Junior Lightweight World Champions & Their Championship Fights (130lbs)

The first meaningful step towards an officially recognised 130lbs division came on 24 January 1920 when the New York-based International Sporting Club recommended that it should be one of 13 weight classes. And after Jimmy Walker’s boxing bill was passed on 24 May 1920 the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) took 130lbs on board as a championship weight on 1 September 1920. The weight class was then recognised by the newly formed National Boxing Association (NBA) on 13 January 1921. Even then there was no great rush to find a champion, and it was only when the promoter, Tex Rickard, put up a belt valued at $2,500 that things got moving. Having won the inaugural title when beating George KO Chaney on 18 November 1921, when Johnny Dundee, the NYSAC champion, defended his title against Jackie Sharkey, a man with 117 bouts under his belt, the contest was also recognised by the NBA. On that basis the winner should be seen as holding my version of the 'world' title. Dundee had already participated in 276 contests, comprising 59 wins, 18 draws, nine defeats, one no contest and 189 no-decision bouts, and had long been thinking of the featherweight title that Johnny Kilbane had under wraps. In his 12 years of fighting he had shared a ring with Freddie Welsh, Benny Leonard, Willie Ritchie and Ad Wolgast, all lightweight champions who would have outweighed him by many pounds at that stage of his career. Since meeting Chaney, he’d had 15 fights, and although losing to Charley White (2), Johnny Shugrue and Lew Tendler he had beaten White and Joe Benjamin.   

 

6 July 1922. Johnny Dundee w pts 15 Jackie Sharkey

Venue: Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY. Referee: William McPartland.

Fight Summary: Taking every one of the 15 rounds contested on the judges’ cards Dundee (129) was tireless as he hammered away with two-fisted assaults to head and body, dropping Sharkey (127) with left hooks to the head in both rounds four and five. Cut over the left eye in the seventh, outboxed throughout but never giving up, the challenger would surely have never lasted the course had Dundee carried more power in his fists.

 

29 July 1922. Johnny Dundee nd-w pts 12 Kid Koster

Venue: City Auditorium, Houston, Texas, USA. Recognition: NBA. Referee: Bud Burmester.

Fight Summary: Koster (128) made a good start in taking the opening three rounds on aggression, but apart from the fourth and ninth sessions that could have been even he was always running second best to Dundee (128) in a fight that was too slow to be exciting.

 

28 August 1922. Johnny Dundee w pts 15 Pepper Martin

Venue: The Velodrome, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY. Referee: Patsy Haley.

Fight Summary: Battered from pillar to post, and hooked, jabbed and crossed continuously, Martin (130) bravely kept going even though he could not find a way through the champion’s defences. Body blows certainly played their part to slow Martin down, and while unable to put his rival on the floor Dundee (124¾), inside the featherweight limit, fully deserved the unanimous decision that came his way.

 

2 February 1923. Johnny Dundee w pts 15 Elino Flores

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

Fight Summary: Giving his challenger a boxing lesson Dundee (129¾) easily took the first ten rounds before upping the pace and flooring Flores (129½) four times, twice in the 13th and twice in the 15th, to gain the unanimous verdict from the two judges and the referee. At the final bell, groggy and helpless, Flores was on the verge of being kayoed, but despite being a big loser he had somehow got through the contest by the skin of his teeth.

 

Dundee’s next defence would be against Jack Bernstein, who had been a pro since August 1920 and had run up 33 wins, two draws and five defeats, as well as participating in three no-decision affairs. A tough, unflinching fighter with a solid defence, he had beaten Solly Seeman, Freddie Jacks, Pal Moran, Babe Herman, Eddie Wagner, Pepper Martin, Eddie Brady and Elino Flores.

 

30 May 1923. Jack Bernstein w pts 15 Johnny Dundee

Venue: The Velodrome, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY. Referee: Patsy Haley.

Fight Summary: In a toe-to-toe battle from first to last with neither man giving ground, even though Bernstein (128) was floored by a left to the chin in the third round he landed more punches to fully deserve the unanimous decision. There was no doubting the challenger’s tactics of working non-stop from head to body, but Dundee (128½) played into his hands by not standing back occasionally and countering, thus being unable to change the tempo.

 

In a return match, Bernstein would next defend the title against Dundee, who was now the world featherweight champion after beating Eugene Criqui on 26 July 1923. Since being defeated by Bernstein, Dundee had taken in five contests, which included his win over Criqui, three no-decision affairs and a non-title loss to Al Shubert. Bernstein had been equally busy when participating in six contests, three of them being of the no-decision variety, one of which came against Freddie Jacks on 25 June, at the Shetzline Ballpark, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Although Bernstein kayoed Jacks inside five rounds, regardless of it being a no-decision fight of eight rounds duration his title claim was technically at risk had he lost. He had also beaten Rocky Kansas and drawn with Pal Moran.

 

17 December 1923. Johnny Dundee w pts 15 Jack Bernstein

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY. Referee: Jack O’Sullivan.

Fight Summary: This was one of the worst decisions of its kind according to all and sundry as Dundee (127½) regained the title from Bernstein (129) unanimously in front of a stunned 13,000 plus crowd. Although Bernstein failed to set the house alight, on occasion he sent a strangely sluggish Dundee back on his heels from hard rights while generally dictating the contest, consistently being first to the punch against a man who appeared to have seen better days. It was obvious to the majority as to how poor Dundee was as he struggled all night, his normal speed and pep totally lacking, and calls went out to have the verdict scrutinised. On winning, Dundee became a two-weight world champion.

 

The little-known Steve Kid Sullivan, a pro since 1911, would be next for Dundee. Not expected to bother the champion, he was a tough, two-fisted battler, who had put together 28 wins, four draws and 19 defeats, along with 55 no-decision affairs, and had beaten Bobby Burns, Pepper Martin (2), Dutch Brandt (2) and Babe Herman.

 

20 June 1924. Steve Kid Sullivan w pts 10 Johnny Dundee

Venue: Henderson’s Bowl, Brooklyn, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY. Referee: Jack O’Sullivan.

Fight Summary: Billed for the title, despite being only a ten-rounder (title fights normally had to be of 15 rounds duration in New York at the time), Sullivan (129½) surprised virtually everybody in the game when relieving Dundee (129) of the title after a spirited scrap. As in his contest with Jack Bernstein, Dundee looked tired and jaded as Sullivan paid little heed to his reputation, two-fistedly attacking the once great man with everything he had, and although Dundee often fought back with some vigour he was always the first to back off. The decision was unanimous.

 

18 August 1924. Steve Kid Sullivan w pts 15 Pepper Martin

Venue: Queensboro Stadium, Queens, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY. Referee: Tommy Sheridan.

Fight Summary: In a spectacular fifth meeting between the pair, the rugged Sullivan (129) went ahead 3-2 when receiving the unanimous decision over Martin (130), who weakened after the sixth round as the pace and body blows took their effect. Earlier, he had held the champion at bay with solid left jabs and hooks, but into the second half of the fight Martin was looking for survival. However, he came back magnificently in the last few sessions, despite being cut over the right eye, when staging a tremendous rally to no avail.

 

15 October 1924. Steve Kid Sullivan w co 5 (15) Mike Ballerino

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

Fight Summary: Allowing the challenger to make all of the running in the opening rounds, Sullivan (129½) had a good look at Ballerino (129) and in the fifth round, as the latter stormed in, a right to the jaw put him down on all fours. Getting up too quickly, further right hands flattened the Filipino twice more in quick succession, the third time seeing him counted out on the 38-seconds mark. The docile Ballerino had been the favourite 24 hours prior to the fight taking place, but as the men were climbing into the ring the odds were as high as 3-1 on Sullivan scoring a knockout. This was strange to say the least, especially as Ballerino already held a win over Sullivan, and led to plenty of questions being asked following the contest.

 

After getting the better of Sullivan (130½) a couple of months later, when winning the ten-round press decision on 15 December at The Auditorium, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the result set Ballerino up for a return match for the title. Following that up with a win over Pepper Martin, the hard-working, aggressive Ballerino would bring 29 wins, ten draws, 16 defeats and ten no-decision affairs into the contest.

 

1 April 1925. Mike Ballerino w pts 10 Steve Kid Sullivan

Venue: Armoury AA, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY/Pennsylvania. Referee: Pop O’Brien.

Fight Summary: After attacking the champion to the body for the whole ten rounds, Ballerino (129½) won the unanimous decision and showed that he had learned from their first title fight when lulled into a false sense of security. This time round, Sullivan (129½) never really recovered from a first-round knockdown, when a left-right-left did the damage, and it was all uphill from thereon in.

 

6 July 1925. Mike Ballerino w pts 15 Pepper Martin

Venue: Queensboro Stadium, Queens, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY. Referee: Johnny McAvoy.

Fight Summary: Despite being put down early on and taking a terrific beating in the first eight rounds, Martin (129¾) clawed his way back over the remainder of the contest to set Ballerino (129¼) many problems. There was plenty of blood and guts, Martin giving it everything and more, but at decision time all three cards were in the champion’s favour. Sadly, on 19 July, Martin passed away in a New York hospital following the effects of his brave challenge. At the NBA Convention that ended on 20 October it was announced that the Association no longer recognised 130lbs as a championship weight.

 

Tod Morgan, a smart operator with fast feet to go with hand-speed and a sound defence, would be the next man to challenge Ballerino. Bringing a record of 52 wins, 18 draws and five defeats to the table, he had beaten Vic Moran, Frankie Britt, Danny Edwards and Gene Delmont.

 

2 December 1925. Tod Morgan w rsc 10 (10) Mike Ballerino

Venue: Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: California/NY. Referee: Benny Whitman.

Fight Summary: Morgan (128) caused a first-rate surprise when handling Ballerino (129¾) with some ease, his additional reach and punching ability enabling him to dictate much of the action. In the tenth and final round with Ballerino at the end of his tether, having been knocked down twice in quick succession, the referee brought the contest to a halt after the latter’s seconds threw the towel in to save their man from taking further punishment.

 

3 June 1926. Tod Morgan w rsc 6 (15) Steve Kid Sullivan

Venue: Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, NYC, NY, USA. Recognition: NY. Referee: Jim Crowley.

Fight Summary: Coming to the ring with a badly damaged nose did Sullivan (128½) no good whatsoever, Morgan (128½) being quick to take advantage of the situation when battering him into a bloody mess and forcing the referee to call a halt at 2.05 of the sixth round. By that time, the hard-punching Morgan had proved to be out of the top drawer. Morgan's ability to feint Sullivan on to punches, along with his brilliant execution of the left hook to the body and his evasiveness was a joy to behold as he successfully defended against a former champion.

 

30 September 1926. Tod Morgan w pts 15 Joe Glick

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NY. Referee: Patsy Haley.

Fight Summary: Carrying his brilliant form into the Garden, Morgan (128½) gave a masterly exhibition of box-fighting to depose of a dangerous challenger in Glick (129½), who did well to last the distance. Whatever the unfortunate Glick did the champion did better as left jabs, left hooks, right crosses and right uppercuts gave his rival no respite, and following a burst of combination punches that floored him in the 11th there was no way back, all three scorecards giving it to the champion.

 

19 October 1926. Tod Morgan w pts 10 Johnny Dundee

Venue: Recreation Park, San Francisco, California, USA. Recognition: California/NY. Referee: Harry Ertle.

Fight Summary: Unfortunately, Dundee (126¼) damaged his right hand in the second round, and despite ultimately losing by a unanimous decision from thereon in he fought a one-handed battle to keep the classy Morgan (128½) at bay, using the hook off the jab to last the distance. Initially, the Californian Boxing Commission held up Dundee’s purse on the pretext that he had carried the injury into the ring. Eventually, Commissioner Hanlon overruled his conferees when telling the promoter to fork out what was due to a grand little fighting man.

 

19 November 1926. Tod Morgan w pts 15 Carl Duane

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NY. Referee: Lou Magnolia.

Fight Summary: Losing the unanimous verdict, the rugged Duane (129) was outboxed and outfought in eight of the 15 rounds, having weakened after the fifth when class told and left him floundering at the finish. Earlier, the challenger made a great fight of it when forcing the pace, but as terrific rights under the heart weakened him he was steadily worked over with straight left jabs and hooks. There were no knockdowns, but both men carried battle damage, Morgan (127½) being badly swollen on the left side of his face while Duane was cut over the right eye in the second round and bled heavily throughout from his nose and mouth.

 

28 May 1927. Tod Morgan w pts 12 Vic Foley

Venue: The Arena, Vancouver, Canada. Recognition: NY/Canada. Referee: Joe Waterman.

Fight Summary: Game and willing, the speedy Foley (125½) was knocked down twice - a ‘nine’ count in the second round after a heavy left had blasted him to his knees and a short count in the fifth - before getting up and gamely fighting on furiously. Even when Morgan (129¾) was cut over the right eye in the seventh, it made no difference to the way the fight was going. Concentrating downstairs throughout Morgan had the firepower, and in the final session Foley was lifted off his feet by a terrific left uppercut to the body only to remain standing. The referee’s decision was a formality.

 

16 December 1927. Tod Morgan w disq 14 (15) Joe Glick

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

Fight Summary: Strangely below par, Morgan (128¾) almost lost this one, having been dropped four times for long counts in the first five rounds. Although behind on the scorecards the champion made a game, though uphill recovery to actually carry off three of the last four sessions before being downed by a low blow in the 14th. The transgression saw Glick (129½) being thrown out of the ring with just four minutes and 51 seconds of the bout remaining. It was an unfortunate ending to a fight Glick was almost certain to win had it gone the distance.

