbourne Stadium, Melbourne, Australia. Recognition: World. Referee: Harry Nathan.

Fight Summary: Putting up a better fight than expected Lang (187) dropped Burns (183) in the second with a heavy right swing to the jaw, but was soon made to pay for the indiscretion. After settling down it was all Burns as he pummelled Lang with left and right swings to head and body, sending the latter to the floor repeatedly in every round before closing the fight with a right to the jaw in the sixth.

 

It was now clear that Burns could not continue to avoid the ‘black’ champion, Jack Johnson, and after the latter had gone to Australia a match was finally made. Having been a pro fighter since 1897, Johnson had run up 36 wins, seven draws, five defeats and one no contest, and had participated in 16 no-decision affairs. After learning the ropes he had won the unofficial ‘black’ title when beating Frank Childs on 21 October 1902, and had gone on to defend his claim against Denver Ed Martin (2), Sam McVea (3), Young Peter Jackson, Joe Jeannette (2), Sam Langford and Peter Felix. Jobbed out of a so-called eliminator by Marvin Hart, Johnson had beaten class white men such as George Gardner, Sandy Ferguson (3), Bill Lang, Bob Fitzsimmons and Fireman Jim Flynn. For Johnson, who had already proved to be a master boxer, it was a dream come true as he was convinced that he had the beating of the 5’7” Burns. Fast of feet and hand with a great jab, Johnson also had an excellent defence that had bewildered many a top man, and was a powerful puncher, especially with the uppercut. At this stage of his career, his record hardly tells you how good he was.

  

26 December 1908. Jack Johnson w rsc 14 (20) Tommy Burns

Venue: The Stadium, Sydney, Australia. Recognition: World. Referee: Hugh McIntosh.

Fight Summary: Inside the first 20 seconds Burns (168) was down, having taken a heavy right uppercut to the jaw, and he was soon dropped again from a similar blow. Fighting courageously, Burns threw everything he had at a goading Johnson (192) to little effect. Down again from a left to the body in the seventh Burns did his utmost, but Johnson appeared to be toying with him, calling him names and ridiculing him. Round after round Johnson failed to put Burns out of his misery until the 14th when he battered the champion to the floor with a constant barrage of blows. Having got up at ‘eight’ Burns was there to be taken, but with the crowd at fever pitch the police asked the referee to stop the contest to save the Canadian from being badly hurt. Supposedly, it had been agreed beforehand that if the police felt a stoppage was necessary, the referee would stop the fight and at their command and award the decision to the man who was winning on points at that stage.

9 September 1909. Jack Johnson nd-w pts 10 Al Kaufman

Venue: Mission Street Arena, Colma, San Francisco, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Edward J. Smith.

Fight Summary: Despite being a no-decision bout although Johnson’s title was at stake, Kaufman (191), unable to take advantage of his opportunity, landed very few punches throughout the contest. At times Johnson (209) appeared to be taking it easy, but when he did open up Kaufman was often in distress. With the fight at an end the referee stated to the newspaper men present that while he could not give a verdict Johnson was the better man, having outboxed and outpunched Kaufman in virtually every round.

 

16 October 1909. Jack Johnson w co 12 (20) Stanley Ketchel

Venue: Mission Street Arena, Colma, San Francisco, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Jack Welch.

Fight Summary: An historic battle that had both men agreeing to a no-knockdown clause (a contract stating that neither man would look for a kayo), saw Johnson (205½) break the agreement when smashing Ketchel (170¼) to the floor in the second round, having whipped in a right uppercut. Realising what he had done from there onwards Johnson kept Ketchel at bay with the left hand, but the middleweight champion was biding his time before getting lucky in the 12th round. Having just grazed Johnson’s chin with a sweeping right, when Ketchel slammed in another right that landed just behind the ear the champion was down. With Johnson back on his feet, as Ketchel roared in for the kill he was lifted off the ground by a tremendous right uppercut. There was no way Ketchel was going to get up, and after being counted out it took several minutes to bring him round.

 

4 July 1910. Jack Johnson w rsc 15 (45) James J. Jeffries

Venue: The Amphitheatre, Reno, Nevada, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Tex Rickard.

Fight Summary: Systematically beaten, at the end of the 11th round Jeffries’ corner wanted to retire him but he would not hear of it. With Johnson (208) taunting Jeffries (227) while hitting him at will it could not last, and in the 15th the latter was dropped three times before the referee brought proceedings to an end on the 2.20 mark. Some reports state that the timekeeper had already knocked off ten seconds and the result should have been a knockout, others say that when the referee’s count had reached ‘seven’ he saw Jeffries’ seconds entering the ring and brought the fight to an end. I have gone with the latter as it was clear that Rickard was out of step with the count and that neither he nor the majority of the crowd wished to see a once great champion knocked out.

 

4 July 1912. Jack Johnson w rsc 9 (45) Fireman Jim Flynn

Venue: The Arena, Las Vegas, New Mexico, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Edward W. Smith.

Fight Summary: Having been inactive for two years Johnson took on Flynn, virtually toying with him throughout as the latter continually rushed in. There was no other way for Flynn (175) to get near Johnson (195½), and he was soon bleeding badly before resorting to foul tactics. Warned for use of the head five times in the sixth round, in the eighth, even though Flynn was given a final warning, it seemed to make no difference. With Flynn carrying on where he had left off, butting Johnson several times in the ninth as the champion held on to him, the policeman in charge ordered the referee to stop the fight on the grounds that there had been too much fouling. When the referee brought the fight to a close he gave the decision as a stoppage win for Johnson rather than deciding it on a disqualification. Although the better man, Johnson had held Flynn rather than box him off, tactics that fuelled the latter's anger.

 

19 December 1913. Jack Johnson drew 10 Battling Jim Johnson

Venue: Elysee Montmartre Centre, Paris, France. Recognition: Lineal. Referee: Emile Maitrot.

Fight Summary: Although the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) strangely cabled the promoter their backing of Jack Johnson (213¾) as champion, it is doubtful whether the International Boxing Union (IBU) saw it as a championship contest as they had already vacated the title in early December. The first few rounds had Jack playing with his namesake, Jim (222¾), but after supposedly breaking his left arm in the third the contest degenerated into continuous holding and clutching. Both men slipped to the floor in the tenth, with Jack looking decidedly groggy, and at the end of the session the referee hurriedly offered up a drawn decision. The result was strange to say the least, especially as Jack had undertaken to stop Jim inside ten rounds.

 

27 June 1914. Jack Johnson w pts 20 Frank Moran

Venue: Bicycle Velodrome, Paris, France. Recognition: Lineal. Referee: Georges Carpentier.

Fight Summary: Prior to the contest taking place, on 15 March the IBU had stated that Johnson v Moran could go ahead under French Federation Rules on the grounds that it was not billed as a world title bout, as only Sam Langford and Joe Jeannette were eligible to compete for that crown. However, on 18 April, the same body said that Johnson must box Langford on or before 5 August if he wanted to retain the title, a title that they were showing to be vacant in their latest listings. At this stage of his career, Johnson (221), who was only recognised in certain parts of Europe, was virtually into semi-retirement, living the ‘gay life’ and squandering his fortune. However, he got himself into shape for Moran (203), and although being unable to knock his rival out he was well worth the decision. Hardly exciting, although never boring, Moran tried throughout to land his big right, which he had christened ‘Mary Ann’, as he chased after Johnson, but the latter proved to be just too quick for him. Round after round seemed the same as Johnson moved out of danger, held on tight, or used Moran for target practice. There were no knockdowns. The referee and sole judge was 20-year-old Georges Carpentier, who would be the next challenger for Gunboat Smith's 'white’ title and an admitted admirer of Johnson.

 

At the end of July it was reported widely that in principle Johnson was prepared to fight Jess Willard, a leading ‘white hope’ with a known record of 20 wins, one draw, three losses and five no-decision contests. Jack Curley, an American fight promoter, was the man behind Johnson meeting Willard, but there would be plenty of negotiating to do before terms could be agreed. However, on 17 November it was announced that Johnson had signed Articles of Agreement to meet Willard in March 1915 at a place yet to be decided. To that end, a short while later the Juarez Race Track in Mexico was set aside as the venue. In order to prepare himself the 36-year-old Johnson took part in three one-round exhibitions against three little-known fighters on 10 January 1915 in Argentina. Meanwhile, with there being problems in getting Johnson to fight in Mexico, it was finally agreed that the fight would take place in Cuba on 5 April. Two days before meeting Willard, Johnson boxed a six-round exhibition with Sam McVea at The Stadium, Havana, Cuba, but gave little away other than he was no longer the man who strode imperiously over all he surveyed.

 

5 April 1915. Jess Willard w co 26 (45) Jack Johnson

Venue: Oriental Racetrack, Havana, Cuba. Recognition: World. Referee: Jack Welch.

Fight Summary: To his dying day Johnson insisted that he had been forced to throw the fight, often pointing to a picture of himself on the canvas shading his eyes from the sun as his proof. Because there has always been doubt the fight remains one of the sport’s great mysteries. Promoted by Jack Curley, the story goes that Johnson would get $30,000, win, lose or draw, as well as a share of the moving picture rights. He would also be helped to gain re-entry to the United States. Although winning easily, Johnson (205½) was tiring rapidly. It was rumoured that once he had received the signal from his wife, who was in the audience, that the remainder of the guarantee had been paid he took the full count at 1.26 of the 26th session after walking into a solid right uppercut. Curley’s account was different. With Willard (230) being so big and strong, Curley stated that he made the fight for 45 rounds, knowing full well that the challenger would outlast the out-of-condition Johnson.

 

25 March 1916. Jess Willard nd-w pts 10 Frank Moran

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Charlie White.

Fight Summary: Making his first defence, Willard (225) was just too big, too strong and too good for the Pittsburgh man, and had he not broken his right hand in the second round the result may have been quite different. Towering above his opponent the champion used his tremendous reach advantage to dictate the fight, winning at least seven rounds, but Moran (203) was always dangerous with the right hand. There were no knockdowns.

 

Meantime, Willard had remained inactive for over three years, apart from a couple of ten-round exhibition bouts against two nonentities in July 1918, and had spent much of his time travelling with a circus, taking part in sparring sessions. It was not the ideal preparation for a title defence. By now, Tex Rickard, the promoter, was scouring the country looking for a man who could defeat the 37-year-old Willard, eventually hitting upon Jack Dempsey, who would come to be known as ‘The Manassa Mauler’. Dempsey had come up the hard way, beating men such as Fireman Jim Flynn, reversing an earlier loss, Carl Morris, Gunboat Smith (2), Arthur Pelkey, Battling Levinsky and Fred Fulton. Rickard had been thinking of matching Fulton against Willard, but after Dempsey knocked him out in 23 seconds at the Federal League Baseball Park, Harrison, New Jersey on 27 July 1918 he became the obvious choice to meet the champion. Prior to meeting Willard, the two-handed, hard-hitting Dempsey, who was in his element in a rough, tough fight, had run up 47 wins, nine draws and four defeats, and had participated in six no-decision contests in a career that began in 1914.

 

4 July 1919. Jack Dempsey w rtd 3 (12) Jess Willard

Venue: Bay View Park Arena, Toledo, Ohio, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Ollie Pecord.

Fight Summary: With nearly 20,000 fans packed into the arena that Tex Rickard had built for the fight they would not be disappointed. Having knocked Willard (245) down a record seven times in the opening round Dempsey (187) actually left the ring feeling he had already won, only to be called back to finish the job. After punishing Willard throughout the second session Dempsey came out with a rush in the third, hitting the champion almost at will. Staggering back to his corner in a pitiful state, his right eye closed and face battered, Willard slumped down on his stool a badly beaten fighter after which his corner advised the referee that their man was through for the night. Incidentally, although taking place in Ohio, a State more accustomed to contests of a no-decision variety, Dempsey v Willard was billed for 12 rounds of boxing with a points verdict to be given if necessary. Tex Rickard had taken the fight to Toledo when he discovered that under Ohio law at the time it was up to the local authority not the Governor, as to whether boxing took place within the town.

6 September 1920. Jack Dempsey nd-w co 3 (10) Billy Miske

Venue: The Arena, Benton Harbor, Michigan, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Jack Dougherty.

Fight Summary: Although Miske (187) was badly hurt by a ramrod left to the body in the first round he held on until the bell and seemed to have recovered before being floored by a crashing right to the body in the second. It was the first time in his career the ‘The St Paul’s Thunderbolt’ had been dropped. The third had barely started when Dempsey (185) was sent staggering with a left hook, but when the champion came back with one of his own Miske was dropped for ‘nine’. How he managed to get up was a mystery, but with the still groggy Miske all at sea a tremendous right hand to the jaw sent him down to be counted out on the 1.13 mark.

 

14 December 1920. Jack Dempsey w co 12 (15) Bill Brennan

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Johnny Haukaup.

Fight Summary: In an extremely hard defence Dempsey (188¼) eventually came through to knock the tough challenger out, but he had taken far more punches than he cared for. Both men were hard at it in the early rounds with Dempsey just about getting the better of things. Having hurt Brennan (197) to the body in the fifth, Dempsey, working downstairs well, hammered his challenger from pillar to post in the eighth. Brennan hit back with a big left in the ninth, but Dempsey, not to be denied, went all out for victory in the tenth. With both men taking a fair amount of punishment, Dempsey, bleeding badly from both eyes and mouth, scored with a terrific left the body that doubled Brennan up in the 12th. Following that, after Dempsey smashed in a big right to the head to floor Brennan, the latter was counted out in the act of rising at 1.57 of the session. This was the first heavyweight title fight held under Walker Law (which, once again, legalised professional boxing in New York State).

 

2 July 1921. Jack Dempsey nd-w co 4 (12) Georges Carpentier

Venue: Rickard’s Oval, Jersey City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Harry Ertle.

Fight Summary: Even though a decision could not be rendered in New Jersey at that time, as a billed title fight it has achieved lasting fame as being the first million-dollar gate after 80,183 fans passed through the turnstiles. However, by defending his title under no-decision conditions Dempsey (188) forced the Frenchman to look for a kayo victory, and thus negated his shrewd boxing skills. Carpentier (172) was hugely popular for both his looks and the fact that he was a war hero, while many saw Dempsey, who avoided the war, as a slacker. The contest started with Carpentier diving in to swap blows before feeling the weight of Dempsey’s punches and dropping to his knees. In the second round the fight almost certainly slipped away from Carpentier when he broke his right thumb on Dempsey’s head, and although he walked into the champion during the third he was being noticeably outpunched. When Dempsey went all out in the fourth, smashing in lefts and rights to Carpentier’s body, after a right to the jaw dropped the Frenchman it appeared to be over. Despite Carpentier springing to his feet at ‘nine’ he was immediately targeted by Dempsey, it coming as no surprise when a right-hand smash saw the challenger counted out with just 1.16 of the session on the clock.

 

4 July 1923. Jack Dempsey w pts 15 Tommy Gibbons

Venue: The Arena, Shelby, Montana, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Jack Dougherty.

Fight Summary: The fight provided few thrills, with Gibbons (175½) proving to be very elusive for round after round, never staying in one place longer than he needed. By the fourth Dempsey (188) was cut over both eyes, and although he was landing some heavy blows, especially to the body, Gibbons was still light on his feet and able to box his way out of trouble. It was at close quarters where the fight was won, as Dempsey mauled and pounded Gibbons unmercifully to pile up points. The last five sessions saw Gibbons tiring rapidly, but his superb defensive skills and ability to make Dempsey miss enabled him to get to the final bell where the referee’s decision went to the latter. There were no knockdowns. This fight was famous for the fact that two banks in the town went bankrupt, having guaranteed the champion $300,000.

 

14 September 1923. Jack Dempsey w co 2 (15) Luis Angel Firpo

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Johnny Gallagher.

Fight Summary:  Just three minutes and 57 seconds of fighting saw Firpo (216½) floored seven times in the first and twice in the second, before a left to the body and a short right uppercut ended his challenge. However, Dempsey (192½) himself was decked twice in the first round, including being knocked out of the ring by a tremendous right swing to the jaw. And if the champion had not been illegally helped back in again Firpo would surely have won. The contest was generally seen as the most thrilling of modern times as both men fought tooth and nail, giving everything they could muster. Following the fight, the referee was suspended for five weeks for failing to enforce his pre-fight instruction to both men that they go to a neutral corner in the event of a knockdown. Also weighing heavily against him was the fact that he had allowed Dempsey to fight on after he had been helped back into the ring. As far as the Argentine press were concerned, it had taken Dempsey 17 seconds to make it. Even Nat Fleischer, of The Ring magazine, reported that Firpo should have won the title by disqualification after Dempsey struck him while he was still technically on the floor. Despite the three-year inactivity, Dempsey continued to have the support of the NBA and NYSAC.

 

Towards the end of 1925, with Dempsey set on returning to the ring he was again pressed by the NYSAC to accept Wills as his first opponent in a heavyweight title defence. However, after much debate, Rickard stated that he wanted his man to first meet Gene Tunney, not Wills, but with NYC, New York and Chicago, Illinois made unavailable, Dempsey’s first defence for over three years would take place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Tunney, a master boxer who mixed science with power, had earned the opportunity to face Dempsey, having beaten both Georges Carpentier (w rsc 15 at the Polo Grounds, Manhattan on 24 July 1924) and Tommy Gibbons (w co 12 at the same venue on 5 June 1925). The Gibbons’ bout had been a final eliminator. He had earlier made his mark in the light heavyweight class as the American champion before deciding to move up a division in order to obtain a match with Dempsey. Only one man, Harry Greb, the former middleweight champion, had ever beaten him, but having twice avenged that defeat as well as beating Chuck Wiggins, Charley Weinert and Erminio Spalla, he looked to pit his wits against Dempsey’s all-out aggression. Coming into the fight, Tunney had participated in 82 contests, winning 62, drawing one and losing one. He had also been involved in 17 no-decision affairs and one no contest.

 

23 September 1926. Gene Tunney w pts 10 Jack Dempsey

Venue: Sesquicentennial Stadium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Pop Riley.

Fight Summary: Fought in a rainstorm, Tunney (189½) adapted to the prevailing conditions far better than Dempsey (190), who was sorely ring-rusty. The fight was a promotional success with 120,757 fans turning out in anticipation of Tunney being put to sleep. Fighting on the back foot and stepping in when needed Tunney fought a brainy, technical battle over the whole ten rounds that left Dempsey shorn of his title. Moving well, while in the main evading Dempsey’s wild swings, Tunney, who boxed on the counter, was only once in real trouble when he was caught in the sixth round by a solid left hook to the jaw that almost felled him. But sticking to his boxing the challenger continued to ram the left into Dempsey’s face, with the occasional right thrown in for good measure, and at the end of the ninth it was the champion who was the one suffering most. By now Dempsey’s left eye was almost closed, and into the tenth it was Tunney who was looking to finish matters as he smashed heavy rights in to the champion’s head. At the final bell it was clear as to who had won in the eyes of the referee. Tunney’s victory had not only turned the heavyweight division on its head, but had also proved that skill could overcome power.

 

22 September 1927. Gene Tunney w pts 10 Jack Dempsey

Venue: Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Dave Barry.

Fight Summary: This fight was made famous for ‘the long count’ after it was estimated that Tunney (189½) was on the canvas for at least 14 seconds during the seventh round, having taken four vicious blows to the head. However, with the referee refusing to take up the count until Dempsey (192½) went to a neutral corner the champion managed to struggle to his feet in time to continue. Having got himself in better condition for this one Dempsey went after Tunney from the opening bell, slamming in rights and lefts to head and body and occasionally going low in his attempts to win inside the distance. In the fourth Tunney had Dempsey groggy at the end of the round, but was unable to follow it up in the next couple of sessions. After the well documented seventh, during which he managed to keep Dempsey at bay for the remainder of the round, Tunney came back strongly in the eighth. Dropped by a left to the jaw, Dempsey was up quickly, but now Tunney was beginning to force the fight, getting home with some good deliveries in the ninth. The final session saw Dempsey going all out for a kayo as Tunney countered and stayed out of trouble, but ended with the former champion being staggered by a succession of solid rights to the jaw. Although it had been a great effort by Dempsey, the majority of the press gave the fight to Tunney by six or seven rounds, with all three judges voting for him. As in their first contest, the fight took in a large gate with 104,943 in attendance.

 

26 July 1928. Gene Tunney w rsc 11 (15) Tom Heeney

Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Ed Forbes.

Fight Summary: Heeney (203½) made a fast start, catching the champion with good punches, and in the second round both men were rocked back on their heels. With Tunney (192) clearly the better boxer, once he had got the jab working he was able to gain the upper hand, countering with blows to head and body. The tough New Zealander was always dangerous, especially with the left hook, but by closing on the inside Tunney was able to negate its effect. By the eighth, with Heeney’s left eye swollen, it was then that Tunney began to come off the back foot to spear home lefts that worsened the damage. At this stage all Heeney had left was his courage, and in the tenth he was dropped by a solid right to the head. Although saved by the bell the challenger had to be revived during the interval. Despite the brave Heeney coming out for the 11th he was ready to be taken as Tunney battered away at him, and with eight seconds of the session remaining the referee came to his rescue.

 

Further to Gene Tunney retiring on 31 July, a series of eliminators saw Max Schmeling and Jack Sharkey fight their way towards a contest that would be recognised throughout boxing as deciding the world championship. Leading up to the meeting with Sharkey, Schmeling’s record read 42 wins, three draws and four defeats, while Sharkey had lost seven times in 43 contests. With both men being skilful and good punchers, it looked to be an even contest on paper. Schmeling had arrived in America in November 1928, having been the undefeated EBU light heavyweight champion, and quickly punched his way up the heavyweight ranks when beating Joe Monte, Joe Sekyra, Pietro Corri, Johnny Risko and Paulino Uzcudun, while Sharkey had defeated George Cook, Jim Maloney (4), Risko, Bud Gorman, George Godfrey, Harry Wills, Mike McTigue, Jack Delaney, KO Christner, Young Stribling, Tommy Loughran and Phil Scott. Although he lost inside seven rounds, Sharkey will probably be best remembered for his battle with Jack Dempsey that swayed one way and then the other.

 

12 June 1930. Max Schmeling w disq 4 (15) Jack Sharkey

Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Jim Crowley.

Fight Summary: With the vacant title on the line, Schmeling (188) became the first man to win the heavyweight crown while sitting on the floor. The opening two rounds saw both men sorting themselves out until Sharkey (197) picked the pace up in the third and stepped in with heavy blows to head and body to have Schmeling wobbling at the bell. Although the German had landed heavily on occasion with short rights, Sharkey had come to no harm. In the fourth Sharkey looked like a man who meant business, ripping in punches from both hands before stunning Schmeling with a heavy right to the head, immediately prior to dropping him with a left to the body with just seconds of the session left. Unable to get up and fight on Schmeling had to be carried to his corner before the referee belatedly disqualified Sharkey for going low.  Regardless of what was said about the punch being a fair one, Nat Fleischer of The Ring magazine, who was well placed to judge, stated that it was a wild swinging left hook that landed well below the belt. He went on to say that when the blow sank into Schmeling’s groin with the full force of Sharkey’s shoulder and body behind it an affair that was beginning to become one-sided ended. Following the contest, which left a bad taste in the mouth, the NYSAC only confirmed Schmeling’s position as champion six days later on the proviso that he would have to give Sharkey a return, while the NBA went along with the verdict.

 

3 July 1931. Max Schmeling w rsc 15 (15) Young Stribling

Venue: Municipal Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Recognition: NBA/Lineal. Referee: George Blake.

Fight Summary: Despite being on the receiving end in four of the first five rounds, the champion eventually began to warm to the task as he weaved in beneath Stribling’s left to fire in jabs of his own. He also mixed his punches up when going from head to body and Stribling (186½) was showing signs of wear and tear at the end of the sixth. By the tenth Schmeling (189) was sending in right hooks and uppercuts that would have finished off many an opponent, but somehow Stribling remained upright. In the final session Stribling was eventually dropped, a short right to the jaw sending him down for ‘nine’. After rising on quivering legs and trying to fight on, just as Schmeling was lining him up for the ‘coup de grace’ the referee brought the contest to an end with just 22 seconds remaining. There were no complaints.

 

Since the Schmeling defeat, Jack Sharkey, who would be the German’s next challenger, had drawn with Mickey Walker and beaten Primo Carnera for what was billed as an American title fight. Sharkey would come to the ring for their return battle with 34 wins, two draws, eight defeats and two no-decision affairs on his record.

 

21 June 1932. Jack Sharkey w pts 15 Max Schmeling

Venue: MSG Bowl, Queens, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Gunboat Smith.

Scorecards: 7-3-5, 8-7, 5-10.

Fight Summary: Keenly contested from start to finish, but with no exciting action to speak of, Sharkey (205) got revenge over the champion following their previous bout that had ended unsatisfactorily. Regardless of Sharkey’s victory, with the majority of experts feeling that Schmeling (188) had retained the title they were upset that the championship should change hands in such a close affair. It was certainly a difficult fight to score. Starting every round on the back foot Sharkey used the left to good effect, countering consistently and keeping the hard-punching Schmeling off balance. It was a good tactic, especially when Sharkey was forced to fight on from the 11th with his left eye almost closed. The general feeling was that had Schmeling landed his powerful right, known as ‘Big Bertha’, with accuracy he would have retained his title.

 

As it had now become clear that the winner of a fight between Primo Carnera and Ernie Schaaf would provide the opposition for Sharkey, the much derided Carnera beat Schaaf (w co 13 at Madison Square Garden on 10 February 1933) in what was a final eliminator scheduled for 15 rounds. Unfortunately, the contest had tragic consequences when Schaaf passed away in the aftermath. The Medical Examiner’s report following the autopsy stated that Schaaf had entered the ring with a brain ailment that could not possibly have been detected prior to the contest, and with the amount of clubbing blows delivered to his head by Carnera the damage was exacerbated. It was also mentioned that Schaaf had suffered a bad bout of flu a month earlier before spending six days in hospital from its effects. Known as ‘The Ambling Alp’ due to his size and style, the 6’5½” Carnera was a veritable strongman who could punch hard and was light on his feet for such a big man. Bringing a record of 74 wins, six defeats and one no-decision affair into the Sharkey fight, Carnera had won and lost to Young Stribling by disqualification, and beaten Big Boy Peterson (2), Roy Ace Clark, Chuck Wiggins, Neal Clisby, KO Christner (2), George Godfrey, Bearcat Wright, Paolino Uzcudun, Jim Maloney, Knute Hansen, Roberto Roberti, King Levinsky (2), Victorio Campolo, Pierre Charles, George Cook, Art Lasky and Schaaf.

 

29 June 1933. Primo Carnera w co 6 (15) Jack Sharkey

Venue: MSG Bowl, Queens, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Donovan.

Fight Summary: In a fight made famous because of the ‘Phantom Punch’, a right uppercut that very few people witnessed clearly, Sharkey (201) became the first heavyweight champion to lose his title in his first defence. Having outscored Carnera (260½) in 1931, Sharkey made a solid start, his better boxing being too much for the clumsy Italian giant. It was in the sixth that the fight changed course, Carnera being told by his corner to get his big punches off. Driving in with both hands, Carnera was thumping Sharkey around the ring when the latter was caught off balance and slipped over. Up immediately, Sharkey charged into Carnera, slamming in a terrific blow to the temple that spun his man around but failed to halt him. According to Nat Fleischer, of The Ring magazine, Sharkey went to pieces when unable to halt Carnera’s attack. It would have been better for Sharkey had he reverted to his earlier tactics, but in foolhardy fashion when he persisted in rushing Carnera he was made to pay a heavy price. Holding Sharkey off with his left, Carnera ripped in four heavy rights to the body before a right uppercut to the jaw put the champion down for the full count, timed at 2.27 of the session. Regardless of rumours spreading to the effect that the fight had been rigged, Fleischer reported that the punch in question had crashed against Sharkey’s chin with powerful force, while the referee remarked afterwards that it was one of the hardest delivered punches he had ever seen.

 

22 October 1933. Primo Carnera w pts 15 Paulino Uzcudun

Venue: Sports Palace, Rome, Italy. Recognition: World. Referee: Roger Nicod.

Fight Summary: Amidst boos and jeering Carnera (259½) was given the unanimous decision over the rugged challenger, who had been battered all over the ring without ever being decked. Uzcudun (229¼) had barely landed six or seven solid blows all night as Carnera used him as a human punch-bag, and at the finish he sported cuts over both eyes and damage to cheeks, nose and mouth. It was reported afterwards that, because Carnera had fractured his right hand in the ninth, it had severely hampered his performance, but the fact remained that he had kept it long all night. It had been similar to their previous fight in November 1930, which also went the distance, and in a career of 70 contests that started in 1923 and ended in 1935 Uzcudun was only ever floored once, against Joe Louis in his last fight.

 

1 March 1934. Primo Carnera w pts 15 Tommy Loughran

Venue: MSG Stadium, Miami, Florida, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Leo Shea.

Scorecards: 10-1-4, 10-1-4, 12-3.

Fight Summary: Outweighed by a massive 86 pounds, Loughran (184), who was unable to keep the champion off him, spent most of the time being crowded into corners where he took plenty of punishment. Using rough-house tactics Carnera (270) ploughed his way forward continuously, being also guilty of stepping on Loughran’s feet at times, whether intentional or otherwise. Although Loughran won the odd round by a close margin, from the tenth onwards he failed to do so, finishing worn out after fighting the last few sessions in a fog. The unanimous decision in the 6’6” Carnera’s favour was well deserved.

 

Max Baer, ‘The Livermore Larruper’, who had terrific punching power, would be Carnera’s next challenger. With 39 wins and seven defeats on his record, as well as Max Schmeling, Baer had beaten KO Christner, Tom Heeney (2), Johnny Risko, Les Kennedy, King Levinsky (2), Ernie Schaaf and Tuffy Griffiths.

 

14 June 1934. Max Baer w rsc 11 (15) Primo Carnera

Venue: MSG Bowl, Queens, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Donovan.

Fight Summary: Floored three times from overarm punches to the jaw in the opening round the champion never recovered, and apart from his courage he had nothing to sustain him. Down again three more times in the second and again in the third the fight looked to be over, but because of Baer’s antics and his lack of condition the contest lasted far longer than it should have done. Carnera (263¼) even won the fourth and seventh sessions before hurting Baer (209½) with a big right uppercut in the eighth. He then came under real pressure again as the latter picked it up. Somehow Carnera got through to the tenth, but after being floored three more times the referee decided to determine whether he was fit enough to carry on. In doing so he enabled Carnera to make it to the bell. The 11th started with a rush before a terrific right to the head had Carnera down for ‘three’. Then, after Baer had him down again, this time with blows to head and body, the referee rescued the giant on the 2.16 mark. A record for the number of knockdowns suffered by a fighter in a heavyweight title fight, several times Baer was dragged down at the same time. Clumsy and awkward with little skill, Carnera ultimately proved to be a poor champion. However, for sheer bravery he was on a par with anyone. On 6 May 1935, the IBU declared the world title to be vacant due to Baer not being interested in defending against Pierre Charles.

 

Baer’s first defence would be against the second-ranked Jim Braddock, a former light heavyweight challenger, who had been in virtual retirement and on the breadline due to the Great Depression prior to coming back to shock the up-and-coming Corn Griffin and the future light heavyweight champion, John Henry Lewis. He next eliminated Lasky (w pts 15 at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York on 22 March 1935). A wholehearted fighter who gave everything he had and a bit more, prior to meeting the champion Braddock had participated in 85 contests, winning 45, drawing six, and losing 23, with eight no-decision affairs and three no contests thrown in for good measure.

 

13 June 1935. Jim Braddock w pts 15 Max Baer

Venue: MSG Bowl, Queens, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: GB/NBA/NY/Lineal. Referee: Jack McAvoy.

Scorecards: 9-5-1, 11-4, 7-7-1.

Fight Summary: Nicknamed the ‘Cinderella Man’, Braddock (193¾), in winning the world title (recognised by all bar the IBU) provided one of the greatest upsets in the history of the division. Given no chance as an 8-to-1 shot, he shocked everybody in boxing when taking the points decision. Building up a solid lead in the opening four rounds as Baer (209½) clowned around, Braddock was then shaken up by a crashing right to the jaw in the seventh and was on the verge of going down before being let off the hook as the champion stood back to admire his work. Throughout, Braddock carried the fight to Baer, shooting out the left both up and down, while ripping his right into the ribcage to cause maximum discomfort. The fact that Braddock was so aggressive surprised Baer, but it did not account for the latter’s lack of ambition. Baer also lost three rounds when penalised twice for the use of a backhand punch and once for going low. Immediately following the contest Baer claimed that he had broken both hands in the fifth, an argument that failed to stand up on inspection. Having tried to take Braddock out from the fifth through to the seventh, landing well with lefts and rights, Baer continued to act the clown when a sustained attack could well have ended with a win.

 

Two weeks after Braddock’s victory, Joe Louis, who had only been a pro since July 1934, hit the headlines when he stopped the former champion, Primo Carnera, inside six rounds, having earlier recorded wins over Stanley Poreda, Charley Massera, Lee Ramage (2), Patsy Perroni, Natie Brown and Roy Lazer, all good fighters in their own right. He then went on to record further successes against King Levinsky, Baer, Paulino Uzcudun and Charley Retzlaff to take his record to 23 straight before being knocked out inside 12 rounds by the former champion, Max Schmeling. It was a huge shock, but putting that behind him Louis came back to beat Jack Sharkey, Al Ettore, Jorge Brescia, Eddie Simms, Bob Pastor and Natie Brown. With a shuffling style and fast fists that spelt dynamite, and already known as ‘The Brown Bomber’, his record now stood at 31 (26 inside the distance) wins and one defeat. It was clear that Schmeling should have first crack at Braddock, having beaten Louis and being rated at number one, and Braddock v Schmeling was pencilled in for the summer of 1937, to be held in an outdoor stadium, in New York. However, Braddock made the decision to break his contract with the Madison Square Garden promoters in order to fight Louis for promoter, Mike Jacobs, in Chicago. On hearing the news those running the Garden immediately filed a suit with the courts that Braddock’s contract was binding, but were refused when the court ruled that the contract placed an unreasonable restraint upon the champion’s liberty. The Garden promoters then appealed against the ruling, even having tickets printed and put on sale for Braddock v Schmeling to take place on 3 June 1937. Still, despite Schmeling weighing in successfully on the day it came as no surprise when Braddock failed to make the weigh-in that morning as everyone involved knew he was in training to defend against Louis in Chicago. Bearing in mind the earlier legal judgement, the NYSAC felt that the only remaining action left open to them was to suspend both Braddock and Louis from fighting in New York for an indefinite period rather than strip the former. With many secretly relieved that there was now no chance of the title passing into Nazi Germany’s hands in the immediate future, a furious Schmeling, who was claiming the title by default, was left to ponder his next move.

