Welterweight World Champions & Their Championship Fights (147lbs)
With Britain and the International Boxing Union (IBU) recognising 147lbs as being the welterweight limit, after the Walker Law was passed on 24 May 1920 that weight was also accepted by the New York State Boxing Commission. However, it was not until 17 September 1920 that the first main event in New York was held under Walker Law. The National Boxing Association, which was formed on 13 January 1921, followed suit. Prior to the highly skilled Jack Britton meeting Ted Kid Lewis, the all-action fighter from England, in the first recognised fight at 147lbs, the pair had been the main title claimants of the weight division at weights between 142 and 145lbs, Lewis winning three times in distance fights and picking up four newspaper decisions, while Britton won four distance fights and five newspaper decisions. In 18 meetings between them there were also two drawn newspaper decisions. Lewis, who started out in August 1909, had run up 166 wins, 11 draws, 19 defeats and 63 no-decision contests, while Britton, who turned pro in November 1904, had 62 wins, ten draws, 12 losses, 177 no-decisions and one no contest in 262 outings.
7 February 1921. Jack Britton w pts 15 Ted Kid Lewis
Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Dick Nugent.
Fight Summary: In the first title fight at 147lbs held in New York since the Walker Law was passed, Lewis (145) made all the running in the first round, jabbing and hooking, before Briton (145) lost his temper in the second when rushing over to the challenger’s corner where he hit Lewis’ manager with a tremendous blow in the face. With all hell breaking loose a full-scale riot was only averted after the referee managed to get the round underway again. The trouble had started prior to the contest beginning when Britton insisted that Lewis remove his gumshield, and it was only when Lewis had acceded to that request that the action started. Having fought so often, this being the 20th time they had met, initially there was not a great deal between them as they matched jabs and worked away on the inside, but in the fifth after two heavy rights wobbled Lewis the tide turned. By the seventh Lewis was being hit far too often for comfort by accurate left jabs, and in the eighth his right eye became noticeably swollen. Lewis was also beginning to miss far too often as he looked for a finisher. He was also being given a bit of a boxing lesson. Despite Lewis coming on strong in the final session in a vain attempt to score a kayo, when the decision was announced all three judges voted for Britton who proudly collected a championship belt to mark his victory. By finally eliminating his greatest rival and one of the best fighters to ever grace the welterweight division, Britton stood alone at the start of a new era. At the age of 33, there was nothing much he needed to learn about boxing, being almost the complete package. Although not regarded as a puncher he was still a stiff hitter, but it was his all-round skill as a brilliant boxer that took the eye. Elusive with fast hands and feet he could avoid opponents with ease, while snapping in jabs and scoring punches. In time, he would be recognised throughout boxing as a fistic marvel.
17 May 1921. Jack Britton nd-w pts 10 Johnny Tillman
Venue: The Coliseum, Des Moines, Iowa, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Harry Stout.
Fight Summary: Billed for the title at 145lbs, the champion won going away, jabbing with the left and sending in solid right hands when the opportunity beckoned. With Tillman continually boring in he was forced to take heavy punishment, especially early on, and was rarely able to land effectively himself. According to the Des Moines News, Britton won every round apart from one, which was drawn.
17 February 1922. Jack Britton drew 15 Dave Shade
Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Patsy Haley.
Fight Summary: A championship contest at 147lbs, saw Britton (146½) appear to win clearly despite being handed a draw by the judges. Moving around Shade (144½) like a master with his pupil, Britton made the youngster miss constantly. While the champion was occasionally hurt, the inexperienced 19-year-old Shade was unable to sustain the pressure before the skilful Britton quickly got back in to the groove, the left hand regularly finding the target. Although the majority of fans believed the older man to have won, there was much to admire in Shade, the youngest of three fighting brothers from California, and he was soon mixing with the division’s leading fighters.
26 June 1922. Jack Britton w disq 13 (15) Benny Leonard
Venue: The Velodrome, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Patsy Haley.
Fight Summary: One of the unresolved mysteries remaining in boxing saw lightweight champion, Leonard (139¼), ruled out at 2.42 of the 13th for hitting the already floored Britton (146¼) for no apparent reason. Britton, who was out in front after ten rounds and beginning to tire was put down on one knee from a short left to the body when the challenger, reaching from behind the referee, landed a punch on the champion’s head. Information which came to hand years later suggested that Leonard had no intention of winning the welterweight title, and getting disqualified without loss of face seemed to be his best way out.
Britton’s next defence would be against Mickey Walker, a man with 61 contests under his belt, comprising 21 wins, one no contest, 33 no-decisions and six defeats, three of them surprisingly coming in his last five contests. With one of the best left hooks in the business, allied to strength and durability, and no mean skill, he would eventually become the legendary ‘Toy Bulldog’ as he punched his way through three more divisions.
1 November 1922. Mickey Walker w pts 15 Jack Britton
Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Patsy Haley.
Fight Summary: The younger man by 16 years, Walker (144¼) started like a train when cracking in vicious short-arm hooks to the body before the champion began to get his boxing going in the second round. Jabbing Walker silly, Britton (146) looked like the fighter of old as he sped around the ring, combining defence with offence, but by the sixth he seemed spent when Walker came to the front, belting away with both hands during the next two sessions. The ninth saw Britton come back into the frame. However, it was just a fleeting memory of a former great and by the tenth he was holding on, taking punch after punch under the ribs, to the heart and to the head. Eventually, when his legs buckled under him, he dropped to one knee for a count of ‘seven’ having taken a terrific right hand to the jaw, before being saved by the bell. Slipping over twice in the 11th without taking a count, Britton was soon in trouble again in the following frame when a heavy swing to the body dropped him yet again. Most of the ringsiders were amazed to see Britton still there in the 13th as Walker went all out for an inside-the-distance win, but giving a magnificent display of guts and willpower he somehow made it to the final bell. Although Walker received the unanimous decision he showed a marked lack of skill, despite being rough, tough and willing, and the loudest cheers were for Britton who went out like all great champions should when they reach the end of the road.
22 March 1923. Mickey Walker nd-w pts 12 Pete Latzo
Venue: 113th Regiment Armoury, Newark, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Harry Ertle.
Fight Summary: Putting his title on the line in a no-decision title bout, Walker (146¼) won all the way, his severe body assaults generally being too much for Latzo (144½) to handle. The onrushing Latzo, who was floored for a short count in the fourth following a left hook to the jaw before being staggered in the ninth from a similar blow, proved to be a tough and durable opponent, but lacked the guile to avoid taking heavy punishment. A little over a month later, on 6 June, after repeated requests for Walker to defend his title against Dave Shade had failed the NYSAC stripped him and proclaimed Shade as champion.
20 September 1923. Mickey Walker nd-w rsc 8 (10) Bobby Green
Venue: The Coliseum, Davenport, Iowa, USA. Recognition: NBA/Lineal. Referee: Jim Brennan.
Fight Summary: Reported in the Davenport Democrat as a billed 147lbs title fight, with both men inside the weight, Walker won every round by a margin that left no doubt of his superiority. Right from the opening bell the game Green was punished from head to body as the champion worked him over, and in the seventh the game youngster took a count of six after being dumped by a left to the jaw. In the next session, with Green under a sustained body attack and not fighting back, the referee came to his rescue.
On 27 October, following a special meeting at the NYSAC’s offices, Walker was reinstated as champion even though he would remain suspended in New York until 7 April 1925. The upshot of the special meeting was that in future the Commission would no longer make champions by proclamation when existing champions failed to make defences within the stipulated period, but would merely place them under suspension until such time they co-operated.
2 June 1924. Mickey Walker w pts 10 Lew Tendler
Venue: Baker Bowl, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Jim Brennan.
Fight Summary: Billed as Philadelphia’s first title bout, a 25,000 crowd witnessed Walker (147) make a successful defence over Tendler (142½) by a unanimous decision, his vicious body attacks leaving the latter battered and bruised. Although there were no knockdowns, the only way Tendler, who at best shared one round, avoided being floored was to clutch for all he was worth, and it was only his superb condition that saved him.
1 October 1924. Mickey Walker w co 6 (10) Bobby Barrett
Venue: Baker Bowl, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Dan Buckley.
Fight Summary: Down four times in the first round, when Barrett (147) was carried to his corner at the end of the session it looked all over, but he came back punch for punch until being eventually ground down by the champion. In the sixth Barrett was dropped for ‘nine’ by a right to the jaw followed by a left to the body, and on getting up he was met by Walker (146¾), who feinted with the left before crashing in a heavy right to the jaw that sent him down to be counted out at 1.33 of the round. At their conference in July 1925, the IBU membership decided not to recognise Walker as a world champion as he had repeatedly ignored the challenges of Belgium’s European title holder, Piet Hobin.
21 September 1925. Mickey Walker w pts 15 Dave Shade
Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NY/NBA/GB/Lineal. Referee: Patsy Haley.
Fight Summary: Prior to the 15th most of the audience were of the impression that Shade (147) only had to stand up to win the title. However, come the final bell The Ring magazine had both men winning six rounds with two even at the end of the 14th, and with Walker’s big finish in the 15th when he hammered Shade at will, smashing him to head and body with heavy wallops, they saw it as a hard-earned but worthy win for the champion. Even the judges were divided, two voting for Walker (144½), including the referee, and one for Shade, but according to several papers the decision in Walker’s favour had to be one of the worst seen in New York. Walker had started as aggressively as ever when delivering punishing blows to head and body, but Shade, bobbing up and down, was soon sending in accurate straight lefts and rights to the head. Although the champion was at his best in the fourth, sixth, seventh and 15th as he ripped in powerful blows from both hands, Shade almost always came back to nullify further advances with clever moves and hard hitting of his own. It should be noted that at least three times a dazed Walker made out for the wrong corner at the end of a round. Frustrating Walker continuously, even making him look foolish at times, Shade must have thought it was going to be his time prior to the verdict. Having twice failed narrowly to win the title, although recognised as the champion in New York for a short time, this would virtually be the last fight for Shade at 147lbs.
25 November 1925. Mickey Walker nd-w pts 12 Sailor Friedman
Venue: 113th Regiment Armoury, Newark, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: NY/NBA/GB/Lineal.
Fight Summary: Outmanoeuvred on the outside, the crafty Friedman (144) did much better at close quarters in nullifying the champion’s aggression, and although well beaten he staged a belated rally which left Walker (146½) with a badly battered mouth at the final bell. While there were no arguments with the press decision, Walker, who appeared to lack the finishing ability needed to put paid to his hardy rival, was a big disappointment.
Having his 91st contest, Pete Latzo would be Walker’s next challenger. Although he had been seen by the press to have lost several no-decision fights, including one against Walker, he had officially been beaten just three times in 90 contests, with 38 wins, two draws and 47 no-decision contests making the numbers up. From a boxing family, the calculating Latzo was a strong counter puncher who could bide his time and was extremely durable.
20 May 1926. Pete Latzo w pts 10 Mickey Walker
Venue: The Armoury, Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: NY/NBA/GB/Lineal. Referee: Frank Floyd.
Fight Summary: A savage contest, which saw plenty of heavy hitting on both sides, ended with Walker (144) losing his title to Latzo (146) following a majority verdict in the latter’s favour. Interestingly, the referee had it as a draw. While Latzo started slowly, conserving his energy when crouching low to make himself a difficult target, he was still forced to withstand terrific body punishment before making his run for home. Eventually getting his counter offensive going, in the closing rounds Latzo swarmed all over the by now tiring Walker, slamming in stinging punches to head and body to have him frequently staggering around the ring prior to the final bell. Having been out of action for six months prior to the contest, Walker put his defeat down to being over-trained after coming to a peak much too early, but regardless of that he lost to a better boxer who had his number on the night.
At their conference in July the IBU membership agreed to recognise Latzo as the world champion, having vacated the title the previous year.
9 July 1926. Pete Latzo w disq 4 (15) George Levine
Venue: Polo Grounds, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Ed Purdy.
Fight Summary: Both men started well, Latzo (147) working to head and body and Levine (145½) relying more on the left jab, before the former started to get on top in the fourth round when looking for a knockout. Notwithstanding, the ending at 1.28 of the fourth was still sudden. As the champion worked Levine over, beginning to rock him on the ropes, the latter lashed out with a right to the body that sent Latzo to the floor claiming a foul. Although the referee picked up the count, reaching ‘four’ before he realised that Latzo was in a great deal of pain, he stopped the contest and awarded the decision to the champion on a disqualification.