 

24 May 1928. Tod Morgan w pts 15 Eddie Martin

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NY. Referee: Lou Magnolia.

Fight Summary: Taking the fight to the champion from the opening bell, Martin (130) made life extremely difficult for Morgan (129¾) as he never stopped boring in, despite being cut on the left eye, and was always looking to get big punches off. Morgan (129¾), who soon realised he would not be able to outfight his rival, concentrated on the jab-and-cross routine as well as putting in heavy right uppercuts when at close quarters. Although it certainly looked close at the final bell, all three judges had no qualms over who had won when handing out a unanimous decision in Morgan’s favour.

 

18 July 1928. Tod Morgan w pts 15 Eddie Martin

Venue: Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NY. Referee: Eddie Forbes.

Fight Summary: Even more bitterly contested than their first set-to was, both Morgan (128) and Martin (128) again gave it their best shot after Morgan’s left eye was badly cut in the initial exchange. As before, it was the bull versus the matador, and although Morgan’s straighter punches connected heavily many times he was unable to keep Martin, who finished badly cut on the right eye, at bay for long. It was said afterwards that, but for Martin fighting ‘blind’ for the last seven rounds the result would have been different. The decision in Morgan's favour was unanimous.

 

3 December 1928. Tod Morgan drew 10 Santiago Zorrilla

Venue: State Armoury, San Francisco, California, USA. Recognition: California/NY. Referee: Toby Irwin.

Fight Summary: Lacking the normal aggression expected of a champion, Morgan (130) failed to exert himself on Zorrilla (127¼), other than scoring a clean knockdown in the tenth round. Morgan also missed far too many times with right hands. Always dangerous, Zorrilla, landing heavily, came back strongly to fully deserve a share of the referee’s decision.

 

1 January 1929. Tod Morgan nd-l pts 10 Joey Sangor

Venue: The Auditorium, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. Recognition: NY/Wisconsin. Referee: Walter Houlehan.

Fight Summary: In what was a slashing fight with rallies virtually in every round, Morgan (128½) got away to a fair start before being badly hurt by a stray left that went low in the fourth. Assisted to his corner and given a good rest, the champion lost ground in the next three sessions as Sangor (128) took advantage of the situation. However, Morgan came back well despite the newspaper decision going to his rival.

 

4 April 1929. Tod Morgan w pts 10 Santiago Zorrilla

Venue: Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: California/NY. Referee: Jack Kennedy.

Fight Summary: Morgan (128), a good defensive fighter, kept Zorrilla (129) at distance with his longer reach, but other than that it was a disappointing contest with too much clinching. However, in the final round things warmed up a bit after the champion scored a flash knockdown. Getting up quickly, Zorrilla swarmed all over Morgan in a wild attack, nearly putting him down following a hard right to the head. Apart from that, the referee’s decision in Morgan's favour was a formality.

 

20 May 1929. Tod Morgan w pts 10 Baby Sal Sorio

Venue: Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: California/NY. Referee: Benny Whitman.

Fight Summary: Given a big build-up, the much vaunted punch of Sorio (128¾) was rendered almost useless against the skilful Morgan (129) who went into the tenth round so far ahead that only a kayo was good enough for the challenger. Rash or not, Morgan discarded all pretence of boxing to slug it out with the Mexican blaster over the final three minutes to provide a grandstand finish after what was an easy night's work for him, the referee’s decision being a formality.

 

On 16 September the NBA again recognised the weight division when rating Morgan as champion. The next man to have a crack at Morgan’s title would be Benny Bass, the former holder of the Pennsylvanian version of the world featherweight title. An extremely hard-puncher, especially to the body, Bass had 93 wins, two draws, 11 defeats, two no contests and 44 no-decision affairs on his slate. With victories over Eddie O’Keefe, Terry Martin, Tommy Noble (2), Cowboy Eddie Anderson (2), Jose Lombardo, Leo Kid Roy, Wilbur Cohen, Johnny Farr (4), Babe Herman, Frankie Garcia, Red Chapman (3), Joe Glick (2), Chic Suggs, Dominick Petrone (2), Mike Ballerino, Harry Blitman and Davey Abad, he was a real threat to Morgan.

 

20 December 1929. Benny Bass w co 2 (15) Tod Morgan

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

Fight Summary: After giving a great exhibition of box-fighting in the opening round and having Bass (127) on the verge of a kayo there was a complete reversal of Morgan’s fortunes in the second session. With the challenger coming out refreshed, a long left hook followed by a terrific right to the jaw from the former featherweight champion put Morgan (128) down for nine. On rising, Morgan was smashed down again to be counted out on the 0.51 mark. A few hours later the purses for both fighters were withheld while the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) conducted an investigation into a possible betting coup. However, with no conclusive evidence forthcoming both men were eventually cleared of any misconduct. On winning, Bass became a two-weight world champion.

 

It was announced on 31 December that the NYSAC had decided not to acknowledge ‘junior’ titles in future on the grounds that they were riddled with ‘unsatisfactory’ title bouts. A few days later, on 4 January 1930, Edward Foster, the Chairman of the NBA Championship Committee, recommended that the NBA should do likewise, but despite giving lukewarm support to the weight class the Association took no general action to abandon it until 20 September 1932.

 

3 February 1930. Benny Bass nd-w rsc 4 (10) Davey Abad

Venue: The Coliseum, St Louis, Missouri, USA. Recognition: NBA. Referee: Harry Ertle.

Fight Summary: Starting quickly, Bass (129½) put his challenger down twice in the first round, for counts of ‘nine’ and ‘five’, but missed frequently in the second as Abad (129) regained his composure. Toe-to-toe in the third with Bass edging it, Abad was put down six more times in the fourth, and after staggering up from a terrific right to the jaw the referee came to his rescue.

 

28 March 1930. Benny Bass nd-l pts 10 Eddie Shea

Venue: The Coliseum, St Louis, Missouri, USA. Recognition: NBA. Referee: Harry Ertle.

Fight Summary: According to the newspapermen, Bass (128) was shaded by his challenger in a slashing, mauling bout that was contested at a fast clip throughout. With both men shaken up several times, Shea (126½) was dropped for ‘nine’ in the fourth, but after being groggy during the next couple of sessions he came back strongly to knock Bass over in the seventh after connecting with a smashing right to the head. Thereafter, Shea continually stepped it up with vicious body attacks that forced Bass to cover up as the former looked for an inside-the-distance win.

 

5 January 1931. Benny Bass w pts 10 Lew Massey

Venue: The Arena, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: NBA/Pennsylvania. Referee: Leo Houck.

Scorecards: 7-3, 7-3, 9-1.

Fight Summary: Although taking place on non-NBA territory the Pennsylvanian Boxing Commission were happy to support this one as a title fight. However, it barely lived up to expectation after the fourth round when it was apparent that Massey (128), despite having countered well, was being outclassed. Surprisingly though, Bass (127½) took no chances, picking his punches carefully while occasionally shaking Massey up. There was a big rally in the tenth from the challenger, but Bass saw the storm out to collect the unanimous decision.

 

Kid Chocolate, ‘The Cuban Bon Bon’, who had a record comprising 61 wins, a draw and three defeats, would be the next man to challenge Bass. With terrific speed of hand and foot the Kid also had enough power in his mitts to hurt, and had beaten men of the calibre of Johnny Erickson (3), Frisco Grande, Chic Suggs, Johnny Vacca, Bushy Graham, Tommy Ryan, Fidel LaBarba, Gregorio Vidal, Al Singer, Dominick Petrone (2) and Vic Burrone (2) to prove it. On the debit side of things, Chocolate had earlier lost on points over 15 rounds when challenging Battling Battalino for the world featherweight title on 12 December 1930. 

 

15 July 1931. Kid Chocolate w rsc 7 (10) Benny Bass

Venue: Baker Bowl, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: NBA/Pennsylvania. Referee: Leo Houck.

Fight Summary: As in Bass’ previous defence the Pennsylvanian Boxing Commission supported this contest as a world title bout. Regardless, Bass (128½) suffered his first ever stoppage defeat against the much taller Chocolate (125½), who took advantage of the differential to fire in long lefts and rights to the head. With the challenger in full cry, Bass was soon taking a beating. Seemingly unable to miss his opponent, when a deep cut appeared on Bass’ left eye, which then closed, the referee called hostilities off with just two seconds of the seventh round remaining.

 

1 October 1931. Kid Chocolate w rsc 1 (10) Joey Scalfaro

Venue: Queensboro Stadium, Queens, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NBA. Referee: Arthur Susskind.

Fight Summary: Having been held to a draw by Scalfaro (126) in November 1928, this time around Chocolate (128½) put the record straight when stopping the New Yorker inside 39 seconds of the first round of a contest scheduled for ten. The fight had hardly got underway when Scalfaro was racked by a succession of stiff left jabs before a volley of left-hand smashes to the body followed by a left-right to the jaw sent him crashing. Staggering up at nine Scalfaro was pulled out of the fight by the third man, but after connecting with a heavy right to Chocolate’s head and being restrained a riot ensued. Wrongly considered by some as involving Chocolate’s featherweight title, with Scalfaro scaling inside the 126lbs division and having failed to win any of his last six contests there was no way this should have been recognised by the NBA, especially as it took place in a State that refused to recognise junior titles. However, as in the case of Jack Kid Berg’s junior welter defences in New York Chocolate would have considered everything to be on the line.

 

10 April 1932. Kid Chocolate w pts 15 Davey Abad

Venue: Polar Stadium, Havana, Cuba. Recognition: NBA. Referee: Fernando Rios.

Fight Summary: With the intention of survival in mind, Abad (129¾) boxed virtually the whole 15 rounds on the back foot, looking to make Chocolate (128½) miss, while the latter realising he did not have to take any risks was content to score the points to land a shut-out win on the judges’ scorecards. The Ring magazine reported both men to be in good condition and breathing normally at the end of what was little more than a heavy sparring session.

 

4 August 1932. Kid Chocolate w pts 10 Eddie Shea

Venue: The Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Recognition: NBA. Referee: Phil Collins.

Fight Summary: Although Shea (128) came out fast in the opening session, thereafter Chocolate (127½) punched him around the ring until the former came back in the tenth to hit the champion with more punches than at any stage in the fight. In short, for nine rounds Chocolate was supreme, lashing in uppercuts that seemed to come from the floor with both hands while giving Shea a good old battering. The only times that Chocolate looked at risk was when landing two low blows, one in the third round that floored Shea which the referee ignored and another in the seventh for which he was warned. The decision was unanimous.

 

Further to New York’s decision, on 20 September the National Boxing Association also decided not to recognise ‘junior’ titles in future, although Pennsylvania was happy to support Kid Chocolate as champion.

 

1 May 1933. Kid Chocolate w pts 10 Johnny Farr

Venue: The Arena, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: Pennsylvania. Referee: Joe McGuigan.

Scorecards: 5-4-1, 5-2-3, 8-1-1.

Fight Summary: Using all of his astonishing speed and skill, although missing far too often, Chocolate (124) looked good for an early win over the chunky challenger. However, unable to keep the momentum going he ultimately had to settle for a points win. Farr (130), who was felled by a left to the jaw for ‘nine’ in the fourth, looked as strong as an ox coming into the final round despite having taken too many risks as he continually drove forward with both hands pumping out. Desperate to put Chocolate over Farr left himself exposed, being dropped three times before going down on all three judges’ scorecards.

 

4 December 1933. Kid Chocolate w pts 10 Frankie Wallace

Venue: Public Hall, Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Recognition: Pennsylvania/Ohio. Referee: Tommy Mulgrew.

Fight Summary: Boxing at his supreme best, the champion was not extended by Wallace (130), who despite being a game challenger won just one round before going down unanimously on the cards. Having made a cautious start, by the second round Chocolate (130) was already doing very much as he pleased. And in the fourth and fifth sessions he handed out a terrific beating to the brave Wallace, when forcing the latter to take solid blows to head and body without return. Although Wallace was still willing to mix it, with the fight in the bag Chocolate decided to box and dance his way home.

 

Chocolate’s next defence would be against Frankie Klick, an aggressive, all-action fighter who had posted 79 wins, 11 draws, nine defeats and one no contest since turning pro in 1924. Although beating Ignacio Fernandez (2), Bobby Pacho, Varias Milling, Eddie Cool and Tony Falco, he had lost his previous three contests, to Tony Canzoneri, Jimmy Leto and Cool, prior to meeting Chocolate.  

 

25 December 1933. Frankie Klick w rsc 7 (15) Kid Chocolate

Venue: The Arena, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: Pennsylvania/Ohio. Referee: Spud Murphy.

Fight Summary: Right from the outset Klick (127¾), mixing it up freely, had little or no respect for the champion, looking particularly effective with solid body punches in the second round. Although Chocolate (130) came back well, whipping in blows at speed, the third and fourth rounds saw Klick working his man over before the pair went head-to-head in the fifth and sixth. The seventh session turned into a disaster for the tiring Chocolate as he was harried and bulled around by the rampant Klick prior to being sent crashing from a right to the jaw. Up on his feet at ‘six’ but lurching crazily, the referee came to Chocolate's rescue with just two seconds of the round remaining.