 

22 June 1937. Joe Louis w co 8 (15) Jim Braddock

Venue: Comiskey Park, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY/Lineal. Referee: Tommy Thomas.

Fight Summary: Out of the ring for almost two years was not the ideal way to prepare for a defence, but Braddock (197) confounded many when taking the fight to the red-hot Louis (197¼) and even dropping him in the opening session. Up without a count, even though Louis came back strongly to cut Braddock over the left eye in the second, he still lost the round. Picking it up in the third Louis rammed home heavy blows as he looked to find openings, although Braddock would not be denied either. Boxing well, going forward with both hands, Braddock took the fourth and fifth before coming under fire in the sixth and being cut over the right eye. With Braddock now beginning to take a battering from the educated fists of the challenger, despite being badly wobbled he refused to give ground. Immediately under pressure in the eighth Braddock weakened badly, and following an exchange of lefts he walked into a crushing right to the jaw that sent him down to be counted out on the 1.10 mark. In victory, Louis became the first black champion since Jack Johnson, while Braddock gained much acclaim for his gritty performance.

 

30 August 1937. Joe Louis w pts 15 Tommy Farr

Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NY/NBA/GB/Lineal. Referee: Arthur Donovan.

Scorecards: 13-1-1, 9-6, 8-5-2.

Fight Summary: Going into the ring to end the fight as quickly as possible the champion met a man who would not succumb like some of his previous opponents. Fighting savagely throughout the contest, with Farr (204½) there for the sole purpose of winning, he took all Louis (197) could muster and dished out plenty of his own despite suffering a badly swollen thumb. Farr’s long reach and bobbing-and-weaving style made him a difficult opponent for Louis, and although he was cut up badly he continued to go with the jab. Taking Louis’ best shots unflinchingly, especially in the seventh, he walked into the champion in the eighth as though nothing had happened bringing cheers from the crowd. By the end of the 11th, Nat Fleischer of The Ring magazine’s card had the two men dead level, but the remainder of the bout saw Louis piling up points with the left as Farr, by now badly cut and bruised facially, tried hard to force matters but to no avail. Even though Louis claimed that he had damaged both hands prior to the fight it did not wear with the fans in the light of the pre-fight predictions that Farr would only last a few rounds at most.

 

23 February 1938. Joe Louis w co 3 (15) Nathan Mann

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

Fight Summary: Having won the opening round, staggering the champion with left hooks and rights to the jaw, Mann (193½) should have continued to attack the body and bide his time. Instead, he tore into Louis (200) in the second, feeling he was ready to be taken, and found himself on the floor from a left hook. Up at ‘nine’ Mann was now at the mercy of Louis, being dropped twice more in the third by solid lefts before a power-laden right smashed him down to be counted out on one knee at 1.56 of the session. Although it was now clear that Louis could be caught by right hands over the top, his all-round ability and destructive finishing power made him the stand-out heavyweight fighter of the day.

 

1 April 1938. Joe Louis w co 5 (15) Harry Thomas

Venue: The Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Recognition: NY/NBA/GB/Lineal. Referee: Dave Miller.

Fight Summary: After taking the first session with the left jab the champion was forced to endure an uncomfortable second round as Thomas (196) smashed in big rights and lefts to both head and body while looking anything but the mug he was supposed to be. Leaping out of his corner for the third Louis (202½) rammed in several solid blows on Thomas, but was forced to take a fair few himself before a left hook had the latter out on his feet grasping the ropes for support. At that point the referee had obviously made up his mind to stop the fight. Chaos ensued after Thomas’ trainer assisted his man to his stool from outside the ring and by the time the referee had worked out what was going on the bell to end the round clanged. Following a discussion with the officials it was decided to let the bout continue rather than disqualify Thomas for his corner’s misdemeanours. Thereafter, Thomas had no chance, being knocked down four times in the fourth before surprising the crowd when staggering Louis a few seconds prior to the bell. Coming out for the fifth, with the intention of finishing the contest, Louis dropped Thomas for ‘eight’ with a short left. Although Thomas bravely tried to fight his way back, another cracking left hook sent him down and out with ten seconds of the round remaining. At an International Boxing Convention held in Rome, Italy, which concluded on 20 April, Louis was recognised as champion.

 

22 June 1938. Joe Louis w rsc 1 (15) Max Schmeling

Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Donovan.

Fight Summary: Avenging the only defeat on his record, Louis (198¾) destroyed the ‘Black Uhlan of the Rhine’ in just over two minutes (2.04) of a contest made famous by the fact that whether he liked it or not Schmeling (193) was being used for Nazi propaganda purposes by Adolph Hitler. After a quiet start the champion began to let the punches go, soon staggering Schmeling with a left to the jaw before dropping him for ‘three’ with a right to the same spot. Up again, Schmeling was immediately floored after taking two lefts and a right to the chin. Somehow regaining his feet Schmeling was a sitting duck for Louis, and following a volley of rights and lefts to the head a terrific left hook-right cross put the challenger down for the third time. With Schmeling helpless and the referee starting the count it was all too much for the German corner, who threw the towel in so that they could tend to their man as quickly as possible. However, it was not until the timekeeper had reached the count of ‘eight’ that the referee called the fight off. Stretchered out of the ring with fractures to the vertebrae and with Schmeling spending several months back in Germany recovering from the beating it was almost a year before a return to the ring was possible.

 

25 January 1939. Joe Louis w rsc 1 (15) John Henry Lewis

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

Fight Summary: Forgetting Jack Johnson v Battling Jim Johnson in 1913, which was not recognised by some as a title fight, this meeting was the first occasion that the official championship was contested between two black opponents. Lewis (180¾), the light heavyweight champion, was already being scrutinised for failing eyesight and should never have been allowed in the ring with Louis (200¼), but with the latter quickly running out of opposition the fight went ahead. Even at the weigh-in Lewis looked a shot fighter, and after just 2.29 of the opening round he was rescued by the referee at the count of 'five' after being hit by several heavy rights and tumbling to the canvas a thoroughly beaten man. Prior to that, when Lewis had been dropped for ‘three’ by a right hand to the jaw, on getting up he had been put down again, this time for 'two', by another tremendous right to the head. Although the two men were pals outside the ring Louis treated Lewis just as he would any other challenger, being ferocious in the extreme and getting the job done as soon as he could manage it.

 

17 April 1939. Joe Louis w co 1 (10) Jack Roper

Venue: Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: George Blake.

Fight Summary: Up against the veteran challenger, Louis (201¼) was expected to do the job quickly, something he achieved inside 140 seconds, but that alone did not tell the complete picture. Roper (204¾) had said prior to the fight that he would come out punching, and that is exactly what he did when the first punch of the fight, a cracking left hook, nearly lifted Louis off his feet. Angry that he had almost been dropped, Louis came roaring back as both men let their punches go. Despite being cut over the left eye, with Roper still dangerous, Louis was nearly caught again with a terrific left that just missed the target. Following that the champion quickly got on top with a barrage of blows before a right to the head, followed by a left to the body, sent Roper down for the full count.

 

28 June 1939. Joe Louis w rsc 4 (15) Tony Galento

Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Donovan.

Fight Summary: Galento (233¾), made famous by his "I’ll moider der bum" comments, and called ‘Two Ton Tony’ because of his roly-poly appearance, got this shot against the champion following 11 straight wins inside the distance. In one of the most talked about contests for ages, Galento powered into Louis (200¾) from the opening bell, nearly taking him off his feet early on before being forced to taste the champion’s punches. Cut over the left eye in the second, when Galento continued to charge in despite being visibly hurt, a terrific left hook to the jaw eventually dropped him for the first time in his career. Up at ‘two’, he made it to the end of the round but was still groggy. In the third Galento was under real pressure before smashing Louis down with a left hook to the jaw and a right to the body. The place was in uproar. Although Louis, up at ‘two’, came back strongly when hitting Galento with heavy blows to head and body the latter had won the round. Louis was now going to work, and at 2.29 of the fourth the referee rescued Galento when he was gradually sliding to the floor after being cornered and spun round by all manner of punches. It took more than five minutes to revive the battered and bruised Galento, but having inflicted the fourth knockdown on Louis he had done far better than hoped for.

 

20 September 1939. Joe Louis w co 11 (20) Bob Pastor

Venue: Briggs Stadium, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Sam Hennessey.

Fight Summary: Down four times in the first and again in the second, few felt after two sessions that Pastor (183) would turn out to be a test for the champion despite him going ten rounds with Louis (200) early in 1937. Somehow getting through the next two rounds, Pastor started the fight back in the fifth when landing some heavy blows to Louis’ jaw before he was again under pressure in the sixth. Cut badly over the left eye, Pastor stood his ground when staggered by powerful rights in the seventh before coming out firing in the eighth when taking Louis before him. If Pastor had carried a heavy blow, Louis would have been done for claimed Nat Fleischer of The Ring magazine. Again, in the ninth and tenth, Pastor took the fight to Louis, giving him all manner of problems, including a mouse under the left eye. Unfortunately, not listening to his corner, when Pastor came out for the 11th intent on fighting rather than boxing Louis, he was counted out inside 38 seconds, having been measured by a solid right to the head followed by two lefts and another right that took his legs away. It had been a tremendous effort that left many wondering what might have happened had Pastor carried dynamite in his gloves.

9 February 1940. Joe Louis w pts 15 Arturo Godoy

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

Scorecards: 10-4-1, 10-5, 5-10.

Fight Summary: Bobbing and weaving in front of the champion, Godoy (202) breathed fresh life into the weight class when losing on a split decision. Louis (203), who had been unable to land effectively throughout the contest, was too often bundled into the ropes, and even when he cornered Godoy the Chilean fought back strongly. Breaking up Louis’ rhythm with bulldozing tactics and the use of the head at times, Godoy also went down twice without being hit and crawled along the canvas to mock the champion. He even planted a kiss on Louis in the 14th. Afterwards, it was claimed that Louis had not been able to punch his hardest due to being afraid of damaging his hands on the Chilean’s head.

 

29 March 1940. Joe Louis w rsc 2 (15) Johnny Paychek

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

Fight Summary: At the mercy of the champion, and on the run from the opening bell, it was clear from the start that Paychek (187½) was not going to last. Thus it came as no surprise when he was dropped three times in the first round before being finished off after 0.44 of the second. It was a solid right to Paychek’s jaw that began the rot, dropping the latter for ‘nine’. Down again almost immediately from a left hook to the same spot, upon getting to his feet Paychek ran into another right to the jaw that enforced a further ‘nine’ count. Starting the second as if he needed to get home in a hurry, after Louis (201½) had rocked Paychek several times a tremendous right to the chin dumped the balding challenger on the deck out to the world. Having reached ‘seven’ the referee called the count off when he realised that Paychek was choking on his gumshield, care being administered to the beaten fighter before he could leave the ring.

 

20 June 1940. Joe Louis w rsc 8 (15) Arturo Godoy

Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Billy Cavanagh.

Fight Summary: A return battle saw Godoy (201¼) doing very much as he did last time for the opening six rounds, while the champion appeared more focused in trying to keep the Chilean at bay with right uppercuts and solid lefts to the body. In the sixth Godoy was at his best when catching Louis (199) with some heavy blows, but in the seventh the tide began to turn as the challenger tired. After chopping away at Godoy, Louis finally dropped his opponent for the first time in his career, having battered him with a barrage of rights and lefts. Coming out for the eighth Louis now had the bit between the teeth, and after rocking Godoy with a volley of blows to the head a right to the jaw decked the latter for ‘eight’ face down. Getting up in a dazed state, Godoy was eventually smashed down again and the referee halted proceedings at 1.24 of the session. It was not over as far as Godoy was concerned though as he leaped to his feet and tried to continue before being made aware that he had already lost.

 

16 December 1940. Joe Louis w rtd 5 (15) Al McCoy

Venue: The Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Johnny Martin.

Fight Summary: This fight heralded the beginning of Louis’ ‘Bum of the Month’ campaign in which he took on a series of defences in double-quick time. Making his 12th defence, Louis (202¼) started in a rush and soon had McCoy (180¾) down on one knee from a smashing right to the kidneys. Up almost immediately, McCoy bobbed, weaved and sidestepped to keep out of further trouble during the next four rounds before being run down in the fifth. With McCoy jabbing his way out of danger once too often, Louis finally caught up with him and a crashing right to the head badly damaged his left eye. Back in the corner, when McCoy’s handlers decided that the damage was too severe for their charge to continue he was pulled out of the contest during the interval. Yet again, Louis had failed to add to his prestige.

 

31 January 1941. Joe Louis w co 5 (15) Red Burman

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

Fight Summary: Surprising many in attendance the challenger took the fight to Louis from the opening bell, and when the latter was cut under the right eye there were strong feelings that an upset might be on the cards. But Louis (202½) remained alert, despite slipping badly in the third as Burman (188) charged into him. In the fourth Burman continued to go forward, taking all that Louis could muster while landing well himself at times, before coming unstuck in the fifth. Nailed by a heavy right to the head early in the session that damaged his left eye, Burman tried to take the fight to Louis prior to being badly weakened by a tremendous right to the stomach. Hurt again by another pile-driver to the body, Burman was dropped for the full count on the 2.49 mark after a further right had ripped into his solar plexus.

 

17 February 1941. Joe Louis w co 2 (15) Gus Dorazio

Venue: Convention Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Irvin Kutcher.

Fight Summary: Coming out in a crouch the challenger treated Louis (203½) to as much as he took himself in the opening session, especially body shots, while also proving to be difficult to hit. The game plan for Dorazio (193½) was to keep things much the same, but in the second round he began looking to land the left hook, believing that Louis was susceptible to the punch. That was his downfall. After being straightened up by solid lefts and rights to the head, Dorazio was counted out on the 1.30 mark having been smashed down face first by a tremendous right to the jaw. The punch that finished the fight, one of the hardest ever delivered by Louis, was said to have travelled less than six inches.

 

21 March 1941. Joe Louis w rsc 13 (20) Abe Simon

Venue: Olympia Stadium, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Sam Hennessey.

Fight Summary: Articled for 20 rounds, this would be the last world title bout contested over that distance. Running out of live opponents the champion probably figured that Simon (254½) would only last a round or so, especially after he knocked the latter down in the first with a solid right to the jaw. However, Simon was up at ‘two’ smiling, having suffered the first knockdown of his career, and was still walking into Louis (202) when he was put down for ‘nine’ in the third from a similar punch. Getting up, when the ponderous Simon began pumping out lefts regardless he started to outpoint and outpunch Louis in several sessions despite being staggered by one punch after another throughout. After the tenth Simon had shot his bolt, although still game to the core. The 12th saw Louis desperately trying to finish Simon off, but he had to wait until the 13th when a terrific right to the side of the head dropped the latter for ‘nine’. Back on his feet Simon was ambushed as Louis landed punch after punch, and before long he was down again for ‘nine’ when felled by a right hand that landed spot on the jaw. Following a left hook to the jaw, with Simon looking totally dazed and holding on to the ropes for support, the referee halted the action on the 1.20 mark. At the end of the contest Louis was carrying a swollen left eye while Simon's face was a mask of blood from damage to both eyes. It was reported afterwards that Simon had actually broken his right hand in the days leading up to the fight.

 

8 April 1941. Joe Louis w rsc 9 (15) Tony Musto

Venue: The Arena, St Louis, Missouri, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Donovan.

Fight Summary: Fighting out of a crouch the compact 5’8” Musto (199½) made life difficult for the champion, who quickly decided that the best way to deal with his opponent was to concentrate on the left and not to risk the right, having come to the ring with bruising to the knuckle. After opening up a cut over Musto’s right eye in the opener Louis (203½) had his man over in the third when he cut loose with rights and lefts, but the challenger was quickly back in the fray when rushing to close quarters. Tossing in overarm rights, Musto had Louis more than worried in the fifth and sixth rounds when hitting the target on a regular basis. Into the seventh, Louis, using jabs, hooks and uppercuts, had Musto on the run, and in the eighth a series of left jabs further damaged the latter’s right eye. With the injury worsening the referee had no alternative other than to stop the fight at 1.36 of the ninth when it was clear that Musto was having difficulty in focusing.

 

23 May 1941. Joe Louis w disq 7 (15) Buddy Baer

Venue: Griffith Stadium, Washington DC, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Donovan.

Fight Summary: Baer (237½), who became the first man to fight for the title that was once held by his brother, almost won it when tagging the champion with a tremendous left hook to the jaw in the first round. Although going over the ropes and landing on the ring apron, Louis (201½), got back into the ring at the count of ‘four’ but with the noise so great both men thought the round had ended, and with the referee holding Baer away from the dazed champion Louis had gained valuable recovery time. Gaining in confidence Baer charged into Louis in the second, doing well until taking more punches than were necessary in his anxiety to finish the latter off. By the third Louis was beginning to pick it up, and in the fourth he was hurting Baer with jolting lefts and rights to the head. Although Baer began the fifth well, by the end of the session he was being tagged by solid blows to head and body. The sixth saw Louis at his determined best, landing tremendous blows on the game Baer before rights to the chin sent the latter down for counts of ‘six’ and 'nine'. At that point, amidst the din of the crowd, Louis, who had not heard the bell, dropped Baer heavily before being made aware that the round was over. Advised by his handlers to stay on his stool when the bell rang to start the seventh, Baer was disqualified when his manager refused two calls from the referee to leave the ring. Adding to the heated discussions after the fight had ended it came to notice that the timer had already counted Baer out, but he had been allowed to fight on because he was on his feet when the referee had reached ‘nine’.

 

18 June 1941. Joe Louis w co 13 (15) Billy Conn

Venue: Polo Grounds, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Eddie Joseph.

Fight Summary: Having recently vacated the light heavyweight title, Conn (174) came closer to taking the champion’s crown than any previous challenger in a contest that will go down in history as a near miss. Hurt in the second by body punches, after dropping the opening two rounds Conn picked it up in the third when belting Louis (199½) around the ring, with the latter looking a sucker for the left hook. Ripping in many telling blows, Conn was proving to be a difficult opponent, his speed making it hard for Louis to catch him. However, Louis came back strongly in the fourth through to the sixth to hurt Conn several times, the youngster being forced to take more blows to the stomach. By the eighth Conn was warming to the task, making great progress, and he continued the good work in the ninth before Louis shaded the tenth due to his infighting. Back came Conn in the 11th and 12th sessions as he smothered Louis and almost dropped him in a tremendous rally, but it was here that he lost the fight, his spirit getting the better of him. Coming out for the 13th, just about ahead on the cards of most scribes, Conn decided to go for broke, belting the champion to head and body before a terrific right to the jaw took all the fight out of him. Despite Conn making an effort to keep going, attempting to clinch after being forced to take a series of lefts and rights to head and body, Louis dropped him for the full count with a right to the jaw. There were just two seconds of the session remaining.

 

29 September 1941. Joe Louis w rsc 6 (15) Lou Nova

Venue: Polo Grounds, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Donovan.

Fight Summary: A victim of ballyhoo, and nicknamed the ‘Yoga Man’ due to him being a student of that subject, although Nova (202½) had been backed to do well against the champion he failed to deliver. Despite having two wins over Max Baer on his record, right from the onset he spent most of his time on the back foot. For almost five rounds, with both men feeling each other out, even when Louis (202¼) occasionally landed a solid blow Nova merely backtracked. Finally, when Louis decided to go to work in the sixth a terrific right to the jaw dropped Nova in a heap. Nobody really expected Nova to get to his feet, but he did. Up at ‘nine’, Nova was battered from head to body by punch after punch as Louis laid into him, and when the referee eventually stopped the fight to rescue the challenger there was just one second of the round remaining. With his right eye bleeding profusely, and helpless on the ropes, when the stoppage came Nova had to be helped back to his corner while still complaining that he should have been allowed to carry on.

 

9 January 1942. Joe Louis w co 1 (15) Buddy Baer

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

Fight Summary: Following his previous crack at Louis (206¾) that ended in controversial circumstances Baer (250) was given a further opportunity at the title. This time round Louis was quickly into action, and although Baer got in the first blow, a right to the jaw, from there onwards it was only his gameness that caught the eye. Stepping up the pace, Louis floored Baer for ‘nine’ with crashing rights and lefts to the head doing the damage before sending in another heavy right to put the latter down for a second count of ‘nine’. Back on his feet and trying to fight his way out of his dilemma, Baer was under enormous pressure as Louis went for the kill. With Louis hammering in lefts and rights, a terrific right uppercut to the jaw sent the challenger down to be counted out on the 2.56 mark.

 

27 March 1942. Joe Louis w co 6 (15) Abe Simon

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

Fight Summary: After making a reasonable start Louis (207½) began stalking Simon (255½), and as the second round drew to a close two cracking rights to the jaw dropped the challenger who was saved by the bell at the count of ‘two’. Surprisingly, Simon came out with rush in the third, charging Louis all over the ring and looking to attack the body but had the round deducted from him after going low with a blow to the thigh. It was much the same in the fourth before Louis went to work in the fifth, nailing Simon with at least two dozen blows from both hands until the latter was dropped by two cracking rights. Again the bell saved Simon, coming to his rescue when the count had reached ‘six’. After Simon charged out for the sixth it was only a matter of moments before he was smashed to the floor by a left hook that was followed by a straight right to the jaw. The contest then came to an end controversially when Simon was deemed to have lost on rising at the count of ‘ten’, only for the timekeeper to claim that the count had reached ‘nine’ when the challenger was on his feet. Regardless of that the decision stood, the time of the kayo being announced as 16 seconds of the sixth. With Louis joining the Army in June 1942, the world title was frozen until the end of hostilities.

 

19 June 1946. Joe Louis w co 8 (15) Billy Conn

Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Eddie Joseph.

Fight Summary: In a contest that most fans were looking forward to it failed to reach the heights of their previous battle when the challenger failed to take the fight to Louis (207) as he had previously done. With Conn (187) continually on the back foot and not engaging Louis he was outscored in five of the seven completed rounds according to the referee’s card. Conn only really showed in the second round when hurting Louis with a right to the jaw before going back on the retreat. Having decided to pick up the pace in the eighth Louis went after Conn with a purpose, crashing in a left-right to the jaw that had its desired effect. Quick as a flash Louis pounced again, and another left-right to the jaw sent Conn down in a heap. Although the challenger desperately tried to get to his feet he just failed to make it, being counted out at 2.19 of the session.

 

18 September 1946. Joe Louis w co 1 (15) Tami Mauriello

Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Donovan.

Fight Summary: Making his 23rd defence, Louis (211) continued as world champion after knocking out Mauriello (198½) inside 129 seconds of what was an exciting fight while it lasted. Having almost dropped Louis with a cracking left hook that sent the champion clear across the ring, Mauriello continued to fire in punches. However, it was Louis who had the accuracy, and a left-right to Mauriello’s jaw that was followed by a heavy right to the same spot sent the latter to his knees for ‘nine’. Even after Mauriello had regained his feet he was hurting Louis, but following a bout of solid blows he found himself caught up in the corner with nowhere to go before two terrific rights, one that further damaged his left eye and the other to the jaw, sent him down to be counted out.

 

5 December 1947. Joe Louis w pts 15 Jersey Joe Walcott

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

Scorecards: 9-6, 8-6-1, 6-7-2.

Fight Summary: This was the first time Louis (211½) had successfully defended his title courtesy of a points decision since his meeting with Tommy Farr back in 1937, and it proved that at the age of 33 he was no longer the fighter he once was, especially bearing in mind that Walcott (194½) was a few months older. While it was true that Louis had done most of the leading, Walcott had scored two knockdowns following cracking rights to the jaw, the champion being put down for a count of ‘two’ in the first round and for ‘seven’ in the fourth. However, because Walcott decided that the best way to fight Louis was to circle around, jab with the left and sprint backwards whenever the latter got near him, only the first, fourth and ninth sessions were exciting. After the ninth, when both men mixed it for a time and Walcott came close to being put down, the latter continued to stay on his bike. In the 11th Walcott was hurt by a powerful left to the jaw, but came back well to outbox Louis in the next two rounds. Nat Fleischer, of The Ring magazine, stated that had Walcott continued to box in that fashion instead of backing off he would have undoubtedly won the title. After a contest which many thought Walcott had won, the two men were signed up for a rematch.

 

25 June 1948. Joe Louis w co 11 (15) Jersey Joe Walcott

Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Frank Fullam.

Fight Summary: In what had been a boring contest, at the end of the tenth the two judges had Walcott (194¾) in front by 5-4-1 and 6-3-1 respectively, while the referee had it as 5-2-3 for Louis (213½). The opening two rounds saw little action before Louis was dropped in the third from a right to the face. More embarrassed than hurt, Louis got to his feet immediately. Again, in the fifth, Louis was hurt by a right hand to the jaw, but for the next few sessions the champion generally found a defence for such punches by ducking under them. However, by the end of the ninth Walcott was getting bolder, coming on to shake Louis up with heavy rights to the head, and in the tenth he served up more of the same. Louis, who was looking flustered and bothered in the tenth, suddenly turned loose in the 11th having been told that Walcott was tiring, and within half a minute he undid all that had gone before. Unleashing a tremendous attack, after Walcott had gone for him, Louis became the clinical fighter of previous years when finding the punches to win the fight by a kayo with just four seconds of the session remaining. It had been a massive turnaround, and before collapsing to the floor to be counted out Walcott had been hit with every conceivable blow Louis could muster.

 

Louis had been champion for 11 years and four days, a record, and after giving it much thought he signified that he was retiring as the undefeated champion on 28 February 1949. Following a series of eliminating bouts, it was Ezzard Charles and Walcott who were matched by the NBA to contest the vacant title despite not having the backing of the NYSAC. With Charles, a skilful box-fighter with a great left hand, being ranked as the second best man in the weight division by The Ring magazine and Walcott at number one this should be seen as involving the lineal title. A top-class light heavyweight who surely would have won the world title in that division had he not moved on, although Charles could still make 175lbs he was ready to step up having beaten Teddy Yarosz, Anton Christoforidis, Charley Burley (2), Steve Mamakos, Booker Beckwith, Jose Basora, Mose Brown, Joey Maxim (3), Archie Moore (3), Lloyd Marshall (2), Oakland Billy Smith (2), Jimmy Bivins (2), Fitzie Fitzpatrick (2), Elmer Ray and Joe Baksi. Coming into the fight, Charles’ record showed 62 wins, one draw and five defeats. His opponent, the top-rated Walcott, with 43 wins, one draw and 15 defeats on his tab, who had already shown his quality in two losing fights against Louis, had beaten Baksi, Lee Q. Murray, Curtis Sheppard, Bivins, Lee Oma, Tommy Gomez, Maxim (2), reversing two defeats at the latter’s hands, and Ray.  

 

22 June 1949. Ezzard Charles w pts 15 Jersey Joe Walcott

Venue: Comiskey Park, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Recognition: NBA. Referee: Dave Miller.

Scorecards: 78-72, 78-72, 77-73.

Fight Summary: Billed for the vacant title, despite Walcott (195½) making the early running and occasionally forcing Charles (181¾) on to the ropes he was unable to make it pay due to the latter’s clever defence and his own poor timing. While Charles did well, especially with the left hand, both men missed with rights when a target presented itself. At least Charles pulled himself together in the seventh, shaking the older man with solid lefts and rights, but he was unable to follow up his advantage until having Walcott in further trouble in the tenth. Again Charles failed to grasp the opportunity, and while scoring more effectively with the left jab to claim the win he failed to light up the crowd as the clock ran down.

 

10 August 1949. Ezzard Charles w rtd 7 (15) Gus Lesnevich

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

Fight Summary: Promoted by the IBC, and with Joe Louis acting as the matchmaker, the fight took place in New York, a State where Charles (180) was not even recognised as world champion. However, regardless of the venue, the contest was supported by 47 States of America under the banner of the NBA. Charles, making his first defence of that title, was always going too well for the former light heavyweight champion, hitting his ageing opponent almost at will during the opening five sessions. As early as the first round Lesnevich (182) was wobbling under a barrage of lefts and rights to the jaw as Charles cast off the shackles of his title-winning fight. Lesnevich’s best chances of victory came with the hope of him getting solid rights off, but every time he went with the punch he was effectively countered and as a consequence was soon carrying damage to his right eye. Giving it everything he had in the sixth Lesnevich went for broke, and although getting in solid rights that Charles seemed unable to avoid he had shot his bolt. In the seventh, with his left eye almost closed, Lesnevich was on the receiving end of almost everything that Charles threw at him. Having become patently obvious that Lesnevich could not continue for much longer, his corner sensibly retired him at the end of the session.

 

14 October 1949. Ezzard Charles w co 8 (15) Pat Valentino

Venue: Cow Palace, Daly City, California, USA. Recognition: NBA. Referee: Jack Downey.

Fight Summary: The sixth-rated Valentino (188½) was the next one up for Charles (182) in front of almost 20,000 fans, and although he had not been in the ring for close on ten months he was the Californian champion, having drawn with Joey Maxim and beaten Freddie Beshore, Tony Bosnich and Turkey Thompson in his previous four contests. What he lacked in class Valentino more than made up with aggression, especially when fighting on the inside to work the body over, which he did to real effect in the second and third rounds. However, by the fifth, Charles was bouncing lefts and rights off every available target that Valentino had on offer. Even though Valentino came back strongly in the sixth it proved to be his last big effort. Mixing up jabs, hooks, uppercuts and crunching rights in the seventh, Charles almost finished Valentino off, but in the eighth a cracking right to the jaw sent the Californian crashing to the floor to be counted out with just 35 seconds on the clock.

 

15 August 1950. Ezzard Charles w rsc 14 (15) Freddie Beshore

Venue: Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, New York, USA. Recognition: NBA. Referee: Barney Felix.

Fight Summary: Not even rated in the top ten, and beaten in his last two contests by Lee Oma, Beshore (184½) was given a shot at Charles (183¼) in a contest that failed to gain the support of the NYSAC despite it being held on their territory. Although Beshore, who was badly outclassed at times, was stopped at 2.53 of the 14th round, due to sustaining a seriously swollen ear in the tenth that worsened, Charles had been unable to floor him. Rushing in head down whenever he could to attack the body, Beshore was still in the fight up to the seventh but thereafter he never stood a chance as Charles began to open up more. In that session Charles punished Beshore at close range with hooks to the body and straight rights to the head before opening up again in the tenth and doing even more damage. Even though he had suffered cuts under the eyes in the 11th Beshore continued to come forward without let up, but with it becoming clear that he had no chance of winning when Charles opened up again in the 14th the referee had seen enough. In the aftermath of the fight, Charles, who suffered a cut left eye in the 14th, said that his poor showing was down to the fear that he might not be able to go the full distance following his recent injury problems. When Charles was booked to meet the former champion, Joe Louis, the contest would be recognised by the NYSAC.

 

27 September 1950. Ezzard Charles w pts 15 Joe Louis

Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY. Referee: Mark Conn.

Scorecards: 10-5, 13-2, 12-3. 

Fight Summary: Coming back after being out of the ring for more than two years, Louis (218) was just a shell of the once great fighter that everyone recognised. By the fourth round Charles (184½) was outspeeding Louis, who was beginning to look ponderous, while continually proving to be too elusive for the older man to batter down with his bigger punches. At this stage of the fight both men were carrying damage to their left eyes and by the ninth Charles was having difficulty in focusing with Louis being too slow to take advantage. The tenth saw Louis at his best as he bored in with solid blows that shook Charles up, but by the end of the session the latter was fighting back strongly. Picking up the pace in the 11th, after Charles came out throwing big punches at Louis’ head he continued to bang away during the remaining sessions in an effort to score a kayo. In the final round Louis was sold-out, being almost helpless on the ropes as Charles fired punches at him before the bell came to his rescue.

 

5 December 1950. Ezzard Charles w co 11 (15) Nick Barone

Venue: The Gardens, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY. Referee: Tony Warndorf.

Fight Summary: Boxing with purpose the champion had little difficulty in dealing with Barone (178½) who, as the fourth-rated light heavyweight, really did not belong in the division. However, with Charles also considered too light for the weight class the fight was given official approval. Although Barone kept pressing Charles (185), tossing in short punches and aiming to stay at close quarters, he was nearly always fought off with jabs, hooks and uppercuts whenever the latter picked up the pace. By the ninth round, which Charles took by a wide margin, it was clear that Barone would be lucky to last the distance. Coming out fast in the 11th Charles set about Barone with all manner of blows, a jarring right uppercut sending the challenger almost into dreamland, such was the power of the punch. Cutting loose with everything he had Charles had Barone at his mercy, and following a battery of shots from both hands a crashing right sent the former marine down to be counted out on the 2.06 mark.

 

12 January 1951. Ezzard Charles w rsc 10 (15) Lee Oma

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

Fight Summary: Charles (185) was a disappointment when taking on the fourth-rated Oma (193), the challenger standing up to whatever was thrown at him in the early rounds while being able to come back with plenty of his own. Charles’ left eye was cut as early as the second, causing his timing to be off at times, especially when he strayed below the belt and had points deducted in the fifth and eighth. While stabbing his left into Charles’ damaged features Oma also made life difficult for the champion, as well as making for an elusive target as he rode and slipped punches. However, despite the fight being mainly listless the finish will live on in the memories of those who were there. Eventually catching up with Oma in the tenth, Charles smashed in more than a dozen left hooks to the jaw and a few to the body for good measure to send his rival staggering around the ring in such a manner that The Ring magazine reported it as a walk on ‘queer street’. The fight was as good as over, and with a now defenceless Oma forced into a neutral corner as Charles was raining in punches the referee halted proceedings at 1.19 of the session.

 

7 March 1951. Ezzard Charles w pts 15 Jersey Joe Walcott

Venue: Olympia Stadium, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY. Referee: Clarence Rosen.

Scorecards: 80-70, 80-66, 83-62.