Coming into 1927 the outstanding challenger was Joe Dundee, who reversed a shock loss when he outpointed Eddie Roberts over ten rounds at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan on 14 January. With Dundee in the frame it was then reported that Latzo would be defending against the winner of a contest between him and Ace Hudkins, but that never took place, while a mooted defence against Paul Doyle on 22 February also never happened. Eventually it was announced that Humbert Fugazy would be putting on Latzo against Dundee in June 1927. An experienced campaigner, Dundee had 93 contests under his belt comprising 67 wins, nine draws, six no-decision contests and just 11 defeats, and in more recent fights had beaten men of the calibre of Pinky Mitchell, Jack McVey, Tommy Freeman, Willie Harmon and Mickey Walker. A hustling type of fighter who never left opponents alone, he was always looking to bring his man down by concentrating on the body. His brother Vince would go on to win a version of the world title at middleweight.
3 June 1927. Joe Dundee w pts 15 Pete Latzo
Venue: Polo Grounds, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Eddie Forbes.
Fight Summary: After 15 torrid rounds a new champion was crowned when Dundee (143), who concentrated on the body in an effort to bring a weight-weakened Latzo (146½) down, set up a furious rally to storm home over the last seven rounds. Latzo made a good start, but tired as the fight progressed, and following a collision in the 11th which cut his left eye he was severely punished. According to most of the papers the decision was by a majority, the referee and one judge scoring it in favour of Dundee with the other judge seeing it as a draw.
13 July 1927. Joe Dundee nd-w pts 10 Billy Drako
Venue: Redland’s Baseball Park, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Frank O’Brien.
Fight Summary: Not recorded in the Ring Record Book as a title fight, the Cincinnati Enquirer tells us it was advertised and went ahead as such with both men inside 147lbs. Contested in the open air, Drako (147), despite having his left eye virtually closed early on, proved himself to be a tough customer, who, although an easy target, took his punishment unflinchingly without ever being knocked off his feet by Dundee (147). With this being the champion’s first contest since winning the title he showed up as a two-fisted fighter of the old school. Ice cool, he avoided his rival’s swings with some ease while scoring accurately, if not sparingly, throughout. Dundee was well worth the press decision while the game Drako received plaudits for staying the course.
Dundee forfeited NBA recognition on 22 March 1929 when persistently refusing to defend against either Young Jack Thompson or the leading contender, Jackie Fields. Eventually, Dundee was matched against Jackie Fields, who had beaten Young Jack Thompson for the NBA title, in a fight that would unify the weight class. An Olympic champion at 16, Fields had been a pro since 1925, losing only to Jimmy McLarnin, Louis Kid Kaplan and Sammy Mandell, while beating King Tut, Mushy Callahan, Vince Dundee (2), Thompson (2) and Baby Joe Gans to name a few. A classy box-fighter who had power to go with stamina in abundance, Fields, with 46 wins, one draw, three defeats and one no-decision on his slate, was a big favourite in Chicago.
25 July 1929. Jackie Fields w disq 2 (15) Joe Dundee
Venue: The Fairgrounds, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Elmer McClelland.
Fight Summary: In a battle to unify the title, with both men starting slowly the first round was generally a feeling-out session with Fields (145), the NBA champion, just about having the better of it. However, the second was different altogether as the pair set about each other from the gong, and following a volley of blows to the head Dundee (147) was decked for ‘nine’. On his feet, again Dundee was sent crashing, this time for ‘seven’, from punches to head and body. Then, after getting up, for whatever reason he smashed in a hard right below the belt for which he was immediately disqualified when Fields went down in agony. The finish was timed at 1.55. Long after the fight was over rumours persisted that Dundee had fouled himself out of the fight intentionally, something he vehemently denied. It was said that with Dundee's purse wagered on him winning, he activated an ‘all bets off’ agreement in the event of a disqualification.
Fields would next defend against Young Jack Thompson, who would come to the ring with a record showing 65 wins, 12 draws and 24 defeats in 101 contests. Having already been beaten twice by Fields he felt that it was his time. Fast and mobile, with a solid punch in either hand, Thompson had stopped Red Herring and had wins over Jack Silver and King Tut to back up his credentials.
9 May 1930. Young Jack Thompson w pts 15 Jackie Fields
Venue: Olympia, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Elmer McClelland.
Fight Summary: Meeting for the third time, the champion having won both previous contests, Thompson (142¾) was seen as a far easier touch than Jimmy McLarnin, who had recently beaten the latter. Setting a blistering pace from the start Thompson carried the fight to Fields (145¾), but was almost knocked out in the second round after smashing lefts and rights had him on ‘Queer Street’ before the bell came to his rescue. Staying away from Fields’ vicious attacks for the next few sessions, with Thompson beginning to pile up a comfortable lead from the sixth onwards by the end of the tenth it was anybody’s fight. Although Thompson continued to go well as Fields tired the 15th saw the latter stage a blistering response, and it was only because his blows lacked snap that enabled Thompson to reach the final bell. After receiving the referee’s decision Thompson spent the night in hospital suffering from a haemorrhage of the nose, while the virtually unmarked Fields blamed just three days of heavy training for his defeat.
Rated at number six by The Ring, Tommy Freeman would finally get a crack at Thompson, having beaten him in a non-title contest earlier in the year. With 81 wins, 13 draws, 11 defeats and nine no-decisions in 114 outings behind him, his biggest asset being a left hook that had finished off 30 opponents, the tough former lumberjack was a man who never knew when he was beaten.
5 September 1930. Tommy Freeman w pts 15 Young Jack Thompson
Venue: League Park, Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Patsy Haley.
Fight Summary: Proving to be as strong as a bull, the challenger not only surprised Thompson (143¼) but just about everyone out there after receiving the referee’s decision following 15 gruelling rounds. Expected to be weak at the weight, Freeman (145¾) was more than happy to make it a fight of endurance, and apart from being knocked down for a count of ‘six’ in the second when chinned by a left hook he remained strong. With the contest even at the end of the tenth, it was Freeman who went for it in the 11th, belting in body punches for the remainder of the bout. The new champion attributed his strength to his time as a lumberjack.
Out of action until early 1931, having gone down with two bad cases of flu after vacationing, Freeman came back with five non-title wins over Pete August, Eddie Murdock, Duke Tramel, Al Kober and Alfredo Gaona before signing up to meet Thompson in a return bout for the title. Earlier it had been announced that Freeman would make a defence against either Jackie Fields, Jimmy McLarnin, Young Corbett III or Thompson. Eventually, it was the latter who got the opportunity, having been out of action even longer than Freeman before coming back in March 1931 with two warm-up fights to prepare him for the task ahead.
14 April 1931. Young Jack Thompson w rsc 11 (15) Tommy Freeman
Venue: Public Hall, Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Eddie Davis.
Fight Summary: In what was seen as a poor fight, being held in silence for the first eight rounds, the champion got a boxing lesson as Thompson (145¼) flipped in lefts without reply. After Freeman (146¾) was cut over the left eye in the third, Thompson gave a splendid display of mixing up his punches and feinting to take a clear lead into the ninth. It was then that Freeman came on strong with lefts and rights to the body, but when a hard right from Thompson further damaged his already half-closed right eye in the 11th session the referee called it off during the interval.
Having beaten the new champion and Gorilla Jones in successive fights to become The Ring magazine’s top-rated welterweight in May, Bucky Lawless appeared to be the logical challenger at that moment in time. However, Thompson’s next defence would be against Lou Brouillard, who had outpointed him over ten rounds at The Garden, Boston, Massachusetts in a non-title fight on 23 July, and Lawless’ big chance had gone. Having converted to southpaw after suffering damage to his right hand, Brouillard began to concentrate attacks on the body so that there was less stress. Coming to the ring with a record of 62 (41 inside the distance) wins and seven defeats, his awkward stance and powerful left hand would make him a difficult man to beat.
23 October 1931. Lou Brouillard w pts 15 Young Jack Thompson
Venue: The Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Johnny Brassil.
Fight Summary: Fighting on the defensive, Thompson (146), displaying none of his much vaunted punching power and boxing ability generally allowed Brouillard (146¾) to take the play away from him throughout. Three times he was dropped, twice for ‘nine’ in the tenth and 13th rounds, and was unable to cope with the rugged body attacks as the southpaw challenger made that his target when romping to the unanimous points victory. While Brouillard was on the way up, winning 12 of the 15 rounds, with it being apparent that Thompson had nothing much left he retired after five more fights.
Having beaten Bucky Lawless and Paul Pirrone, and drawn with Baby Joe Gans in non-title fights, Brouillard signed up to meet the former champion, Jackie Fields (63 wins, two draws, six defeats, one no contest and one no-decision bout). Since losing his title, Fields had participated in 11 contests, winning nine, while drawing with Jimmy Belmont and losing to to Young Terry. Among his victims were Lawless, Pirrone, Jackie Brady and King Tut.
28 January 1932. Jackie Fields w pts 10 Lou Brouillard
Venue: The Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Dave Miller.
Fight Summary: It had been fairly even for five rounds, before Fields (145½) opened up in the sixth, throwing vicious punches from both hands to have the southpaw champion wobbling and severely at risk. He kept up the pressure throughout the next two sessions before Brouillard (146) rallied in the ninth, only for Fields to make sure of regaining the championship by pecking away with the left in the tenth to fully deserve the unanimous decision.
Fields was next matched against The Ring magazine’s number two, Young Corbett III, who was a 13-year veteran with 100 wins, 22 draws and eight defeats to his name, and was undefeated in his last 28 contests. More of a boxer than a puncher, the hard-to-figure Corbett was a durable southpaw who could control the pace of a contest effectively.
22 February 1933. Young Corbett III w pts 10 Jackie Fields
Venue: Seals Stadium, San Francisco, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Jack Kennedy.
Fight Summary: Corbett (146) lived up to his name as the conqueror of champions when outboxing and outpunching Fields (146) in six of the ten sessions to take the referee’s decision. Fighting in whirlwind fashion, the southpaw challenger took Fields completely by surprise as he fired in long lefts from the start while effectively countering anything coming his way. After losing the first five rounds Fields came to life in the sixth, belting Corbett to head and body at will before tiring after taking some heavy lefts in the seventh and eighth rounds, which stopped him in his tracks. The ninth and tenth sessions saw Fields battering Corbett around the ring in a desperate bid to hold on to his title, but with a minute to go he was badly hurt by lefts to the jaw and rights to the body before slumping on to his stool at the bell.
Having moved up the ranks after starting out as a flyweight, with 62 fights under his belt, comprising 51 wins, three draws and eight defeats, Jimmy McLarnin would be Corbett 111’s first challenger. McLarnin was an all-round boxer with good power in either hand who would never let an opponent off the hook. Apart from beating many top-drawer fighters he also had wins over men who had ruled the world in Fidel LaBarba (2), Jackie Fields, Bud Taylor, Louis Kid Kaplan, Sammy Mandell (2), Young Jack Thompson, Al Singer and Benny Leonard.
29 May 1933. Jimmy McLarnin w rsc 1 (10) Young Corbett III
Venue: Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: George Blake.
Fight Summary: Starting the contest with short southpaw jabs and jolting lefts the champion confused McLarnin (145¼) for the opening two minutes, but the latter remained calm while awaiting an opening to get his punches off. He would not have to wait long. As Corbett (146) came in McLarnin saw his chance and took it when smashing in a right hander to the jaw. Although the champion was up at ‘nine’ three rapid left hooks dropped him again. Getting up at ‘eight’, Corbett seemed to be out on his feet, and when he was sent sprawling halfway through the ropes by a short right the referee stopped the contest on the 2.37 mark.
Inactive for a year while waiting for a worthwhile challenger to appear, McLarnin finally signed up to meet Barney Ross, the current world lightweight champion and junior welterweight champion. With many wondering whether all three titles would be on the line, McLarnin was asked to come in above 140lbs. Coming into the fight, Ross had 52 wins, three draws and two losses on his record.
28 May 1934. Barney Ross w pts 15 Jimmy McLarnin
Venue: MSG Bowl, Queens, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Eddie Forbes.
Scorecards: 11-2-2, 13-1-1, 1-9-5.