 

Two fights later, and two and a half months after winning the title, on 5 March 1934 Klick was challenging Barney Ross for the junior welterweight crown. With Klick not fighting at 130lbs again the weight division fell into disuse, and it would not be until the World Boxing Council (WBC) agreed to recognise the junior lightweight class from 1 January 1965 that my version of the 'world' title was once again on the line when Flash Elorde, the WBA champion, made his next defence against Teruo Kosaka in a return match. A pro since 1951, Elorde had won the WBA junior lightweight title when beating Harold Gomes on 16 March 1960 and had made successful defences against Gomes, Joey Lopes, Sergio Caprari, Auburn Copeland, Johnny Bizzarro, Love Allotey and Kosaka. Bringing a record of 75 wins, two draws and 19 defeats to the table, the solid-punching southpaw had earlier beaten Tanny Campo (2), Sandy Saddler, Chico Rosa, Cecil Schoonmaker, Dave Gallardo, Ike Chesnut, Teddy Davis, Sonny Leon and Bert Somodio. In January 1956, after beating Saddler, he’d had an unsuccessful crack at the latter’s world featherweight title, being stopped in the 13th round. Also a southpaw, Kosaka had 63 wins, one draw and eight defeats on his slate.

 

5 June 1965. Flash Elorde w co 15 (15) Teruo Kosaka

Venue: Araneta Coliseum, Manila, Philippines. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Totoy Reyes.

Fight Summary: After scoring knockdowns in the third and fourth rounds the champion got well on top of the game Kosaka (127½) in their much welcomed return, and despite the latter showing tremendous courage the fight became one-sided. With three points deducted for butting there was no way back for Kosaka, apart from in the seventh round when he hurt Elorde (130), and he took a steady battering. Smashed to the canvas in the 13th following a barrage of lefts and rights to head and body, Kosaka somehow made it into the final session where he was put down again after being hit by everything in Elorde’s armoury. Gamely getting to his feet Kosaka was shown no mercy before collapsing to the canvas where he was counted out with 46 seconds of the fight remaining.

 

4 December 1965. Flash Elorde w pts 15 Kang-Il Suh

Venue: Araneta Coliseum, Manila, Philippines. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Alex Villacampa.

Scorecards: 70-67, 69-68, 71-68.

Fight Summary: Making his ninth successful defence, Elorde (130) just about got home, especially when two point deductions made against Suh (129¾) for butting were taken into account. There were no knockdowns, but after Suh came on strongly to completely outclass Elorde in the final three rounds he could consider himself unlucky not have won.

 

22 October 1966. Flash Elorde w pts 15 Vicente Derado

Venue: Araneta Coliseum, Manila, Philippines. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Toti Cayetano.

Scorecards: 70-69, 70-68, 71-71.

Fight Summary: Although it was a hard-fought contest in which Derado (128) appeared to have difficulty with the champion’s southpaw style, the cagey Argentine still made it hard for Elorde (130) to land cleanly. There was also no doubting that Elorde had used his head as a weapon throughout, which left Derado with many cuts and abrasions on his face as the former saw the fight slipping away from him. That aside, there was plenty of thrilling action regardless of a lack of knockdowns, Derado probably deserving better than just one judge voting it a draw.

 

Yoshiaki Numata, the OPBF champion, would be Elorde’s next challenger. A classy boxer with hand-speed and footwork to match, Numata had been a pro since 1962, beating Pedro Adigue and Elorde in a non-title fight, and had a record comprising 31 wins and four defeats.

 

15 June 1967. Yoshiaki Numata w pts 15 Flash Elorde

Venue: Kuramae Arena, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Alex Villacampa.

Scorecards: 71-66, 72-66, 69-69.

Fight Summary: After 16 years as a professional fighter Elorde (130) appeared well beaten by his young challenger despite being given a draw on the local judge’s scorecard. Thankfully, for Numata (129½), although being put down in the third round the other two judges were not influenced by local conditions and rendered the correct verdict. Following the knockdown, Numata, showing much cleverness, got into his stride, skating around the ring to both bewilder Elorde and outscore him. Realising the titles were slipping away from him, Elorde went all out in the final three sessions, scoring heavily at times, but it was not nearly enough to claw back the leeway.

 

Hiroshi Kobayashi, the aggressive, solid-punching Japanese featherweight champion, would be the first man to challenge Numata. Having turned pro in July 1962, he had compiled a record of 50 wins, two draws and six defeats while beating men such as Mitsunori Seki, Delfino Rosales, Bobby Valdez, Kang-Il Suh and Vicente Derado.

 

14 December 1967. Hiroshi Kobayashi w co 12 (15) Yoshiaki Numata

Venue: Kuramae Arena, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Ko Toyama.

Fight Summary: Making his first defence, Numata (129½) was taken apart by the hard-hitting Kobayashi (129) who put his man down four times in all. The first knockdown came in the sixth round from a right to the jaw, and Numata was dropped twice more from heavy rights in the 12th before being counted out on the 1.56 mark. Numata, who had taken a solid beating and was behind on all three cards, finished flat on his back, a position he was forced to endure for several minutes as the medics worked on him.

 

30 March 1968. Hiroshi Kobayashi drew 15 Rene Barrientos

Venue: Martial Arts Hall, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Ko Toyama.

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

Fight Summary: Following a slow start the champion found the tricky southpaw, Barrientos (130), a difficult customer to deal with and fought well below par. Although he battered Barrientos throughout the fifth round having finally got going, Kobayashi (129) was made angry when his nose bled badly after he was butted. It was becoming a hard fight for Kobayashi, and Barrientos amazed the crowd when he belted the champion in the ninth with wild blows to head and body. In the 14th the Filipino again came on strongly, forcing Kobayashi to back-pedal furiously in order to avoid the body punches coming his way. With the decision always in doubt it was not one of Kobayashi’s better nights.

 

5 October 1968. Hiroshi Kobayashi w pts 15 Jaime Valladares

Venue: Martial Arts Hall, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Nicholas Pope.

Scorecards: 75-64, 75-61, 75-64.

Fight Summary: Fighting on the back foot throughout Valladares (129½) was well beaten by a champion trying to recover some form. Although Kobayashi (129) pressed all the way, scoring knockdowns in the tenth after a short right to the jaw did the damage and in the 12th when a left hook found its mark, he was unable to finish the challenger off. Having drawn with Kobayashi two years earlier it was felt that Valladares would put up a good fight, but his form was so poor that many onlookers felt, with some justification, that he should have been thrown out for not doing his best.

 

With Rene Barrientos and Ruben Navarro both unable to force a title match with the WBA champion, Kobayashi, the WBC set up a contest between the pair for their version of the title after stripping the latter on 19 January 1969.

 

6 April 1969. Hiroshi Kobayashi w pts 15 Antonio Amaya

Venue: Kuramae Arena, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Ko Toyama.

Scorecards: 72-71, 72-69, 72-74.

Fight Summary: Starting well with stinging left-hand jabs paving the way, Amaya (127½) took the opening three rounds before Kobayashi (128¾) solved the problems he was facing by countering the challenger with cracking rights to the jaw. Although Amaya’s skilful movement was a joy to behold, it was Kobayashi who was piling up the points in the middle rounds prior to being put out of his stride when suffering a bad gash over the left eye in the tenth. Taking advantage of the situation, Amaya picked it up in the 11th before Kobayashi showed championship form to come back with solid attacks to the body which ensured his narrow victory.

 

9 November 1969. Hiroshi Kobayashi w pts 15 Carlos Canete

Venue: Nihon University Auditorium, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Nicholas Pope.

Scorecards: 75-63, 75-63, 75-65.

Fight Summary: Concentrating on his speedy left jab, the challenger took the fight to Kobayashi (128¼), but failing in his objective he was punished by left hooks and right-hand counters to both head and body. Round after round the pattern of the fight saw Canete (129) covering up to avoid taking too much body punishment, although it took Kobayashi until the 12th round before Canete was actually floored from such an attack. The last three sessions involved Canete, who suffered a fractured right hand and a sprain to his left wrist, hanging in gamely as Kobayashi looked for the kayo before receiving warm applause for his stand despite not winning a round.

 

23 August 1970. Hiroshi Kobayashi w pts 15 Antonio Amaya

Venue: Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Nicholas Pope.

Scorecards: 72-71, 72-69, 73-71.

Fight Summary: Making good use of his longer reach and speedy footwork the challenger made life difficult for Kobayashi (128¾) just as he had done in their earlier contest. By the sixth round it seemed as though Amaya (129½) was in front as Kobayashi, now cut over the left eye, missed repeatedly with wild swings. Although Kobayashi came back strongly in the eighth, the rest of the action seemed to be controlled by Amaya. However, it was apparent that many of his punches were not landing with the knuckle part of the glove, something that ultimately cost him the fight.

 

4 March 1971. Hiroshi Kobayashi w pts 15 Ricardo Arredondo

Venue: Nihon University Auditorium, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Yusaku Yoshida.

Scorecards: 73-70, 73-69, 73-69.

Fight Summary: Kobayashi (129¼) beat the hard-hitting Arredondo (128½) with the minimum amount of fuss when outboxing his challenger in a dull contest. In what was a clinical display, Kobayashi avoided most of the wild punches coming at him while picking Arredondo off. There were no knockdowns.

 

The unrated Alfredo Marcano, a pro since 1966, would be Kobayashi’s next challenger. Bringing a record of 33 (21 inside the distance) wins, four draws, eight defeats and one no contest to the table, he had beaten Bernardo Caraballo, Enrique Higgins, Antonio Herrera, Richard Sue, Cruz Marcano, Ricardo Arredondo and Raul Cruz.

 

29 July 1971. Alfredo Marcano w rsc 10 (15) Hiroshi Kobayashi

Venue: Prefectural Gym, Aomori, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Yusaku Yoshida.

Fight Summary: Although hectic from the start the fight really came to life in the ninth when the champion forced a mandatory ‘eight’ count after battering Marcano (128¾) against the ropes with a volley of lefts and rights to the body. Quickly recovering, Marcano dropped Kobayashi (129¼) heavily with a right uppercut, and with the champion still ‘out’ the bell came to his rescue at ‘nine’. There was no way that Kobayashi was going to recover from that. Fighting on sheer instinct he was smashed to the floor three times in the tenth before his corner threw in the towel, the fight being called off by the referee on the 1.25 mark.

 

6 November 1971. Alfredo Marcano w rsc 4 (15) Kenji Iwata

Venue: New Circus Bullring, Caracas, Venezuela. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Luis Sulbaran.

Fight Summary: Refusing to play it safe against the heavy-handed Marcano (128¼), the Korean-born challenger traded punches over the opening two rounds until being made to pay for his transgressions in the third. Twice Iwata (129¾) was knocked down heavily in that session and twice he got up to make it to the bell. Round four saw Iwata storming into Marcano, only to be met by vicious left jabs and floored by a left-right combination. Up at ‘four’, he survived another ‘eight’ count when dropped by a left hook before charging into Marcano once again. However, it was only a temporary release, and with 40 seconds of the round remaining the referee called a halt after Iwata had been decked by a right hook to the body.

 

Ben Villaflor, a hard-hitting southpaw who started fighting for pay before reaching the age of 15, would be Marcano’s next challenger. With a record of 44 wins, two draws and four defeats, and having beaten Don Johnson, Raul Cruz, Frankie Crawford and Jose Luis Lopez, he was a young man in a hurry.

 

25 April 1972. Ben Villaflor w pts 15 Alfredo Marcano

Venue: Blaisdell Centre, Honolulu, Hawaii. Recognition: WBA. Referee: James Scaramozi.

Scorecards: 74-64, 74-68, 69-68.

Fight Summary: In becoming the youngest champion in modern-day history, aged 19, the southpaw Villaflor (128¾) outpunched and outboxed the hard-hitting champion in almost every round bar the seventh and ninth. Piling up the points and catching Marcano (128) with any number of solid blows to head and body, the youngster almost put his man away in the 14th before having to withstand a final charge from the outgoing champion in the final session.

 

5 September 1972. Ben Villaflor drew 15 Victor Echegaray

Venue: Blaisdell Centre, Honolulu, Hawaii. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Wilbert Minn.

Scorecards: 69-66, 66-68, 67-67.

Fight Summary: Even though he had hugely impressed when winning the title, Villaflor (128¾), his left eye completely closed by the sixth, had to fight like a tiger against the wild-swinging Echegaray (130) who certainly made it tough for the young champion. Over 15 brawling rounds Villaflor was often taken out of his stride, but just as things seemed to be conspiring against him he twice dropped Echegaray for short counts in the 13th, knockdowns which probably spared his blushes.

 

Villaflor would make his next defence against the aggressive, hard-punching Kuniaki Shibata, who had just moved up a division after losing his WBC featherweight title. With a record showing 37 wins, three draws and four defeats, Shibata had beaten Katsutoshi Aoki, Roberto Andrade, Vicente Saldivar, Raul Cruz and Bert Nabalatan.

12 March 1973. Kuniaki Shibata w pts 15 Ben Villaflor

Venue: Blaisdell Centre, Honolulu, Hawaii. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Walter Cho.

Scorecards: 72-70, 71-69, 72-71.

Fight Summary: Counter-punching superbly against the southpaw champion and moving from side to side, Shibata (130) produced great hand-speed as he skilfully avoided the heavy left hands aimed in his direction. Although he was stunned in both the sixth and 13th rounds by hard lefts to the jaw, Shibata kept to his game plan as Villaflor (130) continually looked to finish it with one punch. It was close, but Shibata, who was cut over both eyes at the finish, kept his boxing together to fully justify the win. On winning, Shibata became a two-weight world champion.

