Middleweight World Champions & Their Championship Fights (160lbs)

Having taken over Mike O’Dowd’s 158/160lbs middleweight title claim on 6 May 1920, Johnny Wilson would defend it against the same man in what would be the first middleweight title fight held under Walker Law. And from thereon in all title bouts would be contested at 160lbs. With Britain and the IBU recognising 160lbs as being the middleweight limit, after the Walker Law was passed that weight was also accepted by the New York State Boxing Commission (NYSAC). The National Boxing Association (NBA), which was formed on 13 January 1921, followed suit. The tough Wilson, a hard-hitting southpaw who had been a pro since October 1912, had beaten some useful men such as KO Sweeney, Art McGirl, Leo Houck, Augie Ratner, Young Fisher, Young Ahearn (2) and Billy Murray, and after beating O’Dowd had defended his claim against Soldier Bartfield, Fisher and Steve Choynski. Wilson’s record showed that in 77 contests he had put together 36 wins, two draws, 14 losses, 24 no-decision contests and one no contest. Prior to losing to Wilson, the clever, wily O’Dowd had picked up Al McCoy’s 158lbs title claim on 14 November 1917 and defended it against Harry Greb, Jackie Clark, Ted Kid Lewis, Soldier Bartfield, Mike Gibbons, Frankie Carbone, Stockyards Tommy Murphy, Augie Ratner, Joe Eagan and Walter Laurette. A pro since January 1913, O’Dowd’s 105-fight record was made up of 46 wins, two draws, three defeats, 53 no-decision contests and one no contest. 

 

17 March 1921. Johnny Wilson w pts 15 Mike O'Dowd

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

Fight Summary: Although the decision was split, in at least ten of the 15 rounds Wilson (158) battered O’Dowd (159¼) around the ring, ripping home blows to head and body with uppercuts and stiff southpaw right hooks. While O’Dowd, gashed over the right eye in the 11th and above the left in the 13th, plugged away his attacks became more futile the longer it went on, especially with the flow of blood almost blinding him. There were no knockdowns, but several times the challenger complained of low blows to little avail as Wilson went about his work. The general consensus at ringside was that Wilson should have been disqualified.

 

On 27 July at Dunn Field, Cleveland, Ohio, Wilson ran into trouble against Bryan Downey. After the no-decision contest came to an end when the referee disqualified Downey (154), the Cleveland Boxing Commission refused to accept the decision, declaring Downey the winner by a kayo. This action was eventually supported by the Ohio Boxing Commission on 23 August, who awarded Downey champion status.

 

5 September 1921. Johnny Wilson nd-drew 12 Bryan Downey

Venue: Boyle’s Thirty Acres, Jersey City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY/Lineal. Referee: Jim Savage.

Fight Summary: A return fight, Wilson (159) had his purse suspended for ‘spoiling’ and not wishing to make a fight of it, while Downey (154½) was exonerated. While there had been nothing to choose between the pair, whether Wilson had failed to extend himself was debatable. But with few clean blows landed and the champion fighting defensively, despite occasionally jabbing with an extended southpaw right, the New Jersey Boxing Commission thought otherwise. Although Wilson was twice staggered, in the first and fifth rounds, Downey, who was cut over the right eye in the fifth, lacked direction and was all hit and miss when failing to finish the champion off.

 

Meanwhile, on 4 January 1922, Wilson was barred by the NYSAC from fighting in New York until agreeing to defend his title against Harry Greb, an action that was followed by the NBA, which represented 16 States, banning him 12 days later. Massachusetts also banned Wilson from fighting in their State until July 1922.

 

21 April 1922. Johnny Wilson nd-nc 4 (10) KO Jaffe

Venue: American AC, Hazleton, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: Pennsylvania/Lineal. Referee: Joe O’Donnell.

Fight Summary: Given title billing, and contested in one of the few States where Wilson could still ply his trade, the Hazleton Standard Sentinel reported the men as being inside 158lbs. The paper went on to say that Wilson had an easy time of it apart from being dumped in the second round from a right hand on the chin. Getting to his feet quickly, despite being dazed, the southpaw champion tore into Jaffe so viciously that the latter was compelled to hold on for dear life. From then on, with Wilson doing all the leading, Jaffe had no chance. As the fourth began Jaffe fell to his knees from a shove, and just as Wilson moved in for kill the referee called it off, claiming it to be a no contest, as the angry crowd hissed and booed.

 

Further to Wilson going back on his agreement to meet Harry Greb, and also turning down a challenge from Dave Rosenberg, the NYSAC stripped him on 6 June.  Eventually, the NYSAC reinstated as champion after he had signed contracts on 29 June 1923 to defend the title against Harry Greb at the Polo Grounds in New York City during August. At the same time, the NBA stated that they would also recognise the winner as the champion. A veteran of the ring, Greb had taken part in 237 contests, made up of 63 wins, two draws, three defeats, one no contest and 168 of the no-decision variety, often giving away large chunks of weight. A veritable non-stop windmill type of fighter, Greb had beaten title claimants such as Young Ahearn, Frank Mantell, George Chip, Bob Moha, Al McCoy, Eddie McGoorty, Leo Houck, Joe Borrell and Jeff Smith. He had also won and lost the American light heavyweight title to Gene Tunney, defending it twice against Tommy Loughran, and had defeated much bigger men than himself in Bill Brennan, Gunboat Smith, Charley Weinert and Tommy Gibbons. In short, he feared no one.

 

31 August 1923. Harry Greb w pts 15 Johnny Wilson

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

Fight Summary: Most reports state that Greb (158) won 13 of the 15 rounds on offer, with the southpaw champion appearing bewildered at times as his opponent came in from all angles and kept punching. There was also plenty of the rough stuff, Greb being guilty of butting and thumbing in the clinches while Wilson (158) was not averse to sending in the occasional low blow. What was clear, however, was that Greb was the superior fighter of the two, and at the final bell Wilson was badly marked, his left eye closed, his mouth slashed open and there were lumps under his right eye. ‘The Human Windmill’, as Greb was known, was never at risk, but although making Wilson suffer he could not put him down despite hitting him with every punch in the book. The verdict was unanimous.

 

18 January 1924. Harry Greb w pts 15 Johnny Wilson

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Ed Purdy.

Fight Summary: Up until the seventh round the challenger looked a sure winner, having sickened Greb (159) with terrific southpaw lefts to the body while setting him up for an eventual knockout. Inexplicably, Wilson (159) started to go on the back foot in the seventh, a tactic that encouraged Greb to swarm all over him. Rattled and carrying a badly damaged left eye, Wilson resorted to fouling while possibly looking for a way out. To his credit, Greb, ignoring the low blows, went on to take the unanimous points decision.

 

 

26 June 1924. Harry Greb w pts 15 Ted Moore

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

Fight Summary: Taking place in front of more than 50,000 fans, Greb (159½) immediately moved on to the offensive, producing a seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy as he kept on top of Moore (160), who was forced to defend himself against a champion intent on driving him to the canvas. However, as the fight progressed the Englishman began to prove the master of Greb on the inside when fighting back doggedly, absorbing all the punishment going his way while hitting hard when and where he could in an exciting fight that went the distance. Although the decision was unanimous in Greb’s favour, there was always the chance that Moore could have landed the one that counted, and that in itself kept the fans glued to their seats despite a lack of knockdowns.

 

2 July 1925. Harry Greb w pts 15 Mickey Walker

Venue: Polo Grounds, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Ed Purdy.

Fight Summary: Despite having difficulties making the weight, the champion still had enough left to take a unanimous decision over the youthful Walker (152), the holder of the world welterweight title. Even though he was put down on one knee in the second round Walker was soon tearing into Greb (159), giving the champion such a drubbing in the fifth that it looked as though the title would be changing hands. A round later, however, the tide had turned as Greb began to outbox Walker, and although staggered several times he continued to hold the upper hand right through to the final bell. Walker finished with badly lacerated features and the referee with a limp, having been kneed in the groin, accidentally or otherwise, when warning Greb to cut out the holding.

 

Finally, Tiger Flowers would get a shot at Greb for the title, having been on the wrong end of a newspaper decision in August 1924. A pro since 1918, Flowers was a fast-moving southpaw who threw plenty of punches, some soft, some heavy, and had taken part in 128 contests, comprising 96 wins, five draws, 12 defeats and 15 no-decision affairs. Men beaten by him included Frank Carbone, George Robinson (2), Dan O’Dowd, Ted Moore (2), Jackie Clark, Lou Bogash (2), Jock Malone and Frank Moody.

 

26 February 1926. Tiger Flowers w pts 15 Harry Greb

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Gunboat Smith.

Fight Summary: With Greb again finding it difficult to make the weight, this time it would prove to be his undoing against a challenger who made the running from the opening bell when sending in jolting southpaw lefts to the jaw. As the fight wore on Greb (159½) tried desperately to find a punch that would finish Flowers (158½), but his timing was out and he endlessly missed the target while the latter pecked away with scoring right jabs. Although Greb came back strongly from the 12th onwards, having Flowers reeling at times, unable to make up the lost rounds he forfeited his title by a split decision despite the referee giving him his vote.

 

19 August 1926. Tiger Flowers w pts 15 Harry Greb

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

Fight Summary:  Sharper than when they met before, Greb (159) started fast when hammering the southpaw champion with two-fisted attacks to head and body. Going well, he kept up the pressure for the opening five rounds. Cut over left eye in the third, Flowers (159¼) regrouped to come back strongly in the middle rounds, and in the 13th he sliced open a cut over Greb’s right eye. Many thought that was the end for Greb, but he surprised all of those critics when chasing Flowers non-stop for the remaining six minutes as he looked for a finishing punch. Although the unanimous decision went against him, Greb went out in a blaze of glory. However, there would be no more fights for Greb, who died following a car accident and subsequent operation on 22 October.

 

Flowers’ next defence would be against the former world welterweight champion, Mickey Walker, who since losing his title in May had beaten Jock Malone. Although hardly justifying an immediate crack at Flowers, Walker, whose record showed 41 wins, nine defeats, 44 no-decision bouts and two no contests, was an exciting fighter who put ‘bums’ on seats.

 

3 December 1926. Mickey Walker w pts 10 Tiger Flowers

Venue: The Coliseum, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Benny Yanger.

Fight Summary: Launching a furious two-fisted attack from the opening bell, knowing that the best way for him to win the title was by a knockout, Walker (154) soon put Flowers (159) down with a right to the jaw. Back on his feet quickly, the second round saw Flowers take control when a southpaw right opened a cut over the former world welterweight champion’s left eye. Thereafter, with both men taking it in turns to go on the offensive it seemed to be about even coming into the ninth. Knowing that his bid to win the title depended on the last couple of rounds, Walker waded into Flowers in the ninth to drop him with a left hook-right cross. Although the champion recovered quickly, going toe-to-toe until the end of the tenth, the referee had no hesitation in raising Walker’s hand at the bell. Some 18 fights later, and four days after beating Leo Gates, Flowers tragically lost his life on 16 November 1927 following an operation to remove a growth over his right eye.

 

30 June 1927. Mickey Walker w co 10 (20) Tommy Milligan

Venue: Olympia, Kensington, London, England. Recognition: World. Referee: Eugene Corri.

Fight Summary: For almost all of the opening five rounds it was anybody’s fight as both men exchanged hard blows and fought at close quarters, but towards the end of the fifth the champion caught Milligan (159¼) with a terrific right hand under the heart that ultimately turned the tide of battle. Walker came out fast for the sixth, repeatedly sending in similar blows, and it was no surprise when Milligan (159½) was dropped twice for long counts in the seventh. Still Milligan continued, being floored twice in the eighth and twice in the ninth. And in the tenth following a barrage of lefts and rights the game Milligan was again sent down. Bravely struggling to his feet, Milligan was finally put out of his misery when a right-hand smash dropped him for the last time to be counted out.

 

5 June 1928. Mickey Walker nd-w pts 10 Jock Malone

Venue: Lexington Park, St Paul, Minnesota, USA. Recognition: World.

Fight Summary: Billed for the title in an open-air event, with Malone (157) only able to become champion if Walker (159½) was stopped, kayoed or disqualified, the champion made a good start when stunning the former with two lefts and a right cross to the jaw in the second round. From then on, Malone fought an adroit defensive battle, jabbing, blocking and sidestepping, as Walker tried to wear him down with body punches. Towards the end of the fight, Malone realised he would have to open up if he wanted to land the title, but after Walker’s bodywork had taken the steam out of him the action fizzled out, the latter easily winning the press decision.

 

21 June 1928. Mickey Walker w pts 10 Ace Hudkins

Venue: Comiskey Park, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Ed Purdy.

Fight Summary: To most discerning fans it appeared that the challenger had taken the title after ten rounds of fierce fighting, during which Walker (158) had been forced to soak up incessant body attacks. Apart from the fourth when Walker had Hudkins (155) wobbling from a bombardment of heavy blows to the head, it was the ‘Nebraska Wildcat’ who took the eye. According to the referee, Hudkins won by five rounds to three, with two even. However, the other two judges saw it for Walker. Both men were cut up, which was hardly surprising, and the wild, swinging Hudkins impressed when walking right through Walker, who was unable to keep his fearless rival at bay despite landing some of his best shots.

 

Following his unsuccessful challenge for light heavyweight honours, Walker remained inactive until meeting Leo Lomski (w pts 10 at the Sesquin-Centennial Stadium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 19 August 1929) in a match more to do with the 175lbs weight class. Then, on 17 September 1929, the NBA announced that as they had lost patience with Walker for not keeping his appointment with Hudkins they were stripping him of the title, listing the latter, De Vos and Harry Ebbets as the leading contenders. Although the NBA’s decision remained firm, it was reported a week later that Walker had finally signed to meet Hudkins.

 

29 October 1929. Mickey Walker w pts 10 Ace Hudkins

Venue: Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: California/NY/Lineal. Referee: Jack Kennedy.

Fight Summary: Another ten-rounder, it was not a patch on their previous contest, with Hudkins (156), cut around the eyes and carrying damage to the mouth, unable to produce the debilitating bodywork that many thought would gain him a win over Walker (159½). One report stated that ‘The Wildcat’ fought like a tired old bulldog, while Walker, who took the referee’s decision, failed to live up to his billing, boxing a wily fight as he blocked a high percentage of Hudkins’ body shots on his arms which must have been sore at the finish.

 

There would be no more fights for Walker at the middleweight limit, and regardless of what was being reported it is certain that he saw his future at a higher weight. Suspended in New York since November 1927, it was even reported on 20 January 1930 that Walker was trying to make up with the NYSAC and looking at the possibilities of a defence against the top-ranked Rene De Vos on 14 March, but as in previous attempts to patch up differences that also came to nothing. The next time my version of a 'world' contest at the weight came when Gorilla Jones, the NBA champion, met the IBU representative, Marcel Thil, who was The Ring's leading contender. Ranked at number seven, Jones, whose record showed 79 wins, ten draws, 17 defeats, 12 no-decision affairs and two no contests, had won the vacant NBA title when beating Oddone Piazza on 25 January 1932 and had successfully defended it against Young Terry. The durable Frenchman, who had 78 wins, nine draws and 18 defeats from 105 contests (84 wins and 12 draws from 116 contests in other records due to amateur fights added to his pro record) and was as hard as nails, was a 29-year-old veteran of the ring. Since losing the European title to Mario Bosisio in November 1930, Thil had racked up 15 wins, which included victories over Vince Dundee and Jack Hood, and was an aggressive body puncher.

 

11 June 1932. Marcel Thil w disq 11 (15) Gorilla Jones

Venue: Princes Park Stadium, Paris, France. Recognition: IBU/NBA. Referee: Juan Casanovas.

Fight Summary: Although clutching at every opportunity and boxing on the retreat, Jones (149) was unable to keep the ebullient Thil (158) at bay, being pressed at every turn. The Frenchman was also scoring freely with the jab, both at close quarters and at long range, and having been warned several times for hitting on the break Jones got himself thrown out by the referee in the 11th after hammering the Frenchman with four left hooks to an unprotected jaw.

 

4 July 1932. Marcel Thil w pts 15 Len Harvey

Venue: White City Stadium, Shepherds Bush, London, England. Recognition: IBU/NBA. Referee: Francois Devernaz.

Fight Summary: Having been outpointed over 15 rounds by Harvey more than four years earlier, Thil was seen by the British camp as just another hurdle on the way to the world title, but the man of granite had not read the script, fighting non-stop to earn the referee’s decision. Harvey (158¾), cut over the right eye in the seventh, appeared to have everything in his favour - speed of mind, fast hands and power in the right mitt - but after the third round, having made a confident start, he gave up on his advantages when allowing Thil (159¼) to take control on the inside. Those who knew Harvey well could not understand why he failed to overcome the tough champion, whose main asset was to fight on until he dropped, but beaten he was and decisively at that.

 

Having not defended the NBA version of the title for almost a year, Thil was ordered by the NBA to make a match by 15 August 1933 or risk losing the championship. When this was not forthcoming he was stripped, an action that was confirmed when the NBA announced on 18 September 1933 that they would be recognising Lou Brouillard as champion, thus falling in line with the NYSAC.

 

2 October 1933. Marcel Thil w pts 15 Kid Tunero

Venue: Sports Palace, Paris, France. Recognition: IBU. Referee: Roger Nicod.

Fight Summary: Up against a man who had beaten him in a non-title affair earlier in the year, this time round Thil (159½) proved he was the better man, especially in the first six rounds as Tunero (157) came on to his punches. It was only in the seventh that Tunero changed tactics, using excellent footwork and clever left-hand work to get back into the fight. The final few rounds saw the men go toe-to-toe, with Thil’s greater strength earning him the unanimous decision.

 

26 February 1934. Marcel Thil w pts 15 Ignacio Ara

Venue: Sports Palace, Paris, France. Recognition: IBU. Referee: Roger Nicod.

Fight Summary: Although Ara (156¾), a heavy hitter, gave the champion a good fight and tried endlessly to find a way through his rival’s guard he was undone by sound bodywork, ultimately going down on all three judges’ scorecards. Thil (159), a veteran of 15 years in the ring, showed no signs that he was on the wane when handing out a boxing lesson in all the rudiments of the game to the tough Spaniard.

 

3 May 1934. Marcel Thil w pts 15 Gustave Roth

Venue: Sports Palace, Paris, France. Recognition: IBU. Referee: Eduard Mazzia.

Fight Summary: Despite Thil (157½) appearing to win handsomely, outslugging Roth (157½) round after round, one of the judges actually saw it as a draw. There had been high hopes for Roth, but he made the mistake of mixing it with the champion instead of getting on his bike. Regardless of that, Thil was awarded a majority decision while also picking up Roth’s European crown at the same time.

 

15 October 1934. Marcel Thil drew 15 Carmelo Candel

Venue: Sports Palace, Paris, France. Recognition: IBU. Referee: M. Chavannas.

Fight Summary: Defending against his stablemate, Thil (157) had a tough time of it against an opponent who knew his every move, and for round after round the pair were locked together with the champion trying to find a way through. However, in the 13th Thil finally got on top of Candel (158), as his strength prevailed. At the final bell, Thil just about deserved a share of the spoils accorded to him by the judges, but it had been close.

 

4 May 1935. Marcel Thil w rsc 14 (15) Vilda Jaks

Venue: Sports Palace, Paris, France. Recognition: IBU. Referee: Jean Chavanne.

Fight Summary: Dropped in the second, the challenger got on his bike to put as much distance between himself and Thil (159) as he could. He was actually outboxing the champion round after round until dumped again in the ninth for a count of ‘nine’. From then on, Jaks (158½) took a murderous beating to the body. Put down again in the 13th, Jaks was floored three more times in the penultimate session after being nailed by big overarm rights. Finally, his corner had seen enough, the referee stopping the contest after they had tossed in the towel to save their man from taking a further beating.

 

1 June 1935. Marcel Thil w pts 15 Ignacio Ara

Venue: The Bullring, Madrid, Spain. Recognition: IBU. Referee: Juan Casanovas.