Fight Summary: Making ring history, Ross (137¾) became the first man in modern times to hold three titles at one time when he took a split decision off McLarnin (142), who seemed to be just a shadow of his normal self after being on the sidelines for a year. Although McLarnin made a reasonable start to take the first two rounds, most reporters saw Ross winning the third through to the ninth when charging in with hefty wallops. He also surprised everyone when taking the heavy punches coming his way. The ninth was hectic, Ross being put down by a cracking left hook before getting up and tearing into McLarnin with both hands firing, prior to producing two left hooks of his own to drop the latter. In the tenth it was noticeable that Ross was tiring. Following instructions, for the next five sessions McLarnin made his big effort as the New Yorker began to wilt under the body punches and long-range lefts. However, eager to build on his earlier supremacy, Ross came out for the 15th like a man who knew he was only moments away from victory when charging into McLarnin savagely, throwing caution to the wind and crowding the champion to such an extent that he was unable to get any heavy shots off. It had been a thrilling affair, but McLarnin was certain that he would make a better account of himself in the contracted return.
17 September 1934. Jimmy McLarnin w pts 15 Barney Ross
Venue: MSG Bowl, Queens, NYC New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Donovan.
Scorecards: 10-5, 6-5-4, 6-8-1.
Fight Summary: In a bid to regain his old honours, McLarnin (146¼) came to the ring better prepared than in their first fight. This time round it was he who scored well with the left hand and smashing body blows while Ross (140¼) seemed slightly below par. The battle was a desperate one with left hooks, left jabs, body blows and solid rights to the head keeping the fans happy, and both men suffering plenty of damage. McLarnin, who had his left eye closed early on, was at his best in the first, sixth, seventh and eighth, where his boxing was superb and bewildered Ross. However, Ross was always dangerous, coming on strong in the closing sessions with two-fisted attacks to head and body to make it a close run thing. The split decision in McLarnin’s favour was a disputed one, but if the low blow that saw a point deducted from the latter in the fifth had not been counted as was Ross’ similar misdemeanour in the 14th all three judges would have voted for the Irishman.
Strangely, McLarnin again remained inactive, while Ross thrice defended his junior welter laurels before relinquishing his lightweight crown on 15 April 1935 in order to take the rematch with the welter champion. It had always been known that the pair would meet up again in the summer of 1935 in a big-money, open-air fight, and with Ross not having defended his lightweight title since September 1934, being suspended in New York until he did so, it came as no surprise that he opted to go for the 147lbs belt instead. As in their first contest, with Ross still ruling the junior welters, McLarnin was asked to come in above 140lbs.
28 May 1935. Barney Ross w pts 15 Jimmy McLarnin
Venue: Polo Grounds, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Jack Dempsey.
Scorecards: 7-5-3, 8-6-1, 9-4-2.
Fight Summary: Although the decision was unanimous in favour of Ross (141) it was disputed by many ringsiders, including Nat Fleischer, who thought that McLarnin (144¾) had retained his title. According to Fleischer, the champion started early with jabs, hooks and the occasional body punch, while Ross only got active when there was less than a minute of each round left in order to impress the judges. Each man was jarred up a number of times, but neither was on the verge of being knocked out. In the 11th, 12th and 14th rounds Ross attacked with vicious intent, but McLarnin evened matters up in the 15th when he had his rival holding on and looking exhausted.
27 November 1936. Barney Ross w pts 15 Izzy Jannazzo
Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Johnny McAvoy.
Scorecards: 8-4-3, 9-5-1, 9-6.
Fight Summary: Doing his best to make a fight of it against the wily Jannazzo (145¼), the champion put the latter down twice, for a count of ‘two’ in the second following a left hook and for ‘four’ in the fifth, but unable to find a finishing blow he was forced to go the distance. With Jannazzo travelling backwards, flicking out his left, although Ross (143) won the opening eight rounds he tired himself out in the process, being forced to conserve his energy. It was in the ninth that Jannazzo got busier, but he never had Ross in any difficulty whatsoever, while the latter, only opening up in flashes, cruised to the finishing line to collect the unanimous verdict.
23 September 1937. Barney Ross w pts 15 Ceferino Garcia
Venue: Polo Grounds, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Billy Cavanagh.
Scorecards: 7-5-3, 9-4-2, 9-4-2.
Fight Summary: Defending his title in ‘The Carnival of Champions’ show, Ross (143) put on an excellent display to thwart the ambitious Garcia (145¾), who proved to be a tough opponent. Always looking to get away his famous ‘bolo’ punch, a devastating sweeping overarm right, Garcia hurt Ross on several occasions. However, the latter showed up well, keeping the challenger off balance with the left jab, and when in trouble his defensive ability enabled him to get out of tight spots more often than not. In the fourth Garcia was cut around the right eye, and a round or so later under the left as Ross worked away, but he was always dangerous. Several times during the contest it looked as though Ross would be dropped, but somehow he found a way out. With the 13th and 14th sessions being especially bad for him he was strictly on the defensive throughout, fighting open mouthed, and it was almost the same in the 15th until he found another gear to rip in lefts and rights prior to the final bell. The unanimous decision in his favour was testament to all of the good work he put in earlier, but Ross, who ended with a badly swollen face and a damaged left hand, knew he had been in a war.
Ross, who was currently inactive, forfeited IBU recognition when that authority decided to recognise the winner of the Felix Wouters v Gustav Eder European title bout as world champion. According to the IBU, Ross had failed to respond to a letter which gave him three months to make a defence. During an international boxing convention held in Rome, Italy, which concluded on 20 April, the IBU agreed to refuse to recognise all individually-made world champions, including Wouters, in an effort to stand by one universally acknowledged champion, namely Ross, who, in turn, would have to concede to regular defences decided by the new Federation. Coming back in April 1938 for two warm-up fights, Ross had earlier signed to make a defence against Henry Armstrong, the current featherweight champion, with the winner to meet Lou Ambers inside 60 days. Armstrong, with 90 wins, six draws and 11 defeats on his record, was already seen as a phenomenal fighter, but not only had he never fought as a welter before he would be meeting a really strong champion into the bargain. Initially made for 26 May the fight was eventually postponed until 31 May due to heavy rain being forecast. Prior to the fight being postponed it had been agreed that Armstrong should not come to the ring less than 136lbs, but after the postponement the NYSAC announced that there would be no weight restrictions other than either man not exceeding 147lbs. The general opinion was that the new judgement favoured Armstrong as he could now make a weight that suited him.
31 May 1938. Henry Armstrong w pts 15 Barney Ross
Venue: MSG Bowl, Queens, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Donovan.
Scorecards: 12-2-1, 11-2-2, 10-4-1.
Fight Summary: Already the holder of the featherweight title, Armstrong (133½) jumped one division to capture the welterweight crown also when being awarded the unanimous decision over the game Ross (142). The fight itself was one-sided with, Ross, despite winning the opening two rounds, finding himself up against a whirlwind of a fighter who just walked through his defences. Subsequently, it was gameness alone that kept him on his feet as Armstrong relentlessly marched forward throwing punches from both hands to head and body. Even when Ross came on with big punches of his own, Armstrong, sporting a fair amount of weight, appeared to be impervious to them. At the final bell the champion looked like he had been through a threshing machine, his right eye closed, his face distorted and mouth and nose badly puffed up. It was no surprise when Ross announced his retirement from the ring immediately after the fight.
17 August 1938. Henry Armstrong w pts 15 Lou Ambers
Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Billy Cavanagh.
Scorecards: 8-6-1, 7-6-2, 7-8.
Fight Summary: Starting off at a whirlwind pace Armstrong (134) backed Ambers (134¼) against the ropes for most of the action, battering the body with great effect despite receiving three cautions for low blows, and had the champion down from a crunching right to the jaw in the fifth round and again in the sixth. That Ambers fought back gamely to give Armstrong more trouble than he had been forced to take on board previously was rewarded on one of the judges’ scorecards, his efforts being highlighted in the 13th session when he stormed into the challenger, whipping in savage blows to force his rival back. However, with the men tiring that was the final spell of mass excitement, both being glad to hear the final bell when it came. On winning, Armstrong became a three-weight champion while simultaneously holding the feather (which he relinquished in November), light and welterweight crowns. Although billed for the lightweight title, and with both men naturally inside 135lbs, the NBA stated that it recognised the fight as also involving the welter championship.
25 November 1938. Henry Armstrong w pts 15 Ceferino Garcia
Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Donovan.
Scorecards: 9-6, 9-6, 8-7.
Fight Summary: Giving away over 12 pounds to the dangerous Garcia (146½), the champion took the fight to his foe right from the opening bell regardless of the weight difference, pouring in punches with both hands at close quarters to nullify much of what came his way. At times Garcia gave as good as he got. In the 12th he came close to knocking Armstrong (134) out with slamming right hands to the head, but somehow the latter recovered his equilibrium, bobbed and weaved, and pushed on in the last two rounds to fully deserve the unanimous decision that eventually came his way. There was no doubt that Garcia was at his best when he was able to shake Armstrong off, but he missed a golden opportunity by not giving himself room to fire off his heavy rights. Despite being booed by a certain section of the crowd at the finish Armstrong had again proved himself to be the best man in the division, while Garcia announced that having to take off weight had hindered him. He went on to say that in future he would be fighting at 158lbs.
5 December 1938. Henry Armstrong w rsc 3 (15) Al Manfredo
Venue: The Arena, Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Tony LaBranch.
Fight Summary: Setting a terrific pace from the opening bell Armstrong (134¾) quickly wore down Manfredo (146), who tried to box from range but was overwhelmed. With the champion pumping in piston-like blows to head and body Manfredo was punched all over the ring in the second round before the referee brought the uneven contest to a halt at 1.45 of the third. At that stage of the fight Manfredo was not returning punches.
10 January 1939. Henry Armstrong w pts 10 Baby Arizmendi
Venue: Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: George Blake.
Fight Summary: After ten rounds of head-to-head fighting the referee decided that Armstrong (134½), who weighed inside the lightweight limit, had outscored Arizmendi (136). Although the champion often threw questionable punches, Arizmendi, who finished up with battered features and both eyes cut, just stood in front of him taking whatever landed. It was non-stop action all the way, and while both men threw plenty of punches it was apparent that the champion threw more. This was the sixth meeting between the pair.
4 March 1939. Henry Armstrong w rsc 4 (15) Bobby Pacho
Venue: Tropical Stadium, Havana, Cuba. Recognition: World. Referee: Jim Braddock.
Fight Summary: Tossing in hard rights and lefts from the opening bell, the champion quickly showed his intent as Pacho (147) missed repeatedly. Although Pacho had more success in the second, especially with the right uppercut, he was gradually being mown down. Opening up in the third, Armstrong (134) began to force Pacho around the ring, slamming in hard rights and lefts to the body, and the latter would almost certainly have gone down had he not been backed up against the ropes. Surprisingly, Pacho came out for the fourth, but having taken another beating and hanging helpless halfway through the ropes the referee rescued him from further punishment on the 1.10 mark.
16 March 1939. Henry Armstrong w co 1 (15) Lew Feldman
Venue: Municipal Auditorium, St Louis, Missouri, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Walter Heisner.
Fight Summary: Billed and reported as a fight that involved Armstrong’s light and welterweight titles, the champion started well with sharp left jabs before getting down to business to floor Feldman (134) for a count of ‘nine’ after less than two minutes of action. There was no coming back from that, and with Feldman back on his feet Armstrong (135) piled in with powerful rights and lefts to leave the former on the deck to be counted out with just 2.12 on the clock.
31 March 1939. Henry Armstrong w rsc 12 (15) Davey Day
Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Billy Cavanagh.
Fight Summary: Although waging a stubborn battle, while never threatening Armstrong (135), Day (136) showed a tremendous ability to assimilate everything thrown at him without ever going down. That was until the 12th round when a solid right to the body finally put the exhausted challenger on the floor after a hail of blows to the head had met with little or no resistance. Dispensing with the count when it was obvious that Day could not continue, the referee called a halt at 2.49 to help the beaten fighter back to his corner.
25 May 1939. Henry Armstrong w pts 15 Ernie Roderick
Venue: The Arena, Harringay, London, England. Recognition: World. Referee: Wilfred Smith.