 

19 June 1973. Kuniaki Shibata w pts 15 Victor Echegaray

Venue: Nihon University Auditorium, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Yusaku Yoshida.

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

Fight Summary: Despite having trouble with the challenger’s longer reach and left jab throughout the fight, Shibata (129¾), the harder and more varied puncher of the two, consistently scored with good right hands over the top. Come the final session it looked close, but Shibata made certain of victory when putting Echegaray (128½) down twice for mandatory ‘eight’ counts.

 

A return match against Ben Villaflor would be next for Shibata. Coming to the ring with 50 wins, three draws and five defeats under his belt, Villaflor had taken in two winning warm-ups, while Shibata had participated in one non-title contest following his win over Echegaray.

 

17 October 1973. Ben Villaflor w co 1 (15) Kuniaki Shibata

Venue: Blaisdell Centre, Honolulu, Hawaii. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Wilbert Minn.

Fight Summary: With the challenger making an aggressive start it was soon clear that he had no intention of going home without a victory, there being several heavy exchanges before Shibata (130) was dropped after less than a minute. Back on his feet Shibata was soon under pressure again, and after taking a short left to the jaw from Villaflor (129½) he was counted out with 64 seconds of the first session still remaining.

 

14 March 1974. Ben Villaflor drew 15 Apollo Yoshio

Venue: City Gym, Toyama, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Shoichi Kato.

Scorecards: 74-73, 73-74, 73-73.

Fight Summary: In a disappointing contest, the champion, who had to reduce drastically in weight over the previous 48 hours, was unable to dispatch Yoshio (130) inside the allotted 15 rounds, and finishing with cuts over the left eye he had to settle for a draw. Having initially made the running, Villaflor (127¾) found Yoshio happy to avoid confrontation by speeding around the ring and clutching at every opportunity. Even when Yoshio tired Villaflor was unable to catch up with him. In the 11th the referee asked both men for more action, but despite a spirited last couple of sessions that was it.

 

24 August 1974. Ben Villaflor w co 2 (15) Yasutsune Uehara

Venue: Blaisdell Centre, Honolulu, Hawaii. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Walter Cho.

Fight Summary: Despite the fear that the champion was not in the right frame of mind for this one he took charge immediately, Uehara (129½) being subjected to a constant battering and dropped before the first round had come to a halt. Trying to slug it out was probably not the best thing for Uehara to do, and he was soon on the floor again as Villaflor (129¾) continued to dominate with solid punches from both hands. Back on his feet, after Uehara was quickly decked again following a burst of cracking punches he was counted out at 1.17 of the second.

 

13 March 1975. Ben Villaflor w pts 15 Hyun-Chi Kim

Venue: Araneta Coliseum, Manila, Philippines. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Herbert Minn.

Scorecards: 71-67, 71-67, 70-71.

Fight Summary: Having been even until the ninth round, with both men landing solid punches and little clinching, the southpaw champion opened up to drop Kim (128½) three times. Interestingly, the ‘three knockdowns in a round’ rule had been waived prior to the fight. With Villaflor (129¾) now carrying an injured left hand, Kim came right back in the 11th when cutting the Filipino’s left eye. However, Villaflor was not done for, opening a cut over Kim’s right eye in the 13th and almost dropping his rival with a left hook in the 14th before finishing strongly. The tough Kim had done well, but had been weakened by body punches. In the aftermath it was discovered that Villaflor had suffered a detached retina and, although there was talk of him meeting Tyrone Everett prior to a match being made against Kuniaki Shibata for a defence in October, all of these plans went out of the window when it was realised that the champion required more time to recover from an operation to repair the damage.

 

12 January 1976. Ben Villaflor w rsc 13 (15) Morito Kashiwaba

Venue: Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Carlos Padilla.

Fight Summary: Lashing out with heavy southpaw rights and lefts, Villaflor (128) dropped the challenger in the second and third rounds and looked to be well on the way to an early win. Kashiwaba (130), cut over the right eye in the fourth, had other ideas however, proving both durable and game as he took Villaflor’s best punches when repeatedly hammered into the ropes. He also picked up further damage to his nose and mouth, while Villaflor was cut over the right eye in the 11th. Eventually, with Villaflor scoring at will with the right jab, and the by now defenceless Kashiwaba’s injuries worsening, the referee rescued the latter at 1.29 of the 13th.

 

13 April 1976. Ben Villaflor drew 15 Sam Serrano

Venue: Blaisdell Centre, Honolulu, Hawaii. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Wilbert Minn.

Scorecards: 73-69, 67-72, 70-70.

Fight Summary: Unable to land his pet left-hand wallop in the early part of the contest, the champion began to appear frustrated in the middle rounds before coming back to something approaching his best in the final three rounds despite nursing a damaged right eye from the 13th. By that time though, the lanky Serrano (130) looked to be clearly in front, having scored well with the jab while making good use of the ring. It was only in the 14th and 15th that Villaflor (129) was seen at his best, and although he had Serrano in some difficulty when he connected with a succession of heavy left hooks and uppercuts it seemed that he had not done enough. Upon hearing the decision, the WBA demanded a rematch on neutral ground within 60 days.

 

Serrano would be Villaflor’s next challenger following a hard-fought draw against the champion. A fast-moving boxer with a long reach he had 31 wins, one draw and four defeats to his name, and had defeated Jose Isaac Marin, Victor Echegaray and Diego Alcala as he worked his way up to number three in the ratings.

 

16 October 1976. Sam Serrano w pts 15 Ben Villaflor

Venue: Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Stan Christodoulou.

Scorecards: 147-141, 147-139, 146-142.

Fight Summary: Even though he scored with ease at times, Serrano (130), lacking the power to finish the champion off, ultimately had to settle for the points win, something he thought he had achieved last time round. Right from the opening bell when attacking with left-right combinations, Serrano showed who was boss, his speed and five-inch-reach advantage being just too much for Villaflor (129½), especially after the latter was twice cut over the left eye in the fourth and fifth. Looking for a kayo with his trusty left hook, Villaflor continued to try to take the fight to Serrano at close quarters, but was constantly met with stabbing jabs and combinations before being badly shaken in the 15th.

 

15 January 1977. Sam Serrano w co 11 (15) Alberto Herrera

Venue: The Bullring, Guayaquil, Ecuador. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Marty Denkin.

Fight Summary: Although Herrera (128½) started well, flooring Serrano (129½) for an automatic ‘eight’ count with a solid right cross in the very first round, he then stood back and allowed the champion to recover. Following that, the southpaw Herrera was mainly on the end of Serrano’s right cross, and although he did well in the fifth session with an all-out body attack he was pretty much on the defensive from thereon in. Put down for ‘eight’ in the eighth, Herrera took a steady battering in the next two rounds prior to being dropped flat on his back from a heavy right uppercut and counted out at 2.17 of the 11th.

 

26 June 1977. Sam Serrano w pts 15 Leonel Hernandez

Venue: Luis Ramos Gym, Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Larry Rozadilla.

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

Fight Summary: Making his second defence, Serrano (129) gave Hernandez (128) a boxing lesson as he glided around the ring with the jab picking his rival off and nullifying any danger. Apart from the first round when Hernandez hurt the champion with a big right hand Serrano was never in further danger, the only thing saving the former from being stopped was the Puerto Rican’s lack of a conclusive punch.

 

27 August 1977. Sam Serrano w pts 15 Apollo Yoshio

Venue: Roberto Clemente Coliseum, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Waldemar Schmidt.

Scorecards: 149-136, 148-137, 149-136.

Fight Summary: Hampered by a huge height-and-reach disadvantage, Apollo (129¼), apart from landing a stunning right in the eighth, never really had much chance of dethroning the champion, going down heavily on the scorecards. Serrano (129) took the early sessions with the jab-and-move routine before increasing his momentum in the 11th after hurting Apollo. However, he was unable to finish inside the distance as the latter, standing up to a constant barrage of blows, somehow made it to the final bell.

 

19 November 1977. Sam Serrano w rsc 10 (15) Tae-Ho Kim

Venue: Roberto Clemente Coliseum, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Larry Rozadilla.

Fight Summary: After making a slow start the challenger surprised Serrano (130) in the third when a lightning-fast right hand dropped him for the mandatory ‘eight’ count. Following that, Serrano began to assert himself during the next couple of sessions before Kim (130) came back strongly to capture the sixth and seventh rounds when landing several solid left-right combinations. Although Serrano did well in the next six minutes nobody would have expected the fight to be over at 1.50 of the tenth, with Kim getting up in a dazed state at the count of ‘eight’ immediately prior to being rescued by the referee. The punch that did the damage was a short right uppercut which smashed into Kim’s face, leaving him with a gashed right eye and on the floor.

 

18 February 1978. Sam Serrano w pts 15 Mario Martinez

Venue: Roberto Clemente Coliseum, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Roberto Ramirez.

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

Fight Summary: Dominating the fight with his fast hands and hitting Martinez (130) almost at will at times, the champion was never extended by a man who was seemingly more intent on staying the distance. Afterwards, Serrano (129½) said that every time he closed in for the kayo Martinez backed off, but the fact that he was unable to take his man out merely emphasised his lack of power.

 

8 July 1978. Sam Serrano w rsc 9 (15) Young-Ho Oh

Venue: Roberto Clemente Coliseum, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Luis Sulbaran.

Fight Summary: Carrying a seven-inch-reach advantage, Serrano (130) peppered the ever-advancing Oh {129¼), who was cut below the right eye in the fifth, with every punch in the book for the opening eight rounds. The fast-fading challenger's misery would not last much longer though. With about 30 seconds of the ninth remaining a short left hook dropped Oh for ‘nine’, and after getting up he was again put down, this time by a right uppercut. On his feet again at ‘nine’, although the bell appeared to have saved Oh the referee declared the fight to be over.

 

29 November 1978. Sam Serrano w pts 15 Takao Maruki

Venue: Aichi Gym, Nagoya, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Larry Rozadilla.

Scorecards: 146-136, 148-137, 159-144.

Fight Summary: Making good use of his long reach the champion peppered Maruki (129¼) from every conceivable angle as he romped to an easy one-sided victory over a man who started recklessly and had been dropped in the fifth by a countering right. Up almost immediately, when Maruki continued to throw overarm left hooks Serrano (129) was far too smart for him, again flooring his slow-moving opponent with a sudden burst of punches in the tenth. Ruled a slip, the only way that Maruki could win at this stage was by a kayo, but Serrano, in recognising the man from Japan’s toughness, was content to box his way home to a conclusive points win.

 

18 February 1979. Sam Serrano w pts 15 Julio Valdez

Venue: Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Larry Rozadilla.

Scorecards: 155-135, 146-138, 147-143.

Fight Summary: With Valdez (130) on the floor for an automatic ‘eight’ count in the first round after a left hook had done the damage, it looked to be an early night for the champion. Despite regrouping, when Valdez was unable to get to Serrano (129½) he started to resort to foul tactics which were reciprocated. Again Serrano had Valdez in trouble after a right to the head in the eighth, but when failing to follow up he had to be content with the lop-sided verdict in his favour. Unfortunately, there was more action following the fight when chairs flew after Serrano had been hit with a right cross thrown by one of Valdez’ seconds.

 

14 April 1979. Sam Serrano w rsc 8 (15) Nkosana Mgxaji

Venue: Good Hope Centre, Cape Town, South Africa. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Larry Rozadilla.

Fight Summary: As early as the second round Mgxaji (127¾) was twice on the floor after the champion threw lightning bursts of punches from both hands, the South African returning to his corner on rubbery legs. Coming back strongly and cutting out all the fancy stuff he had employed earlier on, Mgxaji floored Serrano (128¾) with a terrific long right to the head in the fifth. Back in action following the enforced ‘eight’ count, Serrano survived mainly due to the South African deciding to showboat once again. Then, having taken advantage of the respite, Serrano boxed his way back before hammering Mgxaji to the floor for ‘eight’ after two cracking rights to the head and a left to the body had found their mark in the eighth. The fight came to an end at 1.34 when the referee stopped the contest after Mgxaji got up on unsteady legs and the latter’s corner threw the towel in.

 

3 April 1980. Sam Serrano w rsc 13 (15) Battlehawk Kazama

Venue: Central Gym, Nara, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Stan Christodoulou.

Fight Summary: Returning to the ring after almost a year out of action with hand injuries and a number of other problems, Serrano (129½) met up up with the switch-hitting Kazama (129¾). Although there had been no knockdowns, Serrano, way out in front by dint of his clever boxing, finally caught up with the fading Kazama in the 13th with a left hook that sent the Japanese champion staggering against the ropes. With the exhausted Kazama covering up unsuccessfully from a battery of lefts and rights the referee brought the fight to an end with just 45 seconds having elapsed.

 

The unrated Yasutsune Uehara, who’d already had a crack at the WBA title when turned back by Ben Villaflor in 1974, was surprisingly given another opportunity to put that behind him when challenging Serrano. As the current Japanese champion, with 25 wins and four losses to his name, he was a durable but predictably wild, heavy puncher who had beaten Ricardo Arredondo and Susumu Okabe (2). 

 

2 August 1980. Yasutsune Uehara w co 6 (15) Sam Serrano

Venue: Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Luis Sulbaran.