Fight Summary: While giving Ara (159¼) another crack, Thil (158½), carrying a badly cut mouth, was on a hiding to nothing as the tough challenger took up the offensive to make things extremely difficult. Nevertheless, Thil, whose stamina was never suspect, gradually got to work on the body and in the last three sessions although both men were exhausted it was Ara who could barely stand. The unanimous decision in Thil's favour was a formality.

 

28 June 1935. Marcel Thil w pts 15 Carmelo Candel

Venue: Roland Garros Stadium, Paris, France. Recognition: IBU.

Fight Summary: Often reported as a ten-round non-title contest, research by Paul Kennett proved that it was a 15-round world title fight. The fight itself saw Thil (159) winning 13 of 15 rounds on the judges’ cards, with Candel (159¾), shipping an ocean of punishment and outclassed, somehow getting through to hear the final bell, mainly by holding tactics. Despite forcing throughout and administering heavy blows to head and body, Thil was only able to put Candel down once, a solid left hook to the jaw sending the latter to the boards for a count of ‘eight’ in the ninth session.

 

13 July 1935. Marcel Thil w pts 15 Kid Tunero

Venue: Prado Arena, Marseille, France. Recognition: IBU. Referee: Roger Nicod.

Fight Summary: In what was the third fight between the pair, Thil (156¼lbs) went 2-1 ahead when outscoring Tunero (154). The L'Intransigeant newspaper report gave little details of the fight other than it was a comfortable victory for the champion and that Tunero had not shown enough aggression. Recently discovered to be a title fight by Deepak Nahar, a boxing historian, there was no mention of knockdowns or any real damage to either man.

 

20 January 1936. Marcel Thil w disq 4 (15) Lou Brouillard

Venue: Sports Palace, Paris, France. Recognition: IBU. Referee: Juan Casanovas.

Fight Summary: Having outpointed the Canadian southpaw in an overweight contest two months previously, Thil (158¾), who was more than happy to meet the hard-hitting Brouillard (154½) in a championship fight, appeared to be piling up the points until he was butted several times in the third round. Brouillard was quite rightly admonished by the referee, but when he laid Thil out with a body punch, adjudged to have been low, in the next session he was immediately disqualified. Although many of the bystanders felt that the blow was legal, due to the earlier warning the challenger was not given the benefit of the doubt.

 

15 February 1937. Marcel Thil w disq 6 (15) Lou Brouillard

Venue: Sports Palace, Paris, France. Recognition: IBU. Referee: Marcel Falony.

Fight Summary: Outclassed from the start, Brouillard (157¼), fighting back wildly at times, was cautioned for butting in the third and fifth rounds, and in the sixth when he was under severe pressure from Thil (159) he was warned again. With Brouillard clearly rattled, when Thil was struck by what seemed a low blow the southpaw challenger was immediately disqualified.

 

Thil announced his retirement from the ring a few days later, having seen the film of the fight which proved conclusively that the punch that did the damage was above the waistline and did not merit a disqualification. However, due to his manager talking him round, with Thil’s decision never made official he continued to be recognised as the champion by the IBU. In May the IBU named Kid Tunero as his outstanding challenger, giving Thil until 21 October to sign for the fight. Apparently disinterested in meeting Kid Tunero again, Thil was lined up to meet Fred Apostoli at the Polo Grounds, Manhattan, NYC, New York on 23 September on Mike Jacobs’ promotion billed as ‘The Carnival of Champions’. Prior to the fight, in order to protect Freddie Steele, whom the NYSAC recognised as champion, the two men were asked to sign an agreement that the fight would not involve the world title despite the fact that it was contested under championship conditions. Regardless of that, and the fact that the IBU also did not recognise it as a championship contest, as Thil was their champion in my book it would go ahead as a bout involving that title. A rugged, hard-hitting, body-puncher, the second-ranked Apostoli would bring 25 wins and two losses to the ring, having beaten Paul Pirrone, Babe Risko, Lou Brouillard and Solly Krieger (2).

 

23 September 1937. Fred Apostoli w rsc 10 (15) Marcel Thil

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

Fight Summary: Contested under championship conditions, Thil (159) was ahead on points when the fight was halted by the referee after 44 seconds of the tenth had ensued, due to him suffering a badly gashed right eye in the previous session that had worsened. The IBU champion had already proved to be an effective infighter as he crouched and belted Apostoli (159½) with left hooks. He was also adept at tying his man up. Although the Frenchman won the fifth round due to Apostoli being warned for three low blows, never for a moment did he seemed perturbed. However, according to Apostoli, his battle plan was to attack the body to bring Thil’s defences down, and to that end it eventually worked out for him.

 

Despite winning, Apostoli would not be recognised by the IBU as their champion. Two fights later, Apostoli (161½) took on Freddie Steele (158¾) at the behest of the NYSAC, the former being stopped in the ninth of a 12-round overweight contest at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York on 7 January 1938. Having clearly beaten the champion, Apostoli lodged a challenge with the NYSAC and was eventually accepted as the top-ranked challenger. However, Steele continued to avoid him, signing to meet Carmen Barth instead. After outpointing Glen Lee (154½) over 12 rounds at Madison Square Garden on 4 February 1938, Apostoli (158¾) cemented his right to challenge Steele as far as the NYSAC was concerned. In the build-up to the fight, the New York Post strangely referred to Apostoli as being the co-middleweight champion of the world. Not sitting on his laurels, Apostoli (159½) was outscored by Young Corbett 111 (160¼) at the Seals Stadium, San Francisco, California on 22 February 1938. Despite being over the weight, this win gave Corbett 111 Californian world title recognition on 5 March 1938. The NYSAC withdrew their support from Steele a few days before meeting Carmen Barth in a title defence on 19 February 1938 on the grounds that he had signed for a defence against the latter while not accepting Apostoli, who had recently beaten him in a non-title fight. As far as they were concerned Apostoli was the leading challenger. On top of that, Steele had been involved in a most unsatisfactory contest against Bob Turner on 8 February in Rochester, New York, in which the latter had his purse withheld after going down easily in the opening round. Following two inside-the-distance wins, Apostoli would meet Young Corbett 111 in a fight that would be recognised by the NYSAC as being for the championship.

 

18 November 1938. Fred Apostoli w rsc 8 (15) Young Corbett III

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

Fight Summary: Quickly solving the challenger’s southpaw style, by the third round Apostoli (159) was hammering his man to the body and generally working him over. With this one never going to go the distance it came as no surprise when the referee stepped in to save Corbett from taking further punishment at 1.21 of the eighth round. Prior to the referee stepping in, Corbett (159½) had been decked twice in the seventh and again in the eighth when he collapsed in a neutral corner following a savage assault.

 

It was announced at the end of the first week of August 1939 that Apostoli would be defending his title against Ceferino Garcia. While Apostoli had taken part in seven non-title contests since the Corbett fight, losing to Billy Conn twice and defeating Erich Seelig and Glen Lee, Garcia had only moved up to middleweight at the start of the year after failing to relieve Henry Armstrong of the welterweight crown. A hard-hitting pressure fighter, Garcia certainly warranted his opportunity, having beaten Lloyd Marshall (2), Walter Woods and Bobby Pacho (2) to become the leading contender. With a record of 112 wins, 12 draws and 25 defeats, only Barney Ross and Henry Armstrong had defeated him in his last 26 contests

2 October 1939. Ceferino Garcia w rsc 7 (15) Fred Apostoli

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

Fight Summary: Having moved up to the 160lbs weight division the challenger showed the audience that he had not lost his power when getting straight down to work to win three of the opening four rounds from Apostoli (160). Not to be denied, Apostoli came back strongly in the fifth to have Garcia (153¾) floundering around the ring from heavy blows from both hands, and he would have won the sixth had he not had a point deducted for hitting on the break. Roles were reversed when the hard-hitting Garcia leapt into action in the seventh to drop the Californian with a cracking right-handed bolo punch to the jaw. Getting up far too quickly, Apostoli was an easy target for the same blow, this time staying down for ‘nine’, but when he was smashed straight down again the referee called it off on the 2.07 mark with the count at ‘three’. Incidentally, the bolo punch was named after the knife action for cutting down vegetation in the Philippines and could be termed as a wide, swinging uppercut.

 

23 December 1939. Ceferino Garcia w co 13 (15) Glen Lee

Venue: Rizal Stadium, Manila, Philippines. Recognition: NY. Referee: Jack Dempsey.

Fight Summary: According to press reports, Lee (156) won only the first and sixth rounds while being subjected to heavy attacks, by a champion fighting on home soil, in virtually every session. He was also introduced to the bolo punch. Having cut Lee’s mouth badly in the first, Garcia (152½) went on to knock him down in the fourth, the eighth and three times in the 11th. Lee was put down a further three times in the 13th, being counted out only a few seconds before the end of the session. A veritable iron man, Lee had been forced to clinch on numerous occasions in order to stem the tide of punches coming his way. It had been thought initially that the fight had been stopped, but the referee confirmed that as he had completed the count it should be recognised as a knockout win for Garcia.

 

1 March 1940. Ceferino Garcia drew 10 Henry Armstrong

Venue: Gilmore Stadium, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: California/NY. Referee: George Blake.

Fight Summary: Although the contest was given Californian backing it was not supported by the NYSAC despite them recognising Garcia as champion. There were two good reasons why that was the case. At that time, New York title bouts were of 15-rounds duration, whereas this was contested over ten stanzas, and under the rules of boxing a champion was entitled to defend at the class limit, but for this go against the welterweight king, Garcia (153½) was contracted to weigh-in at 152lbs. However, had Garcia lost he would have been stripped. Having already won the world championship at 126lbs, 135lbs and 147lbs, Armstrong (142) was looking to win a title at middleweight, an unprecedented achievement if successful. In what was their second meeting, the contest went ahead despite Garcia coming in one and a half pounds over the contracted weight. With the fight under way the first round saw Garcia receive a cut on his left eye, an injury that would bother him throughout the contest. There was never much between them, every round being virtually the same, Garcia cutting loose with his heavier armoury for the opening minute or so and Armstrong picking it up from there on. After the referee had been unable to find a winner, it was really back to square one for both men. Writing in The Ring magazine, Nat Fleischer stated that the consensus among reporters covering the contest was that the official erred in calling it a draw. It was generally thought that Armstrong should have been given the decision.

 

The third-ranked Ken Overlin, whose 133-fight record showed 108 wins, six draws, 17 defeats and two no contests, would be next for Garcia. A clever box-fighter, Overlin had failed in a crack at Freddie Steele’s title in 1937, but since losing to Teddy Yarosz in March 1939 he had been unbeaten in 18 contests, which included three draws, and numbered Jimmy Webb, Erich Seelig, Allen Matthews and Ben Brown among his victims.

 

23 May 1940. Ken Overlin w pts 15 Ceferino Garcia

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

Scorecards: 9-5-1, 10-5, 7-6-2.

Fight Summary: A veteran of nine years in the ring Overlin (159) was not expected to bother the champion, but in giving a clever exhibition of boxing and fighting he nullified Garcia’s aggression much to the surprise of the fans. Setting his own pace, Overlin prevented Garcia (154½) from getting his famed bolo punch to work for most of the time, and it was only towards the end when tiring that blows began to get through. Even then Overlin remained cool, stabbing in sharp lefts and dancing out of range before tying Garcia up. There were no knockdowns, although Garcia was momentarily on the floor in the opening session from a left hook to the body that was ruled a slip by the referee.

 

1 November 1940. Ken Overlin w pts 15 Steve Belloise

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NY. Referee: George Walsh.

Scorecards: 11-4, 9-6, 7-7-1.

Fight Summary: Floored twice in a dramatic sixth, the veteran champion then proceeded to outbox the hard-punching Belloise (153) for the next five sessions. Although Belloise rallied in the 12th, smashing in heavy body shots that threatened to blow Overlin away, the latter somehow made it to the final bell to win a majority decision. Many fans thought that Belloise had won clearly due to him taking many of the sessions by overwhelming margins, but under NYSAC Rules which determined the winner on a round-by-round basis it was clear that Overlin just about deserved the nod. However, such a fuss was stirred up that the pair were immediately rematched.

 

13 December 1940. Ken Overlin w pts 15 Steve Belloise

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

Scorecards: 9-4-2, 10-4-1, 4-9-2.

Fight Summary: Far from being as exciting as their previous encounter the contest was an ordinary one with Belloise (154) unable to find a punch to finish the champion off, other than hurting Overlin 158) with body blows. When Overlin came into the fight carrying a bad cold it was felt that Belloise would have too much for him, but the crafty champion confounded the critics by making his man miss time and time again. Although the two judges saw Overlin as the winner, the referee gave the fight to Belloise by nine rounds to four with two even.

 

Overlin’s next challenger would be Billy Soose, who beat Ernie Vigh (w pts 12 at Madison Square Garden on 7 March 1941) in an official NYSAC eliminator. With a record showing 31 wins and four defeats, he had defeated Babe Risko, Paul Pirrone, Ken Overlin, Tony Zale and Tami Mauriello, along with an earlier victory over Vigh. At the start of his career Soose had been a slugging, come-forward fighter, but after constant injuries to his right hand his left mitt had become his main weapon to great effect.

 

9 May 1941. Billy Soose w pts 15 Ken Overlin

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

Scorecards: 8-7, 8-7, 9-5-1.

Fight Summary: Right from the opening bell Soose (157¾) went after the cagey champion, but for eight rounds he was made to look like a novice when being hit by countering left jabs and held up. Once he had Overlin (159½) worked out, Soose did manage to connect with right hands but there was little sting in them. Although Soose hurt Overlin several times in the latter sessions, having him ready for the finisher, when he failed to follow up the chance was gone. According to Nat Fleischer, of The Ring magazine, Soose should have won due to him scoring more cleanly, while the judges gave it to Soose on account of his aggression.

 

Soose relinquished the NYSAC title on 31 October, and with the NYSAC now firmly behind the second-ranked Georgie Abrams, a three-time winner over Billy Soose and the last man to defeat him, saying that they would support the winner of the NBA’s Tony Zale (rated at number one) v Abrams contest as the world champion the match was on. Zale, whose record showed that he had 50 wins, two draws and 15 defeats since starting out in June 1934, had won the NBA title when beating Al Hostak and had successfully defended it against Steve Mamakos and Hostak prior to meeting Abrams. As a hard-punching, all-action fighter Zale had come back from defeats strongly, and although being outpointed by Nate Bolden and Billy Soose since January 1939 he beaten Ben Brown and Fred Apostoli along with other top men in the same time-frame. A smart box-fighter, Abrams had participated in 49 contests, with 43 wins, two draws and four defeats on his tab since turning pro in May 1937. Along the way he had beaten Mamakos, Teddy Yarosz, Lou Brouillard, Soose (3), Ernie Vigh, Cocoa Kid, Izzy Jannazzo and Jimmy Leto, and was unbeaten in his last ten contests after losing on points to Henry Chmielewski in September 1940, a result he quickly reversed.

 

28 November 1941. Tony Zale w pts 15 Georgie Abrams

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

Fight Summary: Seen as a fight to unify the title, the supposedly light-hitting Abrams (159) had the NBA champion down for ‘nine’ from a left hook to the jaw in the first round but was unable to keep him there. Once again, Zale (158¼) showed his powers of recovery when coming right back to battle Abrams all around the ring with savage body attacks, while the latter sent in solid lefts to the jaw. Although Zale was badly hurt again in the eighth he quickly recovered prior to the pair going toe-to-toe. The remaining sessions saw Abrams under fire from heavy rights under the heart, but he bravely made it to the final bell where the unanimous decision went against him. It might have been different for Abrams had he not suffered a severe injury to his right eye in the third, a bad haemorrhage of the cornea making it virtually impossible for him to pick punches up on that side.

 

When Zale was called up to serve in the US Navy, following an over-the-weight 12-round points defeat at the hands of the former light heavyweight champ, Billy Conn, on 13 February 1942, the title was frozen. With Zale due to return to boxing at the beginning of 1946, the top five men in The Ring magazine ratings were Jake LaMotta, Williams, Burley, Rocky Graziano and Marcel Cerdan. Sometime in April 1946, and well on his way to knocking out six opponents in a warm-up period, Zale was matched to defend the title against the exciting fourth-ranked Graziano, the fight being made in the knowledge that it would be a sell-out.

 

27 September 1946. Tony Zale w co 6 (15) Rocky Graziano

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

Fight Summary: In one of the most savage contests seen in the gloved era, the champion knocked the wild swinging Graziano (154) out at 1.43 of the sixth round. Zale (160) had been on the brink of defeat several times. Graziano, who had been knocked down for ‘four’ by two heavy blows to the jaw in the opening round, came right back at Zale to smash him to the floor at the end of the second session. Having been out of the ring for well over four years, when Zale came out for the third he was forced to sustain a tremendous bombardment before fighting back in the fourth despite sustaining a broken thumb. The fifth had Graziano all over Zale, and how the champion made it back to his corner still standing was remarkable as he had been belted non-stop from pillar to post. Coming out for the sixth, with all the money on Graziano to complete the job, Zale took the challenger out after landing with a heavy right under the heart and a cracking left to the temple. Graziano tried desperately to get up before the ‘ten’ had been called, but with his body numbed that was that.

 

With a rematch in the offing, Zale v Graziano (2) was called off after the latter was suspended in New York on 7 February 1947 for not reporting that he had been offered bribes on three separate occasions, once when up against Al Bummy Davis and twice more prior to taking on Reuben Shank. Graziano, who defeated Davis on 25 May 1945 and pulled out of the Shank fight claiming a back injury just three days before it was due to take place on 27 December 1946, told the NYSAC that he did not report the offers as he thought they were a joke. Regardless, when the NBA decided not to accept the sentence, allowing Graziano free to box in any other State outside of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Michigan, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, a fresh hunt for a new venue was on. Intended to be held at Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois on 16 July, it was eventually moved indoors keeping the same date. Coming into the fight, Graziano, who had turned pro in March 1942, had won 45 (34 inside the distance) of 57 fights, drawing five and losing seven. Having lost two in a row to Harold Green towards the end of 1944, Graziano began his rise to fame when knocking out Green to avenge those two defeats, as well as beating Billy Arnold, Solomon Stewart, Freddie Cochrane (2), Al Bummy Davis, Sonny Horne and Marty Servo. Both Cochrane and Servo were reigning world welterweight champions at the time of their meetings with Graziano. Close on 40,000 fans were expected to brave the elements in order to witness a return that promised to be a tear-up right from the opening bell.

 

16 July 1947. Rocky Graziano w rsc 6 (15) Tony Zale

Venue: The Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Recognition: NBA/Lineal. Referee: Johnny Behr.

Fight Summary: Up until the sixth round the champion had appeared to be in control, having cut Graziano (155¼) over the left eye in the second, dropping him in the third with a right to the jaw and punishing him severely. Coming out for the sixth Zale (159) went for the kill, but it was the snarling, wild-eyed Graziano, his right eye now almost closed, who found the blows to finish the contest. Rights after rights landed on Zale, who stumbled around the ring in a defenceless state, and when he finally dropped to the floor the referee called it off on the 2.10 mark when the count had reached ‘two’, mindful of the recent Sugar Ray Robinson v Jimmy Doyle world welterweight title tragedy when Doyle died shortly after the fight had ended.

 

Signed up for a return in New York on 21 March 1947 almost before the final punch was delivered, both Marcel Cerdan, the European champion, and Jake LaMotta, the outstanding contenders, would have to wait until this one got sorted. Zale v Graziano (2) was called off after the latter was suspended in New York on 7 February 1947 for not reporting that he had been offered bribes on three separate occasions, once when up against Al Bummy Davis and twice more prior to taking on Reuben Shank. Graziano, who defeated Davis on 25 May 1945 and pulled out of the Shank fight claiming a back injury just three days before it was due to take place on 27 December 1946, told the NYSAC that he did not report the offers as he thought they were a joke. Regardless, when the NBA decided not to accept the sentence, allowing Graziano free to box in any other State outside of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Michigan, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, a fresh hunt for a new venue was on. Intended to be held at Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois on 16 July, it was eventually moved indoors keeping the same date.