Fight Summary: Apart from the opening round which Roderick (145¾) won by dint of good left-hand work, the champion began to control the action thereafter when getting to close quarters where he surprisingly threw few bodyline shots, perhaps fearful of disqualification. With many thinking that Armstrong (135) would falter sooner or later, having set an exacting pace, they were ultimately proved wrong as the American kept going round after round, churning out lefts and rights to both head and body at speed. If anything, he even upped the pace at times. To the British champion’s credit he was always trying to fight back, taking Armstrong’s best punches without dropping, even when being hit full bloodedly on the jaw. In the final third of the fight Roderick’s left eye, which was already cut, began to close, but he kept up his game resistance right through to the final bell when Armstrong deservedly took the referee’s decision.
9 October 1939. Henry Armstrong w rsc 4 (10) Al Manfredo
Venue: Riverview Park Arena, Des Moines, Iowa, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Alex Fidler.
Fight Summary: Following two tame rounds as Manfredo (146¾) back-pedalled to keep out of the danger zone, Armstrong (141½) opened up in the third with an attack that left his challenger in a dazed state and ready to be taken. Resuming his assault in the fourth it was all one way as Armstrong swamped Manfredo in a hail of leather, and with the latter draped helplessly over the ropes the referee came to his rescue at 1.35 of the session.
13 October 1939. Henry Armstrong w co 2 (10) Howard Scott
Venue: The Armoury, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: John DeOtis.
Fight Summary: Just four nights after beating Al Manfredo the champion was again putting his title on the line, against ‘Cowboy’ Scott (147), and he made a fast start when pumping out rights and lefts to head and body to push the latter back. Dropped in the first by a left hook, Scott, who was expected to be a bit of a test for Armstrong (141), was right up against it in the second. Unable to get going, at 1.38 of the session Scott was counted out after being downed by a heavy right to the head.
20 October 1939. Henry Armstrong w rsc 3 (15) Richie Fontaine
Venue: Civic Stadium, Seattle, Washington, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Tommy Clark.
Fight Summary: Not one to back away, Fontaine (141) took the fight to the champion in the first round but almost exhausted himself in the process. Coming out for the second he was immediately dropped by a left to the jaw as Armstrong (139¾) tore into the attack, and although he got up he was knocked down four more times in the session, none of the counts going above ‘four’. Wobbly when he answered the bell for the third, Fontaine was dropped for ‘six’ following a cluster of blows, but on rising to his feet and being put down by a right to the jaw the referee stopped the fight after his seconds threw the towel in. The finish was timed at 2.03.
24 October 1939. Henry Armstrong w pts 10 Jimmy Garrison
Venue: Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: George Blake.
Fight Summary: Content to let Garrison (139½) make the running in the opening session, the champion only got moving after taking a few solid blows in the fifth. Tearing out for the sixth, Armstrong (138¼) made all the running from thereon in, dropping Garrison for a count of ‘two’ in the eighth after banging in a crisp right to the head. However, as much as he tried Armstrong could not finish Garrison off, and although he punched his man from pillar to post in the last round he was forced to settle for the referee’s decision in his favour.
30 October 1939. Henry Armstrong w rsc 4 (15) Bobby Pacho
Venue: Municipal Auditorium, Denver, Colorado, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Jack Bloom.
Fight Summary: Six nights after beating Jimmy Garrison, the champion was back in the ring defending his title again, this time against the battle-scarred Pacho (146). Despite being given the opportunity, Pacho did not look to be in the greatest of shape at the weigh-in. The first three rounds saw Armstrong (140) all over Pacho, who to his credit was still looking to make a fight of it, and although the latter tried to get to close quarters in the fourth he was quickly sent spinning into the ropes from a fusillade of punches. With Armstrong pounding away to head and body until Pacho’s arms were dangling by his side the referee called it off after a minute and a half of the session had elapsed. This was Armstrong’s fifth title defence in just 22 days.
11 December 1939. Henry Armstrong w rsc 7 (10) Jimmy Garrison
Venue: The Arena, Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Benny Leonard.
Fight Summary: This was Armstrong’s 12th world championship fight in a year, which included a lightweight title defence, and is a record that will probably never be beaten. Although Garrison (141) put up a good fight there was no doubt that Armstrong (138¾) would beat him for the second time in two months, especially after he connected heavily in the third round with overarm lefts and rights. Garrison, who had his left eye cut in the fourth and his right eye damaged in the sixth, was gradually beaten up before being floored by a right swing to the jaw in the seventh. On getting up in a bad way and being met by a flurry of blows the referee stopped the contest after his corner threw in the towel, the fight coming to an end after 79 seconds of the session had elapsed.
4 January 1940. Henry Armstrong w co 5 (15) Joe Ghnouly
Venue: Municipal Auditorium, St Louis, Missouri, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Harry Cook.
Fight Summary: Given a crack at the 147lbs championship despite being a lowly-ranked lightweight, Ghnouly (135½) was quickly cut down to size as Armstrong (136¾) swarmed all over him from the opening bell. There was virtually no let up as the punches thudded in from all angles, Ghnouly being dropped three times in the opening round before fighting his way back in summary fashion. Downed again in the fourth and saved by the bell, he came out for the fifth, showing some resistance, prior to being counted out at 1.34 of the session.
24 January 1940. Henry Armstrong w rsc 9 (15) Pedro Montanez
Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Billy Cavanagh.
Fight Summary: In a contest that was sizzling with action right from the opening bell, the champion slammed in lefts and rights to head and body from start to finish as Montanez (144½) stood his ground before being worn down. Although Montanez had some success at the beginning, by the third he was taking a licking but was still going toe-to-toe with Armstrong (139¾) despite being cut over the right eye. Even when dropped twice in the fourth, firstly for ‘five’ and then for ‘seven’, Montanez was still in there firing, while Armstrong was sending in trip-hammer punches from both hands remorselessly. In this fight the champion’s left hook was seen at its best, with Montanez having no answer to it at any stage. Then, in the eighth, it was the left hook along with several others that put Montanez down just as the bell rang. Allowed out for the ninth Montanez could barely stand up, and with Armstrong lashing in blows from all angles he was rescued by the referee after 47 seconds of the session.
26 April 1940. Henry Armstrong w rsc 7 (15) Paul Junior
Venue: The Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Johnny Martin.
Fight Summary: Twice knocked down in the first, Junior (141) came roaring back throwing terrific right hooks that rocked the champion time and again in the second, and continued his bombardment into the third to even up the round. Thereafter, it was Armstrong (139½) who made the running, despite Junior being dangerous when tearing in with uppercuts and hooks, and he continued to throw punches galore. In the sixth, when it was apparent that Junior was wilting, after being put down for ‘nine’ he bravely fought on into the seventh where he was dropped again before being rescued by the referee on the 1.05 mark. Had the referee not made the stoppage when he did, Junior would have almost certainly suffered the first knockout of his career.
24 May 1940. Henry Armstrong w rsc 5 (15) Ralph Zannelli
Venue: The Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Johnny Martin.
Fight Summary: Although Zannelli (145½) made an aggressive start, possibly shading the first round, he was soon under pressure as the champion’s two-handed attacks forced him back. Dropped in the second and third, Zannelli made the mistake of trying to close Armstrong (140½) down, paying the price when being punched around from all kinds of angles, and it was only when he went to range that he found brief success. It could not continue though. In the fifth, having already been floored for the third time, Zannelli was almost out when back on his feet before being rescued by the referee on the 1.10 mark.
21 June 1940. Henry Armstrong w rsc 3 (15) Paul Junior
Venue: Arena AA, Portland, Maine, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Johnny Martin.
Fight Summary: The first world title bout to be held in Maine saw Junior (142½) being given another crack at Armstrong (144) despite having failed to win the title in their previous meeting just two months earlier. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of whether he deserved another opportunity or not, the stubborn Junior made a reasonable start when holding the champion even in the opening two rounds before coming apart at the seams in the third. Starting the session in whirlwind fashion Armstrong soon had Junior under severe pressure, and after being dropped four times the referee came to the latter’s aid.
23 September 1940. Henry Armstrong w co 4 (15) Phil Furr
Venue: Griffith Stadium, Washington DC, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Ray Powen.
Fight Summary: Showing plenty of courage, Furr (147) stood up to the incessant attacks of the champion before being counted out at 1.45 of the fourth, having been down twice earlier in that round. He had also been dropped twice in the third. Right from the start Armstrong (145) bulled his man around, slamming in blows to all sections of the body while mixing his attacks up with short rights to the jaw, until it became just a matter of time that the contest would be concluded. Prior to being knocked out for the first time in a long career Furr constantly went toe-to-toe with Armstrong, regardless of the blows coming his way, and received much applause at the finish.
Tired of waiting for the Cocoa Kid to be granted a title shot by Armstrong, the Maryland Boxing Commission ruled that they would recognise the winner of a contest set for 14 October between the Kid and Izzy Jannazzo as a world title fight. Fritzie Zivic, one of five fighting brothers, would be next up for Armstrong, having participated in 129 contests, winning 100, drawing four and losing 24 with a no-decision contest thrown in for good measure. Fritzie was a rough, tough customer with a reputation for foul-fighting, but could box when he needed to. Rated at number three, at one stage of his career he lost seven fights in a row but was never disheartened.
4 October 1940. Fritzie Zivic w pts 15 Henry Armstrong
Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Donovan.
Scorecards: 8-7, 8-7, 8-5-2.
Fight Summary: Recognising that the way to beat his opponent was to sidestep his onrushing attacks before landing with solid right uppercuts Zivic won the opening two rounds, but from there up to the end of the ninth with one exception the champion put himself in front by a fair margin. What Armstrong (142) probably did not realise at the time was that Zivic (145½) had been pacing himself, and from the tenth onwards it was his fight as he belted away at a champion, who was unable to see properly from either eye and was swinging like an open gate. By now Zivic was making up the deficit as he battered the swollen-eyed Armstrong at will. Several times Armstrong was asked if he wished to be retired, but he gamely carried on to reach the final bell despite being dropped on to his face just as the fight ended. The unanimous decision in Zivic’s favour was no more than he deserved. Prior to this Armstrong had defended the title 20 times, if you accept that the first Lou Ambers and second Lew Feldman contests involved both the lightweight and welterweight belts.
17 January 1941. Fritzie Zivic w rsc 12 (15) Henry Armstrong
Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY/Lineal. Referee: Arthur Donovan.
Fight Summary: Armstrong (140½) was on the receiving end in all rounds from the third through to the 11th as Zivic (145¾) repeatedly stabbed his fists into the former champion’s eyes, sent in right uppercuts to the jaw and targeted the body. Armstrong was soon cut over the left eye, then the right, before both eyes started to close due to Zivic constantly working the face without let-up. Round after round Armstrong took a battering, and at the start of the 11th he was given one final chance to turn things around by a referee who did not want to see him knocked out. For two minutes of that session Armstrong stirred the memories as he stormed all over Zivic, pounding blows into head and body, but after 52 seconds of the 12th the third man pulled him out of the fray when he was recklessly walking into an accurate bombardment and was unable to defend himself.
After beating Tony Marteliano in a real humdinger of a non-title contest, Zivic was forced to have an operation on his right forearm. When fit again, he stopped Al Bummy Davis in the tenth round at the Polo Grounds, Manhattan, NYC on 2 July, and then outpointed Johnny Barbara over 12 rounds at The Garden, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 14 July prior to defending his title against Freddie Cochrane, who was not even rated in the top ten. The red-headed Cochrane, who seemed to all intents and purposes an average fighter with good connections, had 63 wins and eight draws on his record but had lost no fewer than 32 times in his nine years as a pro. However, he was on a run of nine consecutive victories coming into the fight since losing to Mike Kaplan.
29 July 1941. Freddie Cochrane w pts 15 Fritzie Zivic
Venue: Ruppert Stadium, Newark, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY/Lineal. Referee: Joe Mangold.
Fight Summary: Confounding all of his critics, Cochrane (142½) at times outclassed Zivic (145), especially at close quarters where he could make the latter miss and get in hard lefts to the jaw before tying his man up. Although he was penalised in the fourth for using his head he continued to take the fight to the champion. Cochrane even out-roughed Zivic, and only in the 15th when he was dropped by a right to the jaw while off balance did he look flustered. Following the referee’s verdict in Cochrane’s favour, Nat Fleischer, of The Ring magazine, stated that he had given seven rounds to the new champion and six to Zivic, with two even, thus making it much closer.