Fight Summary: After 15 minutes of boxing all three officials had the champion in front, Uehara (129¼) having been subjected to left and right-hand counters and the occasional uppercut. All of his work had virtually been nullified up to that point, but in the sixth session things changed for Uehara when Serrano (130), pushed back against the ropes, failed to spot a huge overarm right which crashed against his jaw to send him down on his haunches. Desperately trying to get to his feet, Serrano’s reign came to an end as he was counted out with just one second of the round remaining.

 

20 November 1980. Yasutsune Uehara w pts 15 Leonel Hernandez

Venue: Kuramae Arena, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Chin-Kook Kim.

Scorecards: 149-147, 149-146, 141-148.

Fight Summary: In a fight that was difficult to score, Uehara (129¼), defending his title for the first time, found it difficult to land a punch at times as the cagey Hernandez (129¼) stayed on the outside jabbing away at speed while often using the open glove. There were a few rounds where Uehara was able to work the midsection, but more often than not he was out of range and wild as he chased his slippery foe. The only time that Hernandez looked like he wanted the belt was when a triple left hook shook Uehara up in the 13th. However, he soon went back to his old routine before the final bell brought to an end what was a dismal affair.

 

Bringing 43 wins, one draw and five defeats to the table, Sam Serrano would be Uehara’s next challenger. Desperate to avenge his shock defeat at the hands of Uehara, the former champion had prepared well.

 

9 April 1981. Sam Serrano w pts 15 Yasutsune Uehara

Venue: Prefectural Gym, Wakayama, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Stan Christodoulou.

Scorecards: 147-143, 144-142, 145-142.

Fight Summary: Keeping his distance and using his reach advantage well to score with sharp left jabs, Serrano (130) did his best to make sure that the man who took his titles away would not be able to repeat that performance this time. It was not until the 12th round that Uehara (129½) was able to really trouble the challenger, having landed a cracking right to the jaw, but the former rode out the storm to survive. Again, in the 14th, when Serrano was under pressure from the right hand and combinations he boxed his way out of trouble before easing through the final session to win the unanimous decision.

 

29 June 1981. Sam Serrano w pts 15 Leonel Hernandez

Venue: The Polyhedron, Caracas, Venezuela. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Stan Berg.

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

Fight Summary: Having his fifth crack at a world title once again proved unlucky for Hernandez (128½) as Serrano (129¾) used his height-and-reach advantages to take the unanimous decision. Only in the eighth, ninth and tenth rounds did Hernandez show, opening up a cut over Serrano’s right eye and landing some effective blows from both hands in an all-out attempt to turn the fight round. Thereafter, however, it was all Serrano, who regained his composure to stop Hernandez in his tracks with solid counters from head to body while keeping at distance and making himself a difficult target as in the earlier sessions.

 

10 December 1981. Sam Serrano w rsc 12 (15) Hikaru Tomonari

Venue: Roberto Clemente Coliseum, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Larry Rozadilla.

Fight Summary: Abandoning his usual jab-and-move routine the champion attacked Tomonari (130) from the start, but lacking the power to knock him out he eventually settled down to box his way to victory. By the sixth round, with Serrano (129) way out in front a solid right to the nose further damaged Tomonari, who was also carrying a badly cut mouth at this stage. With Serrano scoring freely in the 12th a worsening cut on Tomonari’s left eye forced the referee to seek the doctor’s advice, and although the injury was deemed not serious enough on its own for the fight to be stopped the fact that the challenger was so far behind saw matters ended with 80 seconds of the round remaining.

 

5 June 1982. Sam Serrano w tdec 10 (15) Benedicto Villablanca

Venue: Caupolican Theatre, Santiago, Chile. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Jesus Celis.

Scorecards: 97-92, 96-92, 96-91.

Fight Summary: With Serrano (129½) well in control, having used the left hand to score points almost at random, he picked up a badly cut left eye in the tenth round. The injury, which was deemed to be caused by a butt, brought the contest to an end when the referee, on the advice of the doctor, would not allow the champion out for the 11th. Initially, Villablanca (129¾) was announced as the winner, but following an enquiry the WBA stated that under their rules and regulations the fight should be classified as a technical decision with the victory going to the man who was ahead on the scorecards at the time.

 

Serrano’s next challenger would be the ninth-ranked Roger Mayweather, who had beaten Kelvin Lampkin and Arturo Leon on his way to 14 straight wins since turning pro in July 1981. An aggressive battler, he would later become famous as the trainer of his nephew, Floyd Mayweather Jnr.

 

19 January 1983. Roger Mayweather w co 8 (15) Sam Serrano

Venue: Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Isidro Rodriguez.

Fight Summary: The aggressor throughout, Mayweather (130) showed no respect for the champion as he threw left jabs and fast rights at Serrano (130) who appeared to have lost all of his speed of past years. Serrano, who was cut over the left eye in the sixth, had some success with his counters but he was gradually being worn down. Nailed by solid punches in the seventh, he was counted out at 2.13 of the eighth having been dropped flat by a whistling right to the jaw.

 

20 April 1983. Roger Mayweather w rsc 8 (15) Jorge Alvarado

Venue: Civic Auditorium, San Jose, California, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Ernesto Magana.

Fight Summary: Making his first defence, Mayweather (130) started well enough before having to endure some rough moments prior to the fifth round as Alvarado (129¾) piled in with punches to head and body that had him in some distress. Unfortunately for the Panamanian once Mayweather’s head began to clear he was right back in the fight. Stunning Alvarado repeatedly with right-hand blows as he drove him around the ring in the seventh, it was more of the same in the next round until the referee stopped the contest after the towel fluttered in on the 2.28 mark.

 

17 August 1983. Roger Mayweather w co 1 (15) Benedicto Villablanca

Venue: Showboat Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Roberto Ramirez.

Fight Summary: Starting as he meant to finish Mayweather (129½) ripped into Villablanca (129¼) right from the opening bell, and halfway into the round a right-left to the head and body followed by two cracking rights to the midsection dropped the challenger for a ‘seven’ count. Back on his feet but ready to be taken, Villablanca was soon in trouble again before a terrific right to the head sent him down to be counted out four seconds prior to the interval.

 

A former American amateur champion who had run up 32 (26 inside the distance) wins in 35 contests since turning pro in 1978, Rocky Lockridge would be Mayweather’s next challenger. After losing to Juan Laporte and twice to Eusebio Pedroza, one of the defeats being a title shot at featherweight, he had moved up a division, having beaten men such as Sammy Goss, Fel Clemente, Livio Nolasco, Sergio Reyes and Refugio Rogas. Clearly a hard-punching box-fighter, a solid points win over Cornelius Boza-Edwards had taken him to number two in the ratings.   

 

26 February 1984. Rocky Lockridge w co 1 (15) Roger Mayweather

Venue: Civic Centre, Beaumont, Texas, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Larry Rozadilla.

Fight Summary: It was third time unlucky for Mayweather (130) regarding his defence against Lockridge (128¼) as the latter obviously had not read the script. With both men weighing each other up there was little activity at the start of the first round, but midway through the session Mayweather sent out two left jabs only to be countered over the top by a right hand that sent him down on his face. Although the champion was on his knees at ‘seven’, having not recovered properly he was counted out at 1.59 still in that position.

 

12 June 1984. Rocky Lockridge w rsc 11 (15) Tae-Jin Moon

Venue: Sullivan Arena, Anchorage, Alaska, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Ernesto Magana.

Fight Summary: Dominating from the opening bell the champion had much success with heavy rights to the head as he subjected the southpaw Moon (129) to more of the same round after round. He also showed a good defence when bobbing and weaving under the punches coming his way. When Moon was able to land, Lockridge (127½) shrugged the blows off almost disconcertingly before getting back on the offensive. By the latter rounds, despite not being dropped, Moon had taken a lot of punishment, and 31 seconds into the 11th with the South Korean backed against the ropes as Lockridge banged away with both hands the referee brought matters to a close.

 

27 January 1985. Rocky Lockridge w rsc 6 (15) Kamel Bou-Ali

Venue: Conference Centre, Riva Del Garda, Italy. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Tony Perez.

Fight Summary: Prior to the fifth round Bou-Ali (129¼) had given a reasonable account of himself against the hard-hitting champion, but even at that stage one could see that his punches were having little effect. In the fifth, after Lockridge (129) began to open up with both hands a left-right to the jaw hurt the Tunisian before a corking left hook smashed him down for the compulsory ‘eight’ count. Saved by the bell, Bou-Ali, still looking wobbly in the sixth, appeared to be fighting on instinct alone, and when he was belted by lefts and rights the referee brought the contest to a halt after 59 seconds of the round had elapsed. Moments earlier, Bou-Ali’s corner had thrown the towel in.

 

The former undefeated WBC junior featherweight champion and WBC featherweight title holder, Wilfredo Gomez, would be next for Lockridge, having lost his featherweight title to Azumah Nelson in his previous contest. With a record showing 41 (40 inside the distance) wins, a draw and two defeats at the hands of Salvador Sanchez and Nelson, the power-punching Gomez would have the respect of any opponent. 

 

19 May 1985. Wilfredo Gomez w pts 15 Rocky Lockridge

Venue: Roberto Clemente Coliseum, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Isidro Rodriguez.

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

Fight Summary: Meeting a top-class opponent, Lockridge (128½) started slowly before warming up in the middle rounds and attacking Gomez (129), especially with heavy rights to the head. At this stage, Gomez, with bruising and swellings around both eyes, stayed in the fight by moving adroitly and keeping in close when he had to, but as Lockridge began to tire in the 11th he made his move when coming on strongly to just about make up the leeway. On winning, Gomez became a three-weight world champion.

 

Gomez’s first defence would come against Alfredo Layne, who although ranked at number three did not have the record to back it up. The wild, big-punching Panamanian had 13 wins, five defeats and one no contest on his slate, but apart from a victory over Rudy Alpizar the cupboard was bare.

 

24 May 1986. Alfredo Layne w rsc 9 (15) Wilfredo Gomez

Venue: Roberto Clemente Coliseum, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Stan Christodoulou.

Fight Summary: Not destined to hold on to his title for long, this being his first defence, Gomez (130) was ahead on the cards after seven rounds despite having been hurt several times as Layne (130) crashed in heavy rights to the head. The sixth and seventh were sensational, hard-hitting sessions as Gomez did everything but knock his challenger out, but near the end of the eighth the fight turned when two big rights to the head dropped the champion heavily to be saved by the bell. Coming out for the ninth Gomez had nothing left, and after Layne had sent in a series of heavy rights that left him on his knees the referee called it off 32 seconds into the round.

 

Layne’s first challenger would be the unrated Brian Mitchell, a clever box-fighter who had put together 28 wins, one draw and one defeat since turning pro in 1981. Largely unknown due to the fact that all of his fights had taken place in South Africa, where he was a champion, he had quickly avenged both of the blots on his record and beaten two well-known men in Bashew Sibaca and Nika Khumalo.

 

27 September 1986. Brian Mitchell w rsc 10 (15) Alfredo Layne

Venue: Super Bowl, Sun City, South Africa. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Hubert Earle.

Fight Summary: Having beaten the three-weight world champion Wilfredo Gomez last time out, this time round a strangely lethargic-looking Layne (128½) was a huge disappointment, despite cutting Mitchell (129¾) over both eyes in the fourth round. From the fifth onwards, Mitchell, hammering in punches with both hands, took control as Layne looked in disarray and was tiring fast. After systematically working Layne over, the tenth saw Mitchell driving the Panamanian round the ring before dropping him for ‘eight’ following blows to head and body. Back on his feet Layne was quickly put down twice more, whereupon the fight was awarded to Mitchell at 2.07 of the session on the ‘three knockdowns in a round’ ruling which decreed an automatic stoppage.

 

27 March 1987. Brian Mitchell drew 15 Jose Rivera

Venue: Roberto Clemente Coliseum, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Billy Yohan.

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

Fight Summary: Floored for the automatic ‘eight’ in the fourth, Mitchell (129½), working well to the body and scoring with right uppercuts and left hooks, came back strongly against the hard-punching challenger in what turned out be a hard fight. Possessing a hurtful left jab and countering with both hands, Rivera (129) was always a handful for Mitchell, who was cut over the right eye in the sixth and under the left eye in the ninth. In the last three rounds Rivera came on strong, cutting Mitchell over the left eye, but it was not enough for victory in the eyes of two judges.

 

31 July 1987. Brian Mitchell w rsc 14 (15) Francisco Fernandez

Venue: New City Gym, Panama City, Panama. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Eddie Eckert.

Fight Summary: Despite being in charge with non-stop pinpoint left jabs throughout, the champion stood up to Fernandez (129) in the early rounds, even mixing it before being shaken in the ninth by a terrific body shot. Following that, Mitchell (129½) then went back to his tried and trusted jab, and by the 11th was using Fernandez’s head like a speedball. In the 13th, Fernandez, pinned on the ropes and being picked off clinically, then suffered attacks to both head and body that left him in a daze before much of the same in the 14th session saw the referee come to his rescue with 1.06 on the clock.

 

3 October 1987. Brian Mitchell w pts 15 Daniel Londas

Venue: International Swimming Pool, Gravelines, France. Recognition: WBA. Referee: John Coyle.

Scorecards: 146-145, 147-138, 148-143.

Fight Summary: Even though Mitchell (129) floored his challenger twice for the mandatory ‘eight’, once in the third and again in the 12th round, with his timing off on occasion he was forced to travel the full distance. Unfortunately for Londas (128½) he lacked the power required at this level, and unable to do any damage against a physically stronger man the fight dragged along at a slow pace until the final bell.