Fight Summary: Making his fourth attempt to become a champion, Walcott (193) was once again seen off in a contest where he could never quite get to grips with Charles (186). Following an opening round that was marred by too much holding and negative tactics, having hurt Charles in the fourth with an overarm right Walcott played second fiddle thereafter as the latter began to pick up points with the left lead. In the ninth, when Walcott walked on to a heavy right-hand counter he was dropped for ‘nine’, the only knockdown of the fight, before being forced to take plenty of rights and lefts until the bell ended the session. Although Walcott came back strongly in the tenth and 11th with left and right hooks it was Charles who took three of the last four sessions with his more effective punching, especially in the 14th when the challenger walked into smashing right hands that rocked him back on his heels. After sustaining a badly swollen left ear in the fourth Charles’ prospective fight against Joe Louis, tentatively set for 18 April, was put on the backburner. It then failed to take place when negotiations broke down.

 

30 May 1951. Ezzard Charles w pts 15 Joey Maxim

Venue: The Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY. Referee: Frank Gilmer.

Scorecards: 78-72, 85-65, 85-65.

Fight Summary: Defending against the current light heavyweight king, Charles (182) scored a relatively easy win that was made to look less than straightforward by the referee’s card that gave the challenger four rounds with four even. According to Nat Fleischer, of The Ring magazine, the referee’s decision was so wide of the mark it was almost laughable. It was Charles’ body punching that took all the steam out of Maxim (181½), a man he had beaten three times previously and who at times was almost gasping for breath. What irked the fans was the ultra-cautious Charles’ inability to drop Maxim, even when the latter was reeling around the ring exhausted from his exertions and carrying a swollen and cut face. In the fourth, when Charles was warned for a foul that nobody else in the crowd saw he actually stopped fighting in amazement, allowing Maxim a few free shots. It was in the frequent clinches that Charles excelled, getting off right-hand blows to head and body as Maxim, a past master at tying opponents up, tried desperately to contain him without success. From the 13th onwards Maxim was out on his feet, but Charles was unable to take advantage of the situation despite landing some heavy shots on his man.

 

Having been beaten twice by Charles, the 37-year-old Jersey Joe Walcott was hoping it would be third time lucky when the pair were matched again to decide the NBA/NY titles. A pro since 1930, in 67 contests Walcott’s in-out record read 48 wins, one draw and 18 defeats.

 

18 July 1951. Jersey Joe Walcott w co 7 (15) Ezzard Charles

Venue: Forbes Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY. Referee: Buck McTiernan.

Fight Summary: At the age of 37½ Walcott (194) became the oldest man to win a title at any weight for the first time. He also became the oldest heavyweight champion up to that time when knocking out Charles (182) inside 55 seconds of the seventh round. Walcott’s main tactic was to throw right hands over the top of the left lead, followed by a left hook, and in the third he rocked Charles with a couple of cracking rights before having the latter bleeding from cuts around the face after left hooks had got home in the fourth. At this stage of the fight Walcott was getting on top, and in the seventh he exploded a left hook to Charles’ jaw that sent him down flat on his face to be counted out. Although Charles desperately tried to get to his feet at the count of ‘nine’, on failing he tumbled on to his back in a neutral corner. Despite Walcott's victory the British Boxing Board of Control still saw Joe Louis as the champion, but following wins over Cesar Brion and Jimmy Bivins and an eighth-round stoppage defeat at the hands of Rocky Marciano at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York on 26 October the BBBoC fell into line with the rest of the world. For Louis it was the end of the line, thus bringing the curtain down on a wonderful 17-year career.

 

5 June 1952. Jersey Joe Walcott w pts 15 Ezzard Charles

Venue: Municipal Stadium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Zack Clayton.

Scorecards: 9-6, 8-7, 8-7.

Fight Summary: Making his first defence against the man he won the title from Walcott (196) dominated the early stages of his fight against Charles (191½), using solid lefts and rights to keep the challenger at arm's length and hurting him with a right to the jaw in the third. In the early stages Charles concentrated on the body, but it was not until the latter part of the fight that Walcott began to come under heavy pressure when tiring. Cut over both eyes, Charles gave it everything he had over the last four rounds, hurting Walcott several times in the 14th before he ran out of time. There were no knockdowns, and at the age of 38 Walcott became the oldest man to successfully defend the world heavyweight title.

 

The next man up for Walcott would be Rocky Marciano who had knocked out Harry Matthews in the second session of their 15-round eliminator. Although unbeaten, the power-punching 28-year-old Marciano was still seen as a wild, swinging and somewhat clumsy opponent for the skilful veteran. Coming into the Walcott fight, with 42 straight wins (38 inside the distance) since starting out in 1947, Marciano had also beaten Jimmy Walls, Phil Muscato, Roland LaStarza, Rex Layne, Freddie Beshore, Joe Louis and Lee Savold.

 

23 September 1952. Rocky Marciano w co 13 (15) Jersey Joe Walcott

Venue: Municipal Stadium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Charley Daggert.

Fight Summary: For the best part of 12 rounds the champion, boxing a cagey fight, kept the younger Marciano (184) chasing shadows after dropping him for ‘four’ with a solid left hook in the opening session. Standing up to Marciano and countering well Walcott (196) continued to pick up points despite being cut badly over the left eye in the sixth. Riding the punches well, by the ninth Walcott was landing the heavier shots, and in the 11th he almost dropped Marciano, now cut over both eyes, with a terrific left hook. Boxing more defensively in the 12th Walcott was still landing the better punches, but 43 seconds into the 13th he was counted out after momentarily dropping his guard and taking a tremendous right to the chin.

 

15 May 1953. Rocky Marciano w co 1 (15) Jersey Joe Walcott

Venue: The Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Frank Sikora.

Fight Summary: Concentrating on his defence, blocking and moving, Walcott (197¾) kept the champion at arm’s length for two thirds of the opening round. Then, as Marciano (184½) continued pressing forward he suddenly found a right to the jaw that sent Walcott crashing. The din was so intense that it was a good couple of seconds before Marciano realised that he had to go to a neutral corner, but it made no difference as Walcott was counted out on the 2.25 mark in the act of rising. It came as no surprise when Walcott, who had complained that the count was too quick, retired in the aftermath of the contest.

 

24 September 1953. Rocky Marciano w rsc 11 (15) Roland LaStarza

Venue: Polo Grounds, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Ruby Goldstein.

Fight Summary: Having gone the distance with Marciano in March 1950, losing controversially by a split decision over ten rounds, LaStarza (184¾) felt that he had a reasonable chance of dethroning the champion. Even though he was cut over the right eye in the second round LaStarza boxed well on the retreat against the wild, clumsy Marciano (185), being still in the fight up to the eighth. He was never going to win though, and once Marciano’s heavy wallops began to take effect LaStarza was fighting a losing battle. Brushing aside his challenger, who was now cut over both eyes, Marciano went for the finish in the 11th, dropping LaStarza with a right to the jaw. Although getting up, LaStarza was an open target. With punches coming in from all angles and with LaStarza looking as though he could suffer serious injury the referee rescued him with 89 seconds of the session remaining. This was the first heavyweight title fight between white men for 18 years.

 

17 June 1954. Rocky Marciano w pts 15 Ezzard Charles

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

Scorecards: 8-5-2, 9-5-1, 8-6-1.

Fight Summary: Putting on a great display of pure guts, Charles (185½) became to first man to take the champion the distance over 15 rounds. After winning three of the opening four rounds Charles then came under more and more pressure as Marciano (187½), cut over the left eye, began to find the range, and he was badly rocked in the sixth. Boxing calmly, Charles came back well to take the eighth but in the ninth, after Marciano had crashed home several tremendous punches, the challenger’s right eye began to swell badly. By the 12th Charles started to stand his ground more, managing to remain upright following some fierce exchanges right through to the final bell. Both men needed medical attention after the fight, Marciano having ten stitches inserted over his left eye.

 

17 September 1954. Rocky Marciano w co 8 (15) Ezzard Charles

Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Al Berl.

Fight Summary: Twice postponed due to heavy rain, the contest eventually took place two days later than originally planned. Constantly charging in to put Charles (192½) under pressure Marciano (187) was well on top by the fifth round, having handed out a lot of punishment to head and body. By the sixth though, Charles seemed to have a second wind, and by the end of the session the champion’s nose was split badly and blood was pouring down his face. Sticking with it in the seventh, when Charles cut the champion over the left eye early in the eighth thinking the fight might be halted Marciano tore in with both hands to drop his man with a right to the jaw. Back on his feet at ‘four’ Charles was now in real trouble, and following a barrage of blows to the head he was sent down to be counted out with 24 seconds of the session remaining.

 

16 May 1955. Rocky Marciano w rsc 9 (15) Don Cockell

Venue: Kezar Stadium, San Francisco, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Frankie Brown.

Fight Summary: Not given much of a chance Cockell (205) proved his critics wrong when putting up a wonderful display of courage in the face of heavy odds. The challenger even took the opening two rounds before Marciano (189) came on strong. Even then Cockell was still fighting back hard. In the sixth, Cockell, now badly cut on the forehead, actually halted Marciano momentarily with a vicious right cross, but by the eighth he was gradually beginning to be ground down before being dropped on the bell. Soon after the start of the ninth, with Marciano on the rampage, Cockell was put down from a battery of punches to head and body. Struggling up at 'nine' Cockell was at the mercy of Marciano, and following another count, of 'five', the referee called it off 59 seconds into the session when the Englishman was all over the place. After the contest the British press complained about the foul tactics that would have seen Marciano tossed out of a British ring, but as far as Cockell was concerned the fight was in America and he knew what he was letting himself in for.

21 September 1955. Rocky Marciano w co 9 (15) Archie Moore

Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Harry Kessler.

Fight Summary: Looking to become the first light heavyweight champion to take the heavyweight title Moore (188) gave it a real go, flooring Marciano (188¼) for a count of ‘four’ in the second with a right to the jaw. Boxing with great verve and a brilliant defence Moore made life extremely difficult for Marciano, but once the champion began to batter him against the ropes the end was in sight. Put down twice in the sixth, Moore tried to clear his head. However, by the end of the seventh his right eye was almost closed, and in the eighth he was floored by a right to the jaw before being saved by the bell. Coming into the ninth Marciano rolled all over Moore, who was eventually counted out on the 1.19 mark after taking a well-timed left hook to the jaw that smashed him to the floor and left him in a heap in his own corner.

 

Marciano retired as undefeated champion on 27 April 1956 with a perfect 49-bout record. Faced with finding a new champion, when the leading man in the division, Moore, was matched against Floyd Patterson, ranked at number two, the contest would be seen throughout boxing as settling the world title.  Moore had remained the division’s number one despite his defeat at the hands of Marciano, and in order to find his opponent the NYSAC set up another eliminator between Patterson and Tommy Jackson, won on points by the former over 12 rounds at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC on 8 June 1956. Another contest of some significance saw Moore beat James J. Parker (w rsc 9 at the Maple Leaf Stadium, Toronto, Canada on 25 July 1956) in a fight the promoter had sought world title billing for but had been denied by the Canadian Boxing Federation. While the cagey Moore, with a record of 160 wins, eight draws, 20 defeats and one no contest, had been a pro since September 1935, Patterson, with the ‘peek-a-boo’ style and fast hands, had been an Olympic middleweight champion at the age of 17 in 1952 and had already participated in 31 pro contests, losing just once, to Joey Maxim. Prior to meeting Jackson, he had beaten Dick Wagner (2), Gordon Wallace, Wes Bascom, Yvon Durelle (2), Jacques Royer-Crecy, Tommy Harrison, Jimmy Slade (2), Willie Troy, Archie McBride, Dave Whitlock and Jimmy Walls, all seasoned fighters.

 

30 November 1956. Floyd Patterson w co 5 (15) Archie Moore

Venue: The Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Frank Sikora.

Fight Summary: In a battle for the title vacated by Marciano, although Moore (187¾) started brightly enough after being hurt by speedy left hooks and a heavy right under the heart towards the end of the first round he was under a lot of pressure. Cut over the left eye in the third and hurt again, Moore rallied in the fourth before going for broke in the fifth. However, unable to deal with the speed of Patterson (182¼), Moore was now having difficulty in locating the younger man. Deposited on the canvas by a whistling left hook, on getting up Moore ran into a two-fisted attack that dropped him for the full count, timed at 1.19.

 

29 July 1957. Floyd Patterson w rsc 10 (15) Tommy Jackson

Venue: Polo Grounds, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Ruby Goldstein.

Fight Summary: Unable to cope with the speed of the champion’s punches, Jackson (192½) was put down by a combination of rights and lefts to the head just as the bell rang to end the opening session. It did not get any better for Jackson in the second round, Patterson (184) having him over again from a right to the jaw. Named ‘The Hurricane’ due to his fighting style, even though Jackson bravely punched away it was Patterson who was doing all the scoring. By the sixth it was apparent that the end was drawing near, but Jackson, his right eye almost closed, would not hear of it. Although he was dropped by body blows in the ninth and took a terrific left to the jaw immediately prior to the bell he came out fighting in the tenth. It had now become totally one-way traffic, and with the brave Jackson walking into punches and refusing to go down the referee stopped the contest to save him from taking further punishment. The finish was timed at 1.52.

 

22 August 1957. Floyd Patterson w co 6 (15) Pete Rademacher

Venue: Sick’s Stadium, Seattle, Washington, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Tommy Loughran.

Fight Summary: Rademacher, the 1956 Olympic champion, made history by becoming the first man to contest a world heavyweight title when making his professional debut. A big outsider as you would expect, Rademacher (202) did reasonably well for two rounds, but was downed for ‘nine’ in the third before somehow holding Patterson (187¼) off in the fourth. Although the fifth round was a disaster for Rademacher, being dropped four times in all, he came out for the sixth as though nothing had happened. After Rademacher was decked when coming out of a clinch upon rising he was soon down again, courtesy of a left hook. Almost up and ready to go again, Rademacher was counted out with just three seconds of the session remaining.

 

18 August 1958. Floyd Patterson w rtd 12 (15) Roy Harris

Venue: Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Mushy Callahan.

Fight Summary: Following an uneventful first round and being knocked down for ‘four’ by a right uppercut in the second, the champion got up as if nothing had happened. With Patterson (184½) finding his feet by the end of the fourth, Harris, cut over both eyes, was staring defeat in the face. Getting well on top without exerting himself, Patterson (184½) dropped Harris for ‘eight’ in the seventh and twice in the eighth, and although there were no further knockdowns in the next three sessions the finish was in sight. Towards the end of the 12th the badly outclassed Harris was put down for the fourth time before being retired by his corner during the interval.

 

1 May 1959. Floyd Patterson w co 11 (15) Brian London

Venue: Fairgrounds Coliseum, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Frank Sikora.

Fight Summary: Not given much of a chance, London (206) surprised many by his ability to absorb a steady battering as the champion powered into him from the first round. Maintaining a high defence, and set on coming through the contest unscathed, it was this tactic that got London a bad press as he rarely took the fight to Patterson (182½). By the ninth London had slowed considerably, having taken many of Patterson’s blows to the body while guarding his head. Although Patterson had been content to make his openings at long range before punching away with both hands, that all changed in the tenth when he dropped London with a long right to the jaw. Despite London being saved by the bell there would be no let-up in the 11th. With the end now in sight Patterson raced into London, hitting him with all the punches in the book, a left hook eventually seeing the Englishman crash to the floor to be counted out with 51 seconds on the clock. On his return to England, London, who was heavily fined by the BBBoC, had his licence suspended for six months.

 

The next challenger for Patterson would the heavy-handed Ingemar Johansson. Coming into the fight with 21 straight wins to his credit since turning pro in 1952 following the Olympic Games when he was disqualified in the second round of the final, Johansson had won the European title and beaten Hein Ten Hoff, Joe Bygraves, Franco Cavicchi, Henry Cooper, Archie McBride, Joe Erskine, Heinz Neuhaus and Eddie Machen.

 

26 June 1959. Ingemar Johansson w rsc 3 (15) Floyd Patterson

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

Fight Summary: In one of the biggest shocks in the history of the heavyweights, Johansson (196) upset the formbook to become the first European to win the title since Primo Carnera. The opening two rounds were not indicative of what was to follow, Johansson using a jarring left jab to keep the champion at bay while having a good look at his opponent. With the third round only 30 seconds old a right to the jaw had Patterson (182) down. Bravely getting up, almost instinctively, Patterson was hammered to the canvas six more times in quick succession before the referee ended the carnage on the 2.03 mark when calling a halt. It came as a complete surprise to many Americans, who had been unaware of Johansson's punching power as he had cleverly disguised it in training. With a return contract in place the pair would meet again.

 

20 June 1960. Floyd Patterson w co 5 (15) Ingemar Johansson

Venue: Polo Grounds, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World.  Referee: Arthur Mercante.

Fight Summary: Planning the fight carefully Patterson (190) made a fast start, keeping well away from the champion’s right hand while darting in and scoring before getting on the move. With Johansson (194¾) looking to jab with the left and cross with the right he was being outmanoeuvred and made to look clumsy by the American. By the fourth it was clear that Patterson’s tactics were working as Johansson, cut over the left eye, was being hit by hooks and combinations without response. And in the fifth a left hook to the jaw saw the Swede floored. Although Johansson was up at 'nine' when another left hook found its mark he crashed down to be counted out, the time of the knockout being 1.51. In winning, Patterson became the first man to regain the heavyweight title, but by now it was becoming clear that title fights were taking a lot longer to organise, for whatever reason, than the regular six-month defence programme allowed.

 

13 March 1961. Floyd Patterson w co 6 (15) Ingemar Johansson

Venue: Convention Hall, Miami Beach, Florida, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Billy Regan.

Fight Summary: In a sensational opening round the champion was decked twice before Johansson (206½) was sent down. That was followed by both men deciding to take a breather by clinching. Apart from Patterson (194¾) missing with a big punch and falling over, the second round was anti-climactic as there was little action. At the end of the third it was seen that both men were cut, Johansson over the right eye and Patterson over the left, and the next two sessions were hardly awe inspiring as both men bided their time. By the sixth, Johansson, who was now cut over both eyes, decided to pick up the action. However, after forcing Patterson against the ropes he was caught by a fearsome left hook and two rights before crashing down to be counted out on the 2.10 mark. Afterwards, Patterson claimed that he was not happy with his own performance, mainly because he did not quite know whether to box or fight.

 

4 December 1961. Floyd Patterson w rsc 4 (15) Tom McNeeley

Venue: Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Canada. Recognition: World. Referee: Jersey Joe Walcott.

Fight Summary: Not in the same class as the champion the rough, tough McNeeley (197) tried to make a fight of it, but before he could get going he was dropped by a left hook halfway through the opening round. Thereafter, it would be just a matter of time, and when the fight was stopped with just nine seconds of the fourth session remaining the hapless McNeeley had been decked a further nine times. It seemed as though Patterson (188½) could have ended this one as and when he wanted, McNeeley proving to be more dangerous with his head than his fists.

 

Finally, with the fight public doubting whether Paterson would ever defend his title against the long-time outstanding challenger, Sonny Liston, the match was made. The NBA (who would be reconstituted as the World Boxing Association on 21 August 1962) had called upon Patterson to defend by 13 March 1962, but as that was not realistic the Association was forced to accept that the fight everyone wanted to see would take a little longer to come to fruition. When the NYSAC refused to give Liston a licence to box in the State due to his past criminal record the fight was booked for Chicago, Illinois. Prior to meeting Patterson, the hard-hitting Liston had posted 33 wins (23 inside the distance) and suffered one defeat to Marty Marshall, which he twice avenged. He had also defeated Johnny Summerlin (2), Billy Hunter, Bert Whitehurst (2), Wayne Bethea, Frankie Daniels, Mike DeJohn, Cleveland Williams (2), Nino Valdes and Roy Harris, and Zora Folley and Eddie Machen in eliminating contests.

 

25 September 1962. Sonny Liston w co 1 (15) Floyd Patterson

Venue: Comiskey Park, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Frank Sikora.

Fight Summary:  Clearly a fight the champion did not want, after a slow start followed by some fairly heavy punches that saw him backing off fast, he caught Liston (214) with a right-hander to the head that had no effect on the ‘Bad Man’ of boxing whatsoever. Before Patterson (189) had time to think, Liston had slammed in a left hook that was followed by a terrific right and another left, and he was down with no way of getting up. The referee completed the count with 54 seconds still left of the opening session.

 

22 July 1963. Sonny Liston w co 1 (15) Floyd Patterson

Venue: Convention Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Harry Krause.

Fight Summary: Once again Liston (215) wasted little time, walking into the former champion and dropping him with three heavy rights to the head after the pair had clinched. Given the compulsory ‘eight’ count, with Patterson (194½) still befuddled it was not long before Liston had him over again from a long right to the head. Again Patterson failed to take proper advantage of the count, and he was immediately backed up against the ropes and sent to the canvas after taking three clubbing rights to the head followed by a left hook. This time there was no reprieve, Patterson being counted out on the 2.10 mark in a fight that lasted just four seconds longer than their first meeting.

 

By now the former 1960 Olympic light heavyweight champion, Cassius Clay, who would eventually be known as Muhammad Ali (due to him becoming a Muslim in mid-1964), was coming along fast, making predictions on which round he would win and generally causing a stir wherever he went. With fast hands and footwork to match and a solid punch in either hand, his brashness also won him the soubriquet of the ‘Louisville Lip’. Following 18 straight wins, including victories over men such as Argentina’s Alex Miteff, Sonny Banks, who dropped him, the ill-fated Alejandro Lavorante (who died in 1964 from injuries sustained when knocked out by John Riggins), Archie Moore and Doug Jones, he then defeated Henry Cooper (w rsc 5 at Wembley Stadium, London, England on 18 June 1963) in what was a world title eliminator. This was a fight made famous by Cooper’s left hook that almost destroyed Clay in the fourth round; the American being saved by the alertness of his corner-man, Angelo Dundee, who cut his gloves during the interval and brought valuable time for his charge. Having made the number one slot the young fighter would be next in line for Liston. 

 

25 February 1964. Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) w rtd 6 (15) Sonny Liston

Venue: Convention Hall, Miami Beach, Florida, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Barney Felix.

Fight Summary: Clay (210½), on beating the 7-1 on favourite, Liston (218), amidst stories of the latter taking a dive, backed up his pre-fight comments in what was in all probability the biggest upset in the division’s history. Circling the ring at speed from the opening bell Clay made it difficult for the champion to catch up with him before trading blows and going on his bike again. That was the pattern of the fight. In the fifth round Clay began blinking his eyes as if there was a real problem as he scurried around the ring with Liston in pursuit, later inferring that he thought there was a substance on the champion’s gloves, something that was never proved. After that, with Clay making the head his target and Liston going for the body, the two men traded more punches in the sixth than in the previous sessions before the latter retired on his stool prior to the seventh getting underway. Liston, who had six stitches inserted in a cut under his left eye that was almost shut, claimed to have dislocated his left shoulder in the opening round. Although his purse was initially held his story was later accepted. What could not be disputed was the fact that Clay had taken Liston’s best punches and also given him a boxing lesson. Having recently changed his name from that of Cassius Clay, Ali was stripped by the WBA on 17 September due to his decision to go ahead with a return fight with Liston instead of meeting Ernie Terrell.

 

25 May 1965. Muhammad Ali w co 1 (15) Sonny Liston

Venue: St Dominic’s Youth Centre, Lewiston, Maine, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Jersey Joe Walcott.

Fight Summary: In a fight shrouded in mystery, Ali (206) knocked Liston (215¼) out in the opening round. According to Nat Fleischer, of The Ring magazine, the short right-hand punch that finished the contest clearly landed, the referee counting to ten before continuing to let the time run a further 12 seconds. Called the ‘Phantom Punch’, Fleischer went on to say "How hard a blow? Only Liston knows". The fiasco of the finish rumbled on after the fight was over, with the official timer saying it lasted 60 seconds, while the camera men and Fleischer had it at 1.48 and 1.42 respectively.

 

22 November 1965. Muhammad Ali w rsc 12 (15) Floyd Patterson

Venue: Convention Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Harry Krause.

Fight Summary: Right from the start the champion controlled the fight, maintaining a good lead before knocking Patterson (196¾) down with a left to the jaw in the sixth. After taking the mandatory ‘eight’ count, Patterson was soon back in the action until round seven saw his left eye swelling up as he tired. From the eighth onwards Ali (210) seemed to be landing at will, sending in lefts and rights to Patterson’s head while taunting the latter continually. Following an inspection by the doctor at the end of the 11th Patterson was allowed out for the 12th, but after Ali set up a strong attack, driving the former champion before him, the referee called the fight off at 2.18 of the session. Although Patterson had struggled with back trouble in the 11th, in reality he could not cope with Ali’s extra reach, winning only the first round on the cards.

29 March 1966. Muhammad Ali w pts 15 George Chuvalo

 

Venue: Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Canada. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Jackie Silvers.

 

Scorecards: 73-65, 74-64, 74-63.

Fight Summary: Although Chuvalo (216) put up a courageous show in forcing Ali (214½) to travel the distance he won only one round at best, the second. Lacking in defensive skills, from the third onwards the challenger seemed to be on the end of anything thrown his way. Having been cut over the left eye in the sixth Chuvalo’s right eye was also damaged by the 14th, and at the final bell both eyes were almost closed shut. It was testament to Chuvalo’s strength and courage that he remained on his feet throughout the contest despite being hit with lefts and rights at will on occasions, while his best shots barely made Ali blink.

 

21 May 1966. Muhammad Ali w rsc 6 (15) Henry Cooper

Venue: Highbury Stadium, Finsbury Park, London, England. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: George Smith.

Fight Summary: Taking the fight to the champion during the first two rounds of their return match, it was only in the third that Cooper (188) started to come under any pressure. Round four saw Cooper continuing to attack, but at the end of the session he was shaken up by lefts and rights to the head and unable to retaliate as Ali (201½) danced away from him. Still playing a waiting game, Ali allowed Cooper to take the fight to him before slamming into him in the sixth with slashing blows that opened up a bad cut on the Englishman’s left eye. Cooper was allowed to fight on after an inspection, but with Ali firing in sturdy punches to his challenger’s head, with the eye damage an obvious target, the referee stopped the fight on the 1.38 mark.

 

6 August 1966. Muhammad Ali w co 3 (15) Brian London

Venue: Exhibition Centre, Earls Court, London, England. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Harry Gibbs.

Fight Summary: Expected to give the champion a bit of a tousle in the earlier rounds, London (201½) proved a big disappointment when unable to go beyond the third. Not noted for making a fast start Ali (209½) surprised all when he began shooting out solid lefts and rights from the opening bell. With punches coming at him from all angles London's only way of avoiding them was to put up his guard to protect himself. Unfortunately, that was the story of the contest and at 1.40 of the third London was counted out after being dropped from a cluster of lefts and rights followed by a short right to the head. As an experienced fighter it had been expected that London might try to force the fight, but on backing away from Ali he played right into the champion’s hands.

 

10 September 1966. Muhammad Ali w rsc 12 (15) Karl Mildenberger

Venue: Frankfurt Walk Stadium, Frankfurt, Germany. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Teddy Waltham.

Fight Summary: In what was Ali’s fourth defence during the year, the German southpaw put up a courageous show before being stopped at 1.30 of the 12th round. It was clear that Mildenberger (194¼) had decided that attack was the best form of defence, and for five rounds that is what he did when chasing Ali (203½) down at every opportunity. However, once Mildenberger had been cut by the left eye in the fifth he was forced to change tactics. At that point he started to fall behind before being dropped in the eighth by a flurry of lefts and rights and forced to take the mandatory count. Saved by the bell, Mildenberger decided it was time to take the fight to Ali again, but in the tenth he was dropped by a hard right cross to the jaw before coming back hard on his own account. In the 12th, after Mildenberger, who was bleeding badly and tiring, was caught by a tremendous right uppercut the referee stepped in when it was clear that he was in a helpless position.

 

14 November 1966. Muhammad Ali w rsc 3 (15) Cleveland Williams

Venue: The Astrodome, Houston, Texas, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Harry Kessler.

Fight Summary: Defending against the dangerous, hard-punching Williams (210½), Ali (212¾) made a careful start before hurting the latter with body punches towards the end of the first session. Ali was more aggressive in the second, dropping Williams three times before the bell rescued the forlorn challenger, who was now bleeding badly from the mouth and nose. Despite being hurt, Williams made an aggressive start to the third, charging in to Ali before a terrific right cross dropped him in a heap. Somehow, Williams made it to his feet before the count was completed, but after stumbling about under a hail of lefts and rights he was rescued by the referee with 112 seconds of the session remaining.

 

6 February 1967. Muhammad Ali w pts 15 Ernie Terrell

Venue: The Astrodome, Houston, Texas, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Harry Kessler.

Scorecards: 148-138, 148-133, 148-137.

Fight Summary: This was a battle to create one heavyweight champion, the WBC title holder, Ali (212¼), having an easy time of it despite being unable to stop the WBA representative, Terrell (212½). Terrell won just two rounds, the second and fifth, but although always trying to match Ali with the jab on finding the latter a difficult target he was forced to concede ground. Cut over the left eye in round three and the right eye in the seventh, Terrell began to look a sorry sight, and during the last third of the contest he was barely able to see as both eyes were badly swollen. At that stage Ali was in total control, but instead of trying to knock Terrell out he seemed happy to continue berating him right through to the final bell.

 

22 March 1967. Muhammad Ali w co 7 (15) Zora Folley

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: John LoBianco.

Fight Summary: Making a good start, Folley (202½) took the opening two rounds while Ali (211½) appeared content to see what his challenger had to offer. By the third, Ali, warming to the task, was beating Folley to the punch. The fourth round saw Ali go up a gear, and after a left-right to Folley’s head dropped the latter for the mandatory ‘eight’ count many believed he would end the contest quickly. However, it was Folley who was throwing the harder punches in the fifth and sixth sessions despite being outscored. Although Folley continued in the same vein into the seventh, with Ali beginning to pick up the pace a right to the jaw put the former down to be counted out at 1.48 of the round. Ali forfeited his title in the eyes of the WBA and NYSAC, who suspended him on 9 May after he refused to serve in the US Army, fighting in Vietnam, due to his religious beliefs as a Muslim. While the WBC said they would continue to support Ali on the grounds that he had not violated any boxing rules, the WBA and the NYSAC both inferred that Ali’s refusal to enter the army was detrimental to the best interests of boxing.

 

Having been away from boxing for so long, towards the end of 1969 Muhammad Ali tried to make a fight with Joe Frazier, but too many States refused to even allow him to box exhibitions due to his legal tangles with the government. In the wake of that, on 16 January 1970 Ali announced his retirement from the ring. Following that, Joe Frazier, the NYSAC champion, was matched against the WBA’s Jimmy Ellis for the world title. Having beaten Buster Mathis for the NYSAC version of the title, Frazier had made defences against Manuel Ramos, Oscar Bonavena, Dave Zyglewicz and Jerry Quarry, and had wins over the likes of Bonavena, Eddie Machen, Doug Jones and George Chuvalo. An Olympic Games gold medallist in 1964, Frazier, a bobbing-and-weaving, hard-punching pressure fighter with a dynamic left hook, was undefeated as a pro with 24 wins to his credit, 21 of them coming inside the distance. His opponent, Ellis, a clever box-fighter, had won the WBA title on beating Quarry and had made a successful defence against Floyd Patterson prior to meeting Frazier. Turning pro in 1961, after losing to Holly Mims, Henry Hank, Rubin Carter, Don Fullmer and George Benton, Ellis gradually developed into a heavyweight, beating men such as Johnny Persol, Leotis Martin and Bonavena on his march to the top. A former sparring partner of Muhammad Ali, his record read 27 wins and five defeats.  

 

16 February 1970. Joe Frazier w rtd 4 (15) Jimmy Ellis

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

Fight Summary: In a fight to unify the title, the New York champion, Frazier (205), ultimately proved too strong for Ellis (201), the WBA title holder. Earlier in the day the WBC and the BBBoC, who had both regarded the title as being vacant up to that point in time, agreed to support the winner as champion. By the second round Frazier was beginning to surprise Ellis with his non-stop attacking, and in the third the latter was staggered by massive left hooks to the jaw before gingerly making his way back to his corner. In the fourth it was all one-way traffic as Frazier went for the kill, twice dropping Ellis for long counts with cracking left hooks. Saved by the bell on the second occasion, Ellis was pulled out of the fight by his corner before the bell to start the fifth had rung.

 

18 November 1970. Joe Frazier w co 2 (15) Bob Foster

Venue: Cobo Hall, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Tom Briscoe.

Fight Summary: Defending his title against the world light heavyweight champion, Frazier (209) proved far too strong for Foster (188) despite the latter giving a good account of himself in the opening session. Starting fast in the second, Frazier soon had Foster over from a left hook to the jaw, and when the challenger was back on his feet he was felled for the full count, timed at 49 seconds, after a double left hook to body and head had smashed him down. With Muhammad Ali now licensed to box in New York, after he beat Oscar Bonavena (w rsc 15 at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York on 7 December) in what was effectively an eliminating contest to find Frazier’s next opponent, the match that all boxing fans had been waiting for was set for 8 March 1971.

 

8 March 1971. Joe Frazier w pts 15 Muhammad Ali

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

Scorecards: 8-6-1, 9-6, 11-4.

Fight Summary: Recognised as one of the greatest fights in the history of the division, and one where neither man would ever be the same again, Ali (215) proved himself a real fighting man despite losing by a unanimous decision. The fight was fairly even right up until the latter stages, with Ali jabbing and moving as was expected while Frazier (205½) continually looked to work on the inside. By the tenth Frazier’s right eye was beginning to swell, but in the 11th he almost had Ali over from a crashing left hook to the head. It was at this point that Frazier began to forge ahead. And in the 12th he staggered Ali badly, although the latter came back well with jabs to even the round up according to the referee. The 13th was a big round for Frazier, who was landing all the solid punches and crowding Ali non-stop as he went for the kayo. By the 14th Frazier’s left eye was beginning to swell up, but he was the one throwing the more solid punches, flooring Ali with a smashing left hook to the jaw in the final session. Taking the ‘eight’ count, Ali was almost spent, his jaw badly swollen and just sheer guts keeping him going. Somehow Ali kept his feet to last out until the final bell, having earlier refused to quit at the end of the 11th after the doctor had asked him if he was fit to continue.