 

10 June 1948. Tony Zale w co 3 (15) Rocky Graziano

Venue: Ruppert Stadium, Newark, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: NBA/Lineal. Referee: Paul Cavalier.

Fight Summary: Making a great start, Zale (158¾) had the champion over in the middle of the opening round after a cracking left hook had done the damage before having to withstand a battery of blows coming his way in the second. Although badly hurt at times Zale regrouped to come back strongly in the third. From the moment a powerful straight left had Graziano (158½) reeling there was no way back and, after being belted from head to body non-stop, a right to the jaw had him down for ‘seven’. On rising, Graziano was quickly set upon, a solid right to the jaw eventually sending him down to be counted out at 1.08 of the session.

 

Following his victory, Zale was quickly recognised by the NYSAC as the champion. Having regained the title, Zale was contracted to meet the winner of the European title fight between Marcel Cerdan and Cyrille Delannoit within six months. Cerdan, who beat Delannoit (w pts 15 at the Sports Palace, Brussels, Belgium on 10 July), had been knocking on the middleweight door for several years. Always on the move, stalking his opponents and never giving them a moment’s rest, he was a two-fisted fighter with a solid punch in either hand. Prior to meeting Zale, the Frenchman had run up 110 contests with just three defeats, having beaten many good men including Omar Kouidri (six times), Eddie Ran, Cleto Locatelli (2), Gustave Humery (2), Al Baker (2), Saverio Turiello (2), Felix Wouters, Larry Cisneros (2), Joe DiMartino, Edouard Tenet (2), Assane Diouf, Robert Charron, Holman Williams, Georgie Abrams, Harold Green, Anton Raadik, Giovanni Manca and Laverne Roach, just to name a few.

 

21 September 1948. Marcel Cerdan w rtd 12 (15) Tony Zale

Venue: Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Paul Cavalier.

Fight Summary: Although the champion was in the fight for several rounds, especially the fourth, it was clear that after the seventh it was a lost cause as Cerdan’s body punches began to take their toll. Showing plenty of skill, allied to effective blows from head to body, Cerdan (158) was gradually wearing Zale (159) out, and in the 11th he had the latter all over the place before dropping him with a left-right to the jaw. Saved by the bell, Zale was helped back to his corner and retired. Under New Jersey rules a fighter could only be retired during the round, so it was the 12th rather than the 11th that the fight was officially over.

 

A veteran of 72 wins in 88 fights, years later Jake LaMotta admitted that he had taken a dive against Billy Fox in order to obtain himself a crack at the middleweight title. Despite losing four times to Sugar Ray Robinson, LaMotta had been the first fighter to beat the great man. Other rated men he had beaten included Henry Chmielewski, Jimmy Edgar (2), California Jackie Wilson, Jimmy Reeves, Fritzie Zivic (3), Coley Welch, George Costner, Bert Lytell, Jose Basora (2), George Kochan (3), Walter Woods, Holman Williams, Anton Raadik, Tommy Bell (3), Tony Janiro, Johnny Colon, Tommy Yarosz, Robert Villemain, O'Neill Bell (2) and Joey DeJohn. As hard as nails, LaMotta was a rugged, cagey fighter, who seemed impervious to punishment and one who could boast that he had never been floored.

 

16 June 1949. Jake LaMotta w rtd 10 (15) Marcel Cerdan

Venue: Briggs Stadium, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Johnny Weber.

Fight Summary: Outfought in every department, body punches sickening him, from the fourth onwards the champion was unable to throw punches with any effect due to torn ligaments in his left shoulder. Cerdan (159½) had won just one session, the second, and was at the mercy of LaMotta (158½), despite the latter having injured his left hand in the fifth, before slumping on to his stool at the end of the ninth. He had been blasted from head to body in that round, Nat Fleischer, of The Ring magazine, counting 104 blows that were not returned. Once it was clear that the referee was not going to stop the fight the Frenchman was retired after the bell rang to start the tenth. Blaming his injury on being pushed to the floor in the first round, Cerdan stated that he would be back.

With Sugar Ray Robinson recognised by Pennsylvania as the middleweight champion, LaMotta's first defence would go ahead without their support.

 

12 July 1950. Jake LaMotta w pts 15 Tiberio Mitri

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY/Lineal. Referee: Mark Conn.

Scorecards: 8-7, 12-3, 9-6.

Fight Summary: Absorbing punishment without flinching, Mitri (159), who had no defence to the straight left, bravely stayed with the champion despite not carrying a stopping punch. The Italian, who blamed his lack of power on a broken right hand suffered in the first round, surprised many when winning two of the last five sessions, but it was always LaMotta’s fight. Right from the opening bell it was clear that LaMotta (159) was not going to use his normal rough style, and at the same time it quickly became apparent that his change of tactics had completely flummoxed Mitri.

 

13 September 1950. Jake LaMotta w co 15 (15) Laurent Dauthuille

Venue: Olympia, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY/Lineal. Referee: Lou Handler.

Fight Summary: The NBA only gave their agreement to this fight on the grounds that if he won LaMotta had to meet Sugar Ray Robinson by the end of February 1951. In one of the most amazing finishes of all time, Dauthuille (160), who was way out in front on all three scorecards, was knocked out by the champion with just 13 seconds left on the clock. The Frenchman had already beaten LaMotta on points over ten rounds early in 1949, and apart from the 12th, 13th and 15th he was the champion’s master. With LaMotta failing to crowd Dauthuille, especially after cutting both of the Frenchman’s eyes, it was only when he kidded his rival into taking up the gauntlet in the last few sessions that he had any success. Just when it was certain that Dauthuille was going to win, LaMotta, who blamed his earlier lack of aggression on an injury to his right hand, suddenly found a terrific left hook to the body. Then, after setting up a heavy-handed attack, another left hook put the Frenchman down and out.

 

The world welterweight champion, Sugar Ray Robinson, would be next for LaMotta, finally getting his chance of a crack at his old adversary in a title match. Having won the vacant Pennsylvanian version of the title when beating Robert Villemain on 5 June 1950, Robinson had successfully defended it against Jose Basora and Carl Bobo Olson, and was coming to the ring with 121 wins, two draws and just one defeat, at the hands of LaMotta, since turning over in October 1940. Having mopped up the welterweight division, and having already beaten LaMotta four times, the quicksilver Robinson was an odds-on favourite to win.

 

14 February 1951. Sugar Ray Robinson w rsc 13 (15) Jake LaMotta

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

Fight Summary: In what was their sixth meeting, Robinson (155½) scored a decisive win over LaMotta (160) to unify the title after the latter, displaying all of his bulldog spirit, had gone well during the opening ten rounds. All of that time Robinson had been in control without being able to take risks, but when LaMotta suddenly weakened in the 12th the 'Sugarman' seized his opportunity. Lashing in punches to both head and body, Robinson landed 56 heavy blows to nine in return, none of which were of any consequence according to The Ring magazine, and in the 13th it was more of the same. With LaMotta spread-eagled against the ropes and helpless, his face a terrible mess, he was finally taken out of his misery by the referee on the 2.04 mark.

 

Randy Turpin would be next for Robinson. Not given much chance of beating Robinson by the British press, Turpin was considered to be too raw and untested at that level. That aside, the brother of Dick Turpin, the former British and British Empire middleweight champion, had run up 40 wins in 43 fights, reversed two defeats at the hands of Albert Finch and Jean Stock, and had become the British and European champion. Extremely heavy-handed and strong, only nine of his victims had managed to stay the course. Along the way he had defeated Vince Hawkins, Doug Miller, Cyrille Delannoit, Pete Mead, Tommy Yarosz, Billy Brown, Jackie Keough, Luc Van Dam and Jan De Bruin, the last two in European title fights.

 

10 July 1951. Randy Turpin w pts 15 Sugar Ray Robinson

Venue: Exhibition Centre, Earls Court, London, England. Recognition: World. Referee: Eugene Henderson.

Fight Summary: Having had eight contests since winning the title, six of them in Europe, Robinson (154½) was the victim of one of boxing’s biggest shocks when coming up against Turpin (158¾). Carrying the fight to Robinson from the opening bell Turpin never let up, consistently using the straight left with power and accuracy to find the target while outpunching his man in the clinches. It was quickly apparent that Turpin was the stronger of the pair, being able to push Robinson about in the clinches, which embarrassed the champion. What was also noticeable was the fact that when the two started letting the punches go it was almost always Robinson who broke off first. From the halfway stage as Robinson began to tire it became clear to the onlookers that Turpin, barring an accident, was on his way to one of the most famous victories seen in a British ring. When the referee lifted his arm at the final bell the crowd nearly brought the roof down when singing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”. With a rematch clause in place, Turpin was soon on his way to New York.

 

12 September 1951. Sugar Ray Robinson w rsc 10 (15) Randy Turpin

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

Fight Summary: The champion made a reasonable start, even overcoming a bad second round when Robinson (157½) almost sent him crashing from a short right to the jaw. Although only drawing one of the opening four sessions, Turpin (159) came right back in the fifth. Coming into the tenth the two fighters were even on points, with Turpin looking to be the stronger. The tide turned in that round after Robinson went berserk on being badly cut over the left eye. Bowled over by a crashing right counter the Englishman got up at ‘nine’, but instead of taking a breather by going down again he allowed Robinson to fire in punch after punch to head and body as he swayed back and forth against the ropes. With nothing coming back from Turpin the referee jumped between them with just eight seconds of the round remaining. Turpin’s title reign had lasted just 64 days, a record for the division at that time.

 

13 March 1952. Sugar Ray Robinson w pts 15 Carl Bobo Olson

Venue: Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Jack Downey.

Scorecards: 86½-79½, 84½-80 ½, 85½-79½.

Fight Summary: Inactive for six months, when the champion started to tire after the sixth round Olson (159½) came more and more into the fight as he took everything thrown at him. After starting strongly, boxing quite brilliantly at times, Robinson (157½) began to come under pressure from steady body attacks, and it was not until the 11th that he rallied as Olson showed signs of the fast pace he had set. Although Olson made a good showing in the 14th, the final session was all Robinson as he banged in vicious barrages to head and body.

 

16 April 1952. Sugar Ray Robinson w co 3 (15) Rocky Graziano

Venue: The Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Tommy Gilmore.

Fight Summary: A tough, hard-hitting affair while it lasted, the champion ultimately came through as Graziano (159¾) ran out of ideas in the third round. Swinging wildly, Graziano even had Robinson (157¼) over in the third despite the referee not calling it, but following this it was all one-way traffic. Stepping up the pace, Robinson went straight after Graziano, whipping in blows to head and body, and when the latter was opened up by a left to the body he was sent down for the count, timed at 1.53, following a solid right to the jaw.

 

After failing gallantly to take the light heavyweight crown from Joey Maxim at the Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York on 25 June, Robinson relinquished his middleweight title on announcing his retirement on 19 December. Following that, it was agreed by the NBA and the NYSAC that the winner of a series of eliminating bouts to decide the American championship should fight the victor of a European title bout between Randy Turpin and Charles Humez for the vacant crown. Initially, Carl Bobo Olson, Ernie Durando and Rocky Castellani were decided upon, but the choices created howls of protests regards to the latter two. The immediate response saw several top American fighters demanding admittance to the tournament. Also, the Olson camp argued that as the leading American he should not have to fight an eliminator. Ultimately, Olson backed down. Since losing to Robinson, Olson was unbeaten in nine contests, whipping the likes of Walter Cartier, Jimmy Beau, Robert Villemain, Gene Hairston, Lee Sala, Norman Hayes (2) and Garth Panter. With time now of the essence, the NBA and NYSAC went back to the drawing board and selected Paddy Young to meet Durando, the winner to tangle with Olson. With that settled, on 27 March 1953 Young outscored Durando over 12 rounds at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York. He then went on to meet Olson to decide the American title at the same venue on 19 June 1953, losing on points over 15 rounds. However, while all that was going on the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC), not supported by the EBU, announced that they would recognise the winner of the Turpin v Humez fight as world champion prior to taking on the new American title holder. Having beaten Humez on points, since losing to Robinson the Englishman had won eight contests, beating some good men as well as Don Cockell and Walter Cartier. He would be up against a man who had turned pro at the age of 16 in August 1944, and had lost just six times in 64 fights, two of the defeats coming against Robinson.

 

21 October 1953. Carl Bobo Olson w pts 15 Randy Turpin

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Al Berl.

Scorecards: 9-4-2, 11-4, 8-7.

Fight Summary: In a contest to unify the title, Olson (159½) beat Turpin (157) after the Englishman had made a good start and looked to be on his way to victory. Unfortunately for Turpin he seemed to go to pieces after the third round when allowing the fast-punching Olson to crowd him out and take the initiative from thereon in. Once Olson realised that Turpin was content to cover up he just plastered him with blows from all angles, and in the ninth and tenth had his rival down and almost out. Turpin, to his credit, weathered the storm, even coming back strongly in the 12th, but it was all too little and too late to make a difference.

 

2 April 1954. Carl Bobo Olson w pts 15 Kid Gavilan

Venue: The Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Bernard Weissman.

Scorecards: 147-141, 147-139, 144-144.

Fight Summary: Making his first defence against the welterweight champion, while Olson (159½) was hardly ever in trouble against Gavilan (155) there was never much between them. Gavilan had kept clear of Olson in the opening three rounds, but thereafter found the going tougher as the latter opened up with blows from head to body. Regardless, Gavilan, cut over the right eye in the ninth, while showing clever ring-craft was unable to find the punch that would hurt his rival. Afterwards, Gavilan stated that his right hand had been injured in the run-up to the fight.

 

20 August 1954. Carl Bobo Olson w pts 15 Rocky Castellani

Venue: Cow Palace, Daly City, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Ray Flores.

Scorecards: 87½-77½, 84-80, 89-76.

Fight Summary: When the champion initially failed the weight at the official weigh-in, Castellani’s manager tried to claim the title for him but was overruled by the chairman of the Californian Boxing Commission. Olson (160) was then allowed two hours to get the extra eight ounces off. It did not seem to worry Olson, who stalked and punished Castellani (160) from the opening bell. Despite this, Castellani fought hard and proved to be an excellent counter-puncher, often catching Olson on the way in. In the 11th he put Olson down for ‘three’. However, on getting up the latter went after his man, and in the 12th following a furious body attack Castellani was dropped for ‘nine’ by a hard right to the jaw. Having fractured a bone in his left hand, although Castellani tried to get back he was never in the fight from thereon in.

 

15 December 1954. Carl Bobo Olson w rsc 11 (15) Pierre Langlois

Venue: Cow Palace, Daly City, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Ray Flores.

Fight Summary: Getting away fast, the champion kept flicking his left into the Frenchman’s face before moving out of range of solid right uppercuts. By the fourth round the pace had heated up as both men looked to get their pet punches off, with Olson (159½) working well on the inside and Langlois (157¾) boxing well on the counter while looking to score heavily with uppercuts. After being cut over the left eye in the sixth Langlois’ work became ragged as Olson stepped it up, but he continued to make the fight competitive. However, with Langlois’ eye damage worsening the referee brought the fight to a halt after 58 seconds of the 11th had elapsed, having consulted the ringside doctor.

 

Having returned to the ring in January 1955, after racking up straight wins over Joe Rindone, Ralph Tiger Jones, Johnny Lombardo, Ted Olla, Garth Panter and Rocky Castellani, Sugar Ray Robinson became the leading challenger for Olson and quickly secured a title match.

 

9 December 1955. Sugar Ray Robinson w co 2 (15) Carl Bobo Olson

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

Fight Summary: Back in business after two and a half years out of the ring and seven comeback fights, Robinson (159¾) quickly made his mark after a quiet opening round. Following a few brief flurries by the champion, when Robinson stepped in with a left to the body, before Olson (159¼) could pull himself together, he was sent crashing from a right uppercut. Although Olson began to move he was counted out with just nine seconds of the second round remaining.

 

18 May 1956. Sugar Ray Robinson w co 4 (15) Carl Bobo Olson

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

Fight Summary: Proving his win over Olson (160) last time out was no fluke the champion once again took the latter out, albeit it took a couple of rounds longer. The first three sessions saw little action, although it was clearly noticeable that Robinson was setting the pace with accurate punches from both hands while Olson was trying to work inside. In the fourth Olson took the initiative for the first time, but following a clinch he was put down heavily to be counted out on the 2.51 mark after a left-right to the jaw had almost lifted him into the air.

 

It took three months of hard negotiation before Robinson could be induced to meet Gene Fullmer, who had recently eliminated Rocky Castellani (w pts 10 at The Arena, Cleveland, Ohio on 4 January), Ralph Tiger Jones (w pts 10 at the Public Hall, Cleveland, Ohio on 20 April) and Charles Humez (w pts 10 at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York on 25 May) to head The Ring magazine ratings. Fullmer also had wins over Garth Panter, Jackie LaBua, Peter Mueller, Paul Pender, Gil Turner (2), Del Flanagan, Al Andrews and Moses Ward. In 40 contests he had won 37, losing to Turner, Bobby Boyd and Eduardo Lausse. A bruising fighter who kept on coming and would wear opponents down, Fullmer was a difficult man to dislodge.

2 January 1957. Gene Fullmer w pts 15 Sugar Ray Robinson

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

Scorecards: 8-5-2, 10-5, 9-6.

Fight Summary: Having failed to knock Fullmer (157¼) out early the champion started to box on the back foot, sending in jabs and clips to the head whenever he could. It was apparent that Fullmer wanted to come off the leash once his manager had given him the go-ahead, and in the seventh he dropped Robinson (160) for ‘six’ after connecting with a right and left to the body. Twice the bottom rope had to be repaired, which did not help the fighters’ concentration. Although Robinson improved in the ninth he was almost spent, the last five sessions seeing Fullmer extend his lead when climbing all over him at times. However, unable to put Robinson down again he had to settle for the points win. With a return match quickly in place, Robinson would get another crack at Fullmer.

 

1 May 1957. Sugar Ray Robinson w co 5 (15) Gene Fullmer

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

Fight Summary: Putting their last fight behind him, Robinson (159½) regained the title for the fourth time in his career when knocking the champion out at 1.27 of the fifth round. At that point Fullmer (159¼) was just in front with Robinson seemingly tiring, but had been badly caught by a jarring combination of punches in the fourth. That should have served as a warning. However, instead of being more cautious Fullmer came out on the attack, but after running into two solid rights to the body and a cracking left hook to the jaw he was sent down heavily to the canvas where he was counted out on the 1.27 mark.

 

Carmen Basilio, who had 70 contests behind him and was the reigning world welterweight champion, would be Robinson’s next challenger in a big money fight. A rough, tough fighter, Basilio was not given much of a chance by some experts. 

 

23 September 1957. Carmen Basilio w pts 15 Sugar Ray Robinson

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

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

Fight Summary: Basilio (153½) was not given a great chance by the press, who although recognising that Robinson (160) had gone back a fair bit did not expect him to lose his title. It turned out to be one of the best fights of the year, as Basilio worked the champion all over while taking everything that came his way. Basilio, cut over the left eye early on, refused to give ground as Robinson, with his longer reach, smacked in jab after jab, and as the fight drew to a close it was still uncertain as to who would win. In the 12th, the weary Robinson rained in punch after punch on Basilio to send him hurtling back across the ring, but the latter came back strongly, the last three sessions seeing them going blow-for-blow until the final bell. Now a two-weight champion, Basilio relinquished his welter title on winning. With a rematch clause in place, a return between the pair was soon lined up.

 

25 March 1958. Sugar Ray Robinson w pts 15 Carmen Basilio

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

Scorecards: 71-64, 72-65, 66-69.