 

19 December 1987. Brian Mitchell w rtd 8 (12) Salvatore Curcetti

Venue: Sports Palace, Capo D'Orlando, Italy. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Enzo Montero.

Fight Summary: Cut over the left eye as early as the second round, Curcetti (128½), unable to keep the stronger champion at bay for long enough periods, was well behind when he was half punched, half pushed to the floor in the seventh and forced to take a count. Mitchell (128¾), now sensing a finish, began to work the Italian over in the eighth before flooring him with a solid blow to the body. At the end of that session, Curcetti, his face badly swollen, was retired by his corner during the interval.

 

26 April 1988. Brian Mitchell w pts 12 Jose Rivera

Venue: Scalia Melia Cabaret Rooms, Madrid, Spain. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Uriel Aguilera.

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

Fight Summary: Making his fifth defence, Mitchell (128¾) took on an old rival in Rivera (129¼) who got off to a good start when he floored the champion with a big right hand in the second. However, unable to follow up his advantage, after Rivera allowed Mitchell to take a grip of proceedings the tough South African, punching solidly with both hands to head and body, went up a few gears to win handily.

 

2 November 1988. Brian Mitchell w pts 12 Jim McDonnell

Venue: Elephant & Castle Recreation Centre, Southwark, London, England. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Isidro Rodriguez.

Scorecards: 118-110, 117-112, 119-113.

Fight Summary: Despite holding his own with nice boxing over the first six rounds the unbeaten challenger began to slip when Mitchell (130) came on strongly from the seventh onwards, with body punches finding their target more often. There was no doubt that McDonnell (130), slowing up appreciably, was landing less as he spent more time avoiding blows, although the 11th saw him fighting well before the South African got back in the driving seat in the final three minutes.

 

11 February 1989. Brian Mitchell w rsc 8 Salvatore Bottiglieri

Venue: Guiseppi Valencia Sports Palace, Capo D’Orlando, Italy. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Julio Alvarado.

Fight Summary: Proving to be much too strong for his challenger, Mitchell (129½) never looked like relinquishing that stance as he bullied the Italian around. Apart from the second and fifth rounds when he at least tried to raise his pace Bottiglieri (128¾) simply did not have the experience or the armoury to bother Mitchell, and in the eighth he was dropped by a hard right to the head after being softened up by three heavy lefts. Back on his feet but groggy, when Bottiglieri was met by an avalanche of blows the referee quickly stepped in with 65 seconds of the session remaining.

 

2 July 1989. Brian Mitchell w tdec 9 Jackie Beard

Venue: Ezio Scida Stadium, Crotone, Italy. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Isidro Rodriguez.

Scorecards: 79-76, 79-73, 78-75.

Fight Summary: After dominating from the second round with solid left jabs the champion had Beard (130) under some pressure in the third. Although the rugged American came back well in the fourth he ended the session with eye damage. By the fifth Mitchell (130) was banging in good right hands, and by the seventh he was landing numerous blows from both hands almost without reply. Despite going well in the eighth, especially with right hands to the body, Mitchell picked up a cut over the left eye. In the ninth, following a series of left hooks Mitchell was badly cut over the other eye, whereupon the fight was stopped with just 50 seconds remaining. Ahead on the judges' scorecards, and successfully claiming that the cuts were caused by head butts, Mitchell was awarded the technical decision.

28 September 1989. Brian Mitchell w rsc 7 Irving Mitchell

Venue: Central Youth Centre, Lewiston, Maine, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Nick Drake.

Fight Summary: Trading punches from the opening bell, with the two Mitchells standing toe-to-toe the round ended with the champion, Brian Mitchell (130), carrying cuts over both eyes. In the third, the South African dropped Irving Mitchell (129¼), a southpaw, following two heavy rights to the head, and although the latter came back well it was noticeable that Brian Mitchell was beginning to take control. By the sixth, the American, his right eye swollen, was being belted by punches to head and body while showing limited defensive skills. Rocked by a big right hand early in the seventh, Irving Mitchell was then sent down by a barrage of lefts and rights. On getting up inside the automatic ‘eight’ the referee called it off after 2.54 of the session had elapsed when it became clear that the challenger did not wish to continue.

 

14 March 1990. Brian Mitchell w pts 12 Jackie Beard

Venue: Sports Palace, Grossetto, Italy. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Franco Priami.

Scorecards: 120-112, 120-111, 117-113.

Fight Summary: Bearing in mind his vulnerability around the eyes, Mitchell (129) concentrated on an accurate left hand to outbox Beard (129), and although the latter had closed the distance by the third he still was not close enough to do any real damage. By the fifth Beard was running out of ideas. Despite Mitchell’s eyes puffing up, apart from trying to mess up the champion’s rhythm by mauling and leaning on him, Beard was doing very little in the way of scoring points. Meanwhile, Mitchell was outpunching Beard at the rate of three to one down the home stretch, as well as using his strength to keep the American pinned in to corners, and with no real resistance he motored to a clear win.

 

29 September 1990. Brian Mitchell w pts 12 Frankie Mitchell

Venue: Ghiacchio Ice Palace, Aosta, Italy. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Gerlando Lucia.

Scorecards: 117-113, 116-113, 116-113.

Fight Summary: Troubled by the long arms of the challenger, and having to absorb some hefty rights early on, Brian Mitchell (129½) fought his way back into the fight in the eighth with lefts and rights doing the damage. In the ninth, Frankie Mitchell (129½), although still proving to be a problem and looking fresh, was forced to take three consecutive right uppercuts and six solid left hooks without reply. The last three rounds saw both men going for the win, but it was the better quality of the champion that took the eyes of all three judges.

 

15 March 1991. Brian Mitchell drew 12 Tony Lopez

Venue: Arco Arena, Sacramento, California, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA. Referee: Lou Filippo.

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

Fight Summary: In a battle to unify part of the title between Mitchell (129), the WBA champion, and Lopez (129), his IBF counterpart, the crowd were treated to a fight that would be talked about for a long time as both men gave it everything. Lopez, carrying the bigger punch and using the jab to advantage, was well equipped to win, but with Mitchell standing doggedly in front of him and getting his shots off from both hands, despite being cut over the right eye in the fifth, it was probably a fair decision as neither had fully stamped their authority on the contest.

 

Mitchell relinquished the WBA version of the title on 30 April to avoid a mandatory challenger in order to go in search of the IBF crown and a rematch with Lopez.

 

13 September 1991. Brian Mitchell w pts 12 Tony Lopez

Venue: Arco Arena, Sacramento, California, USA. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Pat Russell.

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

Fight Summary: Six months after their thrilling draw the return saw Mitchell (129), having relinquished the WBA title, using different tactics this time round as he looked to unseat the IBF champion. Starting much quicker, Mitchell outboxed Lopez (130) in the opening two rounds before first one man and then the other had good spells. Although carrying a cut over the right eye from the early rounds Mitchell was just about ahead by the eighth, but from thereon in he moved up a gear behind the jab and the right cross to come home on the cards despite a spirited rally from Lopez in the last session.

 

Following Mitchell’s decision to retire as undefeated IBF champion on 25 January 1992, my version of the 'world' title was next up for grabs when Jeff Fenech, the division’s leading man, and Azumah Nelson, rated at number two, met for the latter’s WBC title on 1 March 1992. A clever box-fighter with a dig, and a former undefeated WBC featherweight champion, Nelson had moved up to win the WBC 130lbs title when beating Lupe Suarez. He had then made successful defences against Sidnei Dal Rovere, Mario Martinez and Jim McDonnell before losing the belt to Pernell Whitaker. Coming back to regain the WBC title with a win over Juan Laporte, Nelson then drew with Fenech, who had been an undefeated world champion at bantamweight (IBF), junior feather (WBC) and feather (WBC). The teak-tough Fenech, with 26 wins and one draw on his slate, would be a tough test for Nelson, who brought 33 wins, one draw and two losses to the table.   

 

1 March 1992. Azumah Nelson w rsc 8 Jeff Fenech

Venue: Princes Park, Melbourne, Australia. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Arthur Mercante.

Fight Summary: Following their earlier contest Nelson (129) was expected to lose this one, but by forcing the pace he made a great start in the opening session when firing in a right over the top to drop Fenech (129) for ‘five’. There was much of the same in the second, and again Fenech was put down, this time only momentarily. With the pattern of the fight set after Nelson cut his rival over the right eye in the fourth he took time out before almost finishing the Aussie off in the sixth, the bell coming to the latter’s rescue. In the eighth Nelson finally made his move, three left hooks followed by a right to the head putting Fenech down for ‘three’. Moments later, at 2.20, the referee called it off when the challenger was under pressure yet again.

 

7 November 1992. Azumah Nelson w pts 12 Calvin Grove

Venue: Caesar’s Palace, Lake Tahoe, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Richard Steele.

Scorecards: 115-112, 114-113, 116-111.

Fight Summary: Starting quickly and scoring an early knockdown with a countering right in the first round, Nelson (129) spent the next few sessions chasing his challenger, who danced away while utilising the jab. However, by the eighth Nelson had started to get to Grove (129), staggering him in the ninth and tenth with heavy blows to head and body. Although the American came back to win the 11th, Nelson’s strength and aggression saw him come on strongly to take the 12th along with the decision.

 

20 February 1993. Azumah Nelson w pts 12 Gabriel Ruelas

Venue: Azteca Stadium, Mexico City, Mexico. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Lupe Garcia.

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

Fight Summary: In what was a hard-fought contest with both men doing good work in fits and starts, it was Nelson’s flourish over the last three rounds which won the fight for him. It had been close, with Ruelas (129) throwing good punches from both hands often shaking the champion up, and the bodywork of Nelson (128) eventually taking its toll on the Mexican who complained bitterly at the finish that he had been robbed. Ultimately, it was Nelson’s greater experience that won the day for him, but it had been a real battle.

 

10 September 1993. Azumah Nelson drew 12 Jesse James Leija

Venue: The Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Jerry McKenzie.

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

Fight Summary: Working in patches and chipping away with left jabs, many thought the champion lucky to hold off the strong challenge from the younger Leija (129) by dint of a draw. It was certainly a hard fight to score, but Nelson (128½) produced the better quality despite doing less, while Leija found it hard to break down his defence with a lot of his punches not landing cleanly. The last few rounds saw Nelson stalking the Texan and working him over to the body before he went into cruise control in the 12th obviously thinking that he had done enough.

 

Following his hard-fought contest with Leija, Nelson’s next defence would be against the same man, who had 27 wins and two draws on his record. The aggressive, two-fisted Leija had wins over Mark Fernandez, Miguel Arrozal, Steve McCrory, Jesus Poll, Troy Dorsey and Louie Espinoza, and was an improving fighter.

 

7 May 1994. Jesse James Leija w pts 12 Azumah Nelson

Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Mitch Halpern.

Scorecards: 114-113, 117-110, 117-109.

Fight Summary: Having learned the lessons from their earlier fight, Leija (130) started well on the back foot before unleashing a cracking right counter to the jaw to floor Nelson (129½) for ‘seven’ in the second round. Although Nelson came back strongly with skilful boxing to win the battle of the jabs, by the fifth Leija began to take over, being first to the punch after a cut had opened over the champion’s left eye. Picking up the pace, Leija was beginning to prove that he was too fast and accurate with either hand for Nelson, and although the latter fired back in several spirited exchanges it was the American who came home on all three cards.

 

Leija’s first challenger would be Gabriel Ruelas, a man who’d already had an unsuccessful crack at the title when falling short against Nelson. Ranked at number six, having put together 38 (21 inside the distance) wins and two defeats since turning pro in 1988, he was an aggressive fighter with no little skill and was a tough obstacle to overcome.  

 

17 September 1994. Gabriel Ruelas w pts 12 Jesse James Leija

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

Scorecards: 115-109, 115-111, 116-108.

Fight Summary: With both men getting away fast and setting a relentless pace, the second round saw Leija (130) dropped for ‘seven’ by a right uppercut after missing with several solid punches of his own. Hauling himself back into the fight, Leija, meeting his challenger blow for blow in the fifth, dropped Ruelas (130) momentarily with a short right hook before the latter came back with a variety of punches to leave the American cut over both eyes. Although Leija rallied strongly at the start of the ninth, by then Ruelas had the fight in his grasp. Carefully boxing his way through to the final session, Ruelas again dropped the aggressive champion, this time with a short right prior to the pair of them slugging it out until the bell.

 

28 January 1995. Gabriel Ruelas w rtd 2 Freddie Liberatore

Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Mitch Halpern.

Fight Summary: Starting like a train, Ruelas (129½) knocked his challenger down with a left hook 20 seconds into the fight before battering him almost without reply until the bell ended the opening round. Somehow surviving, Liberatore (129½), carrying a large swelling under the right eye, came out for the second punching away wildly while being picked off with jabs and uppercuts prior to sustaining a dangerous cut over his left eye. With the injury too bad for him to continue he was retired by his corner during the interval.

 

6 May 1995. Gabriel Ruelas w rsc 11 Jimmy Garcia

Venue: Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Mitch Halpern.