The following day, with the war raging in Europe, after Cochrane was passed fit in Class 1A in his bid to join the American Navy and he was soon called up for active duty. Following that, the title was put on ice until the end of hostilities. Further to a number of warm-up bouts in June 1945, on the 29th of that month Cochrane was knocked out inside ten rounds by the hard-hitting future middleweight champion, Rocky Graziano, at Madison Square Garden. With Cochrane ahead on the cards going into the tenth a rematch at the Garden was called for 24 August. Yet again Cochrane surprised the pundits when taking Graziano into the tenth round before being finished off. However, Cochrane, now being asked to defend his title, was matched against the sixth-rated Servo who had to guarantee him $50,000 to get the opportunity. Clearly, Cochrane wanted no part of Sugar Ray Robinson, there being a great deal of anger when the match with Servo was made despite whoever won having to agree to defend against the number one challenger within 90 days. Nat Fleischer, writing in The Ring, summed up the general feeling when he stated: "The fact that Robinson has been guaranteed a shot at the title does not alter the situation any. It is the duty of the Commission at all times to see that outstanding talent is not side-tracked or given the run-around in the planning of championship fights in favour of inferior fighters". With 49 contests under his belt, and just two losses, Servo was a clever boxer with fair power who had only been beaten by Robinson. In the second fight between the pair there were many who thought that Servo deserved the decision, especially after the referee sided with him 5-3-2.
1 February 1946. Marty Servo w co 4 (15) Freddie Cochrane
Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Eddie Joseph.
Fight Summary: Staggered by a heavy left hook in the opening round, although the champion fought back strongly he was doubled over by savage blows to the body as Servo (143) went to work on him in the second. Increasing the pace in the third Servo was now stalking Cochrane (145), who continued to hit back gamely, but in the fourth a succession of heavy blows to the head had the latter reeling before a series of straight lefts drove him into the ropes in a bewildered state. With Cochrane now an easy mark for Servo, a left hook followed by a right cross dropped him, his head reclining on the bottom rope, to be counted out at 2.54 of the session.
Having won the title Servo was contractually committed to defend against Sugar Ray Robinson, the leading contender, within 90 days and a date was set for 24 May. Strangely, bearing that in mind, Servo accepted a non-title fight at Madison Square Garden on 29 March against the future middleweight champion, Rocky Graziano, where he would spot his heavy-hitting opponent almost a stone in weight. It turned into a nightmare as the game Servo was stopped in the second round, suffering a badly injured nose which caused the Robinson fight to be postponed due to surgery. After the NYSAC gave Servo until 6 September to defend his title the fight was rescheduled for that date. Because he was unable to take in a warm-up contest as per the contract binding him to the Robinson fight, Servo was forced to take in a couple of ten-round exhibition bouts behind closed doors, on 1 and 15 August, to get himself match fit. However, with the nose still giving him problems he asked for another postponement, which immediately saw him stripped by the NYSAC on 3 September. That was followed by Mike Jacobs, the Madison Square Garden promoter, making an announcement that Beau Jack would meet Tommy Bell for the vacant title on 20 December. He later suggested Robinson against Johnny Greco, Tippy Larkin or Bell, but when negotiations got underway it appeared that only the latter fancied a match against Robinson, having already travelled ten close rounds with him. Meanwhile, after the NBA categorically stated that titles should be won and lost in the ring they continued to recognise Servo, giving him until 1 December to defend. Bringing matters to a head, Servo sportingly announced his retirement on 25 September, stating that his nose had refused to heal and there was no way he could make even the latter date. By then, the NYSAC had matched Robinson and Bell for their version of the title on 20 December. Further to beating the third-ranked Tommy Bell for the NYSAC version of the title on 20 December 1946, the NBA, recognising that Robinson was the best man around, gave him their unequivocal backing as world champion. Having turned pro in October 1940, Robinson was the outstanding man around and a future great. Able to fight on the front or back foot with speed and power to spare it was no wonder that the top men backed away from him. Prior to beating Bell for the title, he had defeated past and future champions such as Sammy Angott (3), Marty Servo (2), Fritzie Zivic (2), Izzy Jannazzo (4), Henry Armstrong and Jake LaMotta (4), and with a record of 74 wins, one draw against Jose Basora and a points defeat at the hands of LaMotta he appeared unbeatable at the weight.
24 June 1947. Sugar Ray Robinson w rsc 8 (15) Jimmy Doyle
Venue: The Arena, Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Jack Davis.
Fight Summary: Jarred by a left hook in the opening round, Doyle (147) had the worst of matters for the next two sessions, during which he was badly punished by blows to head and body as the champion looked to work him over. Despite Robinson (146) being firmly in control, when Doyle began to force the fight in the fourth he was met by heavy counters, and in the fifth he was twice staggered. However, he came back strongly in the sixth to open a cut over Robinson’s right eye before making the latter appear to be just another fighter in the seventh when blocking many of his shots with arms and elbows to take the round. Late in the eighth, after Robinson banged in two fast rights to Doyle’s body when the latter launched a right he was met by a crunching short left to the jaw that sent him down heavily, his head crashing on the floor. With Doyle out cold the count reached ‘nine’ when the bell rang to end the session. On realising that his condition was serious the fight was immediately halted. In a bad way, the stricken fighter was taken to hospital where he died 17 hours later, having lapsed into a coma and failed to survive an operation to remove a blood clot. Out of boxing for nine months after suffering brain concussion when knocked out by Artie Levine, Doyle had returned to the ring in December 1946 and run up five wins in succession to justify his title challenge.
19 December 1947. Sugar Ray Robinson w rsc 6 (15) Chuck Taylor
Venue: Olympia, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Johnny Weber.
Fight Summary: Giving a brilliant display of cleverness and hard hitting the champion overcame the aggressive Taylor (144¾), who made a good start in the opening two sessions before being hurt in the third by a solid right to the jaw and several searing body blows. Rescued by the bell in the fourth after being almost dropped by a right to the head, Taylor came out for the fifth but soon began to weaken as Robinson (146½) belted in heavy rights to the body and brought his hooks into play. Sensing that he had his man going Robinson upped the pace in the sixth, and a variety of quality shots followed by a right to the head dropped Taylor heavily. Although Taylor made it up at ‘nine’ it was the beginning of the end, Robinson giving him no time to recover before an avalanche of blows put him down again, and at 2.07 of the round the fight was over when the referee brought matters to a halt.
28 June 1948. Sugar Ray Robinson w pts 15 Bernard Docusen
Venue: Comiskey Park, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Walter Brightmore.
Scorecards: 85-65, 83-67, 81-69.
Fight Summary: Having trouble making the weight the champion found Docusen (145½) a more than worthy foe, and for the first ten rounds, which were contested at a fast gallop, there was little between the pair. Finally, at the start of the 11th Robinson (146½) turned loose a blistering assault which sent Docusen into the ropes and eventually saw him dropped for ‘nine’ by a vicious left hook to the jaw. Fighting back desperately upon rising, Docusen saved himself from being downed again when continuing to try and take the play away from the fast-tiring Robinson, who was cut under the right eye by left jabs in the 14th. Coming on strong again in the 15th as Docusen visibly ran out of gas, Robinson tried hard to finish his challenger off but was unable to do so, ultimately having to settle for the unanimous decision cast in his favour.
11 July 1949. Sugar Ray Robinson w pts 15 Kid Gavilan
Venue: Municipal Stadium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Charles Daggert.
Scorecards: 9-6, 9-6, 12-3.
Fight Summary: Well documented that Robinson (147) had trouble making the weight, in recognising this Gavilan (144½) set up a fair pace in the opening rounds when attacking strongly and cutting the champion over the right eye in the fourth. From the fifth onwards, however, Robinson began to dominate, milling on the retreat, pulling Gavilan up short with straight lefts and blocking the latter’s best blows when at close range. Although Gavilan was always trying it was Robinson who hit with the greater accuracy and precision, and while the switch-hitting Cuban took advantage when the champion coasted at times he could never assume control. The last three rounds saw Robinson at his best as he opened up, staggering Gavilan with straight lefts and hooks to the jaw and a cracking right uppercut which almost took the latter off his feet. While Gavilan claimed that the fight was much closer than suggested by the cards, Robinson well deserved the unanimous decision.
9 August 1950. Sugar Ray Robinson w pts 15 Charley Fusari
Venue: Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Paul Cavalier.
Fight Summary: Despite being weight-weakened, the champion had very little trouble on his way to taking the referee’s verdict at the end of 15 one-sided rounds, and at times simply allowed Fusari (145¼) the opportunity to recover when hurt. When he did manage to land on Robinson (147) Fusari was forced to take plenty in return, being cut over the left eye as early as the second round. After the fourth, which was Fusari’s best round, it was all downhill for him. And in the sixth and ninth especially, when staggered by lightning blows to the head, it looked as though he would be knocked out. However, Robinson chose to coast through the next few sessions before opening up again in the 14th and 15th when he beat off Fusari’s attacks and inflicted punishment with either hand before settling down to box his way to the final bell.
Regardless of Robinson stating that he would continue as champion, having successfully defended the Pennsylvanian version of the middleweight title against Jose Basora and Carl Bobo Olson, he had gone on to beat Jake LaMotta to become the world middleweight champion on 14 February 1951. Within weeks of that the NBA selected Johnny Bratton (45 wins, two draws and 17 losses), who had recently knocked out Lester Felton and Bobby Dykes, to fight Fusari for their version of the championship after observing that the five leading contenders in The Ring magazine ratings after Robinson were Kid Gavilan, Bratton, Billy Graham, Fusari and Eddie Thomas. What was clear at this point was the fact the both the NBA and NYSAC regulations did not allow for a champion to hold titles at different weights at the same time. In making the running the NBA alienated several other bodies, namely the NYSAC, BBBoC and EBU, and Robinson himself, who stated that he had no thoughts of handing in his welter title. That was surprising as immediately after the Fusari defence he was quoted as saying he would soon be giving up the crown due to weight problems. Although the New York Commission were angered by the NBA, who threw out Graham on the grounds that he had been beaten by Thomas in 1949, with the International Boxing Club in New York having Kid Gavilan under contract they eventually agreed that the winner of Bratton v Fusari, won by the former, would fight the Cuban in New York within 90 days. Due to the contest being supported by the NBA and NYSAC my version of the 'world' title would also be on the line. Since arriving in America, the top-ranked Gavilan, a flamboyant, fast-moving, skilful fighter who became famous for his use of the bolo punch, had beaten Johnny Williams (2), Charley Red Williams, Bell, Buster Tyler, Tony Pellone, Ike Williams (2), Beau Jack, Billy Graham and Tony Janiro. Prior to meeting Bratton, rated at number two following his win over Fusari, his record stood at 72 wins, three draws and 12 defeats.
18 May 1951. Kid Gavilan w pts 15 Johnny Bratton
Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY. Referee: Ruby Goldstein.
Scorecards: 11-4, 11-4, 8-5-2.
Fight Summary: Looking to add to his NBA crown, Bratton (147) was unanimously outpointed by Gavilan (145¼), who was just too strong and vigorous for his rival. Gavilan won without experiencing any difficulty at any stage as he forced the fight throughout, while Bratton, who had no answer to the continuous punches coming his way, finished with a broken jaw and a fracture of the right wrist. Although badly wobbled in the first round Bratton came back for the next few sessions with some flashy defensive boxing, coupled with speedy left jabs and stinging rights, and while the going was fairly even at the halfway stage he began to fade thereafter. By now increasing the tempo, Gavilan chased the back-pedalling Bratton down to work him on to the ropes where he could pour in punches from both hands, the decision being a formality. Bratton had been the NBA champion for just 65 days.
29 August 1951. Kid Gavilan w pts 15 Billy Graham
Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY. Referee: Mark Conn.
Scorecards: 9-6, 7-7-1, 7-7-1.
Fight Summary: Under the complicated New York system of scoring, after one of the judges and the referee scored it 7-7 they were asked to go to the points system. While judge Frank Forbes gave it to Graham by 11-10, when the referee saw Gavilan as a 10-7 winner that decided it. Although the champion was prominent early on with his bolo punch looking spectacular, Graham (145) eventually found a way of dealing with it by moving inside at every opportunity. Having lost the early rounds Graham came back to take the fifth, sixth and seventh when outboxing and outpunching the bewildered Gavilan (145½), using long lefts and sharp rights. Thereafter, the battle seesawed as first one man took the initiative then the other before the last five sessions, with the exception of the 13th, saw Graham seemingly doing enough to win. When the split decision in Gavilan’s favour was announced there was much dissent, but on reflection it had been based on the champion’s aggression against the counter-punching tactics of Graham.