Fight Summary: The first five rounds were very much in favour of the champion, who again attacked the body before Robinson (159¾) began to get up a head of steam in the sixth. Picking his punches carefully he opened up a bad cut over his rival’s left eye, but while scoring well he was badly hurt at times when Basilio (153) got through. Although rocked in the tenth, Robinson came out strongly to force the fight all the way to the finishing post. Regardless of that, when unable to knock the gallant Basilio over he had to settle for the points that enabled him to regain the title for the fifth time.

 

In 1959, having remained inactive for over a year, and been given a deadline by the NBA to sign for a defence against Basilio by 25 April, Robinson ignored the edict and was stripped on 4 May. With Massachusetts, having recently left the NBA, supporting the NYSAC, there had been talk that Robinson would meet Paul Pender, who barely made the top ten, and this came to fruition in early August when it was announced that the two men would meet on 15 December in Boston. However, with Robinson needing a warm-up fight, not having boxed for more than 18 months, the date was eventually pushed into January 1960. A sharp, accurate puncher, Pender had begun his career in 1949, but brittle hands saw him take time out. Coming back at the tail-end of 1958, the fireman had run up nine wins, including victories over Joe Shaw and Ralph Tiger Jones, before meeting Robinson. His record coming into the fight stood at 35 wins, two draws and five defeats in 42 contests.

 

22 January 1960. Paul Pender w pts 15 Sugar Ray Robinson

Venue: The Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Recognition: EBU/NY/Lineal. Referee: Joe Zapustas.

Scorecards: 147-138, 148-142, 142-146.

Fight Summary: In what was a huge upset, Pender (159¾) relieved Robinson (159¼) of his titles when he allowed the latter to do all the work for the first seven rounds. With Robinson beginning to tire Pender made his move in the eighth, and despite being cut over left eye in the ninth he began to open up with rights and lefts to the chin that slowed the champion down even more. Dominating the rest of the contest, often landing three-punch combinations to the head, Pender took his fight record to 36 wins in 43 contests on receiving the decision.

 

10 June 1960. Paul Pender w pts 15 Sugar Ray Robinson

Venue: The Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Recognition: EBU/NY/Lineal. Referee: Jim McCarron.

Scorecards: 149-138, 147-142, 144-146.

Fight Summary: Just as before, the fight followed the same pattern, with Robinson (158½) trying to knock Pender (160) out early and the latter biding his time as the former champion faded. Robinson gave it everything at the start, tearing into Pender and cutting his left eye in the second while he looked for the punch that could settle matters. One thing for sure, Pender proved his durability in sustaining these attacks, and from the sixth onwards he jabbed incessantly with the left as he dodged Robinson’s attacks, which became more sporadic as time went on. Towards the end, Robinson looked all of his 39 years, his punches having no sting in them while his legs looked likely to give way on him. Even though he desperately tried to turn things around in the 15th it was clear that he had nothing left on the clock.

 

14 January 1961. Paul Pender w rsc 7 (15) Terry Downes

Venue: The Arena, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Recognition: EBU/NY/Lineal. Referee: Bill Connelly.

Fight Summary: Despite being decked in the opening round Downes (160) steamed into Pender (160), continually forcing him back regardless of being caught with accurate jabs. Unfortunately for Downes, albeit still going well, his nose was badly cut in the fourth, an injury that would ultimately be his undoing. Coming out for the fifth with damage to both eyes adding to his problems, with the Englishman making the champion’s body his target for the next two sessions, he was having some success before the referee called it off after 57 seconds of the seventh. At that stage it was obvious that the fight would not go the distance with the cut on Downes’ nose being about one and a half inches long, but had he not suffered such an injury he was well on his way to breaking Pender’s defences down.

 

22 April 1961. Paul Pender w pts 15 Carmen Basilio

Venue: The Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Recognition: EBU/NY/Lineal. Referee: Ed Bradley.

Scorecards: 149-135, 147-132, 147-138.

Fight Summary: Forced to visit the scales four times in order to make the weight, the champion was then badly cut on the left eye in the second round, an injury that required five stitches. He was also badly hurt by Basilio (156½) in that same session. Although Basilio kept up the pressure in the third Pender (160) was back in business, and by the fifth he had taken over, hooking, jabbing and throwing hurtful counters. In the 13th Basilio was downed by a right to the chin before being floored again by lefts and rights to the head in the final session. However, he still continued to attack, despite running into a barrage of left jabs. Floored for the first time in his career, Basilio never fought again.

 

Pender’s next defence would be against the exciting all-action British champion, Terry Downes, who had outpointed Joey Giardello in a fight that showed he could box as well as slug it out with the best of them. He’d already had a crack at Pender, but had been turned back following a badly cut nose. A solid puncher who never left an opponent alone, and a terrific crowd pleaser, he was aptly known as ‘The Paddington Express’. With 27 wins and seven losses on his record, he had beaten Pat McAteer, Phil Edwards (2) and John Cowboy McCormack, but had lost to Dick Tiger and Spider Webb.

 

11 July 1961. Terry Downes w rtd 9 (15) Paul Pender

Venue: The Arena, Wembley, London, England. Recognition: EBU/NY/Lineal. Referee: Ike Powell.

Fight Summary: In what was a return match the champion started well when opening up the old injury on Downes’ nose with a left jab in the second round, but the Englishman shrugged it off and began throwing left jabs of his own. Maintaining a relentless pursuit of Pender (159), Downes (158¾) varied his work to such a degree that the former often became flummoxed. By the fourth Downes was pushing Pender before him, and while he was forced to take some heavy counters he kept up the charge. As the fight wore on a back-pedalling Pender appeared to be waiting to catch Downes as the latter charged in, although too often he failed to take any chance that came his way. The eighth round saw the beginning of the end. Cut over both eyes, Pender went mad, but with Downes now walking through his man despite his left eye being almost closed at the end of the ninth session the champion was retired on his stool. With a return clause in place, Pender would get the opportunity to regain his title.

 

7 April 1962. Paul Pender w pts 15 Terry Downes

Venue: The Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Recognition: EBU/NY/Lineal. Referee: Jim McCarron.

Scorecards: 144-143, 145-143, 146-141.

Fight Summary: Despite being in front after five rounds, with the champion lacking the punch to finish Pender (159) off, even though he continued to force matters the latter came back into the fight with good left jabs and hooks. Unfortunately for Downes (159), as the American was allowed to clutch and stall for long periods of the contest he was pushed and pulled down on a couple of occasions. By the seventh, Downes was cut on the left eye and had sustained damage to his nose, but it was Pender’s left jab that worried him more. It was a hard fight, with Pender vastly improved from their previous contest, and at the final bell it was his skill that won over Downes’ aggression.

 

After negotiations for a unifying contest with Gene Fullmer broke down, Pender eventually elected to defend his share of the championship against Jose Torres on 2 November. Moved on when Torres picked up a cold the fight was called off within days when Cus D’Amato, Torres manager, failed to come up with the guarantee. Although the NYSAC and EBU withdrew their support of Pender on 9 November, for failing to defend within the stipulated period, the Massachusetts Boxing Commission continued to support him as world champion. On 6 March 1963, the Court of Appeal ordered the NYSAC to continue to recognise Pender, as in their eyes he was not the guilty party. Within days of that decision the NYSAC again vacated the title, stating that Pender had failed to sign articles of agreement with Joey Giambra, a rated boxer who had filed a challenge with the Commission. An article in the July edition of The Ring magazine printed a quote by John Cronin, Pender’s legal adviser, stating that the purported challenge made by Giambra on 24 August 1962 was premature, invalid and ineffectual, and was so regarded and treated by the Commission. Even after the Appellate Court had decided in favour of Pender, the NYSAC failed to meet Pender for the purpose of resolving the matter. When it was announced on 11 April 1963 that Pender would be defending the title against Joey Giardello on 7 June, it quickly fell through due to the promoter being unable to obtain television support for the contest. Following that, with the prospect of more of the same Pender announced his retirement on 7 May. Further to Paul Pender’s retirement, when the top-ranked Dick Tiger, the WBA champion, agreed to meet Gene Fullmer, rated number two, for the third time the world title would be on the line. Having won and drawn for the title against Fullmer previously, Tiger, with 46 wins, three draws and 14 defeats on his slate, was the favourite in a battle between two hardy warriors who asked for no favours and gave none. Tiger had come to the fore when beating Terry Downes in 1957 after having an in-out career up until then, and had gone on to beat Yolande Pompey, Gene Armstrong (3), Joey Giardello, Holly Mims, Florentino Fernandez, Heny Hank and Hank Casey. He had also reversed defeats at the hands of Randy Sandy, Wilf Greaves and Spider Webb. His opponent, Fullmer, had 55 wins, three draws and five losses on his record, and had held the world and NBA titles since starting out in June 1951.

 

10 August 1963. Dick Tiger w rtd 7 (15) Gene Fullmer

Venue: Liberty Stadium, Ibadan, Nigeria. Recognition: World. Referee: Jack Hart.

Fight Summary: Relentlessly chasing Fullmer (160) for round after round, belting in punches to head and body whenever he had the opportunity, the champion forced the American to retire on his stool at the end of the seventh. This was the first world title fight ever held in West Africa. Fullmer never expected Tiger (159¾) to maintain such a fast pace, and battered from pillar to post, with his right eye almost closed, he eventually announced his retirement on 23 July 1964 without taking in anymore fights.

 

Tiger’s first defence would be against Joey Giardello, who had been a pro since 1948 and numbered top fighters such as Ernie Durando (2), Pierre Langlois, Billy Graham (2), Joey Giambra, Harold Green, Gil Turner, Walter Cartier (2), Willie Troy, Ralph Tiger Jones (2), Bobby Boyd, Randy Sandy, Rory Calhoun, Chico Vejar (2), Henry Hank and Sugar Ray Robinson among his victims. A ring stylist who could also bang and roughhouse with the best, he had previously fought a draw with Gene Fullmer for the NBA title, and had won and lost against Tiger. With 91 wins, eight draws, 23 defeats and one no contest in 123 bouts, Giardello had earned his chance.

 

7 December 1963. Joey Giardello w pts 15 Dick Tiger

Venue: Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Paul Cavalier.

Scorecard: 8-5-2.

Fight Summary: Using hit-and-run tactics, Giardello (158), a huge underdog, led the champion on a merry old dance for much of the fight, using his speed and boxing ability to get him home. Only in the sixth and tenth rounds did Tiger (159) hurt Giardello badly, and although it looked as though the latter might be on the way out on both occasions he somehow weathered the storm. At the finish Giardello said "I paced the fight my way, slow at the start, faster in the middle, then kept out of trouble at the end. To go in and fight it out with Tiger would have been suicidal. The only thing that surprised me was the referee not giving me 11 rounds instead of eight".

 

14 December 1964. Joey Giardello w pts 15 Rubin Carter

Venue: Convention Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Bob Polis.

Scorecards: 72-66, 71-66, 70-67.

Fight Summary: Making his first defence, Giardello (160) boxed on the back foot throughout against the hard-hitting Carter (158½), being at risk from the sixth through to the 12th as the latter went looking for the kayo. Giardello was cut on the left eye in the fourth, but continued to pick Carter off as he pressed forward. In the 13th Giardello hurt Carter with left hooks, but then came back strongly in the 14th before the champion produced a grandstand finish in the final session. The decision was seen by many as unfair, with The Ring magazine tabling Carter as the winner by 68-64.

 

Looking to regain his old world title, Dick Tiger, who had 51 wins, three draws and 16 defeats on his tab, would get his chance to turn the tables on Giardello after beating Jose Gonzalez, Don Fullmer, Juan Carlos Rivera and Rubin Carter. Even though he had lost a disputed decision to Joey Archer in the same period it made no difference to his number one rating.

 

21 October 1965. Dick Tiger w pts 15 Joey Giardello

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

Scorecards: 9-5-1, 10-5, 8-6-1.

Fight Summary: Starting strongly, after Tiger (158½) opened up a cut on the champion’s left eye in the second round he was always in control, often catching his man with several punches without reply. In the seventh, Giardello (160), who was now cut on the right eye, was in danger of being stopped. Tiger made a terrific effort in the tenth to end matters, but when the 34-year-old Giardello fought back strongly he decided to coast through to the final bell.

 

Although he lost to Don Fullmer in a so-called eliminator, the reigning welterweight champion and former undefeated junior middleweight (Austrian version) title holder, Emile Griffith, would be Tiger’s first challenger. Giving away at least ten pounds against the teak-tough champion, Griffith, who had 49 wins and seven losses on his slate, would have to use his speed to get any kind of result.

 

25 April 1966. Emile Griffith w pts 15 Dick Tiger

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

Scorecards: 9-5-1, 7-6-2, 7-7-1.

Fight Summary: In what was a slow contest, with both men showing too much respect for each other, Griffith (150½), the welterweight champion, used his superior speed to negate much of the champion’s work. Neither man was cut or badly hurt, although Tiger (160) was dropped to his knees in the ninth. Back on his feet immediately, the referee still gave Tiger the mandatory ‘eight’ count. Up until the seventh Tiger was in front, but from thereon in Griffith picked up the pace, beating his man to the punch and speeding away from any danger. Realising he was behind, Tiger went for broke in the 11th, 12th and 13th rounds, but unable to do any real damage apart from delivering a few hurtful blows Griffith came back to cruise to the finish. On winning, Griffith joined the small club of men who had held versions of the world title at three different weights, but would be forced to abdicate his welterweight title following the fight.

 

13 July 1966. Emile Griffith w pts 15 Joey Archer

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

Scorecards: 8-7, 9-5-1, 7-7-1.

Fight Summary: Getting away quickly, the champion was soon in action with the left hook showing up well and in the fifth round he buckled Archer’s knees with such a punch. Cut over the left eye following a clash of heads in the eighth, Archer (159½) became more aggressive, doing well in three of the last six rounds, stabbing in left jabs to head and body while slamming in blows at every opportunity. Despite Griffith (152) boxing at his best it was certainly close enough for Archer to be granted an immediate return.

 

23 January 1967. Emile Griffith w pts 15 Joey Archer

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

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

Fight Summary: Right from the start the champion carried the fight to Archer (160), but although staggering the latter several times he was unable to drop him. In the second round Archer was cut over the right eye, thereafter boxing mainly on the retreat with Griffith (152) waiting to trade punches whenever they got close enough. Archer was at his best in the seventh through to the ninth when he was able to pile up the points with the left jab, but ultimately he was unable to keep it going as Griffith pressured him.

 

Since losing his world junior middleweight title, the highly skilled Nino Benvenuti had made his way up the middleweight ranks as the European champion to become Griffith’s leading challenger, beating Harry Scott, Pascal Di Benedetto, Ferd Hernandez and Milo Calhoun. A former Olympic champion, who boasted 71 wins and just one defeat, he was confident of victory even if the betting was against him.

 

17 April 1967. Nino Benvenuti w pts 15 Emile Griffith

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Mark Conn.

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

Fight Summary: Benvenuti (159) took the opening two rounds, scoring a knockdown in the second, before the champion came back strongly to knock him down with a right to the jaw in the fourth. Rounds five and six went to Benvenuti, who was landing well with left jabs and straight rights, before Griffith (153½) opened up a cut on the Italian’s nose. The contest was fairly even up until the 11th, but from there onwards the Italian did the better work, and although Griffith continued to look for a finishing punch he failed to find it. On winning, the former WBA/WBC junior middleweight title holder was quickly signed up under an unofficial return clause agreement.

 

29 September 1967. Emile Griffith w pts 15 Nino Benvenuti

Venue: Shea Stadium, Queens, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Tommy Walsh.

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

Fight Summary: Griffith (154) was quickly off the mark with effective combinations before the champion settled down to be in front at the halfway stage. Apart from having an excellent 13th, Benvenuti (159¾) seemed to be running second best in the final seven rounds, being beaten to the punch and out of range with many of his attacks. In the 14th he was dropped by a solid left, and although on his feet very quickly he was forced to endure an ‘eight’ count. Coming back strongly, Benvenuti tried to convince the judges when fighting furiously, but it was all in vain as Griffith tied his man up before crashing in several heavy blows prior to the final bell. Although return clauses were banned in New York, according to reports a handshake pact between the two men would see a third contest take place between them.

 

4 March 1968. Nino Benvenuti w pts 15 Emile Griffith

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

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

Fight Summary: In what was a close fight with the champion starting well, Benvenuti (160) did not make the same mistake as he did last time when allowing his rival to dominate large parts of the fight. Although he was very nearly dropped in the sixth and took some heavy punches in the seventh, Benvenuti came right back into it in the ninth when he floored Griffith (154½) with a left-right combination. The Italian shook Griffith up again in the 12th, and at the final bell despite both men being tired it was the latter who was on the receiving end.

 

14 December 1968. Nino Benvenuti w pts 15 Don Fullmer

Venue: Ariston Theatre, San Remo, Italy. Recognition: World. Referee: Piero Brambilla.

Scorecards: 73-68, 71-65, 72-69.

Fight Summary: Right from the start it was clear that Fullmer (159) was finding it difficult to get inside the champion’s left jab, and eventually when he began to charge in it resulted in him being cut over the left eye in the sixth. The first six rounds went very much the way of Benvenuti (160), but in the seventh he was dropped by an overarm right to the head and forced to take the mandatory ‘eight’ count before coming back with steady left jabs and rights to the body. With Fullmer continuing to charge in without success he was cut over the right eye in the 12th. By now both men were tiring, and with Fullmer struggling to land Benvenuti kept his left going to win all the remaining rounds.

 

4 October 1969. Nino Benvenuti w disq 7 (15) Fraser Scott

Venue: San Paolo Stadium, Naples, Italy. Recognition: World. Referee: Tonci Gilardi.

Fight Summary: It was never much of a fight as the wild Scott (158) was rarely able to pierce the champion’s guard, merely charging in and being caught by sharp left jabs for his efforts. Although Scott was unbeaten in 17 contests, the only man of any note he had beaten was Denny Moyer, and even that was an early cut-eye stoppage. Warned and cautioned several times for butting, Scott was finally disqualified at 1.04 of the seventh after both men had fallen to the canvas after missing with jabs.

 

22 November 1969. Nino Benvenuti w co 11 (15) Luis Rodriguez

Venue: Sports Palace, Rome, Italy. Recognition: World. Referee: Mario Carabellese.

Fight Summary: Using his height and reach to good effect, the champion took the opening two rounds before being cut over the left eye by a slashing right from Rodriguez (156) in the third and being forced to box more defensively to protect the wound. With Benvenuti (159½) continuing to cover up, Rodriguez began to get more shots off, and in the sixth he opened up a cut on the Italian’s nose. By the seventh Benvenuti had become more aggressive, catching his rival with blows to head and body, but the next three sessions were evenly contested, both men scoring with hard punches. It was still anybody’s fight. Benvenuti was still scoring, but it was Rodriguez, throwing hooks and jabs, that caught the eye. Then, in the 11th, as Rodriguez moved in with a right hook he was caught by a terrific left to the jaw and sent down to be counted out on the 1.08 mark.

 

23 May 1970. Nino Benvenuti w co 8 (15) Tom Bethea

Venue: The Arena, Umag, Yugoslavia. Recognition: World. Referee: Georges Gondre.

Fight Summary: Having beaten the champion in a non-title fight 90 days earlier Bethea (160) fully earned his chance, however, it was a different Benvenuti (160) who turned up this time. Scoring well with left jabs and hooks, Benvenuti made this fight his from the start, and in the fourth he opened up a cut over Bethea’s right eye. Bethea, who felt that attacking the body was his best option, did get through occasionally but failed to hurt his rival. With both men being warned for hitting in the clinches the tempo had certainly dropped when Benvenuti backed Bethea into the ropes in the eighth before unleashing a left-right to the head that floored the challenger for the full count, timed at 2.43 of the session.

 

Next man up for Benvenuti would be Carlos Monzon, the South American champion, whose career had mainly been confined to the Argentine. With just three losses in 80 contests, beating men of the calibre of Jorge Fernandez (2), Tito Marshall (2), Tom Bethea and Eddie Pace, and drawing with Bennie Briscoe, he had proved to have a wide range of powerful and accurate punches from either hand.