 

15 January 1972. Joe Frazier w rsc 4 (15) Terry Daniels

Venue: Rivergate Auditorium, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Herman Dutreix.

Fight Summary: Admittedly Daniels (195) was not the greatest of challengers, but after Frazier (215½) had given the millionaire’s son a sound beating, having staggered him with the first blow of the fight, it was clear that it would take a very good man to relieve him of his title. Punching away viciously, Frazier had Daniels down from a left hook to the head just as the bell rang to end the first session, and although the latter escaped being dropped again in the second he was twice smashed to the floor in the third. After bravely coming out for the fourth, Daniels was soon floored by a whole battery of punches. Taking a count of 'seven', on getting up and being belted non-stop on the ropes the referee stopped the fight at 1.45 of the round.

 

25 May 1972. Joe Frazier w rsc 4 (15) Ron Stander

Venue: Civic Auditorium, Omaha, Nebraska, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Zack Clayton.

Fight Summary: Right from the first bell Stander (218) was under attack from Frazier (217½), who crowded in throwing big punches, and while the challenger held his own in the opening round it was all one-way traffic from there onwards. By the third Frazier was ripping Stander to pieces, sending in blows to head and body that would have downed a less courageous fighter. Coming out for the fourth, Stander, his face soon covered in blood from cuts over both eyes, was immediately put under attack. Even though Frazier was unable to drop him he was staggering about like a drunk for the most part. At the end of session when it was quite clear that Stander could not continue the referee stopped the fight.

 

Frazier’s next opponent would be George Foreman, the 1968 Olympic champion, who had blasted his way to 37 straight wins, 34 of them coming inside the distance. Strong and powerful, Foreman’s left jab and crashing punches from both hands had been on show when beating Chuck Wepner, Gregorio Peralta (2) and George Chuvalo, and he was threatening to make it an early night for Frazier.

 

22 January 1973. George Foreman w rsc 2 (15) Joe Frazier

Venue: National Stadium, Kingston, Jamaica. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Mercante.

Fight Summary: Contested between two big punchers, both being former Olympic champions, Frazier (214) lost his title at 1.35 of the second round when the referee stopped the fight to save him from taking further punishment. Towering over the squat champion Foreman (217½) was happy to wait for him to come into him, and after clearly hurting Frazier with solid long rights to the head he proceeded to drop him three times in the opening round. Coming out for the second still on shaky legs Frazier tried to bob and weave to get a breather but Foreman was only intent on finishing him off. Three more times Frazier was deposited on the floor in the second, a crashing right to the head, a big left hook and a thunderous right uppercut that lifted him off the ground being the key punches. Following the sixth knockdown, with Frazier in a kneeling position and trying to get up the referee finally acted.

 

1 September 1973. George Foreman w co 1 (15) Jose Roman

Venue: Martial Arts Hall, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: World. Referee: Jay Edson.

Fight Summary: In what was a fight that should never have taken place, Roman (196½) lasted just two minutes and failed to land a punch. Dropping to the floor under the first serious attack Roman was then cuffed by Foreman (219½) while in a sitting position, and although the Puerto Rican’s manager wanted a disqualification rendered or at the very least a five-minute rest for his charge he was overruled. Having knocked Roman down again with a right uppercut, Foreman finished the job with a tremendous right to the body that put the challenger down for the full count.

 

26 March 1974. George Foreman w rsc 2 (15) Ken Norton

Venue: The Polyhedron, Caracas, Venezuela. Recognition: World. Referee: Jimmy Rondeau.

Fight Summary: Having been wobbled a couple of times and seen his best punches bounce off the champion things looked ominous for Norton (212¾) as he returned to his corner at the end of the first round. Coming out with steely intent in the second Foreman (224¾) soon got his big punches off and, after dropping Norton for ‘eight’ following three crashing right uppercuts, he pushed the latter over. Not counted as a knockdown, Norton was quickly on his feet before being bowled over by a right-left to the jaw, his head striking the floor heavily. Although he made it up at ‘nine’ he was stopped on the two-minute mark when reeling helplessly against the ropes.

 

As the number one contender, Muhammad Ali would be next for Foreman. Since losing to Joe Frazier in March 1971, Ali had won the North American Boxing Federation title when defeating Jimmy Ellis and had successfully defended it against Buster Mathis, George Chuvalo, Jerry Quarry, Floyd Patterson and Bob Foster before Ken Norton deprived him of the belt and broke his jaw at the same time. Once recovered, he regained the NABF belt from Norton and then held on to it against Frazier, taking his record to 44 wins and two defeats. During that period he also beat Mac Foster, Alvin Blue Lewis and Joe Bugner.

 

30 October 1974. Muhammad Ali w co 8 (15) George Foreman

Venue: Twentieth of May Stadium, Kinshasa, Zaire. Recognition: World. Referee: Zack Clayton.

Fight Summary: Billed as the ‘Super Fight’ it was all of that and more as Ali (216½) regained his old title against all the odds when knocking Foreman (220) out with just two seconds of the eighth remaining. After seven completed rounds the two fighters were probably level. Even though Foreman had made all the running he had been unable to knock out Ali, who coined the phrase ‘Rope a Dope’ as he laid on the ropes for long periods while allowing the champion to burn himself out after throwing so many big punches that failed to have the desired effect. By the fifth Ali had begun to take over as Foreman tired, repeatedly shaking the champion up with heavy rights to the head. Although still coming forward in the eighth Foreman was making no impression on Ali, and when the latter suddenly cut loose with a whole batch of blows, mainly to the head, a big right sent him crashing down to be counted out.

 

24 March 1975. Muhammad Ali w rsc 15 (15) Chuck Wepner

Venue: The Coliseum, Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Tony Perez.

Fight Summary: Making his first defence, Ali (223½) took on the unranked Wepner (225), a man not even rated in the top ten, and toyed with him for much of the time while just fighting in short bursts. Tired and out of ideas by the eighth, Wepner actually knocked Ali down for ‘three’ in the ninth with a right to the ribs. Clearly embarrassed, Ali pounded away at Wepner, who was now cut over the left eye, and for a while it looked as though the latter would be taken out. By the end of the 11th both of Wepner’s eyes were badly swollen and bleeding but he managed to continue despite taking much punishment. Wepner was always trying to fight back, even connecting solidly with Ali’s jaw in the 15th, but after being blasted by four big punches the man who would come to be known as the ‘Bayonne Bleeder’ was sent down heavily. Although getting to his feet, when it was clear to the referee that Wepner was in no position to defend himself properly he stopped the fight with just 19 seconds remaining.

 

16 May 1975. Muhammad Ali w rsc 11 (15) Ron Lyle

Venue: Convention Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Ferd Hernandez.

Fight Summary: By Ali’s standards this was a poor performance when allowing Lyle (219) to dominate many of the rounds prior to the tenth, a session in which the latter looked to be well on his way to victory as he plastered the champion without return. Coming into the 11th two judges had Lyle ahead and the other had him even, but realising that his title could be slipping away Ali (224½) stepped up the tempo right from the bell. After catching Lyle with a big right to the jaw, Ali forced him to the ropes, and eventually a corner, where he pounded away at his now defenceless opponent. To his credit Lyle refused to go down, but at 1.08 of the round the referee stopped the fight after a cracking left uppercut landed heavily.

 

1 July 1975. Muhammad Ali w pts 15 Joe Bugner

Venue: Independence Stadium, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Recognition: World. Referee: Takeo Ugo.

Scorecards: 73-67, 72-65, 73-65.

Fight Summary: Turning back the clock to dance his way through the fight the champion had far too much for the game Bugner (230), who was almost pedestrian at times. Although Bugner was never on the floor he was not fast enough to catch Ali (224½), being forced to absorb everything thrown at him, especially in the opening five rounds. Bugner’s best round was the tenth when he forced Ali to retreat, but unable to keep the pressure up when he did close down the space the latter cleverly boxed his way out of trouble. It was not until the 13th that Ali managed to shake Bugner up with punches from both hands to head and body, but the European champion took them in his stride to make it to the final bell.

29 March 1966. Muhammad Ali w pts 15 George Chuvalo

Venue: Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Canada. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Jackie Silvers.

Scorecards: 73-65, 74-64, 74-63.

Fight Summary: Although Chuvalo (216) put up a courageous show in forcing Ali (214½) to travel the distance he won only one round at best, the second. Lacking in defensive skills, from the third onwards the challenger seemed to be on the end of anything thrown his way. Having been cut over the left eye in the sixth Chuvalo’s right eye was also damaged by the 14th, and at the final bell both eyes were almost closed shut. It was testament to Chuvalo’s strength and courage that he remained on his feet throughout the contest despite being hit with lefts and rights at will on occasions, while his best shots barely made Ali blink.

 

21 May 1966. Muhammad Ali w rsc 6 (15) Henry Cooper

Venue: Highbury Stadium, Finsbury Park, London, England. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: George Smith.

Fight Summary: Taking the fight to the champion during the first two rounds of their return match, it was only in the third that Cooper (188) started to come under any pressure. Round four saw Cooper continuing to attack, but at the end of the session he was shaken up by lefts and rights to the head and unable to retaliate as Ali (201½) danced away from him. Still playing a waiting game, Ali allowed Cooper to take the fight to him before slamming into him in the sixth with slashing blows that opened up a bad cut on the Englishman’s left eye. Cooper was allowed to fight on after an inspection, but with Ali firing in sturdy punches to his challenger’s head, with the eye damage an obvious target, the referee stopped the fight on the 1.38 mark.

 

6 August 1966. Muhammad Ali w co 3 (15) Brian London

Venue: Exhibition Centre, Earls Court, London, England. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Harry Gibbs.

Fight Summary: Expected to give the champion a bit of a tousle in the earlier rounds, London (201½) proved a big disappointment when unable to go beyond the third. Not noted for making a fast start Ali (209½) surprised all when he began shooting out solid lefts and rights from the opening bell. With punches coming at him from all angles London's only way of avoiding them was to put up his guard to protect himself. Unfortunately, that was the story of the contest and at 1.40 of the third London was counted out after being dropped from a cluster of lefts and rights followed by a short right to the head. As an experienced fighter it had been expected that London might try to force the fight, but on backing away from Ali he played right into the champion’s hands.

 

10 September 1966. Muhammad Ali w rsc 12 (15) Karl Mildenberger

Venue: Frankfurt Walk Stadium, Frankfurt, Germany. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Teddy Waltham.

Fight Summary: In what was Ali’s fourth defence during the year, the German southpaw put up a courageous show before being stopped at 1.30 of the 12th round. It was clear that Mildenberger (194¼) had decided that attack was the best form of defence, and for five rounds that is what he did when chasing Ali (203½) down at every opportunity. However, once Mildenberger had been cut by the left eye in the fifth he was forced to change tactics. At that point he started to fall behind before being dropped in the eighth by a flurry of lefts and rights and forced to take the mandatory count. Saved by the bell, Mildenberger decided it was time to take the fight to Ali again, but in the tenth he was dropped by a hard right cross to the jaw before coming back hard on his own account. In the 12th, after Mildenberger, who was bleeding badly and tiring, was caught by a tremendous right uppercut the referee stepped in when it was clear that he was in a helpless position.

 

14 November 1966. Muhammad Ali w rsc 3 (15) Cleveland Williams

Venue: The Astrodome, Houston, Texas, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Harry Kessler.

Fight Summary: Defending against the dangerous, hard-punching Williams (210½), Ali (212¾) made a careful start before hurting the latter with body punches towards the end of the first session. Ali was more aggressive in the second, dropping Williams three times before the bell rescued the forlorn challenger, who was now bleeding badly from the mouth and nose. Despite being hurt, Williams made an aggressive start to the third, charging in to Ali before a terrific right cross dropped him in a heap. Somehow, Williams made it to his feet before the count was completed, but after stumbling about under a hail of lefts and rights he was rescued by the referee with 112 seconds of the session remaining.

 

6 February 1967. Muhammad Ali w pts 15 Ernie Terrell

Venue: The Astrodome, Houston, Texas, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Harry Kessler.

Scorecards: 148-138, 148-133, 148-137.

Fight Summary: This was a battle to create one heavyweight champion, the WBC title holder, Ali (212¼), having an easy time of it despite being unable to stop the WBA representative, Terrell (212½). Terrell won just two rounds, the second and fifth, but although always trying to match Ali with the jab on finding the latter a difficult target he was forced to concede ground. Cut over the left eye in round three and the right eye in the seventh, Terrell began to look a sorry sight, and during the last third of the contest he was barely able to see as both eyes were badly swollen. At that stage Ali was in total control, but instead of trying to knock Terrell out he seemed happy to continue berating him right through to the final bell.

 

22 March 1967. Muhammad Ali w co 7 (15) Zora Folley

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: John LoBianco.

Fight Summary: Making a good start, Folley (202½) took the opening two rounds while Ali (211½) appeared content to see what his challenger had to offer. By the third, Ali, warming to the task, was beating Folley to the punch. The fourth round saw Ali go up a gear, and after a left-right to Folley’s head dropped the latter for the mandatory ‘eight’ count many believed he would end the contest quickly. However, it was Folley who was throwing the harder punches in the fifth and sixth sessions despite being outscored. Although Folley continued in the same vein into the seventh, with Ali beginning to pick up the pace a right to the jaw put the former down to be counted out at 1.48 of the round. Ali forfeited his title in the eyes of the WBA and NYSAC, who suspended him on 9 May after he refused to serve in the US Army, fighting in Vietnam, due to his religious beliefs as a Muslim. While the WBC said they would continue to support Ali on the grounds that he had not violated any boxing rules, the WBA and the NYSAC both inferred that Ali’s refusal to enter the army was detrimental to the best interests of boxing.

 

Having been away from boxing for so long, towards the end of 1969 Muhammad Ali tried to make a fight with Joe Frazier, but too many States refused to even allow him to box exhibitions due to his legal tangles with the government. In the wake of that, on 16 January 1970 Ali announced his retirement from the ring. Following that, Joe Frazier, the NYSAC champion, was matched against the WBA’s Jimmy Ellis for the world title. Having beaten Buster Mathis for the NYSAC version of the title, Frazier had made defences against Manuel Ramos, Oscar Bonavena, Dave Zyglewicz and Jerry Quarry, and had wins over the likes of Bonavena, Eddie Machen, Doug Jones and George Chuvalo. An Olympic Games gold medallist in 1964, Frazier, a bobbing-and-weaving, hard-punching pressure fighter with a dynamic left hook, was undefeated as a pro with 24 wins to his credit, 21 of them coming inside the distance. His opponent, Ellis, a clever box-fighter, had won the WBA title on beating Quarry and had made a successful defence against Floyd Patterson prior to meeting Frazier. Turning pro in 1961, after losing to Holly Mims, Henry Hank, Rubin Carter, Don Fullmer and George Benton, Ellis gradually developed into a heavyweight, beating men such as Johnny Persol, Leotis Martin and Bonavena on his march to the top. A former sparring partner of Muhammad Ali, his record read 27 wins and five defeats.  

 

16 February 1970. Joe Frazier w rtd 4 (15) Jimmy Ellis

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

Fight Summary: In a fight to unify the title, the New York champion, Frazier (205), ultimately proved too strong for Ellis (201), the WBA title holder. Earlier in the day the WBC and the BBBoC, who had both regarded the title as being vacant up to that point in time, agreed to support the winner as champion. By the second round Frazier was beginning to surprise Ellis with his non-stop attacking, and in the third the latter was staggered by massive left hooks to the jaw before gingerly making his way back to his corner. In the fourth it was all one-way traffic as Frazier went for the kill, twice dropping Ellis for long counts with cracking left hooks. Saved by the bell on the second occasion, Ellis was pulled out of the fight by his corner before the bell to start the fifth had rung.

 

18 November 1970. Joe Frazier w co 2 (15) Bob Foster

Venue: Cobo Hall, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Tom Briscoe.

Fight Summary: Defending his title against the world light heavyweight champion, Frazier (209) proved far too strong for Foster (188) despite the latter giving a good account of himself in the opening session. Starting fast in the second, Frazier soon had Foster over from a left hook to the jaw, and when the challenger was back on his feet he was felled for the full count, timed at 49 seconds, after a double left hook to body and head had smashed him down. With Muhammad Ali now licensed to box in New York, after he beat Oscar Bonavena (w rsc 15 at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York on 7 December) in what was effectively an eliminating contest to find Frazier’s next opponent, the match that all boxing fans had been waiting for was set for 8 March 1971.

 

8 March 1971. Joe Frazier w pts 15 Muhammad Ali

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

Scorecards: 8-6-1, 9-6, 11-4.

Fight Summary: Recognised as one of the greatest fights in the history of the division, and one where neither man would ever be the same again, Ali (215) proved himself a real fighting man despite losing by a unanimous decision. The fight was fairly even right up until the latter stages, with Ali jabbing and moving as was expected while Frazier (205½) continually looked to work on the inside. By the tenth Frazier’s right eye was beginning to swell, but in the 11th he almost had Ali over from a crashing left hook to the head. It was at this point that Frazier began to forge ahead. And in the 12th he staggered Ali badly, although the latter came back well with jabs to even the round up according to the referee. The 13th was a big round for Frazier, who was landing all the solid punches and crowding Ali non-stop as he went for the kayo. By the 14th Frazier’s left eye was beginning to swell up, but he was the one throwing the more solid punches, flooring Ali with a smashing left hook to the jaw in the final session. Taking the ‘eight’ count, Ali was almost spent, his jaw badly swollen and just sheer guts keeping him going. Somehow Ali kept his feet to last out until the final bell, having earlier refused to quit at the end of the 11th after the doctor had asked him if he was fit to continue.

 

15 January 1972. Joe Frazier w rsc 4 (15) Terry Daniels

Venue: Rivergate Auditorium, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Herman Dutreix.

Fight Summary: Admittedly Daniels (195) was not the greatest of challengers, but after Frazier (215½) had given the millionaire’s son a sound beating, having staggered him with the first blow of the fight, it was clear that it would take a very good man to relieve him of his title. Punching away viciously, Frazier had Daniels down from a left hook to the head just as the bell rang to end the first session, and although the latter escaped being dropped again in the second he was twice smashed to the floor in the third. After bravely coming out for the fourth, Daniels was soon floored by a whole battery of punches. Taking a count of 'seven', on getting up and being belted non-stop on the ropes the referee stopped the fight at 1.45 of the round.

 

25 May 1972. Joe Frazier w rsc 4 (15) Ron Stander

Venue: Civic Auditorium, Omaha, Nebraska, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Zack Clayton.

Fight Summary: Right from the first bell Stander (218) was under attack from Frazier (217½), who crowded in throwing big punches, and while the challenger held his own in the opening round it was all one-way traffic from there onwards. By the third Frazier was ripping Stander to pieces, sending in blows to head and body that would have downed a less courageous fighter. Coming out for the fourth, Stander, his face soon covered in blood from cuts over both eyes, was immediately put under attack. Even though Frazier was unable to drop him he was staggering about like a drunk for the most part. At the end of session when it was quite clear that Stander could not continue the referee stopped the fight.

 

Frazier’s next opponent would be George Foreman, the 1968 Olympic champion, who had blasted his way to 37 straight wins, 34 of them coming inside the distance. Strong and powerful, Foreman’s left jab and crashing punches from both hands had been on show when beating Chuck Wepner, Gregorio Peralta (2) and George Chuvalo, and he was threatening to make it an early night for Frazier.

 

22 January 1973. George Foreman w rsc 2 (15) Joe Frazier

Venue: National Stadium, Kingston, Jamaica. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Mercante.

Fight Summary: Contested between two big punchers, both being former Olympic champions, Frazier (214) lost his title at 1.35 of the second round when the referee stopped the fight to save him from taking further punishment. Towering over the squat champion Foreman (217½) was happy to wait for him to come into him, and after clearly hurting Frazier with solid long rights to the head he proceeded to drop him three times in the opening round. Coming out for the second still on shaky legs Frazier tried to bob and weave to get a breather but Foreman was only intent on finishing him off. Three more times Frazier was deposited on the floor in the second, a crashing right to the head, a big left hook and a thunderous right uppercut that lifted him off the ground being the key punches. Following the sixth knockdown, with Frazier in a kneeling position and trying to get up the referee finally acted.

 

1 September 1973. George Foreman w co 1 (15) Jose Roman

Venue: Martial Arts Hall, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: World. Referee: Jay Edson.

Fight Summary: In what was a fight that should never have taken place, Roman (196½) lasted just two minutes and failed to land a punch. Dropping to the floor under the first serious attack Roman was then cuffed by Foreman (219½) while in a sitting position, and although the Puerto Rican’s manager wanted a disqualification rendered or at the very least a five-minute rest for his charge he was overruled. Having knocked Roman down again with a right uppercut, Foreman finished the job with a tremendous right to the body that put the challenger down for the full count.

 

26 March 1974. George Foreman w rsc 2 (15) Ken Norton

Venue: The Polyhedron, Caracas, Venezuela. Recognition: World. Referee: Jimmy Rondeau.

Fight Summary: Having been wobbled a couple of times and seen his best punches bounce off the champion things looked ominous for Norton (212¾) as he returned to his corner at the end of the first round. Coming out with steely intent in the second Foreman (224¾) soon got his big punches off and, after dropping Norton for ‘eight’ following three crashing right uppercuts, he pushed the latter over. Not counted as a knockdown, Norton was quickly on his feet before being bowled over by a right-left to the jaw, his head striking the floor heavily. Although he made it up at ‘nine’ he was stopped on the two-minute mark when reeling helplessly against the ropes.

 

As the number one contender, Muhammad Ali would be next for Foreman. Since losing to Joe Frazier in March 1971, Ali had won the North American Boxing Federation title when defeating Jimmy Ellis and had successfully defended it against Buster Mathis, George Chuvalo, Jerry Quarry, Floyd Patterson and Bob Foster before Ken Norton deprived him of the belt and broke his jaw at the same time. Once recovered, he regained the NABF belt from Norton and then held on to it against Frazier, taking his record to 44 wins and two defeats. During that period he also beat Mac Foster, Alvin Blue Lewis and Joe Bugner.

 

30 October 1974. Muhammad Ali w co 8 (15) George Foreman

Venue: Twentieth of May Stadium, Kinshasa, Zaire. Recognition: World. Referee: Zack Clayton.

Fight Summary: Billed as the ‘Super Fight’ it was all of that and more as Ali (216½) regained his old title against all the odds when knocking Foreman (220) out with just two seconds of the eighth remaining. After seven completed rounds the two fighters were probably level. Even though Foreman had made all the running he had been unable to knock out Ali, who coined the phrase ‘Rope a Dope’ as he laid on the ropes for long periods while allowing the champion to burn himself out after throwing so many big punches that failed to have the desired effect. By the fifth Ali had begun to take over as Foreman tired, repeatedly shaking the champion up with heavy rights to the head. Although still coming forward in the eighth Foreman was making no impression on Ali, and when the latter suddenly cut loose with a whole batch of blows, mainly to the head, a big right sent him crashing down to be counted out.

 

24 March 1975. Muhammad Ali w rsc 15 (15) Chuck Wepner

Venue: The Coliseum, Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Tony Perez.

Fight Summary: Making his first defence, Ali (223½) took on the unranked Wepner (225), a man not even rated in the top ten, and toyed with him for much of the time while just fighting in short bursts. Tired and out of ideas by the eighth, Wepner actually knocked Ali down for ‘three’ in the ninth with a right to the ribs. Clearly embarrassed, Ali pounded away at Wepner, who was now cut over the left eye, and for a while it looked as though the latter would be taken out. By the end of the 11th both of Wepner’s eyes were badly swollen and bleeding but he managed to continue despite taking much punishment. Wepner was always trying to fight back, even connecting solidly with Ali’s jaw in the 15th, but after being blasted by four big punches the man who would come to be known as the ‘Bayonne Bleeder’ was sent down heavily. Although getting to his feet, when it was clear to the referee that Wepner was in no position to defend himself properly he stopped the fight with just 19 seconds remaining.

 

16 May 1975. Muhammad Ali w rsc 11 (15) Ron Lyle

Venue: Convention Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Ferd Hernandez.

Fight Summary: By Ali’s standards this was a poor performance when allowing Lyle (219) to dominate many of the rounds prior to the tenth, a session in which the latter looked to be well on his way to victory as he plastered the champion without return. Coming into the 11th two judges had Lyle ahead and the other had him even, but realising that his title could be slipping away Ali (224½) stepped up the tempo right from the bell. After catching Lyle with a big right to the jaw, Ali forced him to the ropes, and eventually a corner, where he pounded away at his now defenceless opponent. To his credit Lyle refused to go down, but at 1.08 of the round the referee stopped the fight after a cracking left uppercut landed heavily.

 

1 July 1975. Muhammad Ali w pts 15 Joe Bugner

Venue: Independence Stadium, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Recognition: World. Referee: Takeo Ugo.

Scorecards: 73-67, 72-65, 73-65.

Fight Summary: Turning back the clock to dance his way through the fight the champion had far too much for the game Bugner (230), who was almost pedestrian at times. Although Bugner was never on the floor he was not fast enough to catch Ali (224½), being forced to absorb everything thrown at him, especially in the opening five rounds. Bugner’s best round was the tenth when he forced Ali to retreat, but unable to keep the pressure up when he did close down the space the latter cleverly boxed his way out of trouble. It was not until the 13th that Ali managed to shake Bugner up with punches from both hands to head and body, but the European champion took them in his stride to make it to the final bell.

 

1 October 1975. Muhammad Ali w rtd 14 (15) Joe Frazier

Venue: Araneta Coliseum, Manila, Philippines. Recognition: World. Referee: Carlos Padilla.

Fight Summary: Recognised as ‘The Thrilla in Manila’, the champion was forced to take all that Frazier (214½) could throw at him in the opening ten rounds before coming on strong himself in the latter stages. Every round was exciting, but from the 11th onwards Ali (224½) upped the pace as Frazier weakened, knocking the latter’s gumshield out in the 13th with a crunching right hand. It now appeared to be only a matter of time and, after a torrid 14th for Frazier, who was almost taking punches for fun as Ali continually hit the target, he was pulled out by his corner at the end of the session. 

 

20 February 1976. Muhammad Ali w co 5 (15) Jean-Pierre Coopman

Venue: Roberto Clemente Coliseum, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Recognition: World. Referee: Ismael Quinones Falu.

Fight Summary: Even though the WBC failed to recognise this contest as involving the title they continued to see Ali as the champion, while the EBU banned Coopman from fighting for the European title for two years after going against their wishes. Following a fairly quiet opening round the next session saw the champion began to toy with Coopman (206), who was badly hurt by fast combinations to the head. At this stage it could be seen that Coopman's left eye was beginning to swell. Having taken a breather in the third and fourth rounds Ali (226) picked it up again in the fifth, and after striking with a burst of solid blows from both hands he put Coopman down for the full count, timed at 2.46, with a right uppercut.

 

30 April 1976. Muhammad Ali w pts 15 Jimmy Young

Venue: Capital Centre, Landover, Maryland, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Tom Kelly.

Scorecards: 72-65, 71-64, 70-68.

Fight Summary: Giving one of his worst ever displays, seeming almost lethargic at times, the champion later revealed that his right eardrum had been burst. That, as well as underestimating Young (211), had made it a difficult night for him. Young, who was in good condition and boxed an intelligent fight, was never in any real trouble despite being given a standing count when leaning out of the ring in the twelfth. By the end of the 13th Ali (230) appeared to have shot his bolt after trying to take Young out, the latter coming on strongly in the 14th when sending in solid lefts and rights while making his man miss. Afterwards, Young felt that his ploy of ducking, swaying and leaning so far out of the ring between the ropes had frustrated Ali and deserved more.

 

25 May 1976. Muhammad Ali w rsc 5 (15) Richard Dunn

Venue: Olympic Hall, Munich, Germany. Recognition: World. Referee: Herbert Thomser.

Fight Summary: As the British, Commonwealth and European champion Dunn (206½) deserved a title crack, and for the opening three rounds he was right in the fight as he chased Ali (220) down, going forward all the time. He even sent the champion reeling across the ring at one point in the third. In the fourth, however, Ali finally began to crank up the pressure on his southpaw opponent, having him over three times in the session from cracking right hands over the top. Regardless of what had happened in the fourth Dunn came out for the fifth as though he meant business, but after two further knockdowns from similar punches the referee called it off on the 2.05 mark.

 

28 September 1976. Muhammad Ali w pts 15 Ken Norton

Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Mercante.

Scorecards: 8-7, 8-7, 8-6-1.

Fight Summary: Putting his title on the line against a man who he had already won and lost to was always going to be a gamble for Ali (221) but it was one he was prepared to take. There was never much between them, both being caught by jarring blows to the head, but after ten rounds it looked as though Norton (217½) was out in front due to him getting off more punches and coming forward for much of the time. With his title now well and truly at risk Ali made his run for home during the last five rounds, and while he did most of the better work during that period it did not look like he had done enough to save his crown as far as the ringsiders were concerned.

 

16 May 1977. Muhammad Ali w pts 15 Alfredo Evangelista

Venue: Capital Centre, Landover, Maryland, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Harry Cecchini.

Scorecards: 71-65, 72-64, 72-64.

Fight Summary: In a fast-paced bout, the champion was happy to get back to his boxing, moving well on the back foot and scoring with solid jabs as Evangelista (209½) tried to walk him down in a straight line. Occasionally Evangelista scored with good right hands while mixing his punches up well, but Ali (221¼) was never at risk as he sauntered to a fairly comfortable points win.

 

29 September 1977. Muhammad Ali w pts 15 Earnie Shavers

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: John LoBianco.

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

Fight Summary: Having hurt the champion in the second round and staggered him at various stages of the fight, the big-hitting Shavers (211¼) forced Ali (224½) to fight every step of the way. Boxing News had the men level after eight rounds, with Ali pulling ahead when winning rounds nine to 12. But with Shavers coming on strong in the 13th and 14th rounds, banging away with solid blows to head and body, Ali was forced to call upon all his resources for the final session. Countering solidly and picking his punches well it was probably Ali’s best round, and in the final minute he had Shavers under tremendous pressure.

 

Ali’s next challenger would be Leon Spinks, who had won the same Olympic title that he’d had, only 16 years later. With just six wins and a draw against Scott LeDoux, Spinks had been a pro for just 13 months and had little experience to count on. Rated at number eight and not given much of a chance, Spinks was not known for finesse, but for charging into opponents before hammering away with both hands in concerted attacks to head and body.

 

15 February 1978. Leon Spinks w pts 15 Muhammad Ali

Venue: Hilton Sports Pavilion, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Davy Pearl.

Scorecards: 145-140, 144-141, 142-143.

Fight Summary: This was the biggest upset in the heavyweight division since Ali beat Sonny Liston, the 10-1 outsider, Spinks (197¼), winning the title on a split decision over the ageing champion. Pressing forward for much of the fight Spinks would not allow Ali (224½) the space to do his best work, and every time the latter got through with good punches he would retaliate immediately. From the seventh onwards Ali was trying to turn the fight his way, but even when he backed Spinks up in the tenth with some heavy shots the challenger would not be put off, coming back with good punches of his own. By the 13th Ali looked extremely weary and dispirited. However, in the 15th he came right back to slug it out with Spinks in what would be one of the ‘Rounds of the Year’, despite being almost out on his feet. It had been a great effort but it was not enough. Spinks forfeited WBC recognition on 18 March for not being prepared to defend against their leading contender, Ken Norton, and taking on Ali in a return.

 

15 September 1978. Muhammad Ali w pts 15 Leon Spinks

Venue: The Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Recognition: WBA/Lineal. Referee: Lucien Joubert.

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

Fight Summary: Winning the championship for a record three times, the 37-year-old Ali (221) danced his way to victory over the much younger Spinks (201), even though he conserved his energy by fighting for less than a minute in each round. While Spinks occasionally landed heavy punches that unsettled the challenger he failed to follow up any advantage he might have gained. As the fight wore on it became repetitive, with Ali popping in the jab before moving on, and with Spinks failing to work out what to do next he was steadily outboxed from start to finish. Even though he had the fifth round taken away for holding and hitting, Ali was allowed to get away with that tactic throughout. It clearly formed an important part of his strategy to stop Spinks from working at close quarters.

 

Having remained inactive, Ali relinquished the WBA and lineal titles on announcing his retirement on 27 June 1979. In the wake of that, when the top-rated Larry Holmes, the WBC champion, signed up to defend his title against the third-ranked Earnie Shavers it should also be seen as a contest for the lineal title. Holmes, who had already outpointed Shavers, was a heavy hitter who was better known for having a great left jab, while Shavers, who had 59 (57 inside the distance) wins, one draw and seven defeats, was a terrific puncher as his record would suggest. Holmes, who was on 31 straight wins since turning pro in 1973, had defeated Ken Norton in a challenge for the WBC title on 9 June 1978 and had made successful defences against Alfredo Evangelista, Ossie Ocasio and Mike Weaver before meeting Shavers again.     

 

28 September 1979. Larry Holmes w rsc 11 (12) Earnie Shavers

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

Fight Summary: Unable to relax against the hard-hitting Shavers (211), despite outboxing him for much of the time, the champion almost became a cropper in the seventh when a tremendous overarm right to the head dropped him heavily for the first time in his career. After getting up in a weakened condition, Holmes (210) had to sustain a pounding for the rest of the session before coming back strongly in the eighth. Subsequently, it was all one-way traffic as Holmes unleashed solid rights and lefts at his rapidly tiring opponent. Clearly wilting, after two minutes of the 11th the referee stopped the fight to save Shavers, cut over both eyes, from taking further punishment.

 

3 February 1980. Larry Holmes w co 6 (15) Lorenzo Zanon

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

Fight Summary: Even though he boxed in an unimpressive fashion the champion had far too much for Zanon (215), especially in the opening three rounds when the latter was extremely negative. However, the fourth saw Holmes (213½) pull himself together when battering Zanon down for three counts, including one of the standing variety. Surprisingly, Zanon came back well in the fifth before Holmes opened up in the sixth, and following a series of left jabs followed by a right to the head the Italian went over to be counted out on one knee at 2.39 of the round.

 

31 March 1980. Larry Holmes w rsc 8 (15) Leroy Jones

Venue: Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Richard Greene.