4 February 1952. Kid Gavilan w pts 15 Bobby Dykes
Venue: The Stadium, Miami, Florida, USA. Recognition: NBA/NY. Referee: Eddie Coachman.
Scorecards: 142-141, 145-139, 140-143.
Fight Summary: Yet again Gavilan (147) successfully defended his titles by means of a split decision, this time against a rank outsider who was not expected to stay long. Starting shakily, the lanky Dykes (146¾) was decked for a count of ‘eight’ by left and right hooks in the second, while appearing at a loss as to how to deal with Gavilan’s flurrying attacks, but as the fight wore on he started to come forward with the left jab. Having his best round in the tenth, Dykes jabbed and hooked well throughout as he looked to make up any leeway. He also fired in solid rights when the opportunity arose, but Gavilan was not done for. After Dykes had slipped to the canvas in the 11th Gavilan made his run for home, but on finding the challenger still full of fight in the final three sessions he would ultimately have to rely on the judges.
Once the EBU backed Charles Humez officially announced on 20 February 1952 that he was giving up the European title due to increasing weight problems, the EBU intimated that Gavilan should now be recognised as the rightful champion.
7 July 1952. Kid Gavilan w rsc 11 (15) Gil Turner
Venue: Municipal Stadium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Pete Tomasco.
Fight Summary: Many good judges of boxing thought that Turner (144½) would be too good for the champion, but they were proved wrong when the youngster was stopped after 1.58 of the 11th round. As expected Turner set the pace from the start, attacking with lefts to the body, while Gavilan (146) countered with heavy left hooks to the body. Remaining the aggressor despite losing the third and fifth for low blows, Turner kept on battering away at Gavilan before the latter started to get going from the sixth onwards, mainly with left hands to head and body. When they came out for the 11th, Gavilan, who was slightly in the lead, set up a big attack to the body before switching to the head, and although Turner fought back he suddenly wilted when a left hook smashed against his jaw. Subjected to a tremendous pounding, Turner wobbled before being beaten into a sitting position on the bottom strand, whereupon the referee called it off.
5 October 1952. Kid Gavilan w pts 15 Billy Graham
Venue: Gran Ballpark Stadium, Havana, Cuba. Recognition: World. Referee: Mark Rojo.
Scorecards: 15-2, 16-3, 16-7.
Fight Summary: Looking to pressure the champion Graham (146½) went after him from the opening bell, but throughout the fight he found his opponent to be a different proposition from the one he encountered previously. Using his left sparingly and way off with the right when he needed it, Graham was battered by solid counters to head and body, touching down twice as Gavilan (146½) sent in heavy shots to the body. In the tenth, Graham, cut on the bridge of the nose, his left eye swollen and closing, made a great effort through to the next session, but from thereon in it was all Gavilan, the unanimous decision in his favour being a formality.
11 February 1953. Kid Gavilan w rtd 9 (15) Chuck Davey
Venue: The Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Frank Gilmer.
Fight Summary: Gavilan (146½) had little difficulty in dealing with his southpaw challenger, a Master of Arts from Michigan, and was on top throughout, dominating the exchanges and landing hurtful left hooks to the body to wear his man down. Unbeaten in 39 starts, Davey (147) was gradually ground down, a right to the jaw dropping him for ‘nine’ in the third before he was put down three more times in the ninth and retired on his stool by his handlers at the end of the round. On reflection, Davey’s total lack of power enabled Gavilan to fight at his own pace. And despite being occasionally bamboozled by the challenger’s stance he was always in control. When hard rights cut Davey under the right eye in the eighth it was clear that Gavilan was now intent on finishing the fight as quickly as possible, and attacking strongly in the ninth he knocked all the stuffing out of his game opponent to bring about the retirement.
18 September 1953. Kid Gavilan w pts 15 Carmen Basilio
Venue: War Memorial Auditorium, Syracuse, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: George Walsh.
Scorecards: 8-6-1, 7-6-2, 5-7-3.
Fight Summary: Showing distinct signs of having difficulty in making the weight the champion did not start that well against the rough and ready Basilio (147), being made to pay for it when a cracking left hook to the jaw deposited him on the canvas for ‘nine’ in the second round. Unfortunately for Basilio, after he failed to take advantage of the situation, Gavilan (146¾) gradually got himself back into the fight when showing cleverness and good use of the jab, which eventually cut and closed the challenger’s left eye. At the end of the sixth Basilio was thought to have won four sessions, but from there onwards Gavilan rolled out at least six of the remaining nine when showing his infighting ability. To Basilio’s credit, even when hurt, as he was in the tenth after being punished with lefts and rights to the body, he continued to fire back.
13 November 1953. Kid Gavilan w pts 15 Johnny Bratton
Venue: The Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Frank Gilmer.
Scorecards: 82-68, 85-65, 83-67.
Fight Summary: This was Gavilan (146) at his best as he won all rounds bar the first, fifth and tenth, and went into overdrive in the eighth, throwing so many punches to head and body that it was difficult to count. Amazingly, Bratton (145½) came back to take a share of the tenth, but took so much out of himself in that session he barely showed again. With Bratton repeatedly stunned by any number of punches through to the final bell it was testament to his gameness that he was able to keep going.
Having struggled with the weight over the years, and having taken care of all leading challengers, prior to his next defence Gavilan was given time out to challenge for the middleweight title held by Carl Bobo Olson. After Olson won that one comfortably on points over 15 rounds at The Stadium, Chicago on 2 April 1954, Gavilan had an enforced lay-off when suffering from a hand injury before signing for a 1 September 1954 title defence against fourth-ranked Johnny Saxton. After beating Bratton (w pts 10 in The Arena, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 24 February 1954) to get a crack at the title, a ten-round draw against the lightly regarded Johnny Lombardo at the Silver Bowl, Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania on 4 August was hardly the best form of advertising for the Blinky Palermo-managed Saxton. So much so, that hardly anybody noticed the fight being postponed until October due to Gavilan picking up a virus infection. A former top-class amateur who had won his first 36 fights, Saxton had only been beaten by Gil Turner and Del Flanagan in his 48 contests to date, and was a skilful, fast moving, hurtful puncher.
20 October 1954. Johnny Saxton w pts 15 Kid Gavilan
Venue: Convention Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Pete Pataleo.
Scorecards: 9-6, 7-6-2, 8-6-1.
Fight Summary: Hampered by a novice-like referee, who continually warned him not to hold and pushed him off at times while taking no notice of low blows perpetrated by Saxton (146½), it was hardly surprising that the champion failed to perform at his best level. Although Gavilan (145½) appeared to be well in control, it was only in the last two sessions that he started putting punches together, landing several hard rights. However, it was too little and too late according to the judges. Nat Fleischer, writing in The Ring magazine, stated that Saxton won only three rounds and Gavilan was robbed and years later, when it came to light that the new champion’s connections were people who boasted that they had controlled the welterweight division, the result has to be seen as highly suspicious. As it was, both men were hauled before the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission the next day to explain their conduct, but the result stood regardless of the fact that virtually every boxing scribe present gave the fight to Gavilan.
Saxton's first defence would be against Tony DeMarco, a walk-in banger who was rated at number three in The Ring magazine. Despite losing five of 51 contests, DeMarco had drawn with the lightweight champion, Jimmy Carter, last time out and was undefeated in his last 16 contests.
1 April 1955. Tony DeMarco w rsc 14 (15) Johnny Saxton
Venue: The Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Mel Manning.
Fight Summary: Uncertain at the start, the challenger sustained a cut left eye in the second round, and when coming forward he found himself successfully countered by Saxton (145½) up until the seventh. At that point, however, when DeMarco (145) found the range for his left hooks he began to make up lost ground, forcing the fight and getting in punches to head and body. Still driving forward, in the 14th DeMarco finally got to Saxton. There had been no knockdowns at that stage, but after Saxton went for broke he came off worse when sent crashing to the canvas, having been forced to take at least a dozen solid blows to the head. Somehow getting up at ‘nine’, Saxton was being hit without reply when rescued by the referee on the 2.20 mark.
DeMarco’s first challenger would be the rugged, two-fisted Carmen Basilio, who had been a pro since 1948 and had a record comprising 44 wins, seven draws and 11 defeats. Since losing to Kid Gavilan in a world title tilt, Basilio was undefeated in 11 contests, beating the likes of Pierre Langlois, Italo Scortichini, Al Andrews and Ronnie Harper (2) along the way.
10 June 1955. Carmen Basilio w rsc 12 (15) Tony DeMarco
Venue: War Memorial Auditorium, Syracuse, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Harry Kessler.
Fight Summary: Making his first defence, DeMarco (144¾) found himself outworked by Basilio (145½) throughout, and in the tenth round he was dropped for ‘seven’ after taking several heavy rights to the jaw. With cuts over both eyes, when DeMarco was immediately floored again, this time by a left hook, he took another ‘seven’ count before being saved by the bell. Although DeMarco came out firing in the 11th in a desperate attempt to hold on to his title, Basilio took no chances, blocking punches and hitting back with left hooks and jabs until the referee stopped the fight at 1.52 of the 12th. DeMarco had been champion for just 70 days, but would be hoping for better in the return.
30 November 1955. Carmen Basilio w rsc 12 (15) Tony DeMarco
Venue: The Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Mel Manning.
Fight Summary: Even though he injured his left hand in the second round and lost the first few rounds the champion started to pick it up in the fifth when beginning to beat DeMarco (145½) to the punch. Sensing the tide was turning, DeMarco, cut over the left eye, made an all-out effort in the seventh before fading as Basilio (145½) came on strong with both hands, and in the 11th he was badly hurt by body punches. As in their previous fight the 12th proved to be decisive. When a series of right hands to DeMarco’s head saw him eventually slump to the deck for ‘eight’, although he was allowed to carry on he was immediately heading for the canvas again after being slammed by a left hook-right to the jaw. Following that, he was rescued by the referee with 66 seconds of the session still remaining.
Basilio next signed up to defend his title against the former champion, Johnny Saxton. Since losing the title, Saxton numbered Ralph Tiger Jones among four wins and was the second-ranked man in the division.
14 March 1956. Johnny Saxton w pts 15 Carmen Basilio
Venue: The Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Frank Gilmer.
Scorecards: 144-142, 145-138, 147-140.
Fight Summary: Unable to fight in New York due to his manager, Blinky Palermo, being banned there, the challenger met Basilio (146¾) in Chicago and regained his old title in what was seen as an upset. Despite Basilio complaining about the decision he had been outboxed by Saxton (146), who stayed at distance and scored continuously with stiff left jabs, while proving too elusive to be caught after a tough second round. There was no doubt that Basilio intended to end the fight in the second as he threw everything at Saxton, who despite being shaken up came back towards the end of the session to cut the champion over the left eye. Subsequently, Saxton was never in serious trouble, but would have to defend against Basilio due to a private agreement existing between the two managers.
12 September 1956. Carmen Basilio w rsc 9 (15) Johnny Saxton
Venue: War Memorial Auditorium, Syracuse, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Al Berl.
Fight Summary: Learning from their previous meeting, Basilio (146¼) won every round bar the second when cutting the space down and scoring consistently with left hooks and right crosses as the champion failed to use the ring as well as he had done when winning the title. In the eighth Saxton (145¾) was eventually forced to back-pedal after Basilio chased his man from pillar to post in the hope of finishing it. The ninth had only just started when a long right to the jaw sent Saxton reeling, and following his man up Basilio hit the champion with all manner of blows from head to body before the referee intervened on the 1.31 mark to save a knockout from occurring.
22 February 1957. Carmen Basilio w co 2 (15) Johnny Saxton
Venue: The Arena, Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Tony LaBranch.
Fight Summary: Although Basilio had decisively beaten Saxton last time out to regain his title, with another contract for a return in place the two men met again. This time, Basilio (147), showing no sign of the injury to his right hand that had forced a postponement, marched straight into Saxton (147), throwing hooks to the head and body in relentless fashion. Tearing out for the second, Basilio reproduced what he had done in the first, smashing away at his opponent until a big right found the mark. Down went Saxton, as if shot, and although he made a desperate effort to get up he was counted out with 18 seconds of the session still remaining.