 

7 November 1970. Carlos Monzon w co 12 (15) Nino Benvenuti

Venue: Sports Palace, Rome, Italy. Recognition: World. Referee: Rudolf Drust.

Fight Summary: Producing only flashes of his ability at the highest level, the champion was put under pressure by Monzon (159¾) for much of the fight and after the second round he was unable to halt the relentless march of the Argentine. Despite the fans being in uproar at the end of the sixth after Monzon struck Benvenuti (159¾) following the bell, the challenger just got on with the job. Almost finished off in the seventh when badly hurt by blows to head and body, by now Benvenuti was tiring and although he had a good tenth round, stopping Monzon in his tracks several times, he was on the receiving end throughout the 11th. There was no doubting that Benvenuti was now in serious difficulty and he was counted out in the 12th on the two-minute marker after being put down by a thunderbolt of a right hand to the jaw.

 

8 May 1971. Carlos Monzon w rsc 3 (15) Nino Benvenuti

Venue: Louis II Stadium, Monte Carlo, Monaco. Recognition: World. Referee: Victor Avendano.

Fight Summary: This was just a shadow of the old Benvenuti, having been beaten by the little-known Jose Chirino on points over ten rounds after losing his title to Monzon. Benvenuti (160) did reasonably well in the opening round, but in the second he was badly stunned by a swinging left to the head before a left from Monzon (159½) sent him through the ropes near the end of the session. Saved by the bell, Benvenuti was under the hammer right at the start of round three as Monzon punished him unmercifully, and when he was dropped flat on his face his manager threw in the towel. Although Benvenuti, who would never fight again, kicked the towel out of the ring it was too late as the referee had already stopped the contest.

 

25 September 1971. Carlos Monzon w rsc 14 (15) Emile Griffith

Venue: Luna Park Stadium, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Recognition: World. Referee: Ramon Berumen.

Fight Summary: Giving the hard-hitting champion one of the toughest fights of his career, Griffith (154), with a height-and-reach disadvantage, showed tremendous courage. It was only in the seventh that Monzon (159) caught up with Griffith, and although he twice had the veteran in trouble he let him off the hook. After the tenth when Griffith began to tire Monzon stepped it up, landing thumping rights to the head and body, but at that stage there was no real sign of the contest finishing. However, in the 14th, when Monzon finally let the punches go, Griffith, his right eye partially closed and his left eye showing signs of wear, was backed against the ropes and hit non-stop for what seemed an age before the referee called a halt with 11 seconds of the round remaining.

 

4 March 1972. Carlos Monzon w rsc 5 (15) Denny Moyer

Venue: Sports Palace, Rome, Italy. Recognition: World. Referee: Lorenzo Fortunato.

Fight Summary: Holding his own for the opening four rounds, banging in left hooks and solid rights while boxing behind a high guard, Moyer (158¾) made things difficult for the champion. Although Monzon (159) got in some heavy blows Moyer always came straight back, shaking the Argentine up with a smashing right to the jaw in the third. In the fifth, however, Moyer was forced to take a compulsory eight count as Monzon (159) cut loose. When Moyer got up, immediately being put under pressure again, the referee called it off at 1.05 of the session. Afterwards, Moyer stated that even though Monzon had wrestled him to the ground he was fighting back at the stoppage.

 

17 June 1972. Carlos Monzon w rtd 13 (15) Jean-Claude Bouttier

Venue: Colombes Stadium, Paris, France. Recognition: World. Referee: Rudolf Drust.

Fight Summary: Bouttier (159), the European champion, found that even his best punches were not stopping the champion’s onward march, and in the sixth round he was blasted to the floor by a vicious right to the jaw. Forced to take the mandatory ‘eight’ count, Bouttier claimed he had slipped. The Frenchman was soon swapping punches with Monzon (159¼) again but continued to struggle to get inside the latter’s longer reach, being hit by long looping rights and lefts. Down in the eighth without a count, Bouttier was now more cautious in his approach. Then, in the tenth, he had great difficulty focussing, later claiming a thumb in the eye had caused the problem. Although shaking Monzon up with a right in the 11th, the beleaguered Bouttier, now also cut on the right eye, remained on his stool at the start of the 13th.

 

19 August 1972. Carlos Monzon w rsc 5 (15) Tom Bogs

Venue: Idraets Park Stadium, Copenhagen, Denmark. Recognition: World. Referee: Harry Gibbs.

Fight Summary: Making his fifth defence, Monzon (159) proved far too powerful for Bogs (159½), who was under pressure from the third round onwards after landing several heavy blows on the champion that had no effect. Although his legs began to go in the third Bogs fought on bravely, but at the end of the fourth, having been nailed by a Monzon (159) right to the head the end was in sight. Dropped four times in the fifth, Bogs was overwhelmed by Monzon’s powerful rights, and although he got up from the fourth knockdown the referee had seen enough and brought the fight to a close on the 2.30 mark.

 

11 November 1972. Carlos Monzon w pts 15 Bennie Briscoe

Venue: Luna Park Stadium, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Recognition: World. Referee: Victor Avendano.

Scorecards: 150-139, 149-139, 149-143.

Fight Summary: Felt to be Monzon’s hardest defence to date, the shaven-headed Briscoe (157) continually bulled his way in to work with short hooks to the body and head despite taking heavy punishment. After Monzon (158) was forced to hold on in the ninth, Briscoe immediately went looking for him in the tenth. Having weathered the storm, Monzon then had Briscoe, his right eye cut, in real trouble for the first time in the fight in the 13th, only for the latter to come back strongly right through to the final bell.

 

2 June 1973. Carlos Monzon w pts 15 Emile Griffith

Venue: Louis II Stadium, Monte Carlo, Monaco. Recognition: World. Referee: Piero Brambilla.

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

Fight Summary: Looking like a fighter who’d had better days, the champion had great difficulty in holding off the 35-year-old Griffith (157) as the veteran frequently beat him to the punch and had him worried. For the opening ten rounds it looked as though there might be a new champion, especially with Griffith absorbing the punches coming his way to outfight Monzon (159). It was only in the tenth that Monzon began to look his real self, and by the 12th the fight was shifting away from Griffith. In the 14th, Griffith, who was cut on the right eye, came under immense pressure as Monzon loaded up, but with both men tiring the latter was comfortably contained in the final session.

 

29 September 1973. Carlos Monzon w pts 15 Jean-Claude Bouttier

Venue: Roland Garros Stadium, Paris, France. Recognition: World. Referee: Harry Gibbs.

Scorecards: 145-139, 147-138, 148-145.

Fight Summary: In a return bout, Bouttier (159) was right in the frame at the end of the 12th, having given as good as he got against a champion who was unable to impress himself on his rival and who was caught by far too many punches. This time around it was Bouttier who made the running, and despite being hurt on occasion Monzon (159¾) failed to follow up. It was only in the final three sessions that Monzon made sure of the win, knocking Bouttier down in each round with clubbing right hands doing the damage while generally staying on the attack. With both men cut over the left eye, at the finish Bouttier’s manager complained that Monzon had been allowed to get away with too many fouls. He went on to say that had the bout been held in America his man would have become champion due to them counting the number of rounds won as opposed to the Continental system of points totalled.

 

9 February 1974. Carlos Monzon w rtd 7 (15) Jose Napoles

Venue: Puteaux Circus Big Top, Paris, France. Recognition: World. Referee: Raymond Baldeyrou.

Fight Summary: This was a bridge too far for the welterweight champion, Napoles (153), who was just too small for the strong and powerful Monzon (159). Whatever Napoles tried he failed to hurt the champion, and although there were no knockdowns it was only the fighting spirit of the Cuban that kept him in the contest. From the fourth round onwards Monzon got down to business, snapping in the jab followed by vicious uppercuts. In the sixth Napoles took such a battering that it was no surprise that he retired as the bell rang for the seventh round. Following the fight, Napoles’ cornerman, Angelo Dundee, said that after his man had been thumbed in the eye it was impossible for him to continue. Monzon forfeited WBC recognition on 23 April for failing to arrange a defence against Rodrigo Valdez within the stipulated period.

 

5 October 1974. Carlos Monzon w co 7 (15) Tony Mundine

Venue: Luna Park Stadium, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Recognition: WBA/Lineal. Referee: Isaac Herrera.

Fight Summary: Prior to the contest there was much talk of the champion having weight problems, but despite that it turned out to be one of Monzon’s easiest defences. Letting Mundine (159¼) make the running for several rounds and countering occasionally there was nothing in it until the sixth. Once Monzon (160) had decided to open up the end was in sight, long punches from both hands leaving Mundine dazed and disorientated at the bell. Monzon really opened up in the seventh, heavy lefts and rights driving Mundine into the ropes before a cracking combination sent him down to be counted out on the 1.20 mark.

 

30 June 1975. Carlos Monzon w rsc 10 (15) Tony Licata

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

Fight Summary: Putting up stubborn resistance, Licata (160) forced Monzon (159¾) to raise his game, surviving much longer than the champion had forecast he would. The power was all with Monzon though. After taking time to warm up he began to walk through Licata, the latter being put down in the eighth for the mandatory count having been floored by a right to the jaw. Most fighters would have been finished at this point, but back came Licata, throwing punch upon punch in the ninth only to be outhit by Monzon. With nowhere to go, in the tenth a crashing right to the jaw put Licata down for a second time. Back in action it was now just a matter of time, and when Licata finally fell on one knee having taken volleys of lefts and rights the referee called a halt with 17 seconds of the session remaining.

 

13 December 1975. Carlos Monzon w co 5 (15) Gratien Tonna

Venue: Nouvel Hippodrome, Paris, France. Recognition: WBA/Lineal. Referee: Waldemar Schmidt.

Fight Summary: With the hardy Tonna (159) expected to give the champion a tough fight, although going well in the opening three rounds he came unstuck when things got difficult in the fourth. Going to work with a vengeance, the slow-starting Monzon (160) steamed in with heavy lefts and rights to head and body with Tonna, who was warned for butting, being visibly shaken. The fifth saw Monzon really picking up the pace, and when a heavy right hit Tonna in the region of the left ear he remained down on one knee until the count had been rendered. Immediately following the count, Tonna walked to his corner claiming that he had been hit on the back of the head, a complaint that received no backing.

 

26 June 1976. Carlos Monzon w pts 15 Rodrigo Valdez

Venue: Louis II Stadium, Monte Carlo, Monaco. Recognition: World. Referee: Raymond Baldeyrou.

Scorecards: 146-144, 147-145, 148-144.

Fight Summary: Despite the fight being close, most good judges saw the WBA champion as the winner due to him standing up to Valdez’s best shots before coming back with even bigger punches of his own. The fight certainly lived up to expectation, being one of the division’s most exciting since the late 1950s. Valdez (160), the WBC champion, was well in the running right up to the 14th when Monzon (159½) floored him for the compulsory ‘eight’ count with a heavy right to the jaw. If Valdez had not made such a slow start, regardless of him gradually eating away at Monzon’s lead over the ensuing rounds, things might have been different, but following the knockdown his fate was sealed even though he fired back hard in the final session.

 

30 July 1977. Carlos Monzon w pts 15 Rodrigo Valdez

Venue: Louis II Stadium, Monte Carlo, Monaco. Recognition: World. Referee: Roland Dakin.

Scorecards: 144-141, 147-144, 145-143.

Fight Summary: The return between the pair was almost as exciting and as close as their previous go, the champion always being wary of Valdez’s power. Having been dropped by a whistling right to the jaw in the second round for what he claimed was the first time he had been decked since 1963, Monzon (159) gradually gained control as the contest wore on. Indeed, in the tenth it looked as though Valdez (158) might be stopped with blood pouring from his left eye and swellings around both eyes. It was Monzon’s countering that ultimately gained him the initiative, and although Valdez fought like a man possessed in the last three sessions he failed to make up the leeway.

 

Monzon retired as undefeated champion on 29 August when the WBC forced him to vacate their portion of the title after he failed to agree terms for a championship contest against Valdez. And, when Bennie Briscoe, supported by the WBA, was matched against the WBC backed Valdez, with neither body seeing the need for eliminators it should be recognised as involving the world title. A classy box-fighter, Valdez had beaten Briscoe on points over 12 rounds for the North American title at the Omnisports Stadium, Noumea, New Caledonia on 1 September 1973, but the verdict had been disputed. However, it was certainly not one-sided when Valdez knocked Briscoe out inside seven rounds in defence of his WBC title on 25 May 1974. With 59 wins and two draws from 67 contests, Valdez was rated at number one by The Ring magazine, while Briscoe sat at number four. Having turned pro in 1963 the experienced Valdez had lost just twice, to Carlos Monzon, in his last 31 contests, which included wins over Bobby Cassidy and Carlos Marks, Vinnie Curto, Gratien Tonna and Bennie Briscoe (2). Briscoe, with 58 wins, five draws, 14 defeats and one no contest on his tab, had beaten Charley Scott, Percy Manning (2), George Benton, Jimmy Lester, Jose Gonzalez (2), Vicente Rondon, Tito Marshall, Joe Shaw, Tom Bethea, Carlos Marks, Luis Vinales, Art Hernandez, Willie Warren, Tony Mundine, Stanley Hayward and Eddie Mustafa Muhammad. Having reversed several of his 14 defeats, he was a dangerous opponent, being a durable and solid puncher with both hands, especially to the body.

 

5 November 1977. Rodrigo Valdez w pts 15 Bennie Briscoe

Venue: The Casino, Campione D’Italia, Switzerland. Recognition: World. Referee: Wally Thom.

Scorecards: 148-145, 149-142, 146-148.

Fight Summary: Contesting the vacant title in the wake of Carlos Monzon’s retirement, Valdez (160) boxed brilliantly to outscore the battle-hardened Briscoe (160), who continually came forward only to be met by jabs, hooks and uppercuts that would knock him back. Despite being cut and bruised under the right eye and gashed on the nose Briscoe never hit the floor, always making Valdez work for the points. In the 12th, Briscoe, scoring well with heavy left hooks, came back to knock out Valdez’s mouthpiece, and while there was never a great deal between them at that stage of the fight the latter came on strongly in the remaining three sessions to make sure of the verdict.

 

Valdez’s first defence would be against Hugo Corro, the unranked South American champion who had never fought outside South America. A skilled operator with a solid jab and sound defensive skills, Corro had a record showing 43 wins, one draw and two defeats.

 

22 April 1978. Hugo Corro w pts 15 Rodrigo Valdez

Venue: Ariston Theatre, San Remo, Italy. Recognition: World. Referee: Angelo Poletti.

Scorecards: 148-145, 147-144, 147-144.

Fight Summary: Reckoned to be one of the division’s biggest ever upsets, Corro (159¾) boxed defensively for the opening nine rounds before coming on strongly to take all the remaining sessions, countering well and beating the champion to the punch repeatedly. There were no knockdowns and although Valdez (159¼) scored with heavy blows sporadically and stalked his man continuously he was unable to do any real damage. In the latter stages, looking ringworn, Valdez was badly shaken up in the 13th and from thereon in he failed to show.

 

5 August 1978. Hugo Corro w pts 15 Ronnie Harris

Venue: Luna Park Stadium, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Recognition: World. Referee: Waldemar Schmidt.

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

Fight Summary: Up against a tough and clever southpaw in Harris (159½), the champion held on to his title when making a storming finish, landing well with lefts and rights to head and body to win the last three rounds. Up until then it had been relatively even, with Harris, despite lacking the power, making it extremely difficult for Corro (159). There were no knockdowns as such, apart from both men slipping over on occasion due to the wet canvas, and both were careless with their heads at times without causing damage. At ringside, the former champion, Carlos Monzon, felt that Corro deserved the win due his aggression, while slating the former Olympic champion, Harris, for being too negative.

 

11 November 1978. Hugo Corro w pts 15 Rodrigo Valdez

Venue: Luna Park Stadium, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Recognition: World. Referee: Stan Christodoulou.

Scorecards: 149-140, 150-143, 150-140.

Fight Summary: Using hit-and-run tactics, the champion piled up the points against Valdez (158¾), who never looked like regaining his title with his rival being far too quick and elusive for him. Apart from landing a few heavy shots spasmodically, Valdez was always running second best as Corro (159¼) rarely missed with accurate jabs and hooks to the head and body without taking any risks. Not the fighter he once was, Valdez retired shortly afterwards before coming back to have two meaningless fights in 1980.

 

Vito Antuofermo would be next for Corro. Having beaten Bennie Briscoe and Willie Warren earlier in the year, the tough, body-punching Antuofermo deserved a shot at the title, but had to wait as the match was postponed several times after Corro’s badly damaged ankle, which happened in training, failed to respond to treatment. With 44 wins, one draw and three defeats on his record, other men Antuofermo had beaten included Danny McAloon, Denny Moyer, Emile Griffith, Ramon Mendez, Vinnie Curto and Eckhard Dagge.

 

30 June 1979. Vito Antuofermo w pts 15 Hugo Corro

Venue: Royal Palace, Monte Carlo, Monaco. Recognition: World. Referee: Ernesto Magana.

Scorecards: 143-142, 146-145, 145-146.

Fight Summary: In what was a difficult fight to handle, and one that seemed likely to get out of control on occasion, Antuofermo (159¼) was ultimately just too aggressive and strong for the champion to handle as he bulled his way forward. Earlier on, though, Corro (158¾) had used the jab well to open up a cut over his rival’s right eye in the third. Unable to hurt Antuofermo, he eventually began to tire before fading after the tenth following a solid right to the jaw. Subsequently, Corro, continuously complaining about Antuofermo’s use of the head, was merely in defence mode, being almost dropped in the 15th. Even though Antuofermo had a round taken away for dangerous use of the head, it was felt at ringside that the referee would have been perfectly justified had he done likewise on at least two other occasions. Afterwards, Corro stated that if he had been fighting either Marvin Hagler or Alan Minter he would have called the fight off until the ankle was completely okay.

 

30 November 1979. Vito Antuofermo drew 15 Marvin Hagler

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

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

Fight Summary: With a six-inch-reach advantage, Hagler (158½), who was the sharper puncher of the two, was cutting the champion up badly at range although unable to make it count in the long term. In what was an exciting affair, Antuofermo (158½) began to come through strongly from the eighth, bulling his way past Hagler’s southpaw defences and slugging away to take the latter completely out of his stride. Antuofermo continued where he left off in the ninth, and despite Hagler wobbling him in the 11th he was punching it out with his challenger in the 12th. The last three rounds swung backwards and forwards, but in a grandstand finish, Antuofermo, carrying a multitude of cuts to his face, fought Hagler to a standstill in the final session. Hagler, who suffered a cut over the right eye in the 14th, felt that he was extremely unlucky not to have won.

 

Even though there was a lot of activity to promote a return with Hagler immediately following the fight, the WBC stated that Antuofermo’s next defence had to be against Alan Minter. Minter had lost six of 43 fights, all through cuts, but had battled on to win British and European titles before relinquishing them to concentrate on a world title challenge. Three British title wins over Kevin Finnegan proved his class while other men cast aside included Frank Reiche, Tony Licata, Sugar Ray Seales, Emile Griffith, Gratien Tonna, Rudy Robles and Monty Betham. A hard-punching southpaw with good skills to match, he also had to overcome the shock of Angelo Jacopucci passing away following their contest for the vacant European title.

 

16 March 1980. Alan Minter w pts 15 Vito Antuofermo

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

Scorecards: 144-141, 149-137, 143-145.

Fight Summary: For the opening five rounds, for whatever reason the champion allowed the southpaw Minter (159¾) to make the running, especially with solid right jabs hitting the mark time and time again. Minter was also able to hammer in uppercuts and combinations during that spell. In the sixth Antuofermo (158¾) woke up to the fact that he was behind on the cards when tearing into Minter. Despite a lack of accuracy from Antuofermo, which Minter took advantage of with accurate counters, the latter was forced to change tactics. When a bad cut was opened over Minter’s right eye in the ninth, by the 12th the damage was causing some concern due to Antuofermo charging in with his head at every opportunity. Following the 13th, which saw both men going toe-to-toe, in the 14th Minter was dropped by a straight right which he felt was a slip. With Antuofermo desperately trying to pull the iron out of the fire the final session turned into a brawl, but at the end of it Britain had a new undisputed world champion. In the aftermath, the WBC President, Jose Sulaiman, declared that the English judge, Roland Dakin, who had scored the fight 149-137, would be suspended indefinitely.