Fight Summary: Coming to the ring unbeaten after 24 starts the bulked-up Jones (254½) proved to be not of championship class, being battered by Holmes (211) for round after round before the referee had seen enough and stopped the fight with just four seconds of the eighth remaining. Although Jones had not been off his feet, with his left eye almost shut and unable to fight back the referee’s decision was a humane one.

 

7 July 1980. Larry Holmes w rsc 7 (15) Scott LeDoux

Venue: Metro Centre, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Davy Pearl.

Fight Summary: Although LeDoux (226) did his best he was no match for the champion, who fired in left jabs followed by stiff rights and left hooks with monotonous regularity. Finally, the tough LeDoux was dropped in the sixth, complaining that he had been thumbed in the eye. Back on his feet LeDoux managed to get through the round, but in the seventh, his left eye now swollen shut and with Holmes (214¼) almost using him a punch-bag, the referee brought matters to a halt on the 2.05 mark.

 

2 October 1980. Larry Holmes w rtd 10 (15) Muhammad Ali

Venue: Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Richard Greene.

Fight Summary: Making an ill-advised comeback two years after retiring and 20 years after winning an Olympic gold medal, Ali (217½) was on the end of a steady beating from his former sparring partner in every round before being retired by his corner at the end of the tenth. In the ninth Ali was in real trouble several times as Holmes (211½) landed with a whole range of heavy rights, punctuated with solid lefts, and in the tenth he just could not miss the former champion, even backing off at times. At the end of the session after a brief scuffle between his cornermen, his trainer, Angelo Dundee, retired Ali, who was badly swollen under both eyes, thus bringing to an end his charge’s championship career. Ali would have just one more fight, a losing ten-rounder against Trevor Berbick in December 1981, before retiring for good and becoming a victim of ‘Parkinson’s Syndrome’ in 1984.

 

11 April 1981. Larry Holmes w pts 15 Trevor Berbick

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

Scorecards: 150-135, 146-139, 146-140.

Fight Summary: Try as he might the champion was unable to drop the muscular and awkward Berbick (215½) before recognising that he could control the fight from the middle of the ring where he could use his extra reach to advantage. Berbick’s best round was the fifth when he pinned Holmes (215) in a corner and banged away at him, but it was only in the last four rounds that he was able to catch the latter more frequently when lunging in. Although the final session was the hardest of the fight as Berbick tried to finish strongly, it was Holmes who landed the more accurately.

 

12 June 1981. Larry Holmes w rsc 3 (15) Leon Spinks

Venue: Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Richard Steele.

Fight Summary: Holmes (212¼), assuming the ascendancy right from the opening bell, was soon planting the left jab into the challenger’s face. It was only when the bell was rung by mistake 20 seconds from the end of the second round and Holmes stopped fighting that Spinks (200¼) was able to get some good shots in. Still angry, Holmes came out for the third and began to rock Spinks with both hands, eventually putting the latter down with a left hook followed by a solid right to the head. Although Spinks was up on his feet well before the mandatory count was completed he seemed to have lost his bearings, and with Holmes picking his punches without return the referee stopped the contest on the 2.34 mark after the challenger’s corner threw the towel in.

 

6 November 1981. Larry Holmes w rsc 11 (15) Renaldo Snipes

Venue: Civic Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Rudy Ortega.

Fight Summary: After dominating the first six rounds, when the champion got careless in the seventh he was dropped on the seat of his pants after Snipes (215¾), cut over the left eye in the fifth, had caught him heavily with an overarm right to the jaw. Back on his feet in a dazed state Holmes (213¼) looked to be there for the taking, but Snipes, throwing punches wildly, was unable to take advantage. From the eighth onwards Holmes had fully recovered, and although Snipes was still taking the fight to him he was having little success in finding the target. With the damage to Snipes’ eye worsening and spitting blood the referee stopped the fight at 1.05 of the 11th after the latter had been pinned in a corner taking heavy shots to the head without reply.

 

11 June 1982. Larry Holmes w rsc 13 (15) Gerry Cooney

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

Fight Summary: Although he had been floored by a countering right in the second round the challenger had fought his way back into the contest with dogged determination, and if he had not been deducted three points for low blows he would have been on level terms with Holmes (212½) going in to the 13th. Despite being badly cut over the left eye and on the bridge of the nose early on Cooney (225½) went toe-to-toe with Holmes in the tenth in what was the best round of the fight, both men giving it everything. The end was in sight for Cooney in the 12th when he had virtually stopped punching back, and in the 13th the referee was forced to pull the big Irish-American out when his second jumped into the ring to save his charge from taking further punishment after he had shipped ten solid blows without return. By rights Cooney should have been disqualified, but he had put up such a great battle that it would have made a mockery of the sport had that been the official decision.

26 November 1982. Larry Holmes w pts 15 Randall Cobb

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

Scorecards: 150-135, 149-136, 150-135.

Fight Summary: Despite being outclassed by Holmes (217½) the challenger, who finished with cuts and swellings around both eyes, was always looking to fight back. It was soon clear that if Cobb (234¼) wanted to get to grips with the smooth-boxing Holmes he would have to take the fight to him, and that is just what he did regardless of walking on to punches throughout. Several times in the fight Cobb was wobbled when hammered by both hands, but he was still there at the final bell to receive the plaudits for his great display of courage in becoming only the second challenger to stay the distance with Holmes.

 

27 March 1983. Larry Holmes w pts 12 Lucien Rodriguez

Venue: Watres Armoury, Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Carlos Padilla.

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

Fight Summary: An extremely poor fight saw Holmes (221) easily beat the European champion, Lucien Rodriguez (209). By keeping on the move the Frenchman made for a difficult target, but Holmes did not help himself when plodding after Rodriguez. Even though Holmes knocked Rodriguez down in the sixth with a big right uppercut and hurt him several times with rights to the head he was unable to force an early finish.

 

20 May 1983. Larry Holmes w pts 12 Tim Witherspoon

Venue: Dunes Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Mills Lane.

Scorecards: 118-111, 115-113, 114-115.

Fight Summary: Being out of the ring for almost a year was not the best way to prepare for a title challenge. However, in running Holmes (213) close Witherspoon (219½) proved he was definitely one for the future. Holmes had started with good left hands before Witherspoon began to match him, and with the latter banging in big punches to head and body it looked as the though the championship might be changing hands. The ninth round was a big one for Witherspoon, and Holmes, who was badly hurt on several occasions, was forced to call upon all his experience to weather the storm. At this stage of the fight it was Witherspoon’s to lose, but when allowing Holmes to outwork him during the last three sessions it proved to be a costly mistake.

 

10 September 1983. Larry Holmes w rsc 5 (12) Scott Frank

Venue: Harrah’s Casino Hotel, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Tony Perez.

Fight Summary: After coming through a tough defence against Tim Witherspoon, when Holmes (223) took on the plodding Frank (211¼) he was in total control from the opening bell when jabbing and belting the inept challenger as and where he liked throughout. The only time Holmes was hurt came in the second round when two heavy rights to the head got through, and by the fifth, Frank, having soaked up a systematic beating, had nowhere to go. Dropped by a countering right uppercut, Frank claimed that he had been thumbed in the right eye. Ignoring the protest the referee completed the mandatory ‘eight’ count before sending Frank on his way, only to stop the fight moments later when the latter was covering up on the ropes and making no attempt to fight back. At the time of the stoppage, recorded at 1.28, Frank was virtually unable to see out of either eye as well as carrying damage to his right ear.

 

25 November 1983. Larry Holmes w rsc 1 (12) Marvis Frazier

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

Fight Summary: Up against the unbeaten 23-year-old son of Joe Frazier the champion made a much quicker start than normal, being completely dominant as he went about dismantling his rival. Officially this was not recognised as a title fight by the WBC as they considered that the ten-fight Frazier (200) was not of championship standard. However, as far as Holmes (219) was concerned he was making a defence. Firing on all cylinders it wasn’t too long before Holmes had put Frazier down with a solid right to the head after measuring him with the left. Although Frazier made it up at ‘nine’, after Holmes had slammed in at least nine or ten heavy rights the referee stopped the fight with three seconds of the round remaining. Holmes relinquished the WBC version of the title at their convention on 11 December, having rejected an offer to defend against his number one challenger, Greg Page, who had outpointed Renaldo Snipes over 12 rounds at the Dunes Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas on 20 May in a final eliminator, stating that he had not been offered enough money for the fight and would be negotiating his own fights in future. Earlier, on 5 November, the newly formed International Boxing Federation (IBF) had announced that they would be supporting Tim Witherspoon as the champion, but following Holmes’ announcement the IBF accepted him as champion with immediate effect.

 

9 November 1984. Larry Holmes w rsc 12 (15) James Bonecrusher Smith

Venue: Riviera Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Davy Pearl.

Fight Summary: Defending the IBF title for the first time, the lineal champion made a winning start when stopping Smith (227) with just 50 seconds of the 12th round remaining. Having been out of the ring for just under a year Holmes (221½) was a bit rusty, but his use of the trusty left jab kept him in front against a difficult opponent who stayed with him all the way. Being cut over the left eye in round seven bothered Holmes with Smith coming right back into the fight with heavy rights to head and body before the champion reasserted himself fully in the tenth. In the 11th Smith was in real trouble when blood began to flow freely from the swelling over his left eye, and with Holmes battering away at him and the injury worsening the referee called it off in the following round.

 

15 March 1985. Larry Holmes w rsc 10 (15) David Bey

Venue: Riviera Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition:  IBF. Referee: Carlos Padilla.

Fight Summary: Taking the champion out of his stride during the opening four rounds, landing well with left hooks and long right hands, Bey (233¼) looked like he might go all the way before he made the mistake of sitting back in the fifth. Thereafter, the fight belonged to Holmes (223½), and in the eighth Bey was put down by a big right to the head. Getting up but disorganised, Bey was then sent down again from a left hook-right uppercut before being saved by the bell. Although the challenger came back well in the ninth he was taken apart in the tenth as Holmes ripped into him throwing punches from both hands, and with just two seconds of the session remaining the referee stopped the fight when Bey was not hitting back. 

 

20 May 1985. Larry Holmes w pts 15 Carl Williams

Venue: Lawlor Events Centre, Reno, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Mills Lane.

Scorecards: 143-142, 146-139, 146-139.

Fight Summary: Showing the champion no respect the unbeaten Williams (215) got away well. He was even outjabbing Holmes (222¼) before the latter gradually turned things around when scoring with solid left jabs and rights to head and body. The fight had been relatively level up unto the 12th, although from thereon in Holmes showed his experience when outworking Williams. There were no knockdowns, but at the final bell Holmes’ left eye was closed while Williams carried a cut over the same eye.

 

Holmes’ next defence would be against Michael Spinks, the current world light heavyweight champion, who had decided to move up two divisions. Unbeaten after 27 fights, the upright Spinks who had a great jab and power to go with it felt that it was time to have a new challenge. 

 

21 September 1985. Michael Spinks w pts 15 Larry Holmes

Venue: Riviera Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Carlos Padilla.

Scorecards: 143-142, 143-142, 145-142.

Fight Summary: Looking to equal Rocky Marciano’s record of consecutive wins in his 49th contest, Holmes (221½) not only lost his unbeaten record but also lost his championship honours to the former Olympic middleweight champion, Spinks (200). Making a confident start, Spinks boxed intelligently, slipping and ducking away from punches before coming back with two-fisted attacks that kept Holmes guessing all night. Coming into the 15th round it was still extremely tight, both men being level on the cards, but taking the bull by the horns and landing lefts and rights throughout the session Spinks was given the win over an extremely disappointed Holmes. After the fight, Holmes, his eyes badly swollen, stated that although he had found Spinks too slippery to catch with the right he would be better prepared next time. On winning, Spinks became a two-weight world champion before being stripped of his light heavyweight belts by the WBC on 10 October and the WBA on 3 November. He then relinquished his IBF version of the 175lbs title two days later.

 

19 April 1986. Michael Spinks w pts 15 Larry Holmes

Venue: Hilton Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Mills Lane.

Scorecards: 144-141, 144-142, 141-144.

Fight Summary: Putting his IBF and lineal titles on the line against the man he won them from, Spinks (205) just about got home in a gruelling affair that saw the champion landing the greater number of blows while Holmes (223), responsible for the heavier shots, almost had his man over on at least three occasions. Holmes had made the better start, hurting his man badly in the second, but by the fifth Spinks was coming more and more into it, scoring well with stiff jabs and rights. Almost over from a tremendous right to the head in the ninth, Spinks again boxed his way back from the brink before nearly hitting the floor again as Holmes measured him with the right in the 14th. With both men putting in a strong finish it was Spinks’ better work that had him winning the last round on all three judges’ scorecards. Following the fight it was claimed that Holmes had broken his right thumb in the third, but no excuses were given.

 

6 September 1986. Michael Spinks w rsc 4 (15) Steffen Tangstad

Venue: Hilton Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Richard Steele.

Fight Summary: Despite being the European champion Tangstad (214¾) was no match for Spinks (201), who had worked out his weaknesses by the second round before sending him to his knees with a right to the head in the third. The end was now in sight. Coming out strongly in the fourth Spinks quickly got down to business, putting Tangstad down twice more with big left hooks, and after the Norwegian got up from the second knockdown looking shaken and cut over the right eye the referee called the fight off on the 58 second mark. Spinks forfeited his IBF version of the title on 26 February 1987 when refusing to defend against Tony Tucker and signing to meet Gerry Cooney instead.

 

15 June 1987. Michael Spinks w rsc 5 (15) Gerry Cooney

Venue: Convention Centre, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Referee: Frank Cappuccino.

Fight Summary: Defending what he called ‘The People’s Championship’, which in effect was a euphemism for his lineal title, Spinks (208¾) relied on a fast, accurate and hurtful left jab early on while Cooney (238) looked to land heavy single shots. Although Spinks, accidentally cut over the right eye in the third, was just about in front the opening four rounds had been tense as both men looked to make openings. All that changed, however, in the fifth as Spinks took the fight to the much bigger Cooney, landing solid blows to head and body before dropping his man. On getting to his feet, Cooney was immediately attacked by a cluster of punches that had him over again. At this point Cooney looked pretty much finished, and following an ‘eight’ count he was forced to the ropes and caught with a whole range of unanswered shots from both hands before the referee stepped in after 2.51 of the session had ensued.

 

If he wished to continue with his claim, Spinks would have to meet Mike Tyson, who had gone on to win the world title. Tyson was a sensational 21-year-old who had run up 34 (30 inside the distance) wins since turning pro in March 1985. Having beaten men such as Jesse Ferguson, James Tillis, Marvis Frazier and Alfonzo Ratliff on his way up the ladder he had defeated the WBC champion, Trevor Berbick, on 22 November 1985 and had gone on to pick up James Bonecrusher Smith’s WBA crown before defending both belts against Pinklon Thomas. Tyson next added Tony Tucker’s IBF title to his collection prior to making successful defences of all three belts against Tyrell Biggs, Larry Holmes and Tony Tubbs. Managed by Cus D’Amato, who had developed the peek-a-boo style with Floyd Patterson, the aggressive, two-fisted Tyson took it on with relish, as a means of getting to close quarters to smash in heavy blows before delivering the coup de grace. 

 

1 August 1987. Mike Tyson w pts 12 Tony Tucker

Venue: Hilton Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Mills Lane.

Scorecards: 118-113, 119-111, 117-112.

Fight Summary: Cut from 15 to 12 rounds a day earlier in order to satisfy the WBC, and fighting to finally unify the title, Tyson (221) was always working that little bit harder than the IBF champion. Tucker (221), who staggered Tyson with a left uppercut in the opening round, failed to build on his early success, appearing happy to jab and move while the WBA/WBC champion looked to land heavy shots. The fight was always competitive, and Tucker, who had held the IBF title for just 63 days, claimed afterwards that having hurt his right hand in the sixth he was unable to find the punches to put Tyson away with. On winning, Tyson became the youngest fully recognised heavyweight champion in history at 21 years and one month of age, nine months younger than Floyd Patterson was when he defeated Archie Moore back in 1956.

 

16 October 1987. Mike Tyson w rsc 7 (15) Tyrell Biggs

Venue: Convention Centre, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Tony Orlando.

Fight Summary: Although Biggs (228¾) towered above the champion and began the fight well when firing in jabs, by the end of the first round he had been hurt by solid blows to head and body. Before too long it had become one-sided, Biggs reduced to holding just in order to survive as Tyson (216) looked to unload at every opportunity. By the seventh Biggs was only offering token resistance, and after getting up at ‘nine’, having been sent through the ropes from a left hook, he was battered by a series of mean looking blows before another left hook sent him reeling across the ring. When Biggs dropped down in his own corner the referee did not even bother to count, calling the fight off with one second of the session remaining. Despite being contested over the IBF's recognised distance of 15 rounds, it carried WBA/WBC support.

 

22 January 1988. Mike Tyson w rsc 4 (12) Larry Holmes

Venue: Convention Centre, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Joe Cortez.

Fight Summary: Having been out of action for 21 months since losing for the second time to Michael Spinks, Holmes (225¾) came back to the ring looking to regain the title he once held. At the age of 38 Holmes was up against a man who had no time for past reputations. With Tyson (215¾) piling in from the opening bell the once famous Holmes’ jab was used purely for defence, and although he got through with several right uppercuts in the third by the end of the session he was badly hurt by a right to the jaw. Tyson needed no more excuses, quickly having Holmes over from a series of blows to head and body. Getting up at ‘four’, but having to take the mandatory ‘eight’ count, Holmes tried to fiddle his way back before another right soon had him down again. Back on his feet, Holmes was quickly under attack prior to being rescued by the referee after Tyson had sent him crashing again from a right to the head with five seconds of the fourth remaining. According to the Boxing News, the WBA and WBC both approved the fight because of Holmes' past greatness while the IBF, despite recognising Tyson, did not give it their full backing as it was being contested over 12 rounds and not 15.

 

21 March 1988. Mike Tyson w rsc 2 Tony Tubbs

Venue: The Dome, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Mercante.

Fight Summary: Despite doing well in the opening round, scoring with good jabs and claiming his man on the inside, before the end of the session was over Tubbs (238¼) knew what he was up against when the champion landed heavily to the body and head just as the bell rang. Picking the pace up in the second Tyson (216¼) applied constant pressure, throwing punches from both hands, and just when it looked as though Tubbs would make it to the end of the round a tremendous left hook to the head ripped open a cut on his right eye and sent him down heavily. Even before the referee could take up the count Tubbs’ second rushed into the ring to give the stricken fighter aid; the fight being stopped with six seconds of the round remaining. Although the second’s action should have bought Tubbs a disqualification the result was announced as a technical knockout win for Tyson. Regardless of the fact that the IBF saw Tyson as the champion, they were not involved in the promotion due to them not being recognised by the Japanese Boxing Commission.

 

27 June 1988. Mike Tyson w co 1 Michael Spinks

Venue: Convention Centre, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Frank Cappuccino.

Fight Summary: Prior to the fight the unbeaten Spinks (212¼) had been seen by many as the man to stop the champion’s incessant march, but he too ultimately went the way of all the others. Right from the start Spinks was under pressure as Tyson (218¼) tore into him, lashing in lefts and rights, and a left uppercut soon had the challenger over. Although Spinks made it to his feet at ‘two’ before taking the rest of the mandatory count, after trying to fight back a big left uppercut to the jaw followed by a right to the body sent him down to be counted out flat on his back at 1.31 of the session. Despite being contested over 12 rounds, it was recognised by the IBF as a world title bout.

 

25 February 1989. Mike Tyson w rsc 5 Frank Bruno

Venue: Hilton Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Richard Steele.

Fight Summary: Out of the ring for 16 months, waiting for his title crack at the champion, Bruno kept himself in condition while Tyson was suffering from managerial and domestic problems that almost threatened to sink him. When the fight finally went ahead Bruno (228) was on the floor almost immediately after taking a right to the temple. On his feet at ‘three’ despite being hit while on one knee, Bruno eventually got back in action, having Tyson (218) badly hurt from a cracking left hook to the jaw before the session ended. Unfortunately for Bruno he was unable to take full advantage of the situation, letting his opponent off the hook and ultimately paying the price. By the third Tyson was in full swing after an erratic start, and at the start of the fourth he had hurt Bruno with a huge right to the head. Tyson was also weakening Bruno with body blows that were sapping all the strength out of him. With just five seconds of the fifth remaining it was all over, the referee stopping the contest with Bruno not hitting back and floundering on the ropes under a barrage of punches to head and body. Following the setting up of the World Boxing Organisation (WBO), which came about after 27 delegates walked out of the WBA convention in October, in their wisdom the new organisation decided to support the winner of the Francesco Damiani v Johnny du Plooy bout as their first heavyweight champion rather than recognising Tyson.

 

21 July 1989. Mike Tyson w rsc 1 Carl Williams

Venue: Convention Centre, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBC/Lineal. Referee: Randy Neumann.

Fight Summary: Boxing well from the opening bell, his 14-inch reach advantage allowing him to keep the champion on the end of the jab, it looked like Williams (218) might be the man to give Tyson (219¼) a fair test. However, in leaving his right hand low he paid the price when caught by a crashing left hook to the jaw. Dropped heavily, after making two attempts to get off the floor the referee called the fight off with only 93 seconds on the clock, stating that Williams had looked to be concussed and was unable to respond to a simple question.

 

James Buster Douglas would be the next man up for Tyson. From a boxing family, the seventh-ranked Douglas was not given much chance, but he was no mug having beaten Randall Cobb, Greg Page, Mike Williams, Trevor Berbick and Oliver McCall. He’d already had one crack at a title when losing to Tony Tucker for the vacant IBF version, and this was his big chance. Standing 6’3½”, with a 12-inch reach advantage over Tyson, Douglas had a powerful left jab and right-hand power, especially with the uppercut, and had 28 wins, a draw, four defeats and one no contest on his record. 

 

11 February 1990. James Buster Douglas w co 10 Mike Tyson

Venue: The Dome, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBC/Lineal. Referee: Octavio Meyran.

Fight Summary: Seen as a sacrificial lamb, Douglas (231½) pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the history of boxing when knocking out Tyson (220½) at 1.22 of the tenth round. Using his reach advantage to maximum benefit, Douglas stabbed the left jab in and followed it up with good, solid right uppercuts to leave Tyson unable to get through his guard. In the fifth Tyson was shaken by a left-right to the head, and with his left eye swelling he began to become disheartened. The next two rounds were slow, but in the eighth just after Douglas had hurt Tyson with a left-right-left combination he was himself put down by a right uppercut to the jaw. Despite the so-called long count that could have been 12 or 13 seconds due to poor liaison between the timekeeper and the referee, Douglas, who was up at ‘nine’, somehow got through the rest of the session. Having survived an early blitz in the ninth as Tyson went all out Douglas had the champion in big trouble when blasting away at him, finishing the round in total control. The tenth saw Tyson trying to take the fight to Douglas, but it seemed to be mission impossible at that point. Opening up with the left jab, and with the champion all at sea, Douglas sent Tyson crashing down on his back to be counted out after a right uppercut followed by several combinations and a left to the temple parted the champion from his senses.

 

Douglas’ first defence would be against Evander Holyfield. After relinquishing his cruiserweight world title at the end of 1988 Holyfield began to make his mark among the heavies, being ranked at number three after beating James Tillis, Pinklon Thomas, Michael Dokes, Adilson Rodrigues and Alex Stewart. With an unblemished record of 24 (20 inside the distance) wins, Holyfield had already proved to be a never-say-die competitor who was more than capable of outboxing boxers and outfighting fighters.

 

25 October 1990. Evander Holyfield w co 3 James Buster Douglas

Venue: Mirage Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBC/Lineal. Referee: Mills Lane.

Fight Summary: Right from the start it was clear that Douglas (246) had failed to prepare himself properly when barely landing on Holyfield (208) during the seven minutes and ten seconds of action. Although sprightly enough, Douglas was nearly always out of distance with the jab while Holyfield made his punches count, and in the third round, having moved away from an uppercut, he slammed in a short right-hand counter that put the champion down and out. To most onlookers it appeared that Douglas could have beaten the count, while Ferdie Pacheco, who was doing the inter-round analysis for TV, felt that the former champion had the personality traits of a loser. On winning, Holyfield became a two-weight world champion.

 

19 April 1991. Evander Holyfield w pts 12 George Foreman

Venue: Convention Centre, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBC/Lineal. Referee: Rudy Battle.

Scorecards: 116-111, 117-110, 115-112.

Fight Summary: Outspeeded over the first half of the contest as Holyfield (208) whipped in punches and moved, in the seventh Foreman (257) came alive when shaking the champion up with two thumping right hands. After the eighth round passed him by Foreman came again in the ninth when it was clear that Holyfield was also tiring, and in the tenth he hurt the latter with another big right. During the fight Foreman had occasionally landed low with just a warning given, but in the 11th after going downstairs yet again he finally had a point deducted. The last session saw both men extremely tired, and while Holyfield was doing most of the work it was Foreman, his face by now badly swollen, who received a standing ovation for making it to the final bell.

 

23 November 1991. Evander Holyfield w rsc 7 Bert Cooper

Venue: The Omni, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBC/Lineal. Referee: Mills Lane.

Fight Summary: After looking likely to finish early when putting Cooper (215) down with a left hook to the body, the champion soon realised that his opponent was no patsy when he came roaring back before the end of the opening session. With Cooper continuing to throw dangerous shots he had Holyfield (210) in such trouble on the ropes in the third that a standing count was enforced. The pace was terrific as Cooper went for broke, and with Holyfield hitting back hard it left both men almost exhausted. The next three sessions saw Cooper trying to force matters but coming off worse as Holyfield picked his punches. And in the sixth the challenger was cut over the right eye. Although under the cosh Cooper was still giving it everything but he was gradually falling apart. Then, with two seconds left of the seventh the referee came to Cooper's rescue when he was backed up on the ropes being hit with all manner of shots and not fighting back. Although the WBC refused to sanction the contest on the grounds that Cooper was not a top-ranked fighter they still recognised Holyfield as the champion, and while there were those who felt that the WBC would only recognise a Holyfield title fight when he defended against Mike Tyson, that would have all changed after the latter received a jail sentence at the end of March 1992.

 

19 June 1992. Evander Holyfield w pts 12 Larry Holmes

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

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

Fight Summary: Having outpointed Ray Mercer in his previous fight the former champion was given a crack at Holyfield (210), and although he gave it his best shot he was well beaten. By now, Holmes (233), hardly a patch on the great fighter he once was, never really looked like winning. His main tactic to conserve energy was to stay on the ropes and come on strong in the final two sessions, which he did. Holyfield, cut over the right eye by Holmes’ elbow in the sixth, was hardly inspiring. Even though Holyfield was always ahead on points he never looked likely to win inside the distance, the best two punches of the fight, both heavy right hands, coming from Holmes in the 11th.

 

Holyfield’s next title defence would be against Riddick Bowe, who beat South Africa’s Pierre Coetzer (w rsc 7 at the Mirage Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas on 18 July) in a final eliminator for the WBA title. A former 1988 Olympic Games silver medallist after losing to Lenox Lewis, he had turned pro in 1989 and was undefeated in 31 starts, beating Pinklon Thomas, Bert Cooper, Tyrell Biggs, Tony Tubbs, Bruce Seldon, Everett Martin and Coetzer to gain a number two ranking. Packing plenty of power into his 6’5” frame, and a good mover for one so large, Bowe was confident that he would prove too strong for Holyfield.

 

13 November 1992. Riddick Bowe w pts 12 Evander Holyfield

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

Scorecards: 115-112, 117-110, 117-110.

Fight Summary: Even though Holyfield (205) fought gallantly, Bowe (235) was always ahead of him, and when he opened up in the seventh with big punches from both hands it looked ominous for the champion. Holyfield, who already had a swollen right eye, was also cut over the left eye from a head clash in the eighth, but with Bowe tiring he came on strongly until a crushing right hand to the head in the tenth virtually finished him. How Holyfield stayed on his feet was almost miraculous as Bowe hit him with every punch in the book and some that were not. Holyfield even fought back towards the end of the session before being dropped by a left hook in the 11th. That was the end for Holyfield in terms of keeping his title, but Bowe could not finish him. Bowe forfeited the WBC version of the title on 14 December when failing to sign for a defence against their leading contender, Lennox Lewis. Lewis.

 

6 February 1993. Riddick Bowe w rsc 1 Michael Dokes

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/Lineal. Referee: Joe Santarpia.

Fight Summary: There was no way on current form that the ageing Dokes (244) should have been given a crack at the champion, and when the referee stopped the fight at 2.19 of the first round to save him from taking further punishment the critics were proved right. Bowe (243) opened up with four left jabs before a left-right had Dokes sliding down the ropes to take a standing count that was not even completed before he was allowed back into action. By now it was just a matter of time. After Bowe connected with the left hook and another couple of crunching rights, that had Dokes reeling into the ropes, the fight came to an end before the champion could do any further damage.

 

22 May 1993. Riddick Bowe w rsc 2 Jesse Ferguson

Venue: RFK Stadium, Washington DC, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/Lineal. Referee: Larry Hazzard.

Fight Summary: Outgunned right from the start Ferguson (224) was wide open to the champion’s punches, being made to eat left jabs before heavy shots, followed by a big left hook, sent him to the floor. There looked to be no way back for Ferguson and, although he just about got up before the ‘ten’, the bell to end the opening round came to his aid. Surprisingly allowed out for the second, Ferguson was immediately at the mercy of Bowe (244). When Ferguson was floored following a big right to the head that preceded several solid blows the referee stopped the fight midway through the count, 17 seconds into the session.

 

Being given the chance to recover two of the three titles he once held, Evander Holyfield was the next man up for Bowe. Since his defeat at the hands of the champion, Holyfield had beaten Alex Stewart and would be looking to avenge the only defeat on his record in 30 fights.

 

6 November 1993. Evander Holyfield w pts 12 Riddick Bowe

Venue: Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/Lineal. Referee: Mills Lane.

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

Fight Summary: On a night when a paraglider crashed into the ring from out of the sky in the seventh round, causing a 22-minute delay, Holyfield (217) became only the third man in history to regain the heavyweight crown. Although Bowe (246) had the power, Holyfield, boxing in a smart fashion, was looking good by the fifth, having taken the champion’s best blows and cut him over the right eye. Prior to the enforced delay Holyfield seemed to be getting on top as Bowe, now cut between the eyes, was beginning to look ragged. Afterwards, Holyfield carried on where he left off, but in the ninth Bowe had his best round to date despite being unable to drop the challenger. As at the end of the eighth Bowe landed punches after the bell, one of which hurt Holyfield, but there was no warning. Holyfield sealed his victory when taking the fight to Bowe in the tenth and 11th, and even though the latter came back strongly in the final session he was unable to influence the result.

 

A former undefeated WBO light heavyweight and heavyweight champion, Michael Moorer, who was unbeaten after 34 contests, would be Holyfield’s first challenger. As a box-fighting southpaw with excellent power in both hands who had stopped his first 26 opponents before having to settle for points wins over four men in his last eight contests, he had beaten Carl Willams, Ramzi Hassan, Victor Claudio, Frankie Swindell (2), Freddie Delgado, Leslie Stewart, Jeff Thompson, Mike Sedillo, Marcellus Allen, Mario Melo, Danny Stonewalker, Alex Stewart, Everett Martin, Bert Cooper (for the vacant WBO heavyweight title which he relinquished) and James Pritchard.

 

22 April 1994. Michael Moorer w pts 12 Evander Holyfield

Venue: Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/Lineal. Referee: Mills Lane.

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

Fight Summary: Sticking to the southpaw jab that Holyfield, the champion, was unable to find a way through, Moorer (214) did what he had to in order to win, apart from when he was put down in the second round by a couple of heavy right hooks. Up at ‘five’ but forced to take the mandatory ‘eight’ count, after Moorer got himself back in the fight he had Holyfield (214) cut over the left eye in the fifth and in trouble. At the end of the contest Moorer looked a good winner, but had one of the judges marked the second round correctly the result would have been a draw. Afterwards Holyfield claimed damage to his left shoulder, that necessitated a trip to the hospital, had hindered him badly.

 

Booked to be Moorer’s first challenger, George Foreman had come back from his defeat at the hands of Holyfield to beat Jimmy Ellis, Alex Stewart and Pierre Coetzer before coming unstuck when going for Tommy Morrison’s WBO title. Regardless of that, Foreman would be bringing 72 victories and four defeats into the ring on the night.

 

5 November 1994. George Foreman w co 10 Michael Moorer

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

Fight Summary: Twenty years after losing the title to Muhammad Ali, Foreman (250), a 46-year-old grandfather, became the oldest man to win the heavyweight crown when he knocked out Moorer (222) at 2.03 of the tenth round. After nine almost one-sided rounds, with Moorer using the southpaw jab to knock Foreman’s head back in virtually every round, and with the latter’s face beginning to swell the end seemed imminent. However, most good judges thought it would be Moorer who would have his arm raised, but with the fight continuing in his favour in the tenth he was taken out by a crunching right to the jaw that gave him no chance of beating the count. Foreman was stripped of the WBA version of the championship on 4 March 1995 for failing to take on the organisation’s leading challenger.

 

22 April 1995. George Foreman w pts 12 Axel Schulz

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

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

Fight Summary: Making his first defence Foreman (256) appeared lucky to have got the decision over Schulz (221), having been often outboxed and outpunched by the lowly regarded German, who stuck to his game plan of jabbing and moving. Extremely ragged at times, Foreman, who finished exhausted with a large swelling over the left eye, really showed his age in this one while Schulz appeared to be an improving fighter. Foreman relinquished his IBF version of the title on 29 June when refusing Schulz a rematch.

 

3 November 1996. George Foreman w pts 12 Crawford Grimsley

Venue: Tokyo Bay NK Hall, Urayasu, Chiba, Japan. Recognition: Lineal. Referee: Max Parker Jnr.

Scorecards: 119-109, 116-112, 117-111.

Fight Summary: Although the contest was billed as a defence of the 47-year-old Foreman’s WBU title, it was the involvement of his lineal crown that was more significant. Having spent almost 19 months out of the ring, Foreman (253) was only a shadow of the man who took the heavyweight division by storm, and for many it was painful to watch as he lumbered around the ring. Unbeaten after 20 fights and rated at number nine by the WBA, although Grimsley (235) offered wide, swinging punches they did little damage as Foreman bulled his way to an easy points win. In a fight better forgotten, Foreman, who stood between rounds, occasionally showed his power and sound defence, but was hardly tested.