Fight Summary: Dominant from the opening bell Ruelas (130) had too much of everything for his challenger, who was forced to soak up punishment in every round as he went looking for a knockout. Frustrated that Garcia (129½) was still there right in front of him, Ruelas attacked with renewed energy in the tenth, battering his rival from pillar to post. At the end of the round the referee asked the doctor whether he thought Garcia was fit to continue, and after being told that he should not allow the Colombian to take much more, following two vicious rights to the jaw in the 11th the third man stopped the fight 25 seconds into the session. Moments after the fight was over, Garcia collapsed in his corner before going into a coma and passing away 13 days later.

 

Azumah Nelson, a man who held a victory over the champion, would be Ruelas’ next challenger. Coming to the ring with 36 wins, two draws and three defeats under his belt, the former two-weight champion knew that time was not on his side but was well prepared.

 

1 December 1995. Azumah Nelson w rsc 5 Gabriel Ruelas

Venue: Fantasy Springs Resort, Indio, California, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Marty Denkin.

Fight Summary: Coming back to regain his titles at the age of 37 Nelson (130) once again showed just how good he was, while the unfortunate Ruelas (130) freely admitted that he had not got over the Jimmy Garcia fight. Nelson made a great start when he dropped in a heavy right to send Ruelas down 75 seconds after the opening bell. Even though the champion recovered from that he never really got himself into the fight, seemingly content to mainly stay at distance. Towards the end of the fourth Ruelas was put down again following a battery of blows to head and body, and although he made it to the bell it was almost certain that he had received a long count. The fight should have been stopped there and then, but at 1.20 of the fifth it was finally all over after the referee called time when Ruelas, decidedly shaky, was just sucking up punches and not fighting back.

 

1 June 1996. Azumah Nelson w rsc 6 Jesse James Leija

Venue: Boulder Station Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Richard Steele.

Fight Summary: In what was a rubber match between the pair, the champion gained revenge for an earlier defeat when he comprehensively beat Leija (130) this time around. Showing great speed for a 37-year-old man and quickly into his stride, towards the end of the first round Nelson (130) dropped Leija with a right over the top. Although Leija just about beat the count the die had been cast. Dominating into the fifth, Nelson made it pay when a huge left hook initiated a gaping cut on Leija’s left eye, and in the sixth with the Ghanaian on the rampage, throwing barrages of blows from both hands, the referee called it off at 1.58 when it was obvious that Leija could not see properly.

 

Having failed to lift the WBO lightweight title from Oscar De La Hoya, the third-ranked Genaro Hernandez would be the next man to take on Nelson. As a former undefeated WBA champion, having beaten Daniel Londas for the title and then defending the belt against Omar Catari, Masuaki Takada, Yuji Watanabe, Raul Perez (twice), Harold Warren, Jorge Ramirez Jimmy Garcia before forfeiting he was looking to take home another version of the same title, and with a record of 34 wins, one technical draw and one defeat he was still fresh after beating Antonio Hernandez in his previous contest. Extremely tall for the weight, with a spearing jab, he was also a solid puncher who could bang away with both hands.

 

22 March 1997. Genaro Hernandez w pts 12 Azumah Nelson

Venue: Memorial Coliseum, Corpus Christi, Texas, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Laurence Cole.

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

Fight Summary: Using his huge height-and-reach advantages to good effect, Hernandez (129¾) forced the champion to come forward as he boxed on the counter with the points-scoring left hand while occasionally opening up with combinations. The contest took a sudden turn when Nelson (129) continued punching after the bell had rung to end the seventh, dropping Hernandez with a left to the jaw. Given five minutes respite, and despite being shaky, Hernandez finished the last five rounds moving and keeping away from trouble to win by a narrow margin. Hernandez, who won only one of the last five rounds, could have taken a disqualification win but decided to continue to prove his worth.

 

14 June 1997. Genaro Hernandez w pts 12 Anatoly Alexandrov

Venue: The Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Jerry McKenzie.

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

Fight Summary: Making a sluggish start the champion struggled to find any rhythm in his work until he began to score well with the jab and several heavy rights to the head in the fourth. It was still messy though, and in the latter rounds, Alexandrov (129¾), who was cut over the left eye in the seventh, began to work even harder on the inside. Despite being thrown to the canvas in the tenth Hernandez (129¾) got back to his boxing, his cleaner work getting him the win.

 

20 November 1997. Genaro Hernandez w pts 12 Carlos Hernandez

Venue: Grand Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Dave Nelson.

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

Fight Summary: In a battle of namesakes, when Carlos Hernandez (129½) found that giving away nearly eight inches in reach was an impossible task it was only the champion’s fragile right hand which stopped this from being an inside-the-distance win for him. Round after round the stumpy challenger came chugging in only to be repelled by a strong left jab, but failing to be discouraged he often made Genaro Hernandez (128½) fight hard on occasion. It was not enough though.

 

16 May 1998. Genaro Hernandez w pts 12 Carlos Gerena

Venue: Fantasy Springs Casino, Indio, California, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: James Jen-Kin.

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

Fight Summary: Not at his best for this defence Hernandez (129¼) made a disappointing start before mastering Gerena (129) as he slowed towards the end, especially with jabs and countering blows that picked up points. For the rugged Gerena, who concentrated on the body and was always in front of the champion, it would have to be another day. Having worked hard during the early and middle rounds he was still competitive right up until the final bell.

 

Turning pro after winning a bronze medal in the 1996 Olympic Games, Floyd Mayweather Jnr would be the next challenger for Hernandez. With 17 straight wins, 13 of them being inside the distance, Mayweather had fairly ripped through the opposition, Tony Pep being the latest victim. Improving in every contest, with speed and power to burn, he was an exciting prospect who would only get better.

 

3 October 1998. Floyd Mayweather Jnr w rtd 8 Genaro Hernandez

Venue: Hilton Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Jay Nady.

Fight Summary: A 1996 Olympian, Mayweather (130) became the first of that group to win a world title when he used his superior speed and power to overwhelm Hernandez (130) at times with blindingly fast flurries that exposed the champion the longer the fight went. Having used the opening round to have a good look at his opponent, Mayweather took off in round two, and with speed and energy to burn he literally leapt into action. At times it was messy as Hernandez tried to stem the flow of punches coming his way, but at the end of the eighth it was all over when he was retired by his corner who decided to call a halt to the beating.

 

19 December 1998. Floyd Mayweather Jnr w rsc 2 Angel Manfredy

Venue: Miccosukee Hotel Casino, Miami, Florida, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Frank Santore Jnr.

Fight Summary: With both men landing effectively in the first, by the end of the round it was apparent that although the champion could be hit his hand-speed was awesome. In the second, working behind the jab, Manfredy (130) had some early successes when catching Mayweather (130) on the ropes with body shots, but towards the end of the session a lightning right hand to the temple stunned him and sent him lurching. On to his dazed opponent in a flash, Mayweather pumped in punch after punch as he looked to finish it, and with Manfredy still upright but in no position to defend himself the referee stopped it with just 13 seconds of the round left.

 

17 February 1999. Floyd Mayweather Jnr w pts 12 Carlos Rios

Venue: Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Dale Grable.

Scorecards: 120-110, 120-109, 119-108.

Fight Summary: In what was virtually a shut-out win for the champion, Rios (129) proved himself to be able to take anything thrown at him while constantly going forward in an effort to land punches of his own. Even though his attempts to damage Mayweather (130) were almost all futile, apart from having minor successes in the opening two rounds, he never gave up trying. The last two sessions saw Mayweather raining in all manner of blows as he desperately tried for a knockout, while Rios merely took them and came back for more.

 

22 May 1999. Floyd Mayweather Jnr w co 9 Justin Juuko

Venue: Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Mitch Halpern.

Fight Summary: Dictating from start to finish the champion sped around the late substitute, Juuko (130), as he sent in flurries of jabs and an assortment of other blows that not only confused the latter but also the audience who could barely make them out. Even when Juuko occasionally got close Mayweather (130) would show his defensive skills off before getting back in control with the jab, and by the sixth it had become almost an exhibition. The next three rounds saw much of the same until three right hands to the head followed by a shove sent Juuko down to be counted out at 1.20 of the ninth.

 

11 September 1999. Floyd Mayweather Jnr w rtd 7 Carlos Gerena

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

Fight Summary: Having survived two heavy first-round knockdowns, a right hand and a left-right doing the damage, Gerena ( 130) somehow mustered up the ability to not only recover quickly but to even fight back on occasion. Although Mayweather (130) took every round he was unable to shift the challenger, and it was not until he began to plant his feet that his punches began to take effect again. By this time, with Gerena unable to function properly, his corner wisely retired him at the end of the seventh.

 

18 March 2000. Floyd Mayweather Jnr w pts 12 Gregorio Vargas

Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Richard Steele.

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

Fight Summary: Coming back to the ring after a six-month layoff, Mayweather (130) had an easy time of it against Vargas (130) when taking virtually every round by using his superior speed. Sticking to his boxing, the only time Mayweather had the challenger in trouble was in the sixth when a great left hook to the body put the Mexican down before the bell came to his aid. However much he tried Mayweather could not drop Vargas again, and the last round saw him firing in fast left hooks and uppercuts without the latter being put under too much pressure.

 

20 January 2001. Floyd Mayweather Jnr w rsc 10 Diego Corrales

Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Richard Steele.

Fight Summary: Never really getting into the fight after giving up his IBF Championship Belt in order to go for the WBC title, Corrales (130), who failed to use his height-and-reach advantages, was pounded to defeat at 2.19 of the tenth round. Landing as he pleased throughout with all manner of shots, Mayweather (130) eventually floored Corrales in the seventh with a crunching left hook, knocking him down twice more before the session ended. There were no further knockdowns in the next two rounds as Mayweather took it easy, but all that changed at 2.19 of the tenth when Corrales, having been dropped twice more, was rescued by the referee.

 

26 May 2001. Floyd Mayweather Jnr w pts 12 Carlos Hernandez

Venue: Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Dale Grable.

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

Fight Summary: Complaining that both his hands were injured the champion put on a dismal display against Hernandez (128½), a huge underdog and a man he was expected to beat rather easily. Although Mayweather (130) occasionally cut loose Hernandez did not budge, even forcing the former to stumble to the floor in the sixth for what the referee termed a count. And despite the jab finding Hernandez at will on occasion, the unpopular Mayweather was still unable to maintain any rhythm.

 

10 November 2001. Floyd Mayweather Jnr w rtd 9 Jesus Chavez

Venue: Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, California, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Jon Schorle.

Fight Summary: Back at his best the champion quickly got the measure of Chavez (129½) but the smaller man never backed off and was always looking to fire punches in, especially to the body, regardless of whether they hit the target or not. As the fight wore on, Mayweather (129½), landing with good jabs and banging in rights to the head, increased his lead virtually in every session before really opening up in the ninth. With Mayweather looking to finish it Chavez was forced to soak up heavy punishment, and although the Mexican was gritting his teeth and fighting back he was retired by his corner prior to the tenth getting underway.

 

Further to Mayweather relinquishing the title on becoming the WBC lightweight champion on 20 April 2002, Acelino Freitas, who held the WBA and WBO titles, should be accorded 'world' title status in line with my formula. The heavy handed Freitas, who was undefeated on 31 wins, had won the WBO title on 7 August 1999, beating Anatoly Alexandrov inside a round, before making successful defences against Anthony Martinez, Barry Jones, Javier Jaauregui, Lemuel Nelson, Carlos Rios and Orlando Soto. In his last contest he had added the WBA title to his list of honours when defeating Joel Casamayor.

 

3 August 2002. Acelino Freitas w pts 12 Daniel Attah

Venue: The Dodge Theatre, Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Recognition: WBA/WBO. Referee: Bobby Ferrara.

Scorecards: 117-110, 117-110, 117-110.

Fight Summary: While there was no doubting the champion’s power, it was ominous that since moving up in class Attah (130) became the third opponent in succession to deny him an inside-the-distance victory. Although he had not boxed for eight months the wily Attah, making a difficult target, gave Freitas (130) all the problems he could handle and never remained in one place long enough to be blown away. Docked a point for low blows in the tenth Freitas continued to land solidly, but with Attah taking whatever was coming his way without too much difficulty the contest virtually petered out before the final bell.

 

15 March 2003. Acelino Freitas w rsc 4 Juan Carlos Ramirez

Venue: UIC Pavilion, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Recognition: WBA/WBO. Referee: Genaro Rodriguez.

Fight Summary: A replacement for Gabriel Ruelas, the challenger was soon on the back foot as Freitas (130) began to unleash his bombs from the opening bell. However, early in the second with Ramirez (130) proving adept in getting under the blows he suddenly opened up with a left hook to put the champion on the floor. Up immediately, Freitas ripped punches into Ramirez, who made it to the bell only to be assaulted with venom as the third got underway. Down twice from vicious blows to head and body, Ramirez somehow survived into the fourth where another tremendous battering awaited him. Racing out of his corner Freitas quickly got on with business, and following up some big punches a right uppercut smashed Ramirez down to be rescued by the referee 19 seconds into the session.

 

9 August 2003. Acelino Freitas w rsc 12 Jorge Barrios

Venue: The Arena, Miami, Florida, USA. Recognition: WBA/WBO. Referee: Jorge Alonso.

Fight Summary: With Barrios (129) badly cut over the left eye and the champion having suffered a damaged ear and put down in the eighth, the fight became a war of attrition as both men looked for the punch that would end it. Coming into the 11th it was extremely close, but when Barrios dropped Freitas (130) for the second time, a heavy right doing the job, it looked like it just might go his way. However, Freitas was not finished, and as Barrios tore in for the kill a huge right smashed him to the deck. Although the Argentine made it back to his corner to answer the bell for the final round he was twice slammed to the canvas before being rescued by the referee with 2.10 of the fight remaining.