Basilio automatically vacated the title on becoming world middleweight champion when outpointing Sugar Ray Robinson at the Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York on 23 September. Further to a World Boxing Committee organising a series of eliminators, Virgil Akins and Vince Martinez would fight it out for the right to be called world champion. A pro since March 1948, winning 48 and drawing one of 66 contests, Akins had fought the best, defeating the likes of Wallace Bud Smith (2), Tommy Campbell, Freddie Dawson, Luther Rawlings, Joe Brown, Henry Davis, Ronnie Delaney, Joe Miceli, Isaac Logart (2), Hector Constance, Al Andrews, Garnet Hart and Gil Turner, and had recently won the Massachusetts version of the world title when beating Tony DeMarco. Having again defeated DeMarco, Akins showed himself to be a wily fighter with a good punch in either mitt, while always looking for the chance to land his favoured right cross. Martinez, who had turned pro in March 1949 and had run up 60 wins in 65 contests, was a clever box-fighter, and one who could find a punch when necessary.
6 June 1958. Virgil Akins w rsc 4 (15) Vince Martinez
Venue: The Arena, St Louis, Missouri, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Harry Kessler.
Fight Summary: Contesting the universally recognised vacant title, Akins (146¾) had Martinez (146¾) on the floor four times in the opening round from heavy rights without reply, and although the latter somehow got through the second he was again smashed down for two more counts in the third before being saved by the bell. Coming out for the fourth in a weakened state, Martinez was punched around the ring prior to being dropped for ‘nine’ after taking some heavy blows to the body, and when on his feet again he was put down for the eighth time by a crunching left hook. The referee never bothered to count, calling it off with 52 seconds on the clock.
Akins’ first defence would be against Don Jordan, The Ring magazine's top-rated welter, who would come to the ring with 44 wins in 55 contests. Having started 1958 losing to Dave Charnley, Jordan went on to beat Isaac Logart, Lahouari Godih and Gaspar Ortega before repeating his win over the latter (w pts 12 at the Lafayette Hotel, Long Beach, California on 22 October) in what was seen as an eliminator. Nicknamed ‘Geronimo’, although Jordan had fallen short as a lightweight the 147lbs division suited him better, and as a well-rounded boxer with room to improve his management expected him to crack on.
5 December 1958. Don Jordan w pts 15 Virgil Akins
Venue: Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Lee Grossman.
Scorecards: 145-138, 145-132, 146-136.
Fight Summary: Defending for the first time, Akins (145½) was shocked by the 3-1 underdog who set up a left jab-left hook attack from the opening bell and gave him no room to manoeuvre his big punches as he was forced to defend. In the tenth the champion was hammered from pillar to post, and having survived he came again over the last few rounds as Jordan (145) tired. However, he was unable to find a finishing punch. Akins, who had two points deducted, in the eighth for going low and in the 14th for butting, finished with a gash over his right eye, while Jordan picked up a cut over his left eye.
24 April 1959. Don Jordan w pts 15 Virgil Akins
Venue: Kiel Auditorium, St Louis, Missouri, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Harry Kessler.
Scorecards: 70-68, 71-68, 71-65.
Fight Summary: Starting well, Akins (147) hammered away at the body in the first round before changing tack when going for the head in the second and having a fair bit of success, twice buckling the champion’s legs. Although it looked promising in the third for Akins, from that moment on he began to fade as Jordan (146¾) came into it more and more, with his left jab working overtime. In the eighth, Akins was all but put down when staggered by a right cross. From there onwards it was virtually all one-way traffic as Jordan piled up points with the jab, and several times the crowd urged him to finish it. Afterwards, Jordan explained that he had been unable to stop Akins due to him having injured his right early on.
10 July 1959. Don Jordan w pts 15 Denny Moyer
Venue: Meadows Racetrack, Portland, Oregon, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Harry Volk.
Scorecards: 144-143, 147-144, 147-143.
Fight Summary: Bidding to become the youngest ever welterweight champion, Moyer (146½) showed his inexperience when going down on points against Jordan (147). While putting up a game performance he was often bewildered at times as left jabs, hooks and uppercuts all found their target with regularity. Moyer started fast, but after staggering Jordan in the second he was made to play second fiddle as the latter moved up through the gears. There were no knockdowns, and although Jordan tried hard for one in the eighth when he opened up to have Moyer holding on grimly he had to settle for the unanimous decision in his favour.
Although Jordan had been given a final warning that he must sign to meet Luis Rodriguez or another of their top four contenders by the end of February 1960 or be stripped, the NBA then relented when recognising a fight at Madison Square Garden between Benny Kid Paret and Federico Thompson on 25 March 1960 as a final eliminator. However, they demanded that Jordan defend against the winner by the beginning of June 1960. Following Paret and Thompson drawing over 12 rounds, the NBA gave their blessing to a Jordan defence against Paret with the winner having to meet Thompson within 90 days. A tough and aggressive fighter, with 31 wins, three draws and seven defeats on his record, Paret loved to crowd opponents, giving them little room to work while hammering away.
27 May 1960. Benny Kid Paret w pts 15 Don Jordan
Venue: Convention Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Charles Randolph.
Scorecards: 72-66, 72-67, 71-68.
Fight Summary: Imitating a perpetual-motion attack, reminiscent to that used by Henry Armstrong, Paret (146½) went for the champion’s body prior to switching his attacks upstairs with a long left jab and right uppercuts. Jordan (144½) tried hard, but lacking the power to perturb Paret he faded after the sixth, seemingly unable to change his fight plan to deal with Paret’s aggression. Although Paret, whose left eye was damaged in the fifth, was warned frequently by the referee to keep his punches up it was not until the 14th that he had a point deducted, but the damage had already been done by then.
10 December 1960. Benny Kid Paret w pts 15 Federico Thompson
Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Mercante.
Scorecards: 9-6, 9-6, 7-6-2.
Fight Summary: Making his first defence, right from the opening bell Paret (147) forced the fight when setting up a relentless assault. Although Thompson (145½), nine years older, tried to keep up he lacked the stamina to be able to trade non-stop with the champion throughout. Thompson tried to use his longer reach, but that also failed to affect the way the contest went as Paret constantly got inside, and while there were no knockdowns both men were occasionally rocked in various exchanges. The turning point came in the third round when Thompson’s mouth was badly gashed. Swallowing a large amount of blood from thereon in, often choking on it, made it more difficult for Thompson to up the pace. However, when the Panamanian did manage a grandstand finish in the 15th, pummelling away with a two-fisted attack for virtually three minutes, it was too late.
After beating Willie Toweel (w rsc 8 at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York on 22 October), Emile Griffith guaranteed himself a title shot when eliminating The Ring magazine's top-rated Luis Rodriguez (w pts 10 at the same venue on 17 December). Griffith, who had 22 wins from 24 contests, was a brilliant prospect, having fast hands and fast feet as well as a great boxing brain, and was very quick to exploit an opponent’s weakness.
1 April 1961. Emile Griffith w co 13 (15) Benny Kid Paret
Venue: Convention Hall, Miami Beach, Florida, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Jimmy Peerless.
Fight Summary: Starting how he meant to carry on Paret (146½) targeted the challenger’s body right from the opening bell. Apart from the third round, when his left eye was cut, and the fifth he was virtually in control right up to the end of the 12th. At that point Paret was well in the lead, having never let up, but a lapse of concentration in the 13th turned his world upside down. Both men came out fast for that session, but it was Griffith (145½) who first found the range when lashing in a long left to Paret’s jaw, and when the latter staggered back a right-left sent him crashing downwards to be counted out on the 1.11 mark.
3 June 1961. Emile Griffith w rsc 12 (15) Gaspar Ortega
Venue: Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Tommy Hart.
Fight Summary: In what turned out to be a one-sided contest, Ortega (146) was stopped for the first time in an 83-bout career when the referee stepped in to save him from taking further punishment at the hands of the champion after 48 seconds of the 12th had elapsed. Ortega never really got into the fight following an excellent start by Griffith (145½), who used the left hook to wear him down before twice smashing him to the canvas in round seven for counts of ‘eight’. Ortega tried to regroup, but having again been put under the cosh he was saved by the bell after being sent staggering into his own corner at the end of the 11th. Although Ortega came out for the 12th it was pointless as Griffith was soon pouring in punches from both hands, almost as if he was working on a punch-bag, and it was a welcome relief for just about everyone when the fight was called off. Having earlier agreed to meet Benny Kid Paret following the Ortega fight, Griffith and his Cuban rival were soon contracted for bout number two.
30 September 1961. Benny Kid Paret w pts 15 Emile Griffith
Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Al Berl.
Scorecards: 8-6-1, 9-6, 6-8-1.
Fight Summary: Defending the title against the man he had taken it from, Griffith (147) appeared to have won the fight handily on points despite a total lack of knockdowns, but when the decision was announced in the Cuban’s favour there was uproar. Out of 22 reporters at ringside only four gave it to Paret (146). Although Nat Fleischer, of The Ring magazine, felt that it was relatively even he did make the point that he had Griffith ahead by two points on the basis of his superior work in rounds four and 11. It was noticeable that Paret excelled on the inside after the sixth, whereas Griffith, who punched harder throughout, worked mainly at range, and had the latter not injured his left hand early on he would possibly have won inside the distance. The last four sessions saw Paret fighting with both eyes almost closed and damage to his mouth, while Griffith ended the contest unmarked. Having taken time out to challenge Gene Fullmer for the NBA middleweight title at the Convention Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada on 9 December, Paret was knocked out inside ten rounds after taking plenty of punishment along the way before being matched to meet Griffith for the third time.
24 March 1962. Emile Griffith w rsc 12 (15) Benny Kid Paret
Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Ruby Goldstein.
Fight Summary: Fighting each other for the third time, and following much animosity at the weigh-in after Paret (146½) made derogatory remarks about his challenger, this time round Griffith (144) was well in command for much of the contest. After taking the opening five rounds Griffith was almost knocked out in the sixth when Paret floored him for ‘eight’ with a left hook, but he was soon back in the groove. Coming into the 12th Griffith appeared to be well ahead. At that time there was no inkling of what was to come, despite the many fouls perpetrated by both men throughout the fight that had gone unpunished and the bad feeling between them. It started reasonably enough but that was before Griffith drove Paret to the ropes where his head went through the upper strands, and hammered punch after punch at his now defenceless target. With Griffith punching away unrestrained, it was estimated that 21 blows landed on Paret before the referee was able to call it off on the 2.09 mark, the final blow, a left to the jaw, seeing the latter slide to the canvas. At the finish, Paret, in a coma, was removed to the Roosevelt Hospital where he failed to regain consciousness after an operation before dying ten days later.
13 July 1962. Emile Griffith w pts 15 Ralph Dupas
Venue: Convention Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Frankie Van.
Scorecards: 73-69, 74-65, 71-64.
Fight Summary: Returning to the ring for the first time since his title win over the unfortunate Benny Kid Paret, the champion was posed plenty of problems by the shifty Dupas (145¾), who danced and moved as if he was on a piece of elastic at times. The first ten rounds were relatively even but following that, Griffith (145¼), who was cut around both eyes at the finish, picked up the pace to go ahead. After working the body Griffith tried to finish Dupas off in the final session with a two-handed attack, but the latter weathered the storm, even thinking he had won at the final bell. There were no knockdowns.
8 December 1962. Emile Griffith w rsc 9 (15) Jorge Fernandez
Venue: Convention Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Harry Krause.
Fight Summary: After what had been a tough and hard-fought contest for six rounds, with both men sending in solid punches, the champion got on top in the seventh session when dropping Fernandez (147) with a right swing to the jaw. Forced to take the mandatory ‘eight’ count, having bounced up immediately Fernandez battled on strongly until being floored by a hard right below the belt in the ninth. At that point there was chaos as Fernandez’s handlers jumped into the ring, and when the Argentine was unable to continue, having been given five minutes to recover, following an inspection by the doctor the fight was halted. At that juncture, Griffith (145) was deemed to have retained his title. The announcement came after officials went to the Nevada State rule book, which stated that when a bout was ended by a questionable or accidental blow the man ahead on points at the time should be declared the winner.