 

26 April 1997. George Foreman w pts 12 Lou Savarese

Venue: Convention Centre, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: Lineal. Referee: Eddie Cotton.

Scorecards: 115-112, 118-110, 113-114.

Fight Summary:  Foreman (253) next defended his lineal title claim against Savarese (230), who although unbeaten in 36 contests was not thought to be a threat. However, the 48-year-old champion had to come from behind after Savarese had made a good start, and it was only when he realised that he was not going to kayo his man that he bucked his ideas up and gradually boxed his way back with clubbing blows to slow the younger man down. Cut over the left eye, Savarese stayed right in front of Foreman, but was unable to make a dent as the latter’s strength was ultimately too much for him. This time round, the WBU were not involved, having been dumped prior to the start of the contest.

 

22 November 1997. Shannon Briggs w pts 12 George Foreman

Venue: The Taj Majal Hotel & Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: Lineal. Referee: Eddie Cotton.

Scorecards: 117-113, 118-110, 114-114.

Fight Summary:  When it was announced that Foreman (260) had lost there were jeers of anger from the crowd who felt that the scores were miles adrift of what had just taken place. And with Foreman landing 284 blows, many of them much heavier, to Briggs’ 223, it appeared to be a travesty of justice even to someone who knew little about the sport sitting at home watching it on TV. Although Briggs (227) hurt Foreman on a couple of occasions in the main it was he who was forced to take many more powerful shots than the older man, and it came as no surprise when Foreman announced his retirement shortly after the fight.   

 

Lennox Lewis would be next for Briggs. Having been a 1988 Olympic gold medallist boxing for Canada, Lewis turned pro in 1989 after returning to England, the country of his birth. Making a good start as a pro, he powered his way to the British, Commonwealth and European titles, beating men such as Ossie Ocasio, Mike Weaver, Glenn McCrory and Tyrell Biggs along the way. Then, after stopping Donovan Ruddock inside two rounds at the Exhibition Centre, Earls Court, London on 31 October 1992 in a final eliminator he was proclaimed WBC champion on 14 December 1992 after Riddick Bowe had failed to sign to defend that title against him. Successful defences followed against Tony Tucker, Frank Bruno and Phil Jackson until a shock loss at the hands of Oliver McCall saw him shorn of his WBC belt. However, putting that behind him he came back to beat Tommy Morrison and Ray Mercer before regaining his old title when forcing the referee to rescue McCall 55 seconds into the fifth round. After successful defences against Henry Akinwande, and Andrew Golota, he was ready to get his hands on Briggs’ lineal title. Standing 6’5”, with a great jab, Lewis also had a big right hand and knew how to finish off an opponent in trouble, his record of 32 (28 inside the distance) wins and a loss substantiating that.

28 March 1998. Lennox Lewis w rsc 5 Shannon Briggs

Venue: Convention Centre, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Frank Cappuccino.

Fight Summary: Starting the better of the two, the lineal champion had Lewis (243) badly hurt the opening round, a left hook and big right hands doing the damage, but with the ropes holding him up the WBC title holder was able to clear his head until the bell. Thereafter, the fight belonged to Lewis, who despite being hurt again in the third started to put his boxing together before having the unrated Briggs (228) over from several rights to the head in the fourth. On getting up Briggs stormed back into the fray and, although being dropped again by a massive right to the head, he almost had Lewis going with a left hook that had him hanging on. By the fifth, with Lewis back in charge, a thumping right cross had Briggs over again. Showing plenty of spirit Briggs got himself up, but after throwing himself to the floor following a wild swing the referee pulled him out of the contest on the 1.45 mark.

 

26 September 1998. Lennox Lewis w pts 12 Zeljko Mavrovic

Venue:  Mohegan Sun Casino, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Frank Cappuccino.

Scorecards: 117-111, 119-109, 117-112.

Fight Summary: Boxing in a laboured fashion the champion found himself unable to stow away the tough Mavrovic (214¼), a former European title holder, who finished the contest with a cut over the right eye but still standing. Occasionally Lewis (243) would let the punches go but unable to move the Croatian he often ran out of steam. Lewis’ best punch was the right uppercut, a fact admitted by Mavrovic, and he opened up a cut under the challenger’s chin that would require five stitches. Finishing the fight with both eyes swollen, it was not one of Lewis’ better nights.

 

13 March 1999. Lennox Lewis drew 12 Evander Holyfield

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBC/Lineal. Referee: Arthur Mercante Jnr.

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

Fight Summary: In a battle to decide three championship belts as well as the lineal title, Lewis (246), the WBC champion, made the brighter start when taking the first two rounds and, although the contest never reached the heights, to most of the qualified onlookers it appeared that his use of the left jab had won him the decision by at least nine rounds to three according to Boxing News. Even though Lewis never totally dominated Holyfield (215), the IBF/WBA title holder, the latter rarely looked convincing. And when the pair fell to the floor together at the start of the seventh it appeared that the American was there for the taking. Both men finished the fight with damage to their left eyes and, while there had been no knockdowns and exciting action for most of the fight, there was a stunned silence when the decision was announced. According to the judges it was a fight of two halves, with Holyfield finishing the stronger. Afterwards, Larry O’Connell, the English judge who scored it 115-115, conceded that Lewis might have done enough in hindsight, but the American woman judge, Eugenia Williams, actually had Holyfield winning 115-113. Further to an investigation into all aspects of the fight, the people involved were told that a return was not an option but a must.

 

13 November 1999. Lennox Lewis w pts 12 Evander Holyfield

Venue: Thomas & Mack Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBC/Lineal. Referee: Mitch Halpern.

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

Fight Summary: This time round there were no mistakes made by the judges, all three of them voting for Lewis (242). There were no knockdowns but Lewis’ jab was again the deciding factor, and although Holyfield (217), the IBF and WBC title holder, did well when outfighting the WBC and lineal champion on the inside in the middle rounds and banged in the occasional hooks to the head he was unable to sustain it. Most of the press felt that the contest was not as one-sided as their previous one and even though the IBF declared their title to be vacant following a row over licensing fees the matter was soon sorted out. Lewis forfeited the WBA version of the title on 13 April 2000 when deciding to meet Michael Grant rather than their leading contender, John Ruiz.

 

29 April 2000. Lennox Lewis w co 2 Michael Grant

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBC/Lineal. Referee: Arthur Mercante Jnr.

Fight Summary: In what was reckoned to be the heaviest fight in the history of the sport, Lewis (247) dropped Grant (260) with a crunching right uppercut to the jaw inside the first couple of minutes. Back on his feet but in a daze, the challenger was given a standing count after he had been smashed into the ropes by four more solid blows. And before the round ended he was flattened by another terrific right. Saved by the bell, Grant should have been pulled out of the fight there and then, but having come out for the second round and been swamped by one uppercut after another he was finally put down for the full count with 21 seconds of the session remaining.

 

15 July 2000. Lennox Lewis w rsc 2 Frans Botha

Venue: London Arena, Millwall, London, England. Recognition:  IBF/WBC/Lineal. Referee: Larry O'Connell.

Fight Summary: The champion immediately went on the attack at the start of the fight, using the jab to set Botha (236) up for right hands, and before the session was over the latter had somehow survived a couple of terrific shots that threatened to take him out. Still working with a spearing left jab Lewis (250) picked up the pace in the second, having Botha down and through the ropes after two or three heavy punches got home. The finishing blows were not long in coming. When they did arrive the final right almost lifted Botha off the ground, and at 2.39 of the session the referee stopped the fight without taking up the count.

 

11 November 2000. Lennox Lewis w pts 12 David Tua

Venue: Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBC/Lineal. Referee: Joe Cortez.

Scorecards: 117-111, 119-109, 118-110.

Fight Summary: Towering above Tua (245), who had boasted that he would take out Lewis (249), the latter spent all night smacking his left hand into the challenger’s face to make it one of the easiest wins of his career. Although the crowd called for more action, Lewis just got on with the job in hand while taking no risks. There were no knockdowns, and Tua, having hardly laid a glove on Lewis, finished the contest with his left eye badly swollen and bleeding.

 

Lewis’ next defence would be against Hasim Rahman, who had run up 34 (28 inside the distance) wins in 36 fights, losing only to David Tua and Oleg Maskaev. An explosive right-hand puncher, Rahman had beaten Trevor Berbick, Obed Sullivan, Jesse Ferguson, Corrie Sanders and Frankie Swindell.

 

22 April 2001. Hasim Rahman w co 5 Lennox Lewis

Venue: Big Top Arena, Carnival City, Brakpan, South Africa. Recognition:  IBF/WBC/Lineal. Referee: Daniel Van De Wiele.

Fight Summary: Despite Lewis (253½) scoring well with the left hand, the warning signs were there for him early on as Rahman (238) kept low to avoid right hands and jabbed well to the body. When Lewis crashed in a terrific body shot at the end of the third it seemed as though all was well, but in the fourth Rahman picked up the pace to win the round, and at times ominously backed up the champion with rights through the middle. In the fifth, when Lewis came out firing after Rahman appeared to be having difficulty with his left eye, which was now swollen and cut, it looked as though the latter was in real trouble. However, Lewis seemed to switch off, his left held low. Inexplicably, Lewis allowed the 20-1 underdog to jab him across the ring, and with his back to the ropes, a tremendous right to the jaw sent him down to be counted out on the 2.32 mark. In suffering a loss of credibility it was clear that Lewis had not been in the best of condition, either mentally or physically, and had taken Rahman far too lightly. With an immediate return lined up, Lewis would not be making the same mistake again.

 

17 November 2001. Lennox Lewis w co 4 Hasim Rahman

Venue: Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBC/Lineal. Referee: Joe Cortez.

Fight Summary: After blasting his man to defeat in South Africa, Rahman (238) was expected to do more of the same, but with Lewis (253½) well prepared this time he was unable to exact any kind of superiority, being completely outboxed while the fight lasted. The master of cutting down the distance and getting his punches off Lewis was content to outbox Hasim (or ‘Has-Been’ as Lewis continually referred to him as), and when the opportunity presented itself he took it. Having landed a solid right hand in the third, that had a marked effect on the champion, it was merely a matter of time before Lewis caught up with Rahman. Sure enough, early in the fourth after the left had done its job, when another long right landed flush on the jaw Rahman crashed to the floor to be counted out at 1.29 of the round.

 

8 June 2002. Lennox Lewis w co 8 Mike Tyson

Venue: The Pyramid, Memphis, Tennessee, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBC/The Ring/Lineal. Referee: Eddie Cotton.

Fight Summary: This was the one everybody had been waiting for; the defining fight in Lewis’ career and the one that would tell us whether Tyson (234½) was a spent force. Once the fight was underway it was clear that all the questions were going to be answered, Tyson being unable to respond to the Lewis (249¼) left jab. Then, with his right eye cut in the third Tyson was beginning to be gradually taken apart. Pushed over in the fourth the former ‘great’ was becoming desperate as he was being completely outboxed with no idea of how to handle it. Nearly taken out in the seventh, with the bell coming to his rescue, a left uppercut smashed all remaining resistance out of him in the eighth. After taking a count of 'eight' a tremendous right hand from Lewis landed on Tyson's jaw, smashing him to the canvas where he was counted out at the 2.25 mark. Lewis gave up the IBF title on 5 September rather than defend against Chris Byrd.

 

21 June 2003. Lennox Lewis w rsc 6 Vitali Klitschko

Venue: Staples Centre, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: WBC/The Ring/Lineal. Referee: Lou Moret.

Fight Summary: Looking overweight and sluggish, Lewis (256½), turning in one of his worst championship performances, would surely have lost his championship belts had it not been for Klitschko (248) suffering from an horrendous cut around his left eye from the third round, an injury which eventually necessitated 60 stitches. At the end of the sixth the ringside doctor failed to let the challenger continue, the fight being called off without going to the scorecards because the initial punch that did the damage was deemed to be legal.

 

Lewis announced his retirement on 6 February 2004. Following that, the third-ranked Corrie Sanders was nominated to meet the top-rated Vitali Klitschko for the vacant WBC and lineal titles. Klitschko was a former leading amateur who turned pro in 1996 and had run up 32 wins against two losses. Having won the WBO title when knocking out Herbie Hide on 26 June 1999, and then defending the belt against Ed Mahone and Obed Sullivan, he was shorn of it after Chris Byrd forced him to retire after nine rounds. Tall and upright, with a probing jab and a powerful right hand, he had also defeated Jose Ribalta, Orlin Norris and Kirk Johnson, as well as giving Lewis a difficult night. Sanders, a heavy-handed southpaw who had suffered just two losses in 41 contests, had won the WBO title when defeating Klitschko’s brother, Wladimir. Given the opportunity to meet Klitschko for the WBC title, Sanders handed in his WBO belt. Other good men to be beaten by Sanders, included Johnny Du Plooy, Johnny Nelson, Bert Cooper, Carlos De Leon, Bobby Czyz and Alfred Cole.

 

24 April 2004. Vitali Klitschko w rsc 8 Corrie Sanders

Venue: Staples Centre, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: WBC/The Ring. Referee: Jon Schorle.

Fight Summary: With the vacant WBC title and lineal recognition up for grabs, and aiming to beat the man who defeated his brother, Klitschko (245) made a sloppy start when caught by some good punches as Sanders (235) looked to end early. From there onwards though Klitschko took control, and although he had a few shaky moments along the way he was gradually wearing his southpaw opponent down, so much so in the fifth round that the South African seemed lucky to remain on his feet. In the sixth and seventh Sanders barely showed as Klitschko continued to grind him down. And in the eighth with just four seconds of the session remaining the referee stopped the fight. At that point, Sanders, cut over the left eye, was on the ropes taking a pounding and unable to fight back.

 

11 December 2004. Vitali Klitschko w rsc 8 Danny Williams

Venue: Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC/The Ring. Referee: Jay Nady.

Fight Summary: Although he showed great bravery in the face of a one-way thrashing the challenger had no answers to the hard-punching Klitschko (250), being put down four times before the referee had seen enough and brought matters to a halt at 1.26 of the eighth round. If nothing else, Williams (270), who strangely came in at a weight that hindered his speed, certainly disproved the British ‘horizontal’ heavyweight theory prevalent in America over the years. However, courage itself does not win contests and the man famous for beating Mike Tyson a few months earlier had to be rescued, almost from himself.

 

Due to defend his WBC title on 12 November 2005 against Hasim Rahman, Klitschko announced his retirement on 8 November 2005 when pulling out of the fight on suffering an injury to his right knee. Further to his brother leaving the sport, Wladimir Klitschko would next defend his IBF title against Sultan Ibragimov, the WBO champion, in a match that would also involve the lineal title. Klitschko, who was looking to avenge his brother’s defeat at the hands of Chris Byrd, beat the latter on 14 October 2000 to win the WBO title and had successfully defended it against Derrick Jefferson, Charles Shufford, Frans Botha, Ray Mercer and Jameel McCline before losing to Corrie Sanders in a shock upset. After a failed attempt to win his old title back from Lamon Brewster he won the IBF title when beating Byrd and made successful defences against Calvin Brock, Ray Austin and Brewster before meeting Ibragimov. As the gold medallist from the 1996 Olympic Games, Klitschko had turned pro in 1996 and in 52 contests had won 49 of them. With a solid jab and right cross routine, despite being somewhat mechanical his reach and power punching was difficult to combat. His opponent, Ibragimov, ‘The Russian Bomber’, had turned pro in 2002 and had beaten Alfred Cole before winning the WBO title from Shannon Briggs and defending it against Evander Holyfield. An Olympic Games finalist in 2000, the southpaw Ibragimov’s record showed 22 (17 inside the distance) wins and a draw against Ray Austin coming into the Klitschko fight. 

 

23 February 2008. Wladimir Klitschko w pts 12 Sultan Ibragimov

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBO. Referee: Wayne Kelly.

Scorecards: 119-110, 117-111, 118-110.

Fight Summary: In a unification battle, Klitschko (238), the IBF champion, outpointed by some margin the WBO title holder, Ibragimov (219). Many felt that Klitschko should have opened up more instead of relying on a solid left jab that was occasionally followed by hooks and straight rights, but the Ukranian had a battle plan and stuck to it. Always in control, Klitschko was content to outbox his dangerous unbeaten southpaw opponent, who had decided early on to fight out of a crouch. Although there were no official knockdowns recorded, when Klitschko sent Ibragimov on to the lower ropes in the ninth from a right-left-right combination the referee was possibly lenient when not calling one, especially as the latter would have been floored had the support not been there. Both fell down together in the tenth, and while Klitschko felt the effects more than Ibragimov it did not stop him continuing his march. With two titles on the line, this contest would also have involved the lineal crown.

 

12 July 2008. Wladimir Klitschko w co 11 Tony Thompson

Venue: Color Line Arena, Hamburg, Germany. Recognition: IBF/WBO. Referee: Joe Cortez.

Fight Summary: Up against an awkward southpaw challenger, Klitschko (241) was forced to go 11 rounds before finding a tremendous right that landed flush on the jaw and dropped Thompson (247½) heavily to be counted out at 1.38 of the session. Winning all rounds bar the fifth, Klitschko gradually wore Thompson down. Both men were cut following an accidental headbutt in the second and in the tenth, after Klitschko pushed Thompson to the floor, the latter was given time to recover by the referee. Boxing News summed it up as a vintage Klitschko performance with no exchanges, rather ugly pushing and much holding.

 

13 December 2008. Wladimir Klitschko w rsc 7 Hasim Rahman

Venue: SAP Arena, Mannheim, Germany. Recognition: IBF/WBO. Referee: Tony Weeks.

Fight Summary: Klitschko (244¾) was quickly down to business with the left jab pounding into the challenger's face, while quickly realising that Rahman (253½) was not the fighter of old. With the fight continuing at Klitschko's pace, in the sixth Rahman was battered down following left hooks that landed solidly and took an 'eight' count before being forced to take more heavy shots. Having asked Rahman if he wanted to continue, the referee eventually halted the action after 44 seconds of the seventh when the latter was in trouble as Klitschko opened up with both hands.

 

20 June 2009. Wladimir Klitschko w rtd 9 Ruslan Chagaev

Venue: Veltins Arena, Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Recognition: IBF/WBO/The Ring. Referee: Eddie Cotton.

Fight Summary: Boxing at his best, Klitschko (240½) eventually forced Chagaev (225) out of the contest at the end of the ninth round. Replacing the injured David Haye at just two weeks' notice, Chagaev was soon being held up by the left jab before being dropped by a left-right in the second. Back in the fight the unbeaten southpaw, who was recognised by the WBA as a 'champion in recess', had no answer to the Klitschko jab, and after he was cut on the left eye in the seventh his spirit diminished further. Having taken some heavy rights in the ninth when not fighting back, his eye damage worsening, Chagaev was retired on his stool at the end of the session. With the top-ranked Klitschko meeting Chagaev, rated third, this was a contest that would also involve The Ring Championship Belt.

 

20 March 2010. Wladimir Klitschko w co 12 Eddie Chambers

Venue: Esprit Arena, Dusseldorf, Germany. Recognition: IBF/WBO/The Ring. Referee: Genaro Rodriguez.

Fight Summary: Klitschko (244¾) began as normal with solid left jabs that were followed by right crosses, and twice in the opening two sessions Chambers (209½), six inches the shorter man, ducked down and lifted the champion on to his shoulders. The second time he did this he threw Klitschko to the floor before the latter almost fell when hurt by a countering right. Even at this stage it was clear that Chambers did not have an answer. Still proving elusive, more so when cut over the left eye in the fifth, Chambers continued to avoid Klitschko right up until the final session when a wide left smashed him to the floor where he was counted out with five seconds of the fight remaining.

 

11 September 2010. Wladimir Klitschko w rsc 10 Samuel Peter

Venue: Commercial Bank Arena, Frankfurt, Germany. Recognition: IBF/WBO/The Ring. Referee: Robert Byrd.

Fight Summary: Having lost his WBC title to Vitali Klitschko and been outpointed by Wladimir five years earlier, this was a big ask for Peter (241½). Although the champion was staggered by a left hook in the opening session he soon had Peter eating the left jab, and by the end of the fourth the latter's left eye was swelling fast. For round after round Peter was forced to suffer hard one-twos that broke through his porous guard before the tenth saw him come apart as Klitschko (247) unloaded. At 2.55 of the session the referee immediately stopped the fight so that Peter could be tended to after he had been sent crashing on to his back by a murderous left uppercut.

 

2 July 2011. Wladimir Klitschko w pts 12 David Haye

Venue: Imtech Arena, Hamburg, Germany. Recognition:  IBF/WBA/WBO/The Ring. Referee: Genaro Rodriguez.

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

Fight Summary: A disappointing fight after all the hype, Haye (212¾), the WBA champion, went down widely on points, claiming that a broken toe suffered three weeks earlier was the reason for his poor performance. Even though Klitschko (242½), who came into the contest with the IBF belt and lineal title, was deducted a point in the seventh round for pushing Haye down it barely mattered, such was his margin of victory. The real problem for Haye was that he could not get through Klitschko's guard, and even though the latter transgressed several times when pushing down on his challenger without warnings he was simply too big and strong. An example of this came in the 11th when Haye was counted over after being pushed down. Even when Haye got through with heavy punches to the head Klitschko remained unmoved, his solid left hands keeping the former at bay throughout.

 

3 March 2012. Wladimir Klitschko w rsc 4 Jean-Marc Mormeck

Venue: Esprit Arena, Düsseldorf, Germany. Recognition:  IBF/WBA/WBO/The Ring. Referee: Luis Pabon.

Fight Summary: After the original date was cancelled due to Klitschko (246¾) having a kidney stone problem, the champion saw off Mormeck (217½) quickly. Unable to find his range in the opener due to Mormeck's ducking and diving, Klitschko got to his man in the second when a right-left floored him. Having battered Mormeck for the remainder of the session, Klitschko again had difficulty getting to Mormeck in the third before dropping him with a three-punch combination in the fourth. Although Mormeck was up at 'nine' the referee considered that he was in no fit state to continue and stopped the fight on 1.12 mark.

 

7 July 2012. Wladimir Klitschko w rsc 6 Tony Thompson

Venue: National Stadium, Bern, Switzerland. Recognition:  IBF/WBA/WBO/The Ring. Referee: Sam Williams.

Fight Summary: Getting another crack at Klitschko (246¼), Thompson (244¾) had hoped to do better this time around but was again found wanting. Down twice in the second from hard rights and pushes the southpaw challenger was right up against, and in the fifth he was again on the floor after taking another heavy right to the head. Although Thompson beat the count and was able to make it to the end of the session, he was stopped at 2.56 of the sixth having being battered to the floor and showing no interest in continuing when back on his feet.

 

10 November 2012. Wladimir Klitschko w pts 12 Mariusz Wach

Venue: 02 World Arena, Hamburg, Germany. Recognition:  IBF/WBA/WBO/The Ring. Referee: Eddie Cotton.

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

Fight Summary: Defending for the first time since the death of his trainer, Emanuel Steward, Klitschko (247) was up against a man who was even taller and heavier than him in Wach (251). Boxing well within himself Klitschko took every round, bar the fifth on one of the judges' cards when he was rocked by a cracking right hand. Apart from that Klitschko handed Wach quite a beating, his left-rights finding their mark on a regular basis, and in the eighth two of the judges made it a 10-8 round after he had badly battered the latter. Although Wach tired in the later rounds he was still there at the final bell, having proved his toughness.

 

4 May 2013. Wladimir Klitschko w rsc 6 Francesco Pianeta

Venue: SAP Arena, Mannheim, Germany. Recognition:  IBF/WBA/WBO/The Ring. Referee: Ernie Sharif.

Fight Summary: With all of his belts on the line yet again, Klitschko (249) powered to victory over the outgunned Pianeta (240), an Italian southpaw. Dropped in the fourth by a left-right, having been pushed down earlier, although Pianeta tried hard enough it was all downhill. Another punch-push from Klitschko in the fifth saw Pianeta counted over, but two of the judges decided that it was not a knockdown. However, in the sixth after a left-right-left had Pianeta on the floor again, the last two blows doing the damage, the referee called the fight off at 2.52 of the session despite the challenger being on his feet at 'nine'.

 

5 October 2013. Wladimir Klitschko w pts 12 Alexander Povetkin

Venue: Olympic Stadium, Moscow, Russia. Recognition:  IBF/WBA/WBO/The Ring. Referee: Luis Pabon.

Scorecards: 119-104, 119-104, 119-104.

Fight Summary: In a fast start, Klitschko (241¾) had to defend himself from swarming, swinging attacks in the opening session as Povetkin (225¾) tried to confuse him before being pushed down almost in anger. From the second round onwards Klitschko, who dropped the WBA ‘second tier’ title holder in this session from a left hook, took over with hard lefts and rights making their mark. By the seventh, it already seemed mission impossible for Povetkin, and that was before he was counted over three times, all three judges marking it as a 10-6 round. When Povetkin was pushed to the floor heavily in the ninth and finished the session with a cut right eye one might have thought he'd had enough, but he was still there in the tenth. Continuing to take stiff lefts and rights in the tenth, Povetkin was again thrown to the floor in the 11th, a transgression that saw Klitschko deducted a point. After being wrestled to the canvas once again, this time in the 12th, Povetkin tore into Klitschko immediately prior to receiving a rousing ovation for his brave stand at the final bell.

 

26 April 2014. Wladimir Klitschko w rsc 5 Alex Leapai

Venue: Koenig Pilsener Arena, Oberhausen, Germany. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBO/The Ring. Referee: Eddie Cotton.

Fight Summary: Challenging Klitschko (247½) for the latter's championship belts Leapai (248) made a poor start when being dropped by a left jab in the opening session. From there onwards it was never much of a contest as Leapai took punch after punch without any lateral movement while only throwing wild shots in the hope of catching his man. Having been floored by a left-right in the fifth after taking some hard rights to the head, on getting to his feet Leapai was quickly hammered to the deck again by another one-two. At that point the referee called it off at 2.05 of the session without taking up the count.

 

15 November 2014. Wladimir Klitschko w rsc 5 Kubrat Pulev

Venue: 02 World Arena, Hamburg, Germany. Recognition:  IBF/WBA/WBO/The Ring. Referee: Tony Weeks.

Fight Summary: Being the IBF's mandatory contender allowed the unbeaten Pulev (246¾) to challenge Klitschko (245¾) for that title, but like many others before him he was found wanting. Strangely, Pulev's management team only paid the IBF sanctioning fee, so had he won the WBA and WBO titles would have become vacant. As far as Klitschko was concerned everthing was on the line and he made a very fast start to drop Pulev twice in the opening session, the first time from a left hook, the second appearing to be more of a push than a punch. Despite somehow finding his way back into the fight, Pulev was smashed to the canvas via the ropes in the third following another left hook. Although Pulev bothered Klitschko in the fifth with a few blows of his own after taking a tremendous left hook to the jaw that left him prostrate on the floor he was rescued by the referee, who abandoned the count at ‘six’when it was clear that he required attention. The finish was timed at 2.11.

 

25 April 2015. Wladimir Klitschko w pts 12 Bryant Jennings

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBO/The Ring. Referee: Michael Griffin.

Scorecards: 118-109, 116-111, 116-111.

Fight Summary: With all of his championship belts on the line, Klitschko (241½) was back in America to fight Jennings (226¾), a man on 19 straight but lacking the vast amateur experience of the champion. Despite Klitschko doing well with his commanding left jab to rack up the points it was noticeable that he had less luck with his normally potent right, which had to be down to Jennings' good movement and defence. Although Klitschko cruised through many of the rounds, he was not at his best in the third, sixth and ninth when Jennings got several punches off, and being continuously forced to hold on the inside in the later rounds he was docked a point in the tenth.

 

Klitschko’s next defence would be against the third-ranked Tyson Fury, who was undefeated after 24 (19 inside the distance) wins having beaten Dereck Chisora (2), Kevin Johnson and Steve Cunningham. An ABA champion in 2008, turning pro the same year, at 6’9” his commanding reach, defensive skills and good power had bemused all of the men put in front of him to date.  

 

28 November 2015. Tyson Fury w pts 12 Wladimir Klitschko

Venue: ESPRIT Arena, Dusseldorf, Germany. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBO/The Ring. Referee: Tony Weeks.

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

Fight Summary: There was no doubt that it was a massive shock to many fight fans when the 6'9" Fury (247) outpointed Klitschko (245¾), thus picking up three championship belts and the lineal tittle, and achieving what he said he would do beforehand. Switching from orthodox to southpaw and back again, standing sideways on to Klitschko with his hands down created problems in the latter's mind, and with Fury's movement making it hard for the champion to throw left-rights the fight was turned on its head. The sheer size and strength of Fury, allied to his excellent movement, also bothered Klitschko. Although many of the rounds were close it was Fury's punch stats of 86 from 371 as opposed Klitschko's 52 of 231 and his better work-rate that ultimately counted, even though so few punches landing was said to be unheard of in a distance fight of such magnitude. By the seventh Klitschko was cut under the left eye, and in the tenth he was cut over the right eye following a clash of heads before Fury was docked a point in the 11th for punching behind the head. The final session saw Fury out of the blocks fast just to make sure that there were no doubts in the judges' minds, holding his arms aloft at the bell.

 

On 8 December, after agreeing to a contractual return against Klitschko the IBF stripped Fury for not meeting their mandatory challenger, Vyacheslav Glazkov, instead. After months of negotiation, Fury’s rematch with Klitschko was finally announced, this time with the fight scheduled to take place at the Manchester Arena on 9 July 2016. It was then reported that the fight would be postponed to a later date due to Fury sustaining a sprained ankle in training. However, on the same day, 24 June 2016, Fury was charged by UKAD (UK Anti-Doping) with presence of a prohibited substance from a sample taken 16 months previously, something that he strenuously denied. Fury again postponed the Klitschko fight after being declared ‘medically unfit’ on 23 September before it was reported that he had failed a drug test the day before he pulled out of his rematch with Klitschko. Fury cited problems with depression after a positive test for cocaine before relinquishing his WBA and WBO titles on 12 October 2016 in order to give himself time to recover away from the public eye. This was followed a day later by the BBBoC suspending his licence pending further investigation into anti-doping and medical matters.

 

The next time that the title would be available came when Anthony Joshua defended his IBF belt against Wladimir Klitschko on 29 April 2017 in a contest that also saw the vacant WBA belt also up for grabs. Joshua, who had turned pro in 2013 after winning an ABA title in 2010 and an Olympic gold medal in 2012, was clearly a heavy puncher from both hands, having run up 18 straight wins, all but one of them ending inside the distance. After beating Kevin Johnson and 14 others, Joshua took over Charles Martin’s IBF title before making successful defences against Dominic Breazeale and Eric Molina prior to meeting Klitschko.

 

29 April 2017. Anthony Joshua w rsc 11 Wladimir Klitschko

Venue: The Stadium, Wembley, London, England. Recognition: IBF/WBA. Referee: David Fields.

Fight Summary: With the WBA title available after Tyson Fury relinquished it, and defending his IBF crown, Joshua (250¼) met the former champion, Klitschko (240½), in a contest that also involved the lineal title. Although Joshua started confidently enough he was badly hurt in the fourth when a cracking right to the jaw landed flush before taking the fight to Klitschko in the fifth. Slamming punches into Klitschko and hurting him with a big left to the head, Joshua must have thought it was all over when his rival lost his footing and crashed to the floor. Getting up with a gashed left eye, the Ukranian came back like a train to batter a tiring Joshua before unleashing a terrific right in the sixth that floored the latter heavily. On his feet again, Joshua took a couple of rounds to find himself and appeared to be over the worse until he was forced to take a huge right to the head. Picking it up in the 11th, Joshua sensed that this was his time. Having floored his man with a heavy right uppercut, when the action resumed, Joshua had him over again with a right-left. After Klitschko got up and was being battered without response, the referee stopped it at 2.25 of the session.   

 

28 October 2017. Anthony Joshua w rsc 10 Carlos Takam

Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Wales. Recognition: IBF/WBA. Referee: Phil Edwards.

Fight Summary: This was not one of the champion’s better nights, but at least he won when the referee decided that Takam (235½) had taken enough and stopped the fight at 1.34 of the tenth. Despite Takam using his head as a battering ram in the second to smash it into the champion’s nose, it did not stop the inevitable from happening. By the fourth, Joshua (254¼) was well in control, and after opening up a bad cut over Takam’s right eye he followed up with a crunching right uppercut and a solid left to send the latter down. Although Takam got to his feet and came back hard he was always on the receiving end, surviving by trying to give Joshua no room to work. Eventually, however, it was all over in the tenth after Takam had taken further heavy shots and was bleeding badly.   

 

31 March 2018. Anthony Joshua w pts 12 Joseph Parker

Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Wales. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBO. Referee: Giuseppe Quartarone.

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

Fight Summary: A relatively comfortable evening for Joshua (246½), that saw him add Parker’s WBO title to his collection, also saw him going the full 12 rounds for the first time in his pro career. There is no doubt that Parker (236½) boxed cleverly but it was hard to see him doing any real damage, while Joshua’s cause was not helped by a referee who continuously stopped him from working on the inside. In the tenth, with Parker cut over the left eye, Joshua finally cut loose with combinations before stunning the New Zealander in the 11th and controlling him in the final session. 

 

22 September 2018. Anthony Joshua w rsc 7 Alexander Povetkin

Venue: The Stadium, Wembley, London, England. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBO. Referee: Steve Gray.

Fight Summary: Fighting a dangerous challenger in Povetkin (222), who was avoided by many, Joshua (246½) was shaken up by a right uppercut followed by a heavy left that smashed into his face and left him bloodied at the end of the opening round. Feeling his way into the fight, Joshua began to hit back hard and often, cutting Povetkin over the left eye in the fourth. By this time Joshua had taken over and, apart from the fifth when Povetkin staged a mini-comeback, he was driving forward with the jab. The seventh would turn out to be the last for Povetkin. Hammered to the floor by a fierce right-left combination, Povetkin somehow got up only to be trapped on the ropes by Joshua and belted by heavy blows before a trademark right to the head that almost knocked him senseless saw the referee stop the fight at 1.59 of the session. 