 

28 June 1980. Alan Minter w rtd 8 (15) Vito Antuofermo

Venue: The Arena, Wembley, London, England. Recognition: World. Referee: Octavio Meyran.

Fight Summary: On top all the way, cutting Antuofermo (159¼) over the right eye as early as the opening session, it was soon clear that the latter was fighting a losing battle against a rampant Minter (160). Avoiding Antuofermo's reckless charges to counter with solid left crosses and right hooks, as the fight moved on the champion piled up the points with these tactics. Round after round Minter battered away at Antuofermo’s features, it coming as no surprise when the latter was pulled out by his corner at the end of the eighth, his face a mass of cuts and abrasions.

 

As Minter’s leading challenger, the heavy-handed southpaw, Marvin Hagler, was being given another crack at the world title despite failing to overcome Vito Antuofermo on 30 November 1979 when coming out with a draw. A 12-round knockout win over Mike Colbert two years earlier counted for little even though it was billed as a world title bout by Massachusetts. Since starting out in May 1973, Hagler’s record stood at 49 (40 inside the distance) wins, two draws and two defeats, against Bobby Watts and Willie Munroe who were both beaten in returns. Other top men beaten by Hagler included Sugar Ray Seales (2), Kevin Finnegan (2), Bennie Briscoe and Norberto Cabrera.  

 

27 September 1980. Marvin Hagler w rsc 3 (15) Alan Minter

Venue: The Arena, Wembley, London, England. Recognition: World. Referee: Carlos Berrocal.

Fight Summary: With his title on the line, Minter (159¾) was cut on the left cheek from sharp rights in the opening 30 seconds, and by the end of the first round he had also been cut over the left eye as Hagler (160) clinically went about his work. With Minter not helping himself when taking the fight to Hagler, at the start of the third the first punch thrown by the American opened up another cut over his right eye. Although Minter, who needed 15 stitches to his face afterwards, tried to regroup the referee stopped the contest on the 1.45 mark, leaving Hagler the winner. Unfortunately, it became a night of shame for British boxing after fans rioted in a racial manner and Hagler had to be rushed away to safety as bottles and cans were thrown into the ring. Both men were southpaws.

 

17 January 1981. Marvin Hagler w rsc 8 (15) Fulgencio Obelmejias

Venue: The Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Octavio Meyran.

Fight Summary: Hagler (159½) quickly got down to business, his southpaw jab opening up the unbeaten Obelmejias (159½). Having damaged his right hand in the second, after Obelmejias' best punches failed to deter the champion there was no way back. By the fourth he was coming apart at the seams as Hagler nailed him at close range with both hands. A left to the jaw dropped Obelmejias in the fifth for the mandatory ‘eight’ count, and although there was constant pressure from Hagler it was not until the eighth round when the Venezuelan was sent staggering across the ring that the referee called the one-sided affair off 20 seconds into the session.

 

13 June 1981. Marvin Hagler w rtd 4 (15) Vito Antuofermo

Venue: The Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Davy Pearl.

Fight Summary: It was almost a lost cause for Antuofermo (158) after he suffered a bad cut in the opening round from a clash of heads. He was eventually pulled out by his corner at the end of the fourth following his right eye being opened up badly by heads coming together again. Several times the fighters locked horns as Antuofermo rushed in. While it appeared that Hagler (160) merely left his head in, he later said that he was getting set to throw left hooks. Whatever, it was clear that Antuofermo was not going to last, especially when solid southpaw punches put him down heavily in the third. Following the fight Antuofermo asked for a return on the grounds that he had been intentionally butted, but his request fell upon deaf ears.

 

3 October 1981. Marvin Hagler w rsc 11 (15) Mustafa Hamsho

Venue: Horizon Arena, Rosemont, Illinois, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Octavio Meyran.

Fight Summary: Right from the start Hamsho (160) waded into the champion throwing in wide arcing punches, only to be met by solid right counters that sent him back on his heels. Then, in the third round, Hamsho was cut over the right eye before a clash of heads saw Hagler (157) also damaged on the right eye. By the fifth Hagler was beginning to batter Hamsho, now cut over the left eye, slamming in jabs and uppercuts while beating him to the punch again and again. Surprisingly, Hamsho’s cuts were under control by the seventh. However, Hamsho was being outpunched despite picking up the attack and in the 11th, when he was sent crashing to the floor following a savage burst of punching, the fight was stopped on the 2.09 mark. Both men were southpaws.

 

7 March 1982. Marvin Hagler w rsc 1 (15) Caveman Lee

Venue: Bally’s Park Place Hotel, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Larry Hazzard.

Fight Summary: Making a very fast start the champion was soon looking to put the quietus on Lee (159½), knocking his rival’s head back with solid punches before a right hook sent him down. Up at the mandatory ‘eight’ count on shaky legs Lee was at the mercy of Hagler (158), who tore across the ring to finish the job. Having rained in punches, mainly to the head, two cracking right hooks left Lee helpless on the ropes, and just when Hagler was looking to finish the job the referee did it for him when calling a halt after just 67 seconds of action.

 

30 October 1982. Marvin Hagler w co 5 (15) Fulgencio Obelmejias

Venue: Ariston Theatre, San Remo, Italy. Recognition: World. Referee: Ernesto Magana.

Fight Summary: A return match between southpaws saw the champion yet again have too much for the gallant Obelmejias (159¼), who for the opening two rounds looked as though he would give Hagler (158½) problems. However, in the third Hagler began to take a grip of matters. Having punched Obelmejias all over the ring in the fourth it was only the bell that saved the Venezuelan. Tired and running out of ideas, with Obelmejias a sitting target for Hagler in the fifth a rapid succession of blows from both hands, followed by a right hook, sent him down to be counted out with 25 seconds of the session remaining.

 

11 February 1983. Marvin Hagler w rsc 6 (15) Tony Sibson

Venue: The Centrum, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Carlos Padilla.

Fight Summary: With Britain’s Sibson (160) next in line for the champion there were a few good judges who felt he had the equipment to handle the southpaw champion, or at least take him into the latter part of the contest. Unfortunately for Sibson by the end of the second round he was being outboxed while carrying a steadily worsening swelling on his left cheek. The next two sessions saw Sibson improving, by at least getting some heavy left hooks off, but he was still being pressured by Hagler (158¼) who was beginning to look for the finish. Moving up a gear in the fifth, Hagler opened up the lump under Sibson’s left eye, and in the sixth following a battery of blows he put the latter down for the mandatory ‘eight’ count. Although Sibson, now with cuts on both eyes, was up at ‘four’ he was a sitting duck for Hagler’s incisive punches. And after being knocked down again, despite getting up the referee stopped the contest. The finish was timed at 2.40.

 

27 May 1983. Marvin Hagler w co 4 (15) Wilford Scypion

Venue: Civic Centre, Providence, Rhode Island, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Frank Cappuccino.

Fight Summary: Once the contest got underway Scypion (160) quickly found himself outboxed, and although the challenger had been expected to move in on Hagler (160) to make life difficult for him he was unable to mount any real attacks. In the third Scypion continued to be outclassed, being hit by all manner of punches before picking up a cut on the left eye. Switching from southpaw to orthodox in the fourth, with Hagler pouring in the punches eventually a left-right-left combination sent Scypion down to be counted out with 13 seconds of the session remaining.

 

10 November 1983. Marvin Hagler w pts 15 Roberto Duran

Venue: Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Stan Christodoulou.

Scorecards: 144-142, 146-145, 144-143.

Fight Summary: Having moved up through the weights the WBA junior middleweight champion, Duran (156½), stepped up one more division for a crack at Hagler (157½). At the end of the 13th, with the judges having Duran slightly ahead on the cards it was only due to Hagler’s driving finish over the last three sessions that he ultimately took the decision. Bleeding from a cut around a badly swollen left eye, Hagler was given his toughest contest despite Duran damaging his right hand in the fifth. It was Duran’s speed and movement that gave Hagler his biggest problems, and consequently he found the lighter man a difficult target to hit until both were tiring in the latter stages. There were no knockdowns. Afterwards, while Hagler stated that if there had been one more round he would have knocked Duran out, the latter responded by saying that he considered Sugar Ray Leonard to be a better fighter than the champion.

 

30 March 1984. Marvin Hagler w rsc 10 (15) Juan Domingo Roldan

Venue: Riviera Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Tony Perez.

Fight Summary: Making the ninth defence of his title, Hagler (159¼) was probably expecting a far easier ride than the one he got, especially when slipping over in the first round and being given a standing count for his pains. Thereafter, there were plenty of fierce exchanges, but Hagler gradually got on top when Roldan’s right eye began to swell and close rapidly in the third. Roldan (159¼) was still dangerous with his swinging punches, but by the seventh Hagler was picking his punches better while keeping out of trouble. From there onwards it would be just a matter of time, and after 39 seconds of the tenth had elapsed a disorientated Roldan was pulled out of the fight by the referee, having just got up at ‘eight’ from a solid right to the head. Although retaining the WBC’s support, Hagler again reiterated that he favoured 15-round fights. He went on to say that while he remained the champion he would defend over that distance.

 

19 October 1984. Marvin Hagler w rsc 3 (15) Mustafa Hamsho

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

Fight Summary: Given another opportunity to meet the champion, Hamsho (159½) immediately went on the attack to take his fellow southpaw out of his stride. However, by the end of the opening round he was already cut over the left eye and up against it. This time, angry that Hamsho was using foul tactics and not being warned, Hagler (159½) caught his onrushing opponent with right hook counters in the second that stunned the 31-year-old Syrian and set him up for the finish. Finally, Hamsho was warned for butting in the third, but by now Hagler’s fists were doing the talking. Smashed to the floor by solid right hooks, Hamsho beat the count only to be dropped to the canvas again by another cracking right hook, whereupon the referee immediately called it off on the 2.31 mark.

 

15 April 1985. Marvin Hagler w rsc 3 (12) Thomas Hearns

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

Fight Summary: In a fight that would see Hagler (159¼) assuming the mantle of greatness, he defended his title against Hearns (159¾), the WBC junior middleweight champion. With both men tearing into each other with an intensity rarely seen, and both landing heavy blows, it was clear to all and sundry that this one was not going to go the distance. Towards the end of the opening session, with Hearns in trouble on the ropes but fighting back Hagler was badly cut between the eyes. In the second, when Hagler was cut under the right eye in his anxiousness to put Hearns away there were fears that he may have punched himself out with the latter remaining on his feet. Bleeding heavily, Hagler tore into Hearns in the third, and following a southpaw right hook that had the latter losing control of his legs three more heavy blows had him over. Even though Hearns amazingly got up at ‘six’ there was no way the referee was going to let him continue, the fight being over with 1.08 of the session remaining.

 

10 March 1986. Marvin Hagler w co 11 (12) John Mugabi

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

Fight Summary: Up against a man who had either stopped or knocked out all of his 25 opponents to date, this turned into another epic fight for Hagler (159½) in defence of his WBC, WBA and IBF titles. Both men started well, sending in plenty of hard punches, and in the fourth Mugabi (157) landed the heaviest punches of the fight at that stage when shaking Hagler up with two tremendous right hooks. Although Hagler looked to be getting on top in the fifth, the sixth saw an all-out war with ferocious blows going in and both men looking stunned at times. After going flat out, Hagler was then penalised a point in the seventh for a low blow before his right eye began to rapidly close in the ninth. With there now being no more time for Hagler to stick to his boxing he tore into Mugabi in the tenth, only really hurting him at the end of the session, prior to picking it up again in the 11th. As Mugabi weakened badly Hagler took his chance, and following a battery of punches a long southpaw right to the head dropped the challenger for the full count, timed at 1.29.

 

Hagler forfeited WBA recognition on 21 March 1987 for failing to meet Herol Graham within the stipulated period. Subsequently, Hagler signed for a defence against Sugar Ray Leonard. Coming into the contest with Hagler, the charismatic Leonard had already proved to be an outstanding box-fighter. With 33 wins to his credit, and his only defeat against Roberto Duran avenged, this would be his first foray among the middleweights, having previously been the undefeated world welterweight champion and  undefeated WBA junior middleweight champion.

 

6 April 1987. Sugar Ray Leonard w pts 12 Marvin Hagler

Venue: Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBC/Lineal. Referee: Richard Steele.

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

Fight Summary: This one turned out to be the last fight in a great career for Hagler (160), and he seemed to be unfortunate to lose to Leonard (160) after what had been a very close affair, regardless of what one of the judges thought. As expected, Leonard started fast to take the opening four rounds before Hagler, hurting his rival with big southpaw hooks in the fifth, began to get more and more into the fight from there onwards. In the seventh, following a good sixth, Leonard appeared to be weakening, and in the eighth although his left eye was beginning to swell he continued to rally before meeting Hagler punch for punch in the ninth and being hurt by left hooks. However, from there on Leonard began to fade, fighting in bursts and dancing away out of trouble. Feeling that Hagler was hard done by, Boxing News, Britain’s trade paper, gave him seven rounds to Leonard’s four.

 

After opposing Hagler v Leonard in the first place, it being a WBC promotion, the IBF stated that they were vacating their portion of the title immediately because they could not lend their support to Leonard.  Following that, Leonard announced on 27 June that he was giving up the WBC and lineal titles in order to take a long break from boxing. The next time my version of the 'world' title was up for grabs came after the top-ranked Sumbu Kalambay forfeited WBA recognition on 3 March 1989 when failing to sign for a defence against Herol Graham, the British champion, and decided to meet Michael Nunn, rated at number two, for the latter’s IBF title instead. Kalambay, who was on 46 wins, one draw and three defeats, had won the vacant WBA title when beating Iran Barkley and had defended it against Mike McCallum, Robbie Sims and Doug DeWitt. Victories over Buster Drayton, Irving Hines and Herol Graham had earned him the crack at Barkley. The smooth southpaw, Nunn, who was unbeaten after 32 contests, had taken the IBF title from Frank Tate and defended it against Juan Domingo Roldan having defeated Alex Ramos, Kevin Watts and Curtis Parker along the way.

 

25 March 1989. Michael Nunn w co 1 Sumbu Kalambay

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

Fight Summary: Having decided to take control from the opening bell the southpaw champion, Nunn (160), immediately got down to business with the jab, but it was still quite a shock when he stepped in with a left after Kalambay (159) fell short to drop his rival heavily. Although Kalambay, who had failed to land a punch, was on his feet just after the count had ended Nunn was declared the winner following just 80 seconds of action.

 

14 August 1989. Michael Nunn w pts 12 Iran Barkley

Venue: Lawlor Events Centre, Reno, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Carlos Padilla.

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

Fight Summary: Taking the fight to Nunn (159) throughout despite being badly cut on the lip and bleeding from the left eye early on, Barkley (160) was always in with a chance, especially when the southpaw champion decided to showboat rather than getting on with the job in hand. At times Nunn looked good, pumping in the jab and throwing blinding combinations, but lazing around too often he was hurt in the eighth, tenth and 11th rounds when Barkley got to him with solid blows. Although the ‘Punch Stats’ showed Nunn landing 346 punches to Barkley’s 245 the decision was loudly booed by the majority of the crowd.

 

14 April 1990. Michael Nunn w pts 12 Marlon Starling

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

Scorecards: 117-111, 118-110, 114-114.

Fight Summary: Much bigger than his challenger, Nunn (160) failed to take advantage of his natural assets and was happy to take no risks after initially coming to the weigh-in half a pound over the weight. Nunn even lost the opening three rounds as Starling (158) made a fast start, but once the champion got his jab working he soon piled up the points. Although Starling came again towards the end he could not hurt Nunn, who appeared to be treating the fight no differently to what he would a sparring session, the decision in his favour being met with boos and jeers.

 

18 October 1990. Michael Nunn w rsc 10 Donald Curry

Venue: Sports Palace, Paris, France. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Denny Nelson.

Fight Summary: A double world champion at welter and junior middle, Curry (158) decided from the beginning that he would give it his best shot in the early rounds. And he was still giving the southpaw champion plenty to think about right up to the end of the sixth despite being behind on the cards. When it was clear that Curry was tiring in the seventh Nunn (159¾) dropped him for ‘eight’ with a good uppercut. It was generally felt that this was it, but Curry got through the next couple of rounds before Nunn, speeding up, eventually put him down following 14 unanswered blows to head and body in the tenth. With Curry on one knee but looking as though there was not much left in the tank, the referee stopped the fight on the 1.59 mark.

 

Nunn’s next defence would be against James Toney, who was unbeaten on 25 wins and a draw with Sanderline Williams which he had avenged. Strong and durable, and a clever boxer who had a solid shot in either hand, he also numbered Ron Amundsen and Merqui Sosa among his victims.

 

10 May 1991. James Toney w rsc 11 Michael Nunn

Venue: John O’Donnell Stadium, Davenport, Iowa, USA. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Denny Nelson.

Fight Summary: Outboxing Toney (157) for the opening seven rounds despite having to take the occasional heavy blow, the southpaw champion began to look less than confident in the eighth when forced to fight his way off the ropes. Well behind at the start of the 11th, Toney tore into Nunn (160), blasting in big punches before the latter was dropped by a left hook. Although Nunn got up, looking as though he had received a long count, he was immediately bowled over by a right uppercut, whereupon the referee called it off with 46 seconds of the session remaining.

 

29 June 1991. James Toney w pts 12 Reggie Johnson

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

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

Fight Summary: With the aggression and extra power of Toney (159) opposed to the challenger’s defensive skills and punch-picking on the back foot it was always going to be close, but in most eyes it was Johnson’s fight. The only knockdown of the contest came in the opening session when a southpaw left cross to the jaw put Toney on the seat of his pants, and although Johnson (159) tried his utmost to put his rival away he was unable to do so. In a dramatic last round, in which Toney sustained a bad cut on the left eye, despite Johnson finishing strongly he went down narrowly on the cards.

 

12 October 1991. James Toney w rsc 4 Francesco Dell'Aquila

Venue: Louis II Stadium, Monte Carlo, Monaco. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Frank Cappuccino.

Fight Summary: The big talking point of the fight was the fact that the IBF allowed Toney to defend his title despite him being almost half a pound over the weight. When it was clear that Toney would be unable to get the excess poundage off at the third time of asking the Italian camp agreed for the fight to go ahead. Toney was even registered by the officials as being 72.55 kilos (just inside the required 160lbs). Trying to box on the back foot and clearly outgunned, Dell’Aquila (158½) was dropped in the first round by three solid blows to the head before making it into the fourth due to Toney’s lack of condition. Stepping it up during that session, Toney blasted in blows from both hands as the outclassed Italian, his right cheek badly swollen, tried to move out of the danger zone. With the end clearly in sight, when Dell’Aquila was eventually belted to the canvas, having been hit by a whole battery of shots, the referee called it off without bothering with the count.

 

13 December 1991. James Toney drew 12 Mike McCallum

Venue: Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Steve Smoger.

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

Fight Summary: Both men were soon into their rhythm, but it was the champion who struck first when decking McCallum (157¾) with a left-right combination late in the second round. Ruled as a slip, it had seemed to be a legitimate knockdown. However, it spurred on Toney (159), who began to have the better of most of the exchanges until McCallum started to get his act together by the seventh. In the ninth Toney was in some trouble from a left hook to the head following several shots to the body, but towards the end of the session he had recovered. Pressing on in the final round Toney had McCallum rubber-legged and in deep trouble before the final bell came to the latter’s aid. Many of the ringside reporters had Toney well ahead on the grounds that he had scored the most damaging blows of the fight.

 

8 February 1992. James Toney w pts 12 Dave Tiberi

Venue: Taj Mahal Hotel, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Robert Palmer.