 

Freitas moved up a division on 15 January 2004 after winning the WBO lightweight crown, thus vacating all of his titles. The next time my version of the 'world' title became available was when Erik Morales, the WBC champion following his victory over Jesus Chavez, met Carlos Hernandez, the IBF title holder, in a unifying contest on 31 July 2004. A clever, hard-hitting, punch picker, Morales had lost just once in 47 contests, and that to the brilliant Marco Antonio Barrera whom he already had a win over. He had also been the undefeated WBO/WBC junior featherweight champion and a two-time WBC featherweight champion. Hernandez, who had beaten David Santos to land the IBF title before defending it against Steve Forbes, had 40 wins, one draw and three losses on his slate.

 

31 July 2004. Erik Morales w pts 12 Carlos Hernandez

Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBC. Referee: Vic Drakulich.

Scorecards: 115-113, 119-109, 119-109.

Fight Summary: The WBC’s Morales (130) proved to be the master of Hernandez (130), the IBF champion, picking his shots well from both hands, especially when doubling up with accurate rights followed by solid uppercuts. To Hernandez’s credit he took everything that Morales could throw unflinchingly while always looking to get off left hooks to head and body, but try what he might he was generally outworked. Getting more competitive as it went on, the final session saw both men belting away two-handedly as they looked to impress the judges. Despite it being a tough fight there were no knockdowns, but Morales, cut over the left eye in the fourth and on the right eye in the 11th finished the more marked up of the pair.

 

Morales forfeited the IBF title on 28 September when he failed to ask for an exception to defend against Marco Antonio Barrera on 27 November, the fight going ahead for the WBC crown only. As Morales’ next challenger, Barrera, a former three-time WBO junior featherweight champion (undefeated on the final occasion) and undefeated WBC featherweight title holder would come to the ring with 58 wins, four losses and one no contest on his tab. With one win apiece it was always going to be tight.

 

 

27 November 2004. Marco Antonio Barrera w pts 12 Erik Morales

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

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

Fight Summary: This, the third fight between deadly rivals, was always going to be a close one. Slightly favoured prior to the contest getting underway Morales (130) tried to gain control from the outside but found Barrera (129½) continuously looking to get inside where he could fire in uppercuts from both hands. With every round bitterly contested, coming into the penultimate session it appeared that Morales needed to up his work-rate if he was going to get anything out of the fight. Showing added urgency Morales ripped into Barrera during the final two sessions, but with the latter refusing to give way the title changed hands. On winning, Barrera became a world champion at three different weights.

 

9 April 2005. Marco Antonio Barrera w rsc 2 Mzonke Fana

Venue: Don Haskins Centre, El Paso, Texas, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Laurence Cole.

Fight Summary: Badly overmatched the unfortunate Fana (128¾) was soon in trouble, being staggered by a right to the head, the first punch delivered by the champion. Fana, who appeared at a loss as how to deal with Barrera (130), was soon retreating at speed. Into the second round it was obvious to all that it would be just a matter of time before Barrera got the job done, Fana eventually being dropped by a vicious right hand to the jaw which sent him crashing. Not even bothering to count the referee called an immediate halt, the finish being timed at 1.48.

 

17 September 2005. Marco Antonio Barrera w pts 12 Robbie Peden

Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBC. Referee: Richard Steele.

Scorecards: 118-109, 118-108, 118-108.

Fight Summary: In what was a unification battle Barrera (130) proved much too good for Peden (130), a former sparring partner, outclassing the IBF champion in virtually every category on his way to an easy victory. Heads came together in the fourth, leaving Barrera with a cut left eye, but apart from that Peden had no success at all, his efforts to get into the contest being negated at every turn as the Mexican strolled through the rounds. Deducted a point in the tenth for landing a low blow that nobody but the referee saw it was only in the 11th and 12th that Barrera fully opened up, with Peden just making it to the final bell.

 

Barrera forfeited the IBF title on 19 April 2006 when he could not meet the body's commitments along with those of the WBC.

 

20 May 2006. Marco Antonio Barrera w pts 12 Rocky Juarez

Venue: Staples Centre, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Raul Caiz.

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

Fight Summary: Surprised by the quality and power of his challenger, Barrera (129) was pushed all the way from start to finish. Hurt in the third by a crashing left hook, Barrera looked to be in some difficulty with his left eye beginning to swell, but remaining calm as Juarez (129¼) picked up the pace he came back strongly. In the sixth, with both men looking to get off big punches, Barrera landed heavily but to no great effect as Juarez brushed them aside. It was Barrera who looked the most battered by the eighth, his face distinctly showing wear and tear, and Juarez continued to wreak damage when winning four of the last five sessions. Although the result was initially announced as being a split decision draw, when it was discovered that there were mistakes on two of the cards it was amended to a split decision win for Barrera.

 

16 September 2006. Marco Antonio Barrera w pts 12 Rocky Juarez

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

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

Fight Summary: In a return contest that had been demanded by the public, Barrera (130) again proved his worth after being forced to fight every step of the way by the hard-hitting Juarez (129). This time round though, Barrera made Juarez fight his fight when hitting and moving before going on to the back foot. For round after round Juarez chased after Barrera, hoping that he would stand and fight, but he was continually outwitted and outmanoeuvred. Juarez finished with his right eye almost shut.

 

Looking to become a world champion at different weights, Juan Manuel Marquez (129), the former undefeated IBF and WBA champion, and current WBO featherweight title holder, would be Barrera’s next challenger. An all-action warrior, Marquez had put together 46 wins, one draw and three defeats since turning pro in 1993.

 

17 March 2007. Juan Manuel Marquez w pts 12 Marco Antonio Barrera

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

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

Fight Summary: The current WBO featherweight champion, Marquez (129) made a decent start against Barrera (130), the current incumbent, when landing the better quality punches and boxing smartly. Barrera was always a threat, his left, hammering into Marquez at times, but by the fifth he was beginning to tail off. Badly hurt by a right to the jaw in the seventh, Barrera took more solid shots on board before dropping Marquez with a right and then being docked a point for hitting the latter when he was on all fours. Strangely, the referee failed to record it as a knockdown. Despite Marquez's left eye closing fast in the ninth, he stormed forward to batter away at Barrera, producing a cut on the latter's left eye in the tenth, before going on to win the remaining three sessions and the unanimous points decision. Marquez was also cut over his right eye in the 12th. Having become a two-weight world champion on winning, Marquez relinquished his WBO featherweight title on 1 April.

 

3 November 2007. Juan Manuel Marquez w pts 12 Rocky Juarez

Venue: Desert Diamond Casino, Tucson, Arizona, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Bobby Ferrara.

Scorecards: 117-111, 118-110, 120-108.

Fight Summary: Making the worst possible start, Juarez (129) received a badly cut left eye in the first round following a clash of heads as he and the champion unintentionally collided. With his fight plan now well and truly messed up Juarez was forced to sit tight and hope he could come again in the latter stages if the wound held up. Strangely, the end of the fourth (the last completed session in which a technical draw could be announced) came early when the timekeeper closed the round after two minutes rather than three. Although Juarez picked it up in the ninth, Marquez (128), his right eye now swollen, remained the boss, especially when landing body shots. Why Juarez was allowed to get through the last four sessions was a mystery as his left eye was spurting blood while he was also bleeding from the right optic and taking more punches than he should have with his vision so badly impaired.

 

Manny Pacquiao, the former undefeated WBC flyweight title holder and undefeated IBF junior featherweight champion, would be Marquez’s next challenger. With a record showing 45 wins, two draws, including one of the technical variety, and three defeats the all-action southpaw was the current WBC International champion, having beaten Hector Velazquez for the vacant title and successfully defending it against Erik Morales (2), Oscar Larios, Jorge Solis and Marco Antonio Barrera. The Ring Championship Belt would also be on the line in this one.

 

15 March 2008. Manny Pacquiao w pts 12 Juan Manuel Marquez

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

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

Fight Summary: With his titles on the line, Marquez (130) was looking to improve on his earlier meeting with Pacquiao (129) which ended in a draw. It was always going to be a tough ask, and in the third he was dropped by a heavy Pacquiao southpaw left to the jaw before getting up and fighting back hard. There were no more knockdowns, but each round was keenly contested as first one man took the initiative and then the other. At the final bell it was Pacquiao who received the split decision, but it was tight enough to have gone either way. Both men were cut badly, Pacquiao above and below the right eye (18 micro stitches needed) and Marquez over the right optic, which required eight regular stitches.

 

Having become a three-weight world champion on winning, Pacquiao relinquished the WBC title and Ring Championship Belt on 16 July following his victory over David Diaz for the WBC lightweight crown on 28 June. The next time that my version of the 'world' title would be on the line came when the IBF matched the top-rated Mzonke Fana and Cassius Baloyi, ranked at number four, to contest the title vacated by Robert Guerrero. Fana had earlier won the same title when beating the champion, Malcolm Klassen, but after a single successful defence against Javier Osvaldo Alvarez he was beaten by Baloyi, who in turn was defeated by Klassen. The merry go round continued when Klassen was defeated by Guerrero. Baloyi came to the ring with 37 wins, one technical draw and four losses on his record, while Fana, a counter-puncher with great defensive skills, had 29 wins and four losses on his slate.

 

1 September 2010. Mzonke Fana w pts 12 Cassius Baloyi

Venue: Carnival City Arena, Brakpan, Gauteng, South Africa. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Deon Dwarte.

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

Fight Summary: Contested for the vacant IBF title after Robert Guerrero handed in his belt, Fana (129¾) was extremely keen to beat Baloyi (129½), who had taken the championship from him back in 2008. Although Baloyi was competitive in the first half of the contest despite Fana winning most of the rounds, the latter had been hurt in the fourth by a terrific right to the jaw and the follow-up left hook. By the ninth, however, it was clear that Baloyi was fading fast, and while unable to drop him Fana handed out a beating right up to the final bell. Fana forfeited the IBF title on 20 May 2011, having signed up to defend against Argenis Mendez before pulling out due to not being properly prepared.

 

Further to Mzonke Fana forfeiting my version of the 'world' title on 1 September 2012, for failing to defend against a top-five opponent for two years, the next time it became available was when the WBC champion, Francisco Vargas, the top-ranked man in the division, defended his title against Orlando Salido, who was rated third. Vargas had won the WBC title when stopping Takashi Miura inside nine rounds on 21 November 2015.

 

4 June 2016. Francisco Vargas drew 12 Orlando Salido

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

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

Fight Summary: Not a fight for the purist, both men giving it everything and more, the champion held on to his title by a majority draw in a contest where he landed 316 power punches to Salido’s 299 according to CompuBox. Surprisingly, there were no knockdowns in a fight in which there were so many hard shots thrown. However, there was plenty of heavy in-fighting as the oncoming Salido (130) leaned in on Vargas (129½), who was badly cut over both eyes, and both men had their successes. First one then the other seemed to have the upper hand before Vargas made up any lost ground when winning three of the last four rounds on the cards. It was clear from the injuries sustained that Vargas, having failed to grasp the WBC title, would need some time away from boxing.

 

The next time my version of the 'world' title would be on the line came when the top-ranked Miguel Berchelt put his WBC title up for grabs on 11 May 2019 against the man he won it from, Francisco Vargas (25 wins, two draws and one defeat), rated at number four. Berchelt, who had lost just once in 36 contests, 31 of his victories being inside the distance, had made four successful defences when turning back Takashi Miura, Maxwell Awuku, Jonathan Victor Barros and Miguel Roman.

 

11 May 2019. Miguel Berchelt w rtd 6 Francisco Vargas

Venue: Convention Centre, Tucson, Arizona, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Jay Nady.

Fight Summary: In what was a return match, the champion won even more convincingly this time around after Vargas (130) was not allowed to come out for the seventh after his trainer felt that he had already taken far too much punishment and had a bad cut on the bridge of his nose. It was noticeable early on that although Vargas scored well to head and body at times, and gave it all he had, Berchelt (130), who was by far the stronger, always came back hard with solid, accurate shots of his own. By the fifth it was clear that Vargas could not survive much longer, it coming as no surprise when he was retired.   

 

2 November 2019. Miguel Berchelt w rsc 4 Jason Sosa

Venue: Dignity Health Sports Park, Carson, California, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Jack Reiss.

Fight Summary: Despite not being in The Ring ratings, the challenger quickly took up the running, hurting Berchelt (129¾) in the opener with solid combinations before coming apart at the seams in the second round. Dropped heavily by a left hook, Sosa (128¼) made it to his feet only to be battered by more heavy blows as he sought cover. Somehow making it into the fourth it was clear that time was almost up for Sosa after he was dropped by a left to the body and right to the jaw. Although Sosa got up he was in no condition to continue, and following advice from his corner the referee called a halt at 2.56 of the session.  

Berchelt's next defence of the WBC title would be against Oscar Valdez, a hard-hitting former undefeated WBO featherweight champion who was unbeaten in 28 contests, 22 of them coming inside the distance. Having defended the WBO 126lbs title five times after defeating Matias Carlos Adrian Rueda he had moved up to 130lbs to beat Adam Lopez and Jayson Velez prior to meeting Berchelt.

20 February 2021. Oscar Valdez w co 10 Miguel Berchelt

Venue: MGM Grand Hotel Bubble, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Russell Mora.