 

With Joshua supposed to be meeting Jarrell Miller next, when that fight was called off after the latter failed three performance-enhancing drug tests the unrated Andy Ruiz, who had wins over Siarhei Liakhovich, Ray Austin and Kevin Johnson, was drafted in at six week’s notice. Despite coming to the ring with 32 (21 inside the distance) wins and just one loss on points against Joseph Parker in a battle for the vacant WBO title he was not expected to upset Joshua.

 

1 June 2019. Andy Ruiz w rsc 7 Anthony Joshua

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBO. Referee: Michael Griffin.

Fight Summary: In one of boxing’s biggest upsets, the unbeaten champion was rescued by the referee at 1.27 of the seventh when he was deemed to be in no position to defend himself after being bludgeoned to defeat by the roly-poly Ruiz (268). Having taken the opening two rounds, Joshua (247¾) stepped into Ruiz in the third with a cracking left hook that dropped the latter. On getting up, Ruiz immediately smashed in a left hook to Joshua’s temple before dropping his man with two heavy right hands. If that was not bad enough further lefts and rights had Joshua over again before the session ended. Although there was nothing of note from the fourth through the sixth, by the seventh it was apparent that Joshua was finished. Having been dropped early in the round as Ruiz unleashed his full arsenal, despite banging in a solid right of his own Joshua was soon down again, courtesy of another head shot. Despite getting to his feet, after giving all the wrong signals to the third man it was all over. Afterwards it became clear that Joshua had failed to recover from the blow to the temple in the third, suffering concussion in the process.     

 

7 December 2019. Anthony Joshua w pts 12 Andy Ruiz

Venue: The Arena, Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBO. Referee: Luis Pabon.

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

Fight Summary: Almost six months after losing his three titles, Joshua (237) was looking to regain them from the hands of his conqueror, Ruiz (283½), who came to the ring a stone heavier than previous while Joshua had reduced by 10lbs. It was a totally different fight this time round as Joshua controlled it from start to finish, cutting Ruiz on the left eye in the first round before he too was cut above the left eye in the second. Falling further and further behind, Ruiz gave it one final shot in the eighth, blasting in some heavy shots before Joshua got back to his boxing to outclass the champion. It had become a master class in how to hit and not be hit and Ruiz could not live with it.  

Following Tyson Fury's victory over Wilder for the WBC title, plans were being made to match Joshua and Fury to decide the vacant World championship.

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6 September 1920. Jack Dempsey nd-w co 3 (10) Billy Miske

Venue: The Arena, Benton Harbor, Michigan, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Jack Dougherty.

Fight Summary: Although Miske (187) was badly hurt by a ramrod left to the body in the first round he held on until the bell and seemed to have recovered before being floored by a crashing right to the body in the second. It was the first time in his career the ‘The St Paul’s Thunderbolt’ had been dropped. The third had barely started when Dempsey (185) was sent staggering with a left hook, but when the champion came back with one of his own Miske was dropped for ‘nine’. How he managed to get up was a mystery, but with the still groggy Miske all at sea a tremendous right hand to the jaw sent him down to be counted out on the 1.13 mark.

 

14 December 1920. Jack Dempsey w co 12 (15) Bill Brennan

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Johnny Haukaup.

Fight Summary: In an extremely hard defence Dempsey (188¼) eventually came through to knock the tough challenger out, but he had taken far more punches than he cared for. Both men were hard at it in the early rounds with Dempsey just about getting the better of things. Having hurt Brennan (197) to the body in the fifth, Dempsey, working downstairs well, hammered his challenger from pillar to post in the eighth. Brennan hit back with a big left in the ninth, but Dempsey, not to be denied, went all out for victory in the tenth. With both men taking a fair amount of punishment, Dempsey, bleeding badly from both eyes and mouth, scored with a terrific left the body that doubled Brennan up in the 12th. Following that, after Dempsey smashed in a big right to the head to floor Brennan, the latter was counted out in the act of rising at 1.57 of the session. This was the first heavyweight title fight held under Walker Law (which, once again, legalised professional boxing in New York State).

 

2 July 1921. Jack Dempsey nd-w co 4 (12) Georges Carpentier

Venue: Rickard’s Oval, Jersey City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Harry Ertle.

Fight Summary: Even though a decision could not be rendered in New Jersey at that time, as a billed title fight it has achieved lasting fame as being the first million-dollar gate after 80,183 fans passed through the turnstiles. However, by defending his title under no-decision conditions Dempsey (188) forced the Frenchman to look for a kayo victory, and thus negated his shrewd boxing skills. Carpentier (172) was hugely popular for both his looks and the fact that he was a war hero, while many saw Dempsey, who avoided the war, as a slacker. The contest started with Carpentier diving in to swap blows before feeling the weight of Dempsey’s punches and dropping to his knees. In the second round the fight almost certainly slipped away from Carpentier when he broke his right thumb on Dempsey’s head, and although he walked into the champion during the third he was being noticeably outpunched. When Dempsey went all out in the fourth, smashing in lefts and rights to Carpentier’s body, after a right to the jaw dropped the Frenchman it appeared to be over. Despite Carpentier springing to his feet at ‘nine’ he was immediately targeted by Dempsey, it coming as no surprise when a right-hand smash saw the challenger counted out with just 1.16 of the session on the clock.

 

4 July 1923. Jack Dempsey w pts 15 Tommy Gibbons

Venue: The Arena, Shelby, Montana, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Jack Dougherty.

Fight Summary: The fight provided few thrills, with Gibbons (175½) proving to be very elusive for round after round, never staying in one place longer than he needed. By the fourth Dempsey (188) was cut over both eyes, and although he was landing some heavy blows, especially to the body, Gibbons was still light on his feet and able to box his way out of trouble. It was at close quarters where the fight was won, as Dempsey mauled and pounded Gibbons unmercifully to pile up points. The last five sessions saw Gibbons tiring rapidly, but his superb defensive skills and ability to make Dempsey miss enabled him to get to the final bell where the referee’s decision went to the latter. There were no knockdowns. This fight was famous for the fact that two banks in the town went bankrupt, having guaranteed the champion $300,000.

 

14 September 1923. Jack Dempsey w co 2 (15) Luis Angel Firpo

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Johnny Gallagher.

Fight Summary:  Just three minutes and 57 seconds of fighting saw Firpo (216½) floored seven times in the first and twice in the second, before a left to the body and a short right uppercut ended his challenge. However, Dempsey (192½) himself was decked twice in the first round, including being knocked out of the ring by a tremendous right swing to the jaw. And if the champion had not been illegally helped back in again Firpo would surely have won. The contest was generally seen as the most thrilling of modern times as both men fought tooth and nail, giving everything they could muster. Following the fight, the referee was suspended for five weeks for failing to enforce his pre-fight instruction to both men that they go to a neutral corner in the event of a knockdown. Also weighing heavily against him was the fact that he had allowed Dempsey to fight on after he had been helped back into the ring. As far as the Argentine press were concerned, it had taken Dempsey 17 seconds to make it. Even Nat Fleischer, of The Ring magazine, reported that Firpo should have won the title by disqualification after Dempsey struck him while he was still technically on the floor. Despite the three-year inactivity, Dempsey continued to have the support of the NBA and NYSAC.

 

Towards the end of 1925, with Dempsey set on returning to the ring he was again pressed by the NYSAC to accept Wills as his first opponent in a heavyweight title defence. However, after much debate, Rickard stated that he wanted his man to first meet Gene Tunney, not Wills, but with NYC, New York and Chicago, Illinois made unavailable, Dempsey’s first defence for over three years would take place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Tunney, a master boxer who mixed science with power, had earned the opportunity to face Dempsey, having beaten both Georges Carpentier (w rsc 15 at the Polo Grounds, Manhattan on 24 July 1924) and Tommy Gibbons (w co 12 at the same venue on 5 June 1925). The Gibbons’ bout had been a final eliminator. He had earlier made his mark in the light heavyweight class as the American champion before deciding to move up a division in order to obtain a match with Dempsey. Only one man, Harry Greb, the former middleweight champion, had ever beaten him, but having twice avenged that defeat as well as beating Chuck Wiggins, Charley Weinert and Erminio Spalla, he looked to pit his wits against Dempsey’s all-out aggression. Coming into the fight, Tunney had participated in 82 contests, winning 62, drawing one and losing one. He had also been involved in 17 no-decision affairs and one no contest.

 

23 September 1926. Gene Tunney w pts 10 Jack Dempsey

Venue: Sesquicentennial Stadium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Pop Riley.

Fight Summary: Fought in a rainstorm, Tunney (189½) adapted to the prevailing conditions far better than Dempsey (190), who was sorely ring-rusty. The fight was a promotional success with 120,757 fans turning out in anticipation of Tunney being put to sleep. Fighting on the back foot and stepping in when needed Tunney fought a brainy, technical battle over the whole ten rounds that left Dempsey shorn of his title. Moving well, while in the main evading Dempsey’s wild swings, Tunney, who boxed on the counter, was only once in real trouble when he was caught in the sixth round by a solid left hook to the jaw that almost felled him. But sticking to his boxing the challenger continued to ram the left into Dempsey’s face, with the occasional right thrown in for good measure, and at the end of the ninth it was the champion who was the one suffering most. By now Dempsey’s left eye was almost closed, and into the tenth it was Tunney who was looking to finish matters as he smashed heavy rights in to the champion’s head. At the final bell it was clear as to who had won in the eyes of the referee. Tunney’s victory had not only turned the heavyweight division on its head, but had also proved that skill could overcome power.

 

22 September 1927. Gene Tunney w pts 10 Jack Dempsey

Venue: Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Dave Barry.

Fight Summary: This fight was made famous for ‘the long count’ after it was estimated that Tunney (189½) was on the canvas for at least 14 seconds during the seventh round, having taken four vicious blows to the head. However, with the referee refusing to take up the count until Dempsey (192½) went to a neutral corner the champion managed to struggle to his feet in time to continue. Having got himself in better condition for this one Dempsey went after Tunney from the opening bell, slamming in rights and lefts to head and body and occasionally going low in his attempts to win inside the distance. In the fourth Tunney had Dempsey groggy at the end of the round, but was unable to follow it up in the next couple of sessions. After the well documented seventh, during which he managed to keep Dempsey at bay for the remainder of the round, Tunney came back strongly in the eighth. Dropped by a left to the jaw, Dempsey was up quickly, but now Tunney was beginning to force the fight, getting home with some good deliveries in the ninth. The final session saw Dempsey going all out for a kayo as Tunney countered and stayed out of trouble, but ended with the former champion being staggered by a succession of solid rights to the jaw. Although it had been a great effort by Dempsey, the majority of the press gave the fight to Tunney by six or seven rounds, with all three judges voting for him. As in their first contest, the fight took in a large gate with 104,943 in attendance.

 

26 July 1928. Gene Tunney w rsc 11 (15) Tom Heeney

Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Ed Forbes.

Fight Summary: Heeney (203½) made a fast start, catching the champion with good punches, and in the second round both men were rocked back on their heels. With Tunney (192) clearly the better boxer, once he had got the jab working he was able to gain the upper hand, countering with blows to head and body. The tough New Zealander was always dangerous, especially with the left hook, but by closing on the inside Tunney was able to negate its effect. By the eighth, with Heeney’s left eye swollen, it was then that Tunney began to come off the back foot to spear home lefts that worsened the damage. At this stage all Heeney had left was his courage, and in the tenth he was dropped by a solid right to the head. Although saved by the bell the challenger had to be revived during the interval. Despite the brave Heeney coming out for the 11th he was ready to be taken as Tunney battered away at him, and with eight seconds of the session remaining the referee came to his rescue.

 

Further to Gene Tunney retiring on 31 July, a series of eliminators saw Max Schmeling and Jack Sharkey fight their way towards a contest that would be recognised throughout boxing as deciding the world championship. Leading up to the meeting with Sharkey, Schmeling’s record read 42 wins, three draws and four defeats, while Sharkey had lost seven times in 43 contests. With both men being skilful and good punchers, it looked to be an even contest on paper. Schmeling had arrived in America in November 1928, having been the undefeated EBU light heavyweight champion, and quickly punched his way up the heavyweight ranks when beating Joe Monte, Joe Sekyra, Pietro Corri, Johnny Risko and Paulino Uzcudun, while Sharkey had defeated George Cook, Jim Maloney (4), Risko, Bud Gorman, George Godfrey, Harry Wills, Mike McTigue, Jack Delaney, KO Christner, Young Stribling, Tommy Loughran and Phil Scott. Although he lost inside seven rounds, Sharkey will probably be best remembered for his battle with Jack Dempsey that swayed one way and then the other.

 

12 June 1930. Max Schmeling w disq 4 (15) Jack Sharkey

Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Jim Crowley.

Fight Summary: With the vacant title on the line, Schmeling (188) became the first man to win the heavyweight crown while sitting on the floor. The opening two rounds saw both men sorting themselves out until Sharkey (197) picked the pace up in the third and stepped in with heavy blows to head and body to have Schmeling wobbling at the bell. Although the German had landed heavily on occasion with short rights, Sharkey had come to no harm. In the fourth Sharkey looked like a man who meant business, ripping in punches from both hands before stunning Schmeling with a heavy right to the head, immediately prior to dropping him with a left to the body with just seconds of the session left. Unable to get up and fight on Schmeling had to be carried to his corner before the referee belatedly disqualified Sharkey for going low.  Regardless of what was said about the punch being a fair one, Nat Fleischer of The Ring magazine, who was well placed to judge, stated that it was a wild swinging left hook that landed well below the belt. He went on to say that when the blow sank into Schmeling’s groin with the full force of Sharkey’s shoulder and body behind it an affair that was beginning to become one-sided ended. Following the contest, which left a bad taste in the mouth, the NYSAC only confirmed Schmeling’s position as champion six days later on the proviso that he would have to give Sharkey a return, while the NBA went along with the verdict.

 

3 July 1931. Max Schmeling w rsc 15 (15) Young Stribling

Venue: Municipal Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Recognition: NBA/Lineal. Referee: George Blake.

Fight Summary: Despite being on the receiving end in four of the first five rounds, the champion eventually began to warm to the task as he weaved in beneath Stribling’s left to fire in jabs of his own. He also mixed his punches up when going from head to body and Stribling (186½) was showing signs of wear and tear at the end of the sixth. By the tenth Schmeling (189) was sending in right hooks and uppercuts that would have finished off many an opponent, but somehow Stribling remained upright. In the final session Stribling was eventually dropped, a short right to the jaw sending him down for ‘nine’. After rising on quivering legs and trying to fight on, just as Schmeling was lining him up for the ‘coup de grace’ the referee brought the contest to an end with just 22 seconds remaining. There were no complaints.

 

Since the Schmeling defeat, Jack Sharkey, who would be the German’s next challenger, had drawn with Mickey Walker and beaten Primo Carnera for what was billed as an American title fight. Sharkey would come to the ring for their return battle with 34 wins, two draws, eight defeats and two no-decision affairs on his record.

 

21 June 1932. Jack Sharkey w pts 15 Max Schmeling

Venue: MSG Bowl, Queens, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Gunboat Smith.

Scorecards: 7-3-5, 8-7, 5-10.

Fight Summary: Keenly contested from start to finish, but with no exciting action to speak of, Sharkey (205) got revenge over the champion following their previous bout that had ended unsatisfactorily. Regardless of Sharkey’s victory, with the majority of experts feeling that Schmeling (188) had retained the title they were upset that the championship should change hands in such a close affair. It was certainly a difficult fight to score. Starting every round on the back foot Sharkey used the left to good effect, countering consistently and keeping the hard-punching Schmeling off balance. It was a good tactic, especially when Sharkey was forced to fight on from the 11th with his left eye almost closed. The general feeling was that had Schmeling landed his powerful right, known as ‘Big Bertha’, with accuracy he would have retained his title.

 

As it had now become clear that the winner of a fight between Primo Carnera and Ernie Schaaf would provide the opposition for Sharkey, the much derided Carnera beat Schaaf (w co 13 at Madison Square Garden on 10 February 1933) in what was a final eliminator scheduled for 15 rounds. Unfortunately, the contest had tragic consequences when Schaaf passed away in the aftermath. The Medical Examiner’s report following the autopsy stated that Schaaf had entered the ring with a brain ailment that could not possibly have been detected prior to the contest, and with the amount of clubbing blows delivered to his head by Carnera the damage was exacerbated. It was also mentioned that Schaaf had suffered a bad bout of flu a month earlier before spending six days in hospital from its effects. Known as ‘The Ambling Alp’ due to his size and style, the 6’5½” Carnera was a veritable strongman who could punch hard and was light on his feet for such a big man. Bringing a record of 74 wins, six defeats and one no-decision affair into the Sharkey fight, Carnera had won and lost to Young Stribling by disqualification, and beaten Big Boy Peterson (2), Roy Ace Clark, Chuck Wiggins, Neal Clisby, KO Christner (2), George Godfrey, Bearcat Wright, Paolino Uzcudun, Jim Maloney, Knute Hansen, Roberto Roberti, King Levinsky (2), Victorio Campolo, Pierre Charles, George Cook, Art Lasky and Schaaf.

29 June 1933. Primo Carnera w co 6 (15) Jack Sharkey

Venue: MSG Bowl, Queens, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Donovan.

Fight Summary: In a fight made famous because of the ‘Phantom Punch’, a right uppercut that very few people witnessed clearly, Sharkey (201) became the first heavyweight champion to lose his title in his first defence. Having outscored Carnera (260½) in 1931, Sharkey made a solid start, his better boxing being too much for the clumsy Italian giant. It was in the sixth that the fight changed course, Carnera being told by his corner to get his big punches off. Driving in with both hands, Carnera was thumping Sharkey around the ring when the latter was caught off balance and slipped over. Up immediately, Sharkey charged into Carnera, slamming in a terrific blow to the temple that spun his man around but failed to halt him. According to Nat Fleischer, of The Ring magazine, Sharkey went to pieces when unable to halt Carnera’s attack. It would have been better for Sharkey had he reverted to his earlier tactics, but in foolhardy fashion when he persisted in rushing Carnera he was made to pay a heavy price. Holding Sharkey off with his left, Carnera ripped in four heavy rights to the body before a right uppercut to the jaw put the champion down for the full count, timed at 2.27 of the session. Regardless of rumours spreading to the effect that the fight had been rigged, Fleischer reported that the punch in question had crashed against Sharkey’s chin with powerful force, while the referee remarked afterwards that it was one of the hardest delivered punches he had ever seen.

 

22 October 1933. Primo Carnera w pts 15 Paulino Uzcudun

Venue: Sports Palace, Rome, Italy. Recognition: World. Referee: Roger Nicod.

Fight Summary: Amidst boos and jeering Carnera (259½) was given the unanimous decision over the rugged challenger, who had been battered all over the ring without ever being decked. Uzcudun (229¼) had barely landed six or seven solid blows all night as Carnera used him as a human punch-bag, and at the finish he sported cuts over both eyes and damage to cheeks, nose and mouth. It was reported afterwards that, because Carnera had fractured his right hand in the ninth, it had severely hampered his performance, but the fact remained that he had kept it long all night. It had been similar to their previous fight in November 1930, which also went the distance, and in a career of 70 contests that started in 1923 and ended in 1935 Uzcudun was only ever floored once, against Joe Louis in his last fight.

 

1 March 1934. Primo Carnera w pts 15 Tommy Loughran

Venue: MSG Stadium, Miami, Florida, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Leo Shea.

Scorecards: 10-1-4, 10-1-4, 12-3.

Fight Summary: Outweighed by a massive 86 pounds, Loughran (184), who was unable to keep the champion off him, spent most of the time being crowded into corners where he took plenty of punishment. Using rough-house tactics Carnera (270) ploughed his way forward continuously, being also guilty of stepping on Loughran’s feet at times, whether intentional or otherwise. Although Loughran won the odd round by a close margin, from the tenth onwards he failed to do so, finishing worn out after fighting the last few sessions in a fog. The unanimous decision in the 6’6” Carnera’s favour was well deserved.

 

Max Baer, ‘The Livermore Larruper’, who had terrific punching power, would be Carnera’s next challenger. With 39 wins and seven defeats on his record, as well as Max Schmeling, Baer had beaten KO Christner, Tom Heeney (2), Johnny Risko, Les Kennedy, King Levinsky (2), Ernie Schaaf and Tuffy Griffiths.

 

14 June 1934. Max Baer w rsc 11 (15) Primo Carnera

Venue: MSG Bowl, Queens, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Donovan.

Fight Summary: Floored three times from overarm punches to the jaw in the opening round the champion never recovered, and apart from his courage he had nothing to sustain him. Down again three more times in the second and again in the third the fight looked to be over, but because of Baer’s antics and his lack of condition the contest lasted far longer than it should have done. Carnera (263¼) even won the fourth and seventh sessions before hurting Baer (209½) with a big right uppercut in the eighth. He then came under real pressure again as the latter picked it up. Somehow Carnera got through to the tenth, but after being floored three more times the referee decided to determine whether he was fit enough to carry on. In doing so he enabled Carnera to make it to the bell. The 11th started with a rush before a terrific right to the head had Carnera down for ‘three’. Then, after Baer had him down again, this time with blows to head and body, the referee rescued the giant on the 2.16 mark. A record for the number of knockdowns suffered by a fighter in a heavyweight title fight, several times Baer was dragged down at the same time. Clumsy and awkward with little skill, Carnera ultimately proved to be a poor champion. However, for sheer bravery he was on a par with anyone. On 6 May 1935, the IBU declared the world title to be vacant due to Baer not being interested in defending against Pierre Charles.

 

Baer’s first defence would be against the second-ranked Jim Braddock, a former light heavyweight challenger, who had been in virtual retirement and on the breadline due to the Great Depression prior to coming back to shock the up-and-coming Corn Griffin and the future light heavyweight champion, John Henry Lewis. He next eliminated Lasky (w pts 15 at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York on 22 March 1935). A wholehearted fighter who gave everything he had and a bit more, prior to meeting the champion Braddock had participated in 85 contests, winning 45, drawing six, and losing 23, with eight no-decision affairs and three no contests thrown in for good measure.

 

13 June 1935. Jim Braddock w pts 15 Max Baer

Venue: MSG Bowl, Queens, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: GB/NBA/NY/Lineal. Referee: Jack McAvoy.

Scorecards: 9-5-1, 11-4, 7-7-1.

Fight Summary: Nicknamed the ‘Cinderella Man’, Braddock (193¾), in winning the world title (recognised by all bar the IBU) provided one of the greatest upsets in the history of the division. Given no chance as an 8-to-1 shot, he shocked everybody in boxing when taking the points decision. Building up a solid lead in the opening four rounds as Baer (209½) clowned around, Braddock was then shaken up by a crashing right to the jaw in the seventh and was on the verge of going down before being let off the hook as the champion stood back to admire his work. Throughout, Braddock carried the fight to Baer, shooting out the left both up and down, while ripping his right into the ribcage to cause maximum discomfort. The fact that Braddock was so aggressive surprised Baer, but it did not account for the latter’s lack of ambition. Baer also lost three rounds when penalised twice for the use of a backhand punch and once for going low. Immediately following the contest Baer claimed that he had broken both hands in the fifth, an argument that failed to stand up on inspection. Having tried to take Braddock out from the fifth through to the seventh, landing well with lefts and rights, Baer continued to act the clown when a sustained attack could well have ended with a win.

 

Two weeks after Braddock’s victory, Joe Louis, who had only been a pro since July 1934, hit the headlines when he stopped the former champion, Primo Carnera, inside six rounds, having earlier recorded wins over Stanley Poreda, Charley Massera, Lee Ramage (2), Patsy Perroni, Natie Brown and Roy Lazer, all good fighters in their own right. He then went on to record further successes against King Levinsky, Baer, Paulino Uzcudun and Charley Retzlaff to take his record to 23 straight before being knocked out inside 12 rounds by the former champion, Max Schmeling. It was a huge shock, but putting that behind him Louis came back to beat Jack Sharkey, Al Ettore, Jorge Brescia, Eddie Simms, Bob Pastor and Natie Brown. With a shuffling style and fast fists that spelt dynamite, and already known as ‘The Brown Bomber’, his record now stood at 31 (26 inside the distance) wins and one defeat. It was clear that Schmeling should have first crack at Braddock, having beaten Louis and being rated at number one, and Braddock v Schmeling was pencilled in for the summer of 1937, to be held in an outdoor stadium, in New York. However, Braddock made the decision to break his contract with the Madison Square Garden promoters in order to fight Louis for promoter, Mike Jacobs, in Chicago. On hearing the news those running the Garden immediately filed a suit with the courts that Braddock’s contract was binding, but were refused when the court ruled that the contract placed an unreasonable restraint upon the champion’s liberty. The Garden promoters then appealed against the ruling, even having tickets printed and put on sale for Braddock v Schmeling to take place on 3 June 1937. Still, despite Schmeling weighing in successfully on the day it came as no surprise when Braddock failed to make the weigh-in that morning as everyone involved knew he was in training to defend against Louis in Chicago. Bearing in mind the earlier legal judgement, the NYSAC felt that the only remaining action left open to them was to suspend both Braddock and Louis from fighting in New York for an indefinite period rather than strip the former. With many secretly relieved that there was now no chance of the title passing into Nazi Germany’s hands in the immediate future, a furious Schmeling, who was claiming the title by default, was left to ponder his next move.

 

22 June 1937. Joe Louis w co 8 (15) Jim Braddock

Venue: Comiskey Park, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY/Lineal. Referee: Tommy Thomas.

Fight Summary: Out of the ring for almost two years was not the ideal way to prepare for a defence, but Braddock (197) confounded many when taking the fight to the red-hot Louis (197¼) and even dropping him in the opening session. Up without a count, even though Louis came back strongly to cut Braddock over the left eye in the second, he still lost the round. Picking it up in the third Louis rammed home heavy blows as he looked to find openings, although Braddock would not be denied either. Boxing well, going forward with both hands, Braddock took the fourth and fifth before coming under fire in the sixth and being cut over the right eye. With Braddock now beginning to take a battering from the educated fists of the challenger, despite being badly wobbled he refused to give ground. Immediately under pressure in the eighth Braddock weakened badly, and following an exchange of lefts he walked into a crushing right to the jaw that sent him down to be counted out on the 1.10 mark. In victory, Louis became the first black champion since Jack Johnson, while Braddock gained much acclaim for his gritty performance.

 

30 August 1937. Joe Louis w pts 15 Tommy Farr

Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NY/NBA/GB/Lineal. Referee: Arthur Donovan.

Scorecards: 13-1-1, 9-6, 8-5-2.

Fight Summary: Going into the ring to end the fight as quickly as possible the champion met a man who would not succumb like some of his previous opponents. Fighting savagely throughout the contest, with Farr (204½) there for the sole purpose of winning, he took all Louis (197) could muster and dished out plenty of his own despite suffering a badly swollen thumb. Farr’s long reach and bobbing-and-weaving style made him a difficult opponent for Louis, and although he was cut up badly he continued to go with the jab. Taking Louis’ best shots unflinchingly, especially in the seventh, he walked into the champion in the eighth as though nothing had happened bringing cheers from the crowd. By the end of the 11th, Nat Fleischer of The Ring magazine’s card had the two men dead level, but the remainder of the bout saw Louis piling up points with the left as Farr, by now badly cut and bruised facially, tried hard to force matters but to no avail. Even though Louis claimed that he had damaged both hands prior to the fight it did not wear with the fans in the light of the pre-fight predictions that Farr would only last a few rounds at most.

 

23 February 1938. Joe Louis w co 3 (15) Nathan Mann

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

Fight Summary: Having won the opening round, staggering the champion with left hooks and rights to the jaw, Mann (193½) should have continued to attack the body and bide his time. Instead, he tore into Louis (200) in the second, feeling he was ready to be taken, and found himself on the floor from a left hook. Up at ‘nine’ Mann was now at the mercy of Louis, being dropped twice more in the third by solid lefts before a power-laden right smashed him down to be counted out on one knee at 1.56 of the session. Although it was now clear that Louis could be caught by right hands over the top, his all-round ability and destructive finishing power made him the stand-out heavyweight fighter of the day.

 

1 April 1938. Joe Louis w co 5 (15) Harry Thomas

Venue: The Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Recognition: NY/NBA/GB/Lineal. Referee: Dave Miller.

Fight Summary: After taking the first session with the left jab the champion was forced to endure an uncomfortable second round as Thomas (196) smashed in big rights and lefts to both head and body while looking anything but the mug he was supposed to be. Leaping out of his corner for the third Louis (202½) rammed in several solid blows on Thomas, but was forced to take a fair few himself before a left hook had the latter out on his feet grasping the ropes for support. At that point the referee had obviously made up his mind to stop the fight. Chaos ensued after Thomas’ trainer assisted his man to his stool from outside the ring and by the time the referee had worked out what was going on the bell to end the round clanged. Following a discussion with the officials it was decided to let the bout continue rather than disqualify Thomas for his corner’s misdemeanours. Thereafter, Thomas had no chance, being knocked down four times in the fourth before surprising the crowd when staggering Louis a few seconds prior to the bell. Coming out for the fifth, with the intention of finishing the contest, Louis dropped Thomas for ‘eight’ with a short left. Although Thomas bravely tried to fight his way back, another cracking left hook sent him down and out with ten seconds of the round remaining. At an International Boxing Convention held in Rome, Italy, which concluded on 20 April, Louis was recognised as champion.

 

22 June 1938. Joe Louis w rsc 1 (15) Max Schmeling

Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Donovan.

Fight Summary: Avenging the only defeat on his record, Louis (198¾) destroyed the ‘Black Uhlan of the Rhine’ in just over two minutes (2.04) of a contest made famous by the fact that whether he liked it or not Schmeling (193) was being used for Nazi propaganda purposes by Adolph Hitler. After a quiet start the champion began to let the punches go, soon staggering Schmeling with a left to the jaw before dropping him for ‘three’ with a right to the same spot. Up again, Schmeling was immediately floored after taking two lefts and a right to the chin. Somehow regaining his feet Schmeling was a sitting duck for Louis, and following a volley of rights and lefts to the head a terrific left hook-right cross put the challenger down for the third time. With Schmeling helpless and the referee starting the count it was all too much for the German corner, who threw the towel in so that they could tend to their man as quickly as possible. However, it was not until the timekeeper had reached the count of ‘eight’ that the referee called the fight off. Stretchered out of the ring with fractures to the vertebrae and with Schmeling spending several months back in Germany recovering from the beating it was almost a year before a return to the ring was possible.

 

25 January 1939. Joe Louis w rsc 1 (15) John Henry Lewis

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

Fight Summary: Forgetting Jack Johnson v Battling Jim Johnson in 1913, which was not recognised by some as a title fight, this meeting was the first occasion that the official championship was contested between two black opponents. Lewis (180¾), the light heavyweight champion, was already being scrutinised for failing eyesight and should never have been allowed in the ring with Louis (200¼), but with the latter quickly running out of opposition the fight went ahead. Even at the weigh-in Lewis looked a shot fighter, and after just 2.29 of the opening round he was rescued by the referee at the count of 'five' after being hit by several heavy rights and tumbling to the canvas a thoroughly beaten man. Prior to that, when Lewis had been dropped for ‘three’ by a right hand to the jaw, on getting up he had been put down again, this time for 'two', by another tremendous right to the head. Although the two men were pals outside the ring Louis treated Lewis just as he would any other challenger, being ferocious in the extreme and getting the job done as soon as he could manage it.

 

17 April 1939. Joe Louis w co 1 (10) Jack Roper

Venue: Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: George Blake.

Fight Summary: Up against the veteran challenger, Louis (201¼) was expected to do the job quickly, something he achieved inside 140 seconds, but that alone did not tell the complete picture. Roper (204¾) had said prior to the fight that he would come out punching, and that is exactly what he did when the first punch of the fight, a cracking left hook, nearly lifted Louis off his feet. Angry that he had almost been dropped, Louis came roaring back as both men let their punches go. Despite being cut over the left eye, with Roper still dangerous, Louis was nearly caught again with a terrific left that just missed the target. Following that the champion quickly got on top with a barrage of blows before a right to the head, followed by a left to the body, sent Roper down for the full count.

 

28 June 1939. Joe Louis w rsc 4 (15) Tony Galento

Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Donovan.

Fight Summary: Galento (233¾), made famous by his "I’ll moider der bum" comments, and called ‘Two Ton Tony’ because of his roly-poly appearance, got this shot against the champion following 11 straight wins inside the distance. In one of the most talked about contests for ages, Galento powered into Louis (200¾) from the opening bell, nearly taking him off his feet early on before being forced to taste the champion’s punches. Cut over the left eye in the second, when Galento continued to charge in despite being visibly hurt, a terrific left hook to the jaw eventually dropped him for the first time in his career. Up at ‘two’, he made it to the end of the round but was still groggy. In the third Galento was under real pressure before smashing Louis down with a left hook to the jaw and a right to the body. The place was in uproar. Although Louis, up at ‘two’, came back strongly when hitting Galento with heavy blows to head and body the latter had won the round. Louis was now going to work, and at 2.29 of the fourth the referee rescued Galento when he was gradually sliding to the floor after being cornered and spun round by all manner of punches. It took more than five minutes to revive the battered and bruised Galento, but having inflicted the fourth knockdown on Louis he had done far better than hoped for.

 

20 September 1939. Joe Louis w co 11 (20) Bob Pastor

Venue: Briggs Stadium, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Sam Hennessey.

Fight Summary: Down four times in the first and again in the second, few felt after two sessions that Pastor (183) would turn out to be a test for the champion despite him going ten rounds with Louis (200) early in 1937. Somehow getting through the next two rounds, Pastor started the fight back in the fifth when landing some heavy blows to Louis’ jaw before he was again under pressure in the sixth. Cut badly over the left eye, Pastor stood his ground when staggered by powerful rights in the seventh before coming out firing in the eighth when taking Louis before him. If Pastor had carried a heavy blow, Louis would have been done for claimed Nat Fleischer of The Ring magazine. Again, in the ninth and tenth, Pastor took the fight to Louis, giving him all manner of problems, including a mouse under the left eye. Unfortunately, not listening to his corner, when Pastor came out for the 11th intent on fighting rather than boxing Louis, he was counted out inside 38 seconds, having been measured by a solid right to the head followed by two lefts and another right that took his legs away. It had been a tremendous effort that left many wondering what might have happened had Pastor carried dynamite in his gloves.