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

Fight Summary: Not given a chance, Tiberi (158½) soon made his intentions clear when taking the fight to the champion from the opening bell. Standing right in front of Toney (159¾), for the most part Tiberi, despite being cut and bruised, met him punch for punch, and in the sixth he was unlucky to be deducted a point for going low. With the eighth being the best of the fight as the men blazed away with both hands, while Toney looked to be worn out at times his better quality blows won the day. Toney had difficulty in making the weight and it showed.

 

11 April 1992. James Toney w pts 12 Glenn Wolfe

Venue: Thomas & Mack Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Mills Lane.

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

Fight Summary: Despite hardly getting himself out of first gear the champion was far too good for Wolfe (160), a man who had recently survived a gunshot wound that had grazed his skull. By the seventh Wolfe’s left eye was closing, but Toney (160), continuing to box in short bursts, was content to let his rival last until the final bell.

 

29 August 1992. James Toney w pts 12 Mike McCallum

Venue: Sparks Convention Centre, Reno, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Joe Cortez.

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

Fight Summary: With the champion’s body punches setting the tone of the fight by the sixth McCallum (158) had begun to slow. He was still not out of it, but at this stage Toney (158¾) was landing faster, heavier shots. McCallum was right back in the mix in the eighth when keeping up the pressure and making Toney fight all the way. Despite being tired, McCallum kept up the work-rate during the last three rounds, but Toney fought back hard to maintain his lead.

 

Having had difficulty making the weight, Toney relinquished the IBF version of the title when becoming that body’s super middleweight champion on 13 February 1993. It was only when the fourth-ranked Jorge Castro was matched to defend his WBA title against the second-ranked John David Jackson (bearing in mind that the top-ranked Gerald McClellan was effectively up at super middle) the contest should also be seen as involving my version of the 'world' title. Castro had won the vacant WBA title from Reggie Johnson and had successfully defended it against Alex Ramos, while Jackson, a southpaw, had earlier forfeited the same title. Castro, who had earned a reputation as a durable, hard-hitting fighter as 66 inside-the-distance victories would testify, had packed a good many fights into a career that started in February 1987. With the proud record of never being stopped, only Roy Jones and Terry Norris outpointing him in his last 44 contests, Castro came to the ring with 95 wins, two draws and four defeats, while Jackson, a former undefeated WBO junior middleweight champion, had 32 wins and one no contest to his name.

 

10 December 1994. Jorge Castro w rsc 9 John David Jackson

Venue: Baseball Stadium, Monterrey, Mexico. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Stan Christodoulou.

Fight Summary: Although Jackson (160) was badly shaken up by the champion in the opening session he got his act together in the next seven rounds, doing almost as he pleased, but could not put the Argentine on the floor. In the seventh, Castro (160) was cut over both eyes before being hammered from pillar to post in the eighth. Still Jackson could not finish the job despite hitting his man with everything at his disposal. In trouble at the start of the ninth and floundering on the ropes with the referee almost coming to his rescue, out of the blue Castro dropped the oncoming Jackson with a mighty left hook that came up from the floor. Somehow getting to his feet, Jackson was a beaten man. And after being allowed to continue he was put down twice more, which saw him stopped on the ‘three knockdowns in a round’ ruling with 17 seconds of the session remaining.

 

27 May 1995. Jorge Castro w rsc 12 Anthony Andrews

Venue: Broward County Convention Centre, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Bernie Soto.

Fight Summary: Prior to the fight it was said that Andrews (158¼) was not a worthy challenger. However, after 11 tough rounds of leather throwing, and having met Castro (159¾) punch for punch throughout he clearly deserved his chance. Not only had he taken Castro’s best shots, but there was only one point between them on the cards. Coming out for the 12th both men continued to let the punches go, only this time Castro’s carried more sting, and with just 46 seconds of the fight remaining the referee stopped the action with Andrews an open target and being belted along the ropes from heavy blows to the head.

13 October 1995. Jorge Castro w pts 12 Reggie Johnson

Venue: Comodoro Rivadavia Stadium, Chubut, Argentina. Recognition: WBA. Referee: John Coyle.

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

Fight Summary: Fighting for the first time since a car crash in July, it was only the lack of aggression on the part of Johnson (157¾) that saved the day for Castro (160). By the tenth, after Castro began to get into his stride he swept through the last two sessions, driving Johnson before him. The fight was too close for comfort as far as Castro was concerned, and had Johnson not been deducted a point in the sixth for butting he might have pulled it off.

 

The OPBF champion, Shinji Takehara, would be Castro’s next challenger. Unbeaten in 23 contests, with 18 inside-the-distance wins to his name, he was not only a dangerous opponent but one who was looking to become the first Japanese fighter to hold a world middleweight title. 

 

19 December 1995. Shinji Takehara w pts 12 Jorge Castro

Venue: Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Mitch Halpern.

Scorecards: 116-114, 118-112, 117-111.

Fight Summary: Losing for only the fifth time in 105 fights, Castro (160) was right up against it from the moment the tall Takehara (160) staggered him in the opening round with an overarm right. Although Castro tried hard to get into the fight, dropped in the third by a terrific left to the body, he was on the end of Takehara’s jab for the next three sessions. Even though Castro came on strongly in the seventh and eighth, Takehara came back hard with solid combinations in the ninth before boxing his way through the remaining three sessions.

 

Takehara’s first defence would be against the big-punching William Joppy who was unbeaten in 22 fights, 17 of them ending inside the distance, since turning pro in February 1993.

 

24 June 1996. William Joppy w rsc 9 Shinji Takehara

Venue: The Arena, Yokohama, Japan. Recognition: WBA. Referee: John Coyle.

Fight Summary: Defending for the first time, Takehara (160) was up against it from the opening bell, more so when Joppy (160) smashed in a terrific overarm right that dropped him. Even though Takehara had a five-inch-reach advantage it failed to help him as Joppy countered him effectively with jabs and left-rights. In the fifth Takehara was pinned on the ropes and forced to take heavy blows before fighting on more equal terms in the next two sessions. Hurt in the eighth, Takehara was eventually stopped at 2.29 of the ninth when he was unable to defend himself properly after Joppy had cornered him and was firing in heavy combinations.

 

19 October 1996. William Joppy w rsc 6 Ray McElroy

Venue: Showplace Arena, Upper Marlboro, Maryland, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Ken Chevalier.

Fight Summary: Even though he showed stubborn resistance the tall McElroy (156½) offered little else in his attempt to wrest the title from Joppy (159), who won as he pleased. Several times McElroy was shaken up in the opening five rounds, and in the sixth Joppy made his move when driving the challenger to the ropes and belabouring him from head to body. At 1.41 of the session, the referee brought the fight to a close after Joppy had landed three heavy blows to the head. Even though McElroy looked to carry on it had become too one-sided and was a welcome stoppage.

 

10 May 1997. William Joppy w pts 12 Peter Venancio

Venue: Coconut Grove Convention Centre, Miami, Florida, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Bill Connors.

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

Fight Summary: Joppy (159) was surprisingly set about by Venancio (159) right at the start of the contest, but after taking the next two rounds he dropped the Brazilian with a right to the head in the fourth. Many of the rounds were close, there never being much between them. However, in the tenth Joppy dropped his man again, this time with a right to the head, only for Venancio to close the gap by winning the last two sessions on all of the cards.

 

Next man up for Joppy would be the Dominican Republic’s Julio Cesar Green, who had 21 (15 inside the distance) wins and two defeats on his record. An aggressive, hard-punching fighter, Green had beaten William Bo James and Lonnie Beasley before losing to Carl Daniels for the vacant WBA junior middleweight title and moving up to middle immediately after.

 

23 August 1997. Julio Cesar Green w pts 12 William Joppy

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

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

Fight Summary: Shocked when he was dropped by a solid left hook from Green (159) in the second the champion came back well in the third when putting the latter down twice. However, he was unable to find a finishing blow in that session as hard as he tried. Having damaged his right hand in the third, when Joppy (160) began to box on the back foot, despite scoring well with the jab it was Green who was forcing the fight. Deducted a point in the 11th for hitting from behind did not help Joppy’s cause and when Green won the final round on all three cards, after plugging away with the jab, the champion’s fate was sealed. Following much dissent, the pair were quickly signed up for a rematch.

 

31 January 1998. William Joppy w pts 12 Julio Cesar Green

Venue: Ice Palace, Tampa, Florida, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Max Parker Jnr.

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

Fight Summary: In a return match, Green (160) was dropped by a left hook in the opening round before coming back strongly with two-fisted attacks to the body. Eventually, Joppy (159½) began to box more effectively on the outside as Green became extremely wild, and by the eighth the Dominican was clearly exasperated as he continually missed the target. By then, the tiring Green was mainly throwing arm punches while Joppy looked to make every blow count. Cut over the left eye in the tenth Green was still coming forward, but Joppy, boxing a smart fight, cruised through to the final bell.

 

28 August 1998. William Joppy w rsc 3 Roberto Duran

Venue: Hilton Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Joe Cortez.

Fight Summary: Still fighting at the age of 47 the legendary Duran (159) failed in his final title challenge, hardly showing as Joppy (160) scored as and when he liked. Even though Joppy was unable to drop Duran, hitting him with solid blows from both hands throughout, at 2.54 of the third the referee had seen enough after the latter was being driven around the ring non-stop. It was clear that Duran was finished, but he continued to fight on until the age of 50, taking in four more contests, two of them losses.

 

24 September 1999. William Joppy w rsc 7 Julio Cesar Green

Venue: MCI Centre, Washington DC, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Ken Chevalier.

Fight Summary: Meeting Green (159½) for the third time, with the score one apiece, the champion got down to work quickly, wobbling the ‘interim’ title holder with a big right in the second and cutting him over the left eye in the third. With the cut worsening round by round as Joppy (158½) played on it, when Green became desperate in the seventh the referee called the fight off as the blood flowed, the finish being timed at 1.52. According to the three judges Joppy had won all six completed rounds.

 

20 May 2000. William Joppy w rsc 1 Rito Ruvalcaba

Venue: Grand Casino, Tunica, Mississippi, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Fred Steinwinder.

Fight Summary: Up against the WBA’s mandatory challenger, Joppy (157¼) made a fast start when sending the hapless Mexican back on his heels from the first two blows of the fight. Although Ruvalcaba (155¾) remained upright it was clear that he was unlikely to be around much longer as Joppy wound up the punches, and after slamming in three big rights that catapulted him off the ropes the referee stopped the contest with 67 seconds of the first round remaining.

 

16 September 2000. William Joppy w pts 12 Hacine Cherifi

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

Scorecards: 119-106, 118-107, 118-107.

Fight Summary: According to the reports the fight was never close, Cherifi (159) winning just one round - the fifth - and being dropped twice before going down heavily on all the cards. Right from the start it was clear that Cherifi was in for a hard night when Joppy (160) walked into him throwing solid uppercuts and combinations. Although Cherifi came through the attack and stoically resisted the champion’s efforts to finish early, he was dropped in both the eighth and ninth rounds before being smashed to the floor just as the bell rang to end the ninth. Regardless of the fact that the knockdown did not count Cherifi was left badly stunned, but he somehow made it to the final bell despite taking a battering all the way. To make matters even worse for the Frenchman was a point deduction in the sixth for hitting on the break.

 

2 December 2000. William Joppy w rsc 4 Jonathan Reid

Venue: Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Joe Cortez.

Fight Summary: As a late substitute for Guillermo Jones and then Julio Garcia, the unbeaten Reid (160) proved no match for the champion, being totally outclassed. On the back foot from the beginning Reid got through the opening two rounds unscathed before he was blasted to the floor in the third by a salvo of punches and then saved by the bell when under another heavy attack. With it being more of the same in the fourth, when Joppy (159½) smashed Reid down with a solid left-right combination the referee immediately stopped the fight with 17 seconds of the session remaining.

 

Felix Trinidad, a former undefeated IBF/WBC welterweight champion and current IBF/WBA junior middleweight title holder, would be Joppy’s next challenger in what was a semi-final leg of Don King’s unification tournament. With 39 (32 inside the distance) wins since turning pro, this would be the unbeaten Trinidad’s first contest at middleweight.

 

12 May 2001. Felix Trinidad w rsc 5 William Joppy

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

Fight Summary: Moving up a weight to take on Joppy (158¾), Trinidad made the transition without a hitch, starting well by dropping his rival with heavy left-right combinations towards the end of the first. From there onwards it was all one-way apart from in the third when Joppy made a big effort to take Trinidad (159½) out of the fight with heavy right hands. Coming straight back in the fourth Trinidad decked Joppy for the mandatory ‘eight’ count with a big left hook before going to work in similar vein in the fifth. Trinidad was now totally on top, ripping in blows to head and body, and after pounding away at Joppy the latter crashed to the floor from a right to the jaw. At this point the referee called the fight off on the 2.25 mark when the stricken fighter somehow got to his feet at ‘four’ in no condition to continue. On winning, Trinidad joined the ranks of three-weight world champions.

 

The IBF and WBC champion, Bernard Hopkins, with 39 wins, two defeats and two draws, one of them being technical, would be Trinidad’s first challenger. A pro since 1988, Hopkins had proved to be a sound box-fighter who knew how to win difficult contests, having won the vacant IBF title when defeating Segundo Mercedo on 29 April 1995 following their drawn first fight. He had gone on to successfully defend the IBF title against Steve Frank, Joe Lipsey, William Bo James, John David Jackson, Glen Johnson, Andrew Council, Simon Brown, Robert Allen (2), Antwun Echols (2), Syd Vanderpool and Keith Holmes, picking up the latter’s WBC title at the same time.

 

29 September 2001. Bernard Hopkins w rsc 12 Felix Trinidad

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBC. Referee: Steve Smoger.

Fight Summary: After an opening round in which he had good look at the champion, Hopkins (157) moved up several gears to gradually take Trinidad (158½) apart prior to stopping him at 1.42 of the 12th. Hopkins was just far too good for Trinidad, whether it be boxing or fighting. Stumbling around in the 11th it was clear that Trinidad was almost finished for the night, and in the final session Hopkins opened up with both hands before sending his man down heavily with a short right to the jaw. Although Trinidad struggled up at ‘nine’, on seeing that he was not ready to continue the referee decided the fight was over. On winning, Hopkins (39 wins, two draws, two defeats) won the unification tournament.

 

2 February 2002. Bernard Hopkins w rtd 10 Carl Daniels

Venue: Sovereign Centre, Reading, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Frank Cappuccino.

Fight Summary: Attacking Daniels (160) from the opening bell the champion continued to march forward for ten rounds as his cute southpaw opponent stayed on the back foot for most of the time. When Hopkins (158¾) did manage to close Daniels down, the latter took what was on offer. It was only in the ninth that Daniels began to ship heavy punishment, blows to head and body sending him lurching round the ring. At the end of the tenth, which he had somehow managed to get through, Daniels made the decision not to continue knowing he had no chance of winning.

 

29 March 2003. Bernard Hopkins w rtd 8 Morrade Hakkar

Venue: First Union Spectrum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Frank Cappuccino.

Fight Summary: In what was a bad mismatch it was soon clear that Hakkar (159) did not belong in the same ring as the champion when sprinting around the perimeter and barely stopping to land punches. Having somehow got through five rounds, Hakkar dropped down in the sixth after taking a body shot, and with Hopkins (158½) failing to go to a neutral corner and the referee not spotting it he was probably resting on one knee for about 20 seconds. Twice in the seventh the Frenchman was on the floor without a count. In the eighth he went down again without the referee bothering to call it a knockdown. With Hopkins working the head and body when Hakkar slumped on his stool at the end of the session his corner retired him.

 

13 December 2003. Bernard Hopkins w pts 12 William Joppy

Venue: Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Earl Morton.

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

Fight Summary: Although Joppy (159) went the distance, winning a side-bet, despite there being no knockdowns the champion was far too good for him. Pacing himself superbly Hopkins (160) was on top in virtually every round bar the seventh when the ‘second tier’ title holder scored with a hard right uppercut, and by the eighth he was back controlling his rival from the centre of the ring. Coming out for the 11th, his left eye swelling up, Joppy gave it one final go before being forced to take a sustained beating right through to the final bell.

 

5 June 2004. Bernard Hopkins w pts 12 Robert Allen

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

Scorecards: 119-107, 119-107, 117-109.

Fight Summary: Clearly the superior man, the champion took on an old opponent in Allen (160), being happy to box his way to an easy points win until struck low in the fifth. While Allen was deducted a point for the infringement, Hopkins (159) upped the pace, dropping his rival with a crashing right to the head in the seventh. Although Allen was on his feet at ‘six’, Hopkins went after him before settling down again to box his way home against a dangerous southpaw. All the quality punches came from Hopkins, his body punching and fast lead rights making sure that he would be the man to face the winner of Oscar De La Hoya v Felix Sturm.

 

18 September 2004. Bernard Hopkins w co 9 Oscar De La Hoya

Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: World/The Ring. Referee: Kenny Bayless.

Fight Summary: At the age of 39 Hopkins (156) put his WBA, WBC and IBF titles up for grabs against De La Hoya (155), the WBO champion, in a match that would unify the title for the first time since 1986. In contention during the opening four rounds, having disrupted Hopkins’ rhythm when snapping in four or five blows to the body before making off, De La Hoya was looking to move on. However, by round five he was running into stiff lefts. As each round came and went it was apparent that De La Hoya was having trouble getting inside Hopkins’ jab. Not only that, but the latter’s size and strength was also beginning to bother him. Having won the last two rounds on all the cards Hopkins began to step it up in the ninth, and following a solid left jab he stepped inside with a cracking left hook to the body that sent De La Hoya down to be counted out at 1.38 of the session. Afterwards, De La Hoya, who had never been floored by a blow to the solar plexus before, said that the punch had paralysed him.

 

19 February 2005. Bernard Hopkins w pts 12 Howard Eastman

Venue: Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: World/The Ring. Referee: Raul Caiz Jnr.

Scorecards: 119-110, 117-111, 116-112.

Fight Summary: Unable to find the answer to the ageless champion’s ability to control a fight, Eastman (159½) was beaten by a fairly substantial points margin, never really showing up. It was a case of Hopkins (159½) having just too much of everything, and although Eastman took the fight to his rival he never forced home any attack which might have left him open to the counters. With Hopkins picking his punches before moving out of range as the challenger predictably stalked him, the contest was hardly exciting. Although Eastman was never embarrassed it was a bridge too far for him.

 

The next man up for Hopkins would be Jermain Taylor, who had beaten Alex Bunema, Raul Marquez and William Joppy on his rise through the ranks. A former American amateur champion, and a bronze medallist from the 2000 Olympics, Taylor was unbeaten with 23 (17 inside the distance) wins since turning over.

 

16 July 2005. Jermain Taylor w pts 12 Bernard Hopkins

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

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

Fight Summary: Regardless of the fact that most experts had the champion winning, and despite the ridiculous last round score from one of the judges that if corrected would have meant that Hopkins (160) retained his belts, the real problem was in the latter getting his tactics wrong and allowing Taylor (160) too much leeway. Having let Taylor build up a fair lead by the end of the eighth, when Hopkins at last realised that he had to get busy he took the last four sessions on all cards other than the one already mentioned. However, it was not enough. There were no knockdowns, but the fight stats over 12 rounds showed that Hopkins landed 96 to Taylor’s 86, while in the last four sessions the champion connected with 56 to the challenger’s 23. Prior to this, Hopkins had made 20 successful defences of the IBF title.

 

Taylor relinquished the IBF title on 11 October due to contractual problems.

 

3 December 2005. Jermain Taylor w pts 12 Bernard Hopkins

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

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

Fight Summary: As in their first contest there was nothing between them, both men showing each other too much respect, and many of the rounds were so closely contested that they could have gone either way. With neither man looking like going down, much of the action was plain boring. Boxing News got it right when they reported that Taylor (159), the champion, won by default, with Hopkins (160) relying on one big punch to finish it rather than busying himself.