 

9 February 1940. Joe Louis w pts 15 Arturo Godoy

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

Scorecards: 10-4-1, 10-5, 5-10.

Fight Summary: Bobbing and weaving in front of the champion, Godoy (202) breathed fresh life into the weight class when losing on a split decision. Louis (203), who had been unable to land effectively throughout the contest, was too often bundled into the ropes, and even when he cornered Godoy the Chilean fought back strongly. Breaking up Louis’ rhythm with bulldozing tactics and the use of the head at times, Godoy also went down twice without being hit and crawled along the canvas to mock the champion. He even planted a kiss on Louis in the 14th. Afterwards, it was claimed that Louis had not been able to punch his hardest due to being afraid of damaging his hands on the Chilean’s head.

 

29 March 1940. Joe Louis w rsc 2 (15) Johnny Paychek

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

Fight Summary: At the mercy of the champion, and on the run from the opening bell, it was clear from the start that Paychek (187½) was not going to last. Thus it came as no surprise when he was dropped three times in the first round before being finished off after 0.44 of the second. It was a solid right to Paychek’s jaw that began the rot, dropping the latter for ‘nine’. Down again almost immediately from a left hook to the same spot, upon getting to his feet Paychek ran into another right to the jaw that enforced a further ‘nine’ count. Starting the second as if he needed to get home in a hurry, after Louis (201½) had rocked Paychek several times a tremendous right to the chin dumped the balding challenger on the deck out to the world. Having reached ‘seven’ the referee called the count off when he realised that Paychek was choking on his gumshield, care being administered to the beaten fighter before he could leave the ring.

 

20 June 1940. Joe Louis w rsc 8 (15) Arturo Godoy

Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Billy Cavanagh.

Fight Summary: A return battle saw Godoy (201¼) doing very much as he did last time for the opening six rounds, while the champion appeared more focused in trying to keep the Chilean at bay with right uppercuts and solid lefts to the body. In the sixth Godoy was at his best when catching Louis (199) with some heavy blows, but in the seventh the tide began to turn as the challenger tired. After chopping away at Godoy, Louis finally dropped his opponent for the first time in his career, having battered him with a barrage of rights and lefts. Coming out for the eighth Louis now had the bit between the teeth, and after rocking Godoy with a volley of blows to the head a right to the jaw decked the latter for ‘eight’ face down. Getting up in a dazed state, Godoy was eventually smashed down again and the referee halted proceedings at 1.24 of the session. It was not over as far as Godoy was concerned though as he leaped to his feet and tried to continue before being made aware that he had already lost.

 

16 December 1940. Joe Louis w rtd 5 (15) Al McCoy

Venue: The Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Johnny Martin.

Fight Summary: This fight heralded the beginning of Louis’ ‘Bum of the Month’ campaign in which he took on a series of defences in double-quick time. Making his 12th defence, Louis (202¼) started in a rush and soon had McCoy (180¾) down on one knee from a smashing right to the kidneys. Up almost immediately, McCoy bobbed, weaved and sidestepped to keep out of further trouble during the next four rounds before being run down in the fifth. With McCoy jabbing his way out of danger once too often, Louis finally caught up with him and a crashing right to the head badly damaged his left eye. Back in the corner, when McCoy’s handlers decided that the damage was too severe for their charge to continue he was pulled out of the contest during the interval. Yet again, Louis had failed to add to his prestige.

 

31 January 1941. Joe Louis w co 5 (15) Red Burman

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

Fight Summary: Surprising many in attendance the challenger took the fight to Louis from the opening bell, and when the latter was cut under the right eye there were strong feelings that an upset might be on the cards. But Louis (202½) remained alert, despite slipping badly in the third as Burman (188) charged into him. In the fourth Burman continued to go forward, taking all that Louis could muster while landing well himself at times, before coming unstuck in the fifth. Nailed by a heavy right to the head early in the session that damaged his left eye, Burman tried to take the fight to Louis prior to being badly weakened by a tremendous right to the stomach. Hurt again by another pile-driver to the body, Burman was dropped for the full count on the 2.49 mark after a further right had ripped into his solar plexus.

 

17 February 1941. Joe Louis w co 2 (15) Gus Dorazio

Venue: Convention Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Irvin Kutcher.

Fight Summary: Coming out in a crouch the challenger treated Louis (203½) to as much as he took himself in the opening session, especially body shots, while also proving to be difficult to hit. The game plan for Dorazio (193½) was to keep things much the same, but in the second round he began looking to land the left hook, believing that Louis was susceptible to the punch. That was his downfall. After being straightened up by solid lefts and rights to the head, Dorazio was counted out on the 1.30 mark having been smashed down face first by a tremendous right to the jaw. The punch that finished the fight, one of the hardest ever delivered by Louis, was said to have travelled less than six inches.

 

21 March 1941. Joe Louis w rsc 13 (20) Abe Simon

Venue: Olympia Stadium, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Sam Hennessey.

Fight Summary: Articled for 20 rounds, this would be the last world title bout contested over that distance. Running out of live opponents the champion probably figured that Simon (254½) would only last a round or so, especially after he knocked the latter down in the first with a solid right to the jaw. However, Simon was up at ‘two’ smiling, having suffered the first knockdown of his career, and was still walking into Louis (202) when he was put down for ‘nine’ in the third from a similar punch. Getting up, when the ponderous Simon began pumping out lefts regardless he started to outpoint and outpunch Louis in several sessions despite being staggered by one punch after another throughout. After the tenth Simon had shot his bolt, although still game to the core. The 12th saw Louis desperately trying to finish Simon off, but he had to wait until the 13th when a terrific right to the side of the head dropped the latter for ‘nine’. Back on his feet Simon was ambushed as Louis landed punch after punch, and before long he was down again for ‘nine’ when felled by a right hand that landed spot on the jaw. Following a left hook to the jaw, with Simon looking totally dazed and holding on to the ropes for support, the referee halted the action on the 1.20 mark. At the end of the contest Louis was carrying a swollen left eye while Simon's face was a mask of blood from damage to both eyes. It was reported afterwards that Simon had actually broken his right hand in the days leading up to the fight.

 

8 April 1941. Joe Louis w rsc 9 (15) Tony Musto

Venue: The Arena, St Louis, Missouri, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Donovan.

Fight Summary: Fighting out of a crouch the compact 5’8” Musto (199½) made life difficult for the champion, who quickly decided that the best way to deal with his opponent was to concentrate on the left and not to risk the right, having come to the ring with bruising to the knuckle. After opening up a cut over Musto’s right eye in the opener Louis (203½) had his man over in the third when he cut loose with rights and lefts, but the challenger was quickly back in the fray when rushing to close quarters. Tossing in overarm rights, Musto had Louis more than worried in the fifth and sixth rounds when hitting the target on a regular basis. Into the seventh, Louis, using jabs, hooks and uppercuts, had Musto on the run, and in the eighth a series of left jabs further damaged the latter’s right eye. With the injury worsening the referee had no alternative other than to stop the fight at 1.36 of the ninth when it was clear that Musto was having difficulty in focusing.

 

23 May 1941. Joe Louis w disq 7 (15) Buddy Baer

Venue: Griffith Stadium, Washington DC, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Donovan.

Fight Summary: Baer (237½), who became the first man to fight for the title that was once held by his brother, almost won it when tagging the champion with a tremendous left hook to the jaw in the first round. Although going over the ropes and landing on the ring apron, Louis (201½), got back into the ring at the count of ‘four’ but with the noise so great both men thought the round had ended, and with the referee holding Baer away from the dazed champion Louis had gained valuable recovery time. Gaining in confidence Baer charged into Louis in the second, doing well until taking more punches than were necessary in his anxiety to finish the latter off. By the third Louis was beginning to pick it up, and in the fourth he was hurting Baer with jolting lefts and rights to the head. Although Baer began the fifth well, by the end of the session he was being tagged by solid blows to head and body. The sixth saw Louis at his determined best, landing tremendous blows on the game Baer before rights to the chin sent the latter down for counts of ‘six’ and 'nine'. At that point, amidst the din of the crowd, Louis, who had not heard the bell, dropped Baer heavily before being made aware that the round was over. Advised by his handlers to stay on his stool when the bell rang to start the seventh, Baer was disqualified when his manager refused two calls from the referee to leave the ring. Adding to the heated discussions after the fight had ended it came to notice that the timer had already counted Baer out, but he had been allowed to fight on because he was on his feet when the referee had reached ‘nine’.

 

18 June 1941. Joe Louis w co 13 (15) Billy Conn

Venue: Polo Grounds, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Eddie Joseph.

Fight Summary: Having recently vacated the light heavyweight title, Conn (174) came closer to taking the champion’s crown than any previous challenger in a contest that will go down in history as a near miss. Hurt in the second by body punches, after dropping the opening two rounds Conn picked it up in the third when belting Louis (199½) around the ring, with the latter looking a sucker for the left hook. Ripping in many telling blows, Conn was proving to be a difficult opponent, his speed making it hard for Louis to catch him. However, Louis came back strongly in the fourth through to the sixth to hurt Conn several times, the youngster being forced to take more blows to the stomach. By the eighth Conn was warming to the task, making great progress, and he continued the good work in the ninth before Louis shaded the tenth due to his infighting. Back came Conn in the 11th and 12th sessions as he smothered Louis and almost dropped him in a tremendous rally, but it was here that he lost the fight, his spirit getting the better of him. Coming out for the 13th, just about ahead on the cards of most scribes, Conn decided to go for broke, belting the champion to head and body before a terrific right to the jaw took all the fight out of him. Despite Conn making an effort to keep going, attempting to clinch after being forced to take a series of lefts and rights to head and body, Louis dropped him for the full count with a right to the jaw. There were just two seconds of the session remaining.

 

29 September 1941. Joe Louis w rsc 6 (15) Lou Nova

Venue: Polo Grounds, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Donovan.

Fight Summary: A victim of ballyhoo, and nicknamed the ‘Yoga Man’ due to him being a student of that subject, although Nova (202½) had been backed to do well against the champion he failed to deliver. Despite having two wins over Max Baer on his record, right from the onset he spent most of his time on the back foot. For almost five rounds, with both men feeling each other out, even when Louis (202¼) occasionally landed a solid blow Nova merely backtracked. Finally, when Louis decided to go to work in the sixth a terrific right to the jaw dropped Nova in a heap. Nobody really expected Nova to get to his feet, but he did. Up at ‘nine’, Nova was battered from head to body by punch after punch as Louis laid into him, and when the referee eventually stopped the fight to rescue the challenger there was just one second of the round remaining. With his right eye bleeding profusely, and helpless on the ropes, when the stoppage came Nova had to be helped back to his corner while still complaining that he should have been allowed to carry on.

 

9 January 1942. Joe Louis w co 1 (15) Buddy Baer

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

Fight Summary: Following his previous crack at Louis (206¾) that ended in controversial circumstances Baer (250) was given a further opportunity at the title. This time round Louis was quickly into action, and although Baer got in the first blow, a right to the jaw, from there onwards it was only his gameness that caught the eye. Stepping up the pace, Louis floored Baer for ‘nine’ with crashing rights and lefts to the head doing the damage before sending in another heavy right to put the latter down for a second count of ‘nine’. Back on his feet and trying to fight his way out of his dilemma, Baer was under enormous pressure as Louis went for the kill. With Louis hammering in lefts and rights, a terrific right uppercut to the jaw sent the challenger down to be counted out on the 2.56 mark.

 

27 March 1942. Joe Louis w co 6 (15) Abe Simon

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

Fight Summary: After making a reasonable start Louis (207½) began stalking Simon (255½), and as the second round drew to a close two cracking rights to the jaw dropped the challenger who was saved by the bell at the count of ‘two’. Surprisingly, Simon came out with rush in the third, charging Louis all over the ring and looking to attack the body but had the round deducted from him after going low with a blow to the thigh. It was much the same in the fourth before Louis went to work in the fifth, nailing Simon with at least two dozen blows from both hands until the latter was dropped by two cracking rights. Again the bell saved Simon, coming to his rescue when the count had reached ‘six’. After Simon charged out for the sixth it was only a matter of moments before he was smashed to the floor by a left hook that was followed by a straight right to the jaw. The contest then came to an end controversially when Simon was deemed to have lost on rising at the count of ‘ten’, only for the timekeeper to claim that the count had reached ‘nine’ when the challenger was on his feet. Regardless of that the decision stood, the time of the kayo being announced as 16 seconds of the sixth. With Louis joining the Army in June 1942, the world title was frozen until the end of hostilities.

19 June 1946. Joe Louis w co 8 (15) Billy Conn

Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Eddie Joseph.

Fight Summary: In a contest that most fans were looking forward to it failed to reach the heights of their previous battle when the challenger failed to take the fight to Louis (207) as he had previously done. With Conn (187) continually on the back foot and not engaging Louis he was outscored in five of the seven completed rounds according to the referee’s card. Conn only really showed in the second round when hurting Louis with a right to the jaw before going back on the retreat. Having decided to pick up the pace in the eighth Louis went after Conn with a purpose, crashing in a left-right to the jaw that had its desired effect. Quick as a flash Louis pounced again, and another left-right to the jaw sent Conn down in a heap. Although the challenger desperately tried to get to his feet he just failed to make it, being counted out at 2.19 of the session.

 

18 September 1946. Joe Louis w co 1 (15) Tami Mauriello

Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Donovan.

Fight Summary: Making his 23rd defence, Louis (211) continued as world champion after knocking out Mauriello (198½) inside 129 seconds of what was an exciting fight while it lasted. Having almost dropped Louis with a cracking left hook that sent the champion clear across the ring, Mauriello continued to fire in punches. However, it was Louis who had the accuracy, and a left-right to Mauriello’s jaw that was followed by a heavy right to the same spot sent the latter to his knees for ‘nine’. Even after Mauriello had regained his feet he was hurting Louis, but following a bout of solid blows he found himself caught up in the corner with nowhere to go before two terrific rights, one that further damaged his left eye and the other to the jaw, sent him down to be counted out.

 

5 December 1947. Joe Louis w pts 15 Jersey Joe Walcott

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

Scorecards: 9-6, 8-6-1, 6-7-2.

Fight Summary: This was the first time Louis (211½) had successfully defended his title courtesy of a points decision since his meeting with Tommy Farr back in 1937, and it proved that at the age of 33 he was no longer the fighter he once was, especially bearing in mind that Walcott (194½) was a few months older. While it was true that Louis had done most of the leading, Walcott had scored two knockdowns following cracking rights to the jaw, the champion being put down for a count of ‘two’ in the first round and for ‘seven’ in the fourth. However, because Walcott decided that the best way to fight Louis was to circle around, jab with the left and sprint backwards whenever the latter got near him, only the first, fourth and ninth sessions were exciting. After the ninth, when both men mixed it for a time and Walcott came close to being put down, the latter continued to stay on his bike. In the 11th Walcott was hurt by a powerful left to the jaw, but came back well to outbox Louis in the next two rounds. Nat Fleischer, of The Ring magazine, stated that had Walcott continued to box in that fashion instead of backing off he would have undoubtedly won the title. After a contest which many thought Walcott had won, the two men were signed up for a rematch.

 

25 June 1948. Joe Louis w co 11 (15) Jersey Joe Walcott

Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Frank Fullam.

Fight Summary: In what had been a boring contest, at the end of the tenth the two judges had Walcott (194¾) in front by 5-4-1 and 6-3-1 respectively, while the referee had it as 5-2-3 for Louis (213½). The opening two rounds saw little action before Louis was dropped in the third from a right to the face. More embarrassed than hurt, Louis got to his feet immediately. Again, in the fifth, Louis was hurt by a right hand to the jaw, but for the next few sessions the champion generally found a defence for such punches by ducking under them. However, by the end of the ninth Walcott was getting bolder, coming on to shake Louis up with heavy rights to the head, and in the tenth he served up more of the same. Louis, who was looking flustered and bothered in the tenth, suddenly turned loose in the 11th having been told that Walcott was tiring, and within half a minute he undid all that had gone before. Unleashing a tremendous attack, after Walcott had gone for him, Louis became the clinical fighter of previous years when finding the punches to win the fight by a kayo with just four seconds of the session remaining. It had been a massive turnaround, and before collapsing to the floor to be counted out Walcott had been hit with every conceivable blow Louis could muster.

 

Louis had been champion for 11 years and four days, a record, and after giving it much thought he signified that he was retiring as the undefeated champion on 28 February 1949. Following a series of eliminating bouts, it was Ezzard Charles and Walcott who were matched by the NBA to contest the vacant title despite not having the backing of the NYSAC. With Charles, a skilful box-fighter with a great left hand, being ranked as the second best man in the weight division by The Ring magazine and Walcott at number one this should be seen as involving the lineal title. A top-class light heavyweight who surely would have won the world title in that division had he not moved on, although Charles could still make 175lbs he was ready to step up having beaten Teddy Yarosz, Anton Christoforidis, Charley Burley (2), Steve Mamakos, Booker Beckwith, Jose Basora, Mose Brown, Joey Maxim (3), Archie Moore (3), Lloyd Marshall (2), Oakland Billy Smith (2), Jimmy Bivins (2), Fitzie Fitzpatrick (2), Elmer Ray and Joe Baksi. Coming into the fight, Charles’ record showed 62 wins, one draw and five defeats. His opponent, the top-rated Walcott, with 43 wins, one draw and 15 defeats on his tab, who had already shown his quality in two losing fights against Louis, had beaten Baksi, Lee Q. Murray, Curtis Sheppard, Bivins, Lee Oma, Tommy Gomez, Maxim (2), reversing two defeats at the latter’s hands, and Ray.  

 

22 June 1949. Ezzard Charles w pts 15 Jersey Joe Walcott

Venue: Comiskey Park, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Recognition: NBA/Lineal. Referee: Dave Miller.

Scorecards: 78-72, 78-72, 77-73.

Fight Summary: Billed for the vacant title, despite Walcott (195½) making the early running and occasionally forcing Charles (181¾) on to the ropes he was unable to make it pay due to the latter’s clever defence and his own poor timing. While Charles did well, especially with the left hand, both men missed with rights when a target presented itself. At least Charles pulled himself together in the seventh, shaking the older man with solid lefts and rights, but he was unable to follow up his advantage until having Walcott in further trouble in the tenth. Again Charles failed to grasp the opportunity, and while scoring more effectively with the left jab to claim the win he failed to light up the crowd as the clock ran down.

 

10 August 1949. Ezzard Charles w rtd 7 (15) Gus Lesnevich

Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NBA/Lineal. Referee: Ruby Goldstein.

Fight Summary: Promoted by the IBC, and with Joe Louis acting as the matchmaker, the fight took place in New York, a State where Charles (180) was not even recognised as world champion. However, regardless of the venue, the contest was supported by 47 States of America under the banner of the NBA. Charles, making his first defence of that title, was always going too well for the former light heavyweight champion, hitting his ageing opponent almost at will during the opening five sessions. As early as the first round Lesnevich (182) was wobbling under a barrage of lefts and rights to the jaw as Charles cast off the shackles of his title-winning fight. Lesnevich’s best chances of victory came with the hope of him getting solid rights off, but every time he went with the punch he was effectively countered and as a consequence was soon carrying damage to his right eye. Giving it everything he had in the sixth Lesnevich went for broke, and although getting in solid rights that Charles seemed unable to avoid he had shot his bolt. In the seventh, with his left eye almost closed, Lesnevich was on the receiving end of almost everything that Charles threw at him. Having become patently obvious that Lesnevich could not continue for much longer, his corner sensibly retired him at the end of the session.

 

14 October 1949. Ezzard Charles w co 8 (15) Pat Valentino

Venue: Cow Palace, Daly City, California, USA. Recognition: NBA/Lineal. Referee: Jack Downey.

Fight Summary: The sixth-rated Valentino (188½) was the next one up for Charles (182) in front of almost 20,000 fans, and although he had not been in the ring for close on ten months he was the Californian champion, having drawn with Joey Maxim and beaten Freddie Beshore, Tony Bosnich and Turkey Thompson in his previous four contests. What he lacked in class Valentino more than made up with aggression, especially when fighting on the inside to work the body over, which he did to real effect in the second and third rounds. However, by the fifth, Charles was bouncing lefts and rights off every available target that Valentino had on offer. Even though Valentino came back strongly in the sixth it proved to be his last big effort. Mixing up jabs, hooks, uppercuts and crunching rights in the seventh, Charles almost finished Valentino off, but in the eighth a cracking right to the jaw sent the Californian crashing to the floor to be counted out with just 35 seconds on the clock.

 

15 August 1950. Ezzard Charles w rsc 14 (15) Freddie Beshore

Venue: Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, New York, USA. Recognition: NBA/Lineal. Referee: Barney Felix.

Fight Summary: Not even rated in the top ten, and beaten in his last two contests by Lee Oma, Beshore (184½) was given a shot at Charles (183¼) in a contest that failed to gain the support of the NYSAC despite it being held on their territory. Although Beshore, who was badly outclassed at times, was stopped at 2.53 of the 14th round, due to sustaining a seriously swollen ear in the tenth that worsened, Charles had been unable to floor him. Rushing in head down whenever he could to attack the body, Beshore was still in the fight up to the seventh but thereafter he never stood a chance as Charles began to open up more. In that session Charles punished Beshore at close range with hooks to the body and straight rights to the head before opening up again in the tenth and doing even more damage. Even though he had suffered cuts under the eyes in the 11th Beshore continued to come forward without let up, but with it becoming clear that he had no chance of winning when Charles opened up again in the 14th the referee had seen enough. In the aftermath of the fight, Charles, who suffered a cut left eye in the 14th, said that his poor showing was down to the fear that he might not be able to go the full distance following his recent injury problems. When Charles was booked to meet the former champion, Joe Louis, the contest would be recognised by the NYSAC.

 

27 September 1950. Ezzard Charles w pts 15 Joe Louis

Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY/Lineal. Referee: Mark Conn.

Scorecards: 10-5, 13-2, 12-3. 

Fight Summary: Coming back after being out of the ring for more than two years, Louis (218) was just a shell of the once great fighter that everyone recognised. By the fourth round Charles (184½) was outspeeding Louis, who was beginning to look ponderous, while continually proving to be too elusive for the older man to batter down with his bigger punches. At this stage of the fight both men were carrying damage to their left eyes and by the ninth Charles was having difficulty in focusing with Louis being too slow to take advantage. The tenth saw Louis at his best as he bored in with solid blows that shook Charles up, but by the end of the session the latter was fighting back strongly. Picking up the pace in the 11th, after Charles came out throwing big punches at Louis’ head he continued to bang away during the remaining sessions in an effort to score a kayo. In the final round Louis was sold-out, being almost helpless on the ropes as Charles fired punches at him before the bell came to his rescue.

 

5 December 1950. Ezzard Charles w co 11 (15) Nick Barone

Venue: The Gardens, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY/Lineal. Referee: Tony Warndorf.

Fight Summary: Boxing with purpose the champion had little difficulty in dealing with Barone (178½) who, as the fourth-rated light heavyweight, really did not belong in the division. However, with Charles also considered too light for the weight class the fight was given official approval. Although Barone kept pressing Charles (185), tossing in short punches and aiming to stay at close quarters, he was nearly always fought off with jabs, hooks and uppercuts whenever the latter picked up the pace. By the ninth round, which Charles took by a wide margin, it was clear that Barone would be lucky to last the distance. Coming out fast in the 11th Charles set about Barone with all manner of blows, a jarring right uppercut sending the challenger almost into dreamland, such was the power of the punch. Cutting loose with everything he had Charles had Barone at his mercy, and following a battery of shots from both hands a crashing right sent the former marine down to be counted out on the 2.06 mark.

 

12 January 1951. Ezzard Charles w rsc 10 (15) Lee Oma

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY/Lineal. Referee: Ruby Goldstein.

Fight Summary: Charles (185) was a disappointment when taking on the fourth-rated Oma (193), the challenger standing up to whatever was thrown at him in the early rounds while being able to come back with plenty of his own. Charles’ left eye was cut as early as the second, causing his timing to be off at times, especially when he strayed below the belt and had points deducted in the fifth and eighth. While stabbing his left into Charles’ damaged features Oma also made life difficult for the champion, as well as making for an elusive target as he rode and slipped punches. However, despite the fight being mainly listless the finish will live on in the memories of those who were there. Eventually catching up with Oma in the tenth, Charles smashed in more than a dozen left hooks to the jaw and a few to the body for good measure to send his rival staggering around the ring in such a manner that The Ring magazine reported it as a walk on ‘queer street’. The fight was as good as over, and with a now defenceless Oma forced into a neutral corner as Charles was raining in punches the referee halted proceedings at 1.19 of the session.

 

7 March 1951. Ezzard Charles w pts 15 Jersey Joe Walcott

Venue: Olympia Stadium, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY/Lineal. Referee: Clarence Rosen.

Scorecards: 80-70, 80-66, 83-62.

Fight Summary: Making his fourth attempt to become a champion, Walcott (193) was once again seen off in a contest where he could never quite get to grips with Charles (186). Following an opening round that was marred by too much holding and negative tactics, having hurt Charles in the fourth with an overarm right Walcott played second fiddle thereafter as the latter began to pick up points with the left lead. In the ninth, when Walcott walked on to a heavy right-hand counter he was dropped for ‘nine’, the only knockdown of the fight, before being forced to take plenty of rights and lefts until the bell ended the session. Although Walcott came back strongly in the tenth and 11th with left and right hooks it was Charles who took three of the last four sessions with his more effective punching, especially in the 14th when the challenger walked into smashing right hands that rocked him back on his heels. After sustaining a badly swollen left ear in the fourth Charles’ prospective fight against Joe Louis, tentatively set for 18 April, was put on the backburner. It then failed to take place when negotiations broke down.

 

30 May 1951. Ezzard Charles w pts 15 Joey Maxim

Venue: The Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY/Lineal. Referee: Frank Gilmer.

Scorecards: 78-72, 85-65, 85-65.

Fight Summary: Defending against the current light heavyweight king, Charles (182) scored a relatively easy win that was made to look less than straightforward by the referee’s card that gave the challenger four rounds with four even. According to Nat Fleischer, of The Ring magazine, the referee’s decision was so wide of the mark it was almost laughable. It was Charles’ body punching that took all the steam out of Maxim (181½), a man he had beaten three times previously and who at times was almost gasping for breath. What irked the fans was the ultra-cautious Charles’ inability to drop Maxim, even when the latter was reeling around the ring exhausted from his exertions and carrying a swollen and cut face. In the fourth, when Charles was warned for a foul that nobody else in the crowd saw he actually stopped fighting in amazement, allowing Maxim a few free shots. It was in the frequent clinches that Charles excelled, getting off right-hand blows to head and body as Maxim, a past master at tying opponents up, tried desperately to contain him without success. From the 13th onwards Maxim was out on his feet, but Charles was unable to take advantage of the situation despite landing some heavy shots on his man.

 

Having been beaten twice by Charles, the 37-year-old Jersey Joe Walcott was hoping it would be third time lucky when the pair were matched again to decide the NBA/NY and lineal titles. A pro since 1930, in 67 contests Walcott’s in-out record read 48 wins, one draw and 18 defeats.

 

18 July 1951. Jersey Joe Walcott w co 7 (15) Ezzard Charles

Venue: Forbes Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY/Lineal. Referee: Buck McTiernan.

Fight Summary: At the age of 37½ Walcott (194) became the oldest man to win a title at any weight for the first time. He also became the oldest heavyweight champion up to that time when knocking out Charles (182) inside 55 seconds of the seventh round. Walcott’s main tactic was to throw right hands over the top of the left lead, followed by a left hook, and in the third he rocked Charles with a couple of cracking rights before having the latter bleeding from cuts around the face after left hooks had got home in the fourth. At this stage of the fight Walcott was getting on top, and in the seventh he exploded a left hook to Charles’ jaw that sent him down flat on his face to be counted out. Although Charles desperately tried to get to his feet at the count of ‘nine’, on failing he tumbled on to his back in a neutral corner. Despite Walcott's victory the British Boxing Board of Control still saw Joe Louis as the champion, but following wins over Cesar Brion and Jimmy Bivins and an eighth-round stoppage defeat at the hands of Rocky Marciano at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York on 26 October the BBBoC fell into line with the rest of the world. For Louis it was the end of the line, thus bringing the curtain down on a wonderful 17-year career.

 

5 June 1952. Jersey Joe Walcott w pts 15 Ezzard Charles

Venue: Municipal Stadium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Zack Clayton.

Scorecards: 9-6, 8-7, 8-7.

Fight Summary: Making his first defence against the man he won the title from Walcott (196) dominated the early stages of his fight against Charles (191½), using solid lefts and rights to keep the challenger at arm's length and hurting him with a right to the jaw in the third. In the early stages Charles concentrated on the body, but it was not until the latter part of the fight that Walcott began to come under heavy pressure when tiring. Cut over both eyes, Charles gave it everything he had over the last four rounds, hurting Walcott several times in the 14th before he ran out of time. There were no knockdowns, and at the age of 38 Walcott became the oldest man to successfully defend the world heavyweight title.

 

The next man up for Walcott would be Rocky Marciano who had knocked out Harry Matthews in the second session of their 15-round eliminator. Although unbeaten, the power-punching 28-year-old Marciano was still seen as a wild, swinging and somewhat clumsy opponent for the skilful veteran. Coming into the Walcott fight, with 42 straight wins (38 inside the distance) since starting out in 1947, Marciano had also beaten Jimmy Walls, Phil Muscato, Roland LaStarza, Rex Layne, Freddie Beshore, Joe Louis and Lee Savold.

 

23 September 1952. Rocky Marciano w co 13 (15) Jersey Joe Walcott

Venue: Municipal Stadium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Charley Daggert.

Fight Summary: For the best part of 12 rounds the champion, boxing a cagey fight, kept the younger Marciano (184) chasing shadows after dropping him for ‘four’ with a solid left hook in the opening session. Standing up to Marciano and countering well Walcott (196) continued to pick up points despite being cut badly over the left eye in the sixth. Riding the punches well, by the ninth Walcott was landing the heavier shots, and in the 11th he almost dropped Marciano, now cut over both eyes, with a terrific left hook. Boxing more defensively in the 12th Walcott was still landing the better punches, but 43 seconds into the 13th he was counted out after momentarily dropping his guard and taking a tremendous right to the chin.

 

15 May 1953. Rocky Marciano w co 1 (15) Jersey Joe Walcott

Venue: The Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Frank Sikora.

Fight Summary: Concentrating on his defence, blocking and moving, Walcott (197¾) kept the champion at arm’s length for two thirds of the opening round. Then, as Marciano (184½) continued pressing forward he suddenly found a right to the jaw that sent Walcott crashing. The din was so intense that it was a good couple of seconds before Marciano realised that he had to go to a neutral corner, but it made no difference as Walcott was counted out on the 2.25 mark in the act of rising. It came as no surprise when Walcott, who had complained that the count was too quick, retired in the aftermath of the contest.

 

24 September 1953. Rocky Marciano w rsc 11 (15) Roland LaStarza

Venue: Polo Grounds, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Ruby Goldstein.

Fight Summary: Having gone the distance with Marciano in March 1950, losing controversially by a split decision over ten rounds, LaStarza (184¾) felt that he had a reasonable chance of dethroning the champion. Even though he was cut over the right eye in the second round LaStarza boxed well on the retreat against the wild, clumsy Marciano (185), being still in the fight up to the eighth. He was never going to win though, and once Marciano’s heavy wallops began to take effect LaStarza was fighting a losing battle. Brushing aside his challenger, who was now cut over both eyes, Marciano went for the finish in the 11th, dropping LaStarza with a right to the jaw. Although getting up, LaStarza was an open target. With punches coming in from all angles and with LaStarza looking as though he could suffer serious injury the referee rescued him with 89 seconds of the session remaining. This was the first heavyweight title fight between white men for 18 years.

 

17 June 1954. Rocky Marciano w pts 15 Ezzard Charles

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

Scorecards: 8-5-2, 9-5-1, 8-6-1.

Fight Summary: Putting on a great display of pure guts, Charles (185½) became to first man to take the champion the distance over 15 rounds. After winning three of the opening four rounds Charles then came under more and more pressure as Marciano (187½), cut over the left eye, began to find the range, and he was badly rocked in the sixth. Boxing calmly, Charles came back well to take the eighth but in the ninth, after Marciano had crashed home several tremendous punches, the challenger’s right eye began to swell badly. By the 12th Charles started to stand his ground more, managing to remain upright following some fierce exchanges right through to the final bell. Both men needed medical attention after the fight, Marciano having ten stitches inserted over his left eye.

 

17 September 1954. Rocky Marciano w co 8 (15) Ezzard Charles

Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Al Berl.

Fight Summary: Twice postponed due to heavy rain, the contest eventually took place two days later than originally planned. Constantly charging in to put Charles (192½) under pressure Marciano (187) was well on top by the fifth round, having handed out a lot of punishment to head and body. By the sixth though, Charles seemed to have a second wind, and by the end of the session the champion’s nose was split badly and blood was pouring down his face. Sticking with it in the seventh, when Charles cut the champion over the left eye early in the eighth thinking the fight might be halted Marciano tore in with both hands to drop his man with a right to the jaw. Back on his feet at ‘four’ Charles was now in real trouble, and following a barrage of blows to the head he was sent down to be counted out with 24 seconds of the session remaining.

 

16 May 1955. Rocky Marciano w rsc 9 (15) Don Cockell

Venue: Kezar Stadium, San Francisco, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Frankie Brown.

Fight Summary: Not given much of a chance Cockell (205) proved his critics wrong when putting up a wonderful display of courage in the face of heavy odds. The challenger even took the opening two rounds before Marciano (189) came on strong. Even then Cockell was still fighting back hard. In the sixth, Cockell, now badly cut on the forehead, actually halted Marciano momentarily with a vicious right cross, but by the eighth he was gradually beginning to be ground down before being dropped on the bell. Soon after the start of the ninth, with Marciano on the rampage, Cockell was put down from a battery of punches to head and body. Struggling up at 'nine' Cockell was at the mercy of Marciano, and following another count, of 'five', the referee called it off 59 seconds into the session when the Englishman was all over the place. After the contest the British press complained about the foul tactics that would have seen Marciano tossed out of a British ring, but as far as Cockell was concerned the fight was in America and he knew what he was letting himself in for.