 

17 June 2006. Jermain Taylor drew 12 Ronald Wright

Venue: FedEx Forum, Memphis, Tennessee, USA. Recognition: WBA/WBC/WBO/The Ring/Lineal. Referee: Frank Garza.

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

Fight Summary: With his championship belts on the line, Taylor (160) appeared lucky to retain them after his southpaw challenger cruised through the final session instead of making sure of the points. Wright (159¾) had taken the fight to Taylor from the beginning, outjabbing the latter for much of the time, but was forced to take heavy blows in return. Despite being the harder puncher, Taylor, whose left eye was almost closed at the final bell, was never able to build up momentum as Wright continually took him to the ropes and negated his power. The Boxing News stated "Wright fought hard for 33 minutes and tamely for the last three", having thought that all he had to do to was remain on his feet.

 

On 14 November the WBA decided not to recognise Taylor as their ‘super’ champion any longer after he was matched against Kassim Ouma, an opponent who failed to meet their criteria.

 

9 December 2006. Jermain Taylor w pts 12 Kassim Ouma

Venue: Alltel Arena, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA. Recognition: WBC/WBO/The Ring/Lineal. Referee: Frank Garza.

Scorecards: 118-110, 117-111, 115-113.

Fight Summary: Defending his championship belts Taylor (159½) was always in control of the tough Ouma (158½), who though continually trying was too small to do serious damage. Boxing a lazy fight, Taylor allowed his southpaw challenger back into it at times, especially in the remaining three sessions. Cut on the left eye in the fifth, Taylor used his five-inch reach advantage to negate rather than attack, only coming to life in the last minute of each round. In the main, while Taylor looked lethargic at times Ouma could take much credit from his performance.

 

19 May 2007. Jermain Taylor w pts 12 Cory Spinks

Venue: FedEx Forum, Memphis, Tennessee, USA. Recognition: WBC/WBO/The Ring/Lineal. Referee: Michael Ortega.

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

Fight Summary: Up against a crafty southpaw in Spinks (159¾), the holder of the IBF junior middleweight title, once again Taylor (159¾) was disappointing in a fight that never took off. With Spinks always moving on the back foot and ducking low when coming forward, Taylor had great difficulty in lining him up. All the harder punches of the fight came from Taylor and how one of the judges had Spinks winning nine rounds was beyond most of the observers.

 

The strong, hard-hitting Kelly Pavlik, who was unbeaten in 31 (26 inside the distance) contests would be next for Taylor. With wins over Ross Thompson, Fulgencio Zuniga, Bronco McKart and Edison Miranda, the 6’2” Pavlik had earned the opportunity to gain revenge over the man who had beaten him in the 2000 Olympic trials while both were still in the amateur ranks.

 

29 September 2007. Kelly Pavlik w rsc 7 Jermain Taylor

Venue: Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: WBC/WBO/The Ring/Lineal. Referee: Steve Smoger.

Fight Summary: Aiming to get his hands on the belts, Pavlik (159½) walked into the champion from the bell only to be dropped in the second after being caught heavily on the head and follow-up blows. Somehow getting through all the punches coming his way to reach the end of the round, Pavlik came back strongly to take the next two sessions before Taylor (159) picked it up to win the fifth and sixth when utilising his boxing skills. In the seventh Pavlik showed what a powerful puncher he was when slamming in a tremendous right to the head that had Taylor staring into oblivion, and when two further heavy blows dropped the latter the referee stopped the contest immediately. The finish was timed at 2.14.

 

7 June 2008. Kelly Pavlik w rsc 3 Gary Lockett

Venue: Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: WBC/WBO/The Ring/Lineal. Referee: Eddie Cotton.

Fight Summary: Hurt in the opening round things got worse for Lockett (159½) in the second as Pavlik (159) used his big reach advantage to bang in blows from both hands, the challenger being forced to take a knee on two occasions to limit the damage. In the third after giving it one last effort, when Lockett was dumped from a left-right to the head the referee stopped the contest at 1.40 of the session. The decision was effectively made for him when the Welshman's corner threw the towel in.

 

21 February 2009. Kelly Pavlik w rtd 9 Marco Antonio Rubio

Venue: Chevrolet Centre, Youngstown, Ohio, USA. Recognition: WBC/WBO/The Ring/Lineal. Referee: Frank Garza.

Fight Summary:  Starting as he meant to carry on, the champion walked into Rubio (160) with a solid jab that continually pushed him back. It was only in the sixth that Rubio began to let the punches go, but that was it. The seventh saw Pavlik (159) take back command of the situation and at the end of the ninth Rubio was retired by his corner when they decided that their man had taken enough. Pavlik, who won every round, showed yet again that his long left jab was paramount to his success.

 

19 December 2009. Kelly Pavlik w rsc 5 Miguel Angel Espino

Venue: Beeghly Centre, Youngstown, Ohio, USA. Recognition: WBC/WBO/The Ring/Lineal. Referee: Steve Smoger.

Fight Summary: Despite giving his all the brave challenger did not have the tools to beat Pavlik (160), who met him with solid blows from either hand that had destruction written all over them. At the end of the opener Espino (159) was deducted a point for punching after the bell, and in second and third when the two men went head-to-head Pavlik was cut on the right eye. It hardly made any difference to Pavlik, who twice dropped Espino with right uppercuts in the fourth before going to town in the fifth. The fight ended after Espino, who had been floored for a count of 'five' by lefts and rights, continued taking a beating until the referee brought matters to a halt at 1.44 of the session on the instructions of the latter's corner.

 

Sergio Martinez, the WBC junior middleweight champion, would be Pavlik’s next challenger. With a record of 44 wins, two draws and two defeats, and struggling to make 154lbs, the clever southpaw felt that it was time to move up.

 

17 April 2010. Sergio Martinez w pts 12 Kelly Pavlik

Venue: Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: WBC/WBO/The Ring/Lineal. Referee: David Fields.

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

Fight Summary: Following a hand infection and weight-making difficulties, Pavlik (159½) put his titles on the line against Martinez (159½). Using his speed to get inside Pavlik's long reach, the southpaw challenger took the opening four rounds before coming under fire in the seventh when dropped by a short right uppercut. Pavlik had already begun the fightback in the fifth and he took the next three sessions on the cards. However, after cutting Pavlik under both eyes in the ninth Martinez poured it on to the final bell to make sure that the title went his way.

 

Having become a two-weight world champion, a week later Martinez handed back his WBC junior belt in order to concentrate on the middleweights. On 1 June, Martinez was stripped of his WBO title when failing to decide within a reasonable time frame whether or not he would continue to campaign in the 160lbs weight class or remain in the junior middleweight division.

 

20 November 2010. Sergio Martinez w co 2 Paul Williams

Venue: Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: WBC/The Ring/Lineal. Referee: Earl Morton.

Fight Summary: A match-up between southpaws saw the champion come out on top when knocking out Williams (156), a former two-time holder of the WBO welterweight title, at 1.10 of the second. Contested at catchweights due to both men being natural light middleweights, it was soon clear that this one would not last with the punches going in thick and fast almost from the opening bell. It was much the same in the second until Martinez (157½) found a sweeping left to the jaw that ended matters there and then. Unable to defend against the WBC ‘interim’ champion, Sebastian Zbik, due to his contractual agreements with HBO, the television network, Martinez forfeited the title on 11 January 2011.

 

12 March 2011. Sergio Martinez w rsc 8 Serhiy Dzinziruk

Venue: Foxwoods Resort, Mashantucket, Connecticut, USA. Recognition: The Ring/Lineal. Referee: Arthur Mercante Jnr.

Fight Summary: Meeting a fellow southpaw for the second time in a row, the 36-year-old holder of the lineal title both started and finished strongly against Dzinziruk (158¾), whom he stopped at 1.43 of the eighth. Taking control from the start, Martinez (158¾) took the opening three sessions by dint of forceful jabs before having Dzinziruk over in the fourth when the latter touched down. He then dropped Dzinziruk in the fifth following a cracking left to the head. Although Dzinziruk came back well in the next two sessions he came unstuck in the eighth when a right to the head put him down for a count of 'five'. After being dropped twice more from another solid right and then a left hook to the head the referee came to Dzinziruk's rescue. Martinez also received a WBC diamond belt on winning.

 

1 October 2011. Sergio Martinez w co 11 Darren Barker

Venue: Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: The Ring/Lineal. Referee: Eddie Cotton.

Fight Summary: Starting well against the lineal champion, Barker (159½) picked up several rounds with the jab and rights over the top before coming under pressure as the fight wore on. Having shown a certain amount of caution, Martinez (158) began stepping it up from the sixth onwards as Barker tired. By the ninth Barker was being rocked by heavy right hooks, and in the 11th he was counted out at 1.29 of the session after being floored by a solid right to the side of the head that left him on his knees. Even though he was behind on points at the finish, Barker had boxed commendably against the southpaw title holder.

 

17 March 2012. Sergio Martinez w rtd 11 Matthew Macklin

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: The Ring/Lineal. Referee: Eddie Cotton.

Fight Summary: Getting away well, the southpaw holder of the lineal title caught Macklin (158) heavily several times before the latter came back with good punches of his own. In the fourth, after catching Martinez (157½) with a solid shot the Englishman was almost floored in what was becoming a tough fight. Despite being dropped in the seventh by a corking right uppercut Martinez was soon back in business, hammering away at Macklin who was rapidly tiring when coming into the ninth. By the 11th it was clear that Macklin had shot his bolt, and after being dropped twice by hard lefts he was retired by his corner at the end of the session.

 

15 September 2012. Sergio Martinez w pts 12 Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr

Venue: Thomas & Mack Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC/The Ring/Lineal. Referee: Tony Weeks.

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

Fight Summary: Putting on a master class, despite injuring his left hand in the fourth, Martinez (159), the holder of lineal title, was just too good for the WBC champion, Chavez (158). For round after round Martinez had confused Chavez with his southpaw stance, moving him around and belting him with shots to head and body, almost without a care in the world. Prior to the final session only one judge had given Chavez a round. Unable to get near Martinez for 11 rounds, suddenly in the 12th Chavez, his left eye closed, was in with a chance after catching the Argentine with two heavy blows that left him slumped on the ropes. Following up, Chavez smashed Martinez to the floor with three hard lefts, and although the latter made it to his feet and then survived another drop which was classified as a slip he lasted out the round.

 

27 April 2013. Sergio Martinez w pts 12 Martin Murray

Venue: Velez Sarsfield Sports Club, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Recognition: WBC/The Ring/Lineal. Referee: Massimo Barrovecchio.

Scorecards: 115-112, 115-112, 115-112.

Fight Summary: Defending on home soil, Martinez (159½) rattled off the opening three rounds while Murray (159½) looked to get a foothold in the contest. From the fourth onwards it was extremely close as Murray made his move with solid left jabs and a tight defence paving the way forward. The southpaw champion was right up against it in the sixth when pushed back by heavy jabs and being cut by the left eye. In the eighth it got worse for Martinez when he was decked by a left-right, and although coming back in the ninth he was floored by a left hook in the tenth that the referee called a slip. Despite looking to go behind, Martinez finished strongly in the final two sessions to just about make sure of the win. There were many who thought that Murray had been unlucky after going so close. Despite losing, Murray remained the WBA ‘interim’ champion.

 

Martinez’s next defence would come against Miguel Cotto, who had lost just four times in 42 contests. As a former undefeated WBO junior welterweight champion, a former WBA/WBO welterweight champion and a former WBA junior middleweight champion, Cotto was looking to become a four-weight champion.

 

7 June 2014. Miguel Cotto w rtd 9 Sergio Martinez

Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: WBC/The Ring/Lineal. Referee: Michael Griffin.

Fight Summary: Starting like a bomb, Cotto (155) became a four-weight world champion when Martinez (158¾) was retired by his corner at the end of the ninth. The fight had started badly for the southpaw champion when he was floored three times in the opening round by a mixture of solid shots, and although he somehow managed to remain upright for another seven rounds it was a nightmare. Unable to avoid hooks thrown from either hand the torment went on for Martinez for round after round. Despite trying his best to pull something out of the bag, after a heavy jab from the dominant Cotto sat Martinez down in the ninth the game was almost up.

 

6 June 2015. Miguel Cotto w rsc 4 Daniel Geale

Venue: Barclays Centre, Brooklyn, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: WBC/The Ring/Lineal. Referee: Harvey Dock.

Fight Summary:  Up against Geale (157), a former champion, it did not take too long for Cotto (153½) to add the Aussie to his list of victims. The opening three sessions saw both men looking for openings before Geale was shaken up by a straight right at the end of the third. Starting the fourth quickly after recognising that he had hurt Geale, Cotto soon had his challenger over from a heavy left. Just about beating the count, Geale was soon under the cosh. It was now obvious that the contest was nearly at an end, and when Geale was floored by a right to the jaw the referee rescued him at 1.28 of the session even though he was on his feet.

 

Saul Alvarez, the former WBC junior middleweight champion, would be Cotto’s next challenger. An excellent counter-puncher who hit hard and moved well, Alvarez had only lost once in 47 contests and that was to the incomparable Floyd Mayweather Jnr. Having come back strongly from that defeat, beating Alfredo Angulo, Erislandy Lara and James Kirkland, he was looking to become a two-weight world champion.

 

21 November 2015. Saul Alvarez w pts 12 Miguel Cotto

Venue: Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC/The Ring/Lineal. Referee: Robert Byrd.

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

Fight Summary: This one was billed for the vacant WBC title after Cotto (153½) refused to pay their sanctioning fee. It also involved the lineal title. The fight itself was much closer than the cards suggested, and although Alvarez (155) received the unanimous decision the margin of victory appeared to flatter him. There were no knockdowns but it was a contest full of good action, the 35-year-old Cotto going with the jab and follow-up right and the two-handed Alvarez being just that bit busier. Freddie Roach, Cotto's trainer, said afterwards that he believed his man had won the fight when showing a sound defence and putting together plenty of good combinations. On winning, Alvarez became a two-weight world champion.

 

7 May 2016. Saul Alvarez w rsc 6 Amir Khan

Venue: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC/The Ring/Lineal. Referee: Kenny Bayless.

Fight Summary: Stepping up two weight divisions from welter to middle to challenge Alvarez (155) for the WBC and lineal titles was just too much for Khan (155), who was eventually stopped at 2.37 of the sixth after putting on a stirring display. Taking the fight to Alvarez from the opening bell Khan took the opening two sessions with fast lefts and rights before moving out of range, and it was only in the fifth that the Mexican was able to catch up with his rival. Although Khan took a solid shot in the fifth, unfazed he was still going well in the sixth. That was until a right-hand counter sent him crashing, out to the world. Not bothering with the count, the referee halted the fight immediately so that Khan could be tended to by the medics. It had been a gallant effort by Khan and was appreciated by all those who saw it.

 

Alvarez relinquished the WBC title on 18 May, as he did not wish to be pushed around by the WBC. However, Alvarez remained the champion in the eyes of The Ring magazine.

 

16 September 2017. Saul Alvarez drew 12 Gennady Golovkin

Venue: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBC/The Ring/Lineal. Referee: Kenny Bayless.

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

Fight Summary: Defending all of his titles against Alvarez, the Kazakh appeared to have well-won the contest conclusively according to the watching majority prior to a split draw being announced after one of the judges scored 118-110 in favour of the Mexican. The opening two rounds saw Alvarez (160) doing the better work but, from there onwards through to the ninth, Golovkin (160) picked it up to take a commanding lead before Alvarez came on strongly to take the last three sessions. Although Alvarez was hurt several times by solid blows from Golovkin, to his credit he always fought back. The CompuBox Punch stats showed Golovkin landing 218 punches to Alvarez’s 169, while both scored with just over 100 power punches. 

 

Alvarez was stripped of his Ring Championship Belt on 18 April 2018 due to him being temporarily banned by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for drug usage, and as the holder of the IBF, WBA and WBC titles Golovkin should be seen as the new champion on that date in line with my formula. Golovkin had been handed the WBA title on 1 November 2012 after Daniel Geale had been stripped for deciding to defend against Anthony Mundine instead of meeting him. Further to that, Golovkin successfully defended the WBA belt against Gabriel Rosado, Nobuhiro Ishida, Matthew Macklin, Curtis Stevens, Osumanu Adama, Geale, Martin Murray and Willie Monroe Jnr. He then beat David Lemieux, thus taking over the latter’s IBF title to go with his WBA crown, before successfully defending both titles against Dominic Wade. Having been handed the WBC title on 18 May 2016 after Alvarez relinquished, Golovkin next put all three titles on the line against Kell Brook and Daniel Jacobs. Of all of those defences only Jacobs heard the final bell. Turning pro in 2006 after winning a gold medal in the 2003 World Championships and a silver medal in the 2004 Olympic Games, the Kazakh had run up 37 (32 inside the distance) wins plus the draw against Alvarez.

 

5 May 2018. Gennady Golovkin w co 2 Vanes Martirosyan

Venue: StubHub Centre, Carson, California, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBC. Referee: Jack Reiss.

Fight Summary: After preparing to meet Saul Alvarez, when the latter was suspended it was Martirosyan (159½), a man who had not fought for almost two years, who stepped in to take the champion on. Not only that, but he had previously fought as a junior middleweight. Having stalked Martirosyan throughout the opening session, Golovkin (160) tore into his man at the start of the second, smashing in vicious lefts and rights, and eventually a big right that was followed by a left hook had the challenger down. Despite Martirosyan making a supreme effort to get to his feet, he was counted out on the 1.53 mark when falling back on his knees.

 

Although the IBF did not sanction the bout, Golovkin was granted an exception on the grounds that he met their leading contender next time out. When Golovkin, who had already agreed to meet Saul Alvarez in a return, refused to meet the mandatory IBF challenger, Sergey Derevyanchenko, by 3 August he was stripped on 7 June.

 

15 September 2018. Saul Alvarez w pts 12 Gennady Golovkin

Venue: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA/WBC/The Ring/Lineal. Referee: Benjy Esteves Jnr.

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

Fight Summary: The return meeting between the champion and Alvarez (159¼), who was coming back after being banned for six months, was a far better fight than their previous affair. This time around it was Alvarez on the front foot as Golovkin (159½) relied on his boxing skills, his jab being the most prominent tool in his armoury. There was never that much between them, both men taking heavy blows without complaint, and both exhibiting great technique. The biggest single difference from their previous encounter was the upper body movement displayed by Alvarez that allowed him to stand in front of Golovkin for longer periods. However, when it was all over, Golovkin could feel hard done by, deserving at the very least a draw in most people’s eyes. Having been a WBA/WBC and undefeated WBO junior middleweight title holder, Alvarez became a two-weight world champion on winning.

 

4 May 2019. Saul Alvarez w pts 12 Daniel Jacobs

Venue: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBC/The Ring/Lineal. Referee: Tony Weeks.

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

Fight Summary: With Jacobs (160) putting his IBF title on the line against the WBA and WBC champion, Alvarez (159½), rated one of the top fighters around, there was much to fight for. Although Jacobs had his successes there were not enough of them as Alvarez kept in front with skilful defensive moves allied to solid counters. Jacobs had some luck in the sixth when switching to southpaw, and he did land the heaviest punch of the fight in the ninth when a heavy left smashed into Alvarez’s head, but that aside he more often than not found the latter too difficult a target. Coming into the final session it was clear that Jacobs would have to finish Alvarez off he wished to win, but his hopes of victory were dashed as the latter had his best round of the fight, his smart jab paving the way for solid combinations.

 

From 26 June onwards, Alvarez would be recognised by the WBC as their ‘franchise’ champion. A month or so later, on 2 August, Alvarez forfeited his IBF title when failing to agree a defence against Sergiy Derevyanchenko. In his next contest, Alvarez won the WBO light heavyweight title when defeating Sergey Kovalev on 2 November. Alvarez relinquished the title on 17 December in order to to comply with the WBO ruling that no champion can hold world titles at different weights at the same time. It was announced on 31 December 2020 that Alvarez would no longer boxing as a middleweight, thus leaving the title vacant.