Before taking on the top-rated Luis Rodriguez, Griffith fitted in another defence of his junior middleweight title, beating Chris Christensen on a ninth-round stoppage at the KB Hall, Copenhagen, Denmark on 3 February 1963. Wishing to stay among the welters, Griffith relinquished the junior title immediately after the fight. A pro since 1956, Rodriguez had an outstanding record, having lost just twice, against Griffith and Curtis Cokes, in 53 contests. Resilient, very fast and skilful, he numbered Gomeo Brennan, Benny Kid Paret (2), Charley Scott, Joe Miceli, Cecil Shorts, Virgil Akins (2), Rudell Stitch, Larry Baker, Isaac Logart, Garnet Hart, Chico Vejar, Yama Bahama (2), Johnny Gonsalves (2), Guy Sumlin, Cokes, Federico Thompson, Gene Armstrong and Joey Giambra among his victims. A tough opponent for anyone, Rodriguez could box and fight with great energy, looking to work the head and body non-stop while sapping the life out of an opponent.
21 March 1963. Luis Rodriguez w pts 15 Emile Griffith
Venue: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Tommy Hart.
Scorecards: 9-5, 8-6, 8-5.
Fight Summary: Even though Griffith (145½) controlled the fight for the opening five rounds the challenger was gradually working his way into the fight, and from the sixth onwards he was jabbing hard and often with his left hand while beginning to show superior speed. Despite Rodriguez (146) boxing mainly on the back foot he was getting his punches in, and while Griffith looked to work the body in order to open his rival up he was only launching sporadic attacks. There was no doubt that Griffith hurt Rodriguez with solid blows in the tenth and 13th, but the Cuban was soon back on his game to catch the eye of the judges. While Griffith angrily claimed to have been jobbed yet again, he would get another crack at Rodriguez due to a 90-day return clause being in place in the event of him losing.
8 June 1963. Emile Griffith w pts 15 Luis Rodriguez
Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Jimmy Devlin.
Scorecards: 8-7, 9-6, 5-10.
Fight Summary: In gaining the split decision Griffith (146½) became the first man to win the 147lbs title for the third time, but for long periods of the contest he appeared to have been outboxed by the champion. While he carried the harder punch, hurting Rodriguez (146½) from both hands in the first, eighth and 13th rounds, he did not sustain his attacks. And in the seventh he was forced back continuously. According to Angelo Dundee, Rodriguez dominated the fight, being at his best when forcing Griffith to lead before leaving him lunging and missing. Press reports generally gave the impression that Rodriguez had landed more blows, but many of them would not have counted as they lacked authority. Having regained the title, Griffith went in search of the middleweight championship but came a cropper when blitzed in the opening round by Rubin Carter. With both men looking for two further warm-up bouts under their belts, a rubber match was sealed between Griffith and Rodriguez for June 1964.
12 June 1964. Emile Griffith w pts 15 Luis Rodriguez
Venue: Convention Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Harry Krause.
Scorecards: 69-67, 70-68, 70-71.
Fight Summary: Meeting for the fourth time, once again there was little to separate Griffith (146) and Rodriguez (146½), but this time the latter went toe-to-toe with the champion when trying to influence the judges. As in their previous contests there were no knockdowns, and the score would have been closer still had Rodriguez not had a point deducted for low blows in the third round. Again Griffith punched the harder, being more precise, but many of the sessions were ragged and bitterly contested as both looked to gain supremacy. Although cut over the left eye in the second and having struggled to make the weight, Rodriguez was always looking for a fight as fortunes swayed one way and then the other. Griffith was also fortunate not to have points taken away for fighting after the bell on the odd occasion.
22 September 1964. Emile Griffith w pts 15 Brian Curvis
Venue: The Arena, Wembley, London, England. Recognition: World. Referee: Harry Gibbs.
Fight Summary: Despite being second best all the way the southpaw challenger proved his courage if nothing else as Griffith (145½) virtually overwhelmed him from the opening bell. Often presenting a stationary target, Curvis (145½) was set about on numerous occasions before he was dropped by a left-right to the head in the sixth round and then saved by the bell. Body shots were also worrying Curvis, and after going for Griffith in the tenth he was put down from a couple of heavy blows to the solar plexus. Curvis came back magnificently in the 12th as he blasted Griffith before him, but another solid body punch had him down in the 13th. Getting up and doing his best to avoid a stoppage defeat, Curvis, swollen around both eyes, bravely fought his way through to the end of the contest, where he freely admitted that he had been beaten by a superior opponent who fully deserved the referee’s decision.
30 March 1965. Emile Griffith w pts 15 Jose Stable
Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Mercante.
Scorecards: 9-5-1, 8-6-1, 11-4.
Fight Summary: Taking command almost from the start, having been staggered by a short left hook to the body in the opening session, the champion punished Stable (146) throughout as he looked to shake the latter up with hard rights to the head. By the tenth Griffith (146½) had his full artillery on display as he went with jabs, hooks and uppercuts to Stable’s head and body, and although he was walking through the latter he failed to find a finishing blow. All in all it was a listless performance by Griffith, who openly stated that he was looking at moving up a weight despite his loss to Rubin Carter.
10 December 1965. Emile Griffith w pts 15 Manuel Gonzalez
Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Arthur Mercante.
Scorecards: 9-5-1, 12-3, 11-3-1.
Fight Summary: Although Gonzalez had outpointed Griffith in a non-title fight, there was no way that he was going to win this one as he continually clutched and grabbed the champion while doing little work. With Gonzalez (146) using hit-and-run tactics, the action was dull as Griffith (146) tried to catch up with him, and the left hook that landed in the ninth was the only solid blow the American-Mexican, who was cut over the left eye in the eighth, delivered all night. For his part, Griffith tried to make a fight of it but was ultimately unable to catch up with Gonzalez, having to settle for the points awarded for his aggression.
After Griffith had won the world middleweight title from Dick Tiger (w pts 15 at Madison Square Garden on 25 April 1966), the NYSAC immediately vacated the welterweight crown under a State ruling, only to be told by his lawyers that they had filed a motion in the State Supreme Court to have the ruling set aside. That was followed by the WBA stripping Griffith on 10 June. Eventually, when the State Supreme Court rejected Griffith’s claim to be allowed to hold two world titles at once on 2 August he also forfeited recognition in the eyes of the WBC. Further to that, Jean Josselin, the EBU champion, was matched against Curtis Cokes, the WBA champion, in a contest that would also involve my version of the ‘world’ crown. Having just won the WBA title when beating Manuel Gonzalez, Cokes had won 43 and drawn two of 53 contests, beating Rip Randall, Stefan Redl, Joe Miceli, Charley Tombstone Smith, Stan Harrington, Al Andrews, Fortunato Manca and Luis Rodriguez. A counter puncher with a great right hand, the top-ranked Cokes also had the ideal temperament. Although Josselin, with 41 wins, one draw and two defeats under his belt had recently lost to Willie Ludick he had earlier eliminated Brian Curvis and was rated second according to The Ring magazine.
28 November 1966. Curtis Cokes w pts 15 Jean Josselin
Venue: Memorial Auditorium, Dallas, Texas, USA. Recognition: WBA/EBU. Referee: Dick Cole.
Scorecards: 149-136, 148-138, 147-140.
Fight Summary: Even though the scorecards made it sound as though the fight was one-sided it was not, the ever willing Josselin (146¾) always being in with a chance, and in many rounds he was only shaded. Despite taking jabs, left hooks and uppercuts to the head, with Josselin always trying Cokes (145¾) had to be wary, but his height and extra reach gave him a decided advantage. Josselin made his big effort in the 12th, but Cokes quickly responded with solid counters to make sure of victory.
Following the fight, Cokes also became recognised as champion by the WBC.
19 May 1967. Curtis Cokes w rsc 10 (15) Francois Pavilla
Venue: Memorial Auditorium, Dallas, Texas, USA. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Pat Riley.
Fight Summary: Having previously drawn with Cokes (145) earlier in the year the challenger proved to be a sad disappointment according to The Ring magazine, winning just one round on the cards. Cokes was always in control, despite claiming he was hurt by Pavilla (146¾) in the sixth and seventh, his left jab totting up the points, but in the eighth he felt his opponent weakening in the clinches and ready to be taken. After getting through with some solid shots in the ninth Cokes caught Pavilla with a right in the tenth, and when the latter came off the ropes a cracking left dropped him. Up almost immediately, staring into the crowd glassy-eyed, Pavilla was eventually rescued by the referee with ten seconds of the session remaining after the Frenchman’s manager had jumped into the ring.
2 October 1967. Curtis Cokes w rsc 8 (15) Charley Shipes
Venue: The Arena, Oakland, California, USA. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Jack Downey.
Fight Summary: Recognised in California as the champion, Shipes (145) started promisingly, forcing the contest, before a right-left to the jaw dropped him in the fourth. Back in the fight, Shipes, now cut over the right eye, crowded Cokes (145) but took several right uppercuts for his pains, and in the sixth a left hook followed by a solid right sent him to the floor again. Shipes was still giving it everything he had in the seventh, although Cokes’ extra reach was proving to be a real advantage, but in the eighth the lights finally went out for the Californian. After being floored twice, the second time by a terrific right to the jaw, Shipes was helped up by the referee and taken back to his corner when it was clear that he had no chance of getting back into the fight. The finish was timed at 1.37 of the session.
Cokes would next meet the South African backed Willie Ludick in a contest that would finally bring about a champion recognised throughout the world of boxing.
16 April 1968. Curtis Cokes w rsc 5 (15) Willie Ludick
Venue: Memorial Auditorium, Dallas, Texas, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Lew Eskin.
Fight Summary: Outboxed and outpunched right from the start, Ludick (146¼) did not have the tools to take the title from the accomplished champion, who was soon into his stride when sending in solid countering rights, one of which opened up a cut over the South African southpaw’s right eye in the second round. It did not get much better for Ludick, despite him doing reasonably well in the fourth, when Cokes (145¾) crashed in a powerful right uppercut in the fifth to drop him for ‘six’. Although the referee gave Ludick a few moments just to see if he could come back with anything, when Cokes again sent him tumbling into the ropes he called a halt with just 34 seconds on the clock.
21 October 1968. Curtis Cokes w pts 15 Ramon La Cruz
Venue: Municipal Auditorium, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Herman Dutreix.
Scorecards: 11-3-1, 11-1-3, 11-4.
Fight Summary: Up against a challenger who had major disadvantages in height and reach, Cokes (146½) should have gone on the attack right from the beginning, but with both men looking to counter the fight as a spectacle became less than interesting. When La Cruz (147) did come forward he lacked the firepower to do any damage, having hurt his left arm in the first round, and was picked off by speedy jabs and hooks to head and body. It was clear that Cokes was the better man, but he refused to take any risks. After being cut over the right eye in the sixth, Cruz was really up against it, although Cokes still failed to take advantage of the opportunities when they presented themselves, saying at the end of the fight that the Argentine’s peculiar style confused him.
An all-round fighting machine, with power and skill in abundance, the top-ranked Jose Napoles would be earmarked for Cokes’ next defence. With just four defeats in 63 contests, three of them reversed, Napoles had been seen as an opponent to be avoided since leaving Cuba bound for Mexico in 1962. Turning pro in 1958 before being forced to leave Cuba when Castro banned pro boxing, Napoles had beaten men such as Angel Robinson Garcia (2), Baby Vasquez (2), Alfredo Urbina, Carlos Morocho Hernandez, Giordano Campari, Eddie Perkins and Lennox Beckles.
18 April 1969. Jose Napoles w rsc 13 (15) Curtis Cokes
Venue: Inglewood Forum, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: George Latka.
Fight Summary: Rarely being able to find the range against the clever, hard-punching Napoles (143), the champion slumped to a 13th-round stoppage defeat, having barely won a round on the cards. By backing Cokes (145½) up throughout, Napoles forced the latter to fight his fight, and in the fifth round the Cuban started to open up with combinations of left hooks and right crosses. With Cokes unable to hurt Napoles, and having difficulty picking up the punches as his eyes swelled up, he took a bit of a battering in the ninth. Although the pace slowed from the tenth it was clear as to which way the fight was going. In the 13th, after Cokes was repeatedly backed against the ropes and hit flush with left hooks, the doctor was called in to inspect his injuries. Although letting Cokes fight on, at the end of the round the referee decided enough was enough.
29 June 1969. Jose Napoles w rtd 10 (15) Curtis Cokes
Venue: City Bullring, Mexico City, Mexico. Recognition: World. Referee: Ramon Berumen.
Fight Summary: With a return clause in place Cokes (146½) got first crack at the new champion, but although doing better than in their previous contest he was unable to turn things around, being forced to retire on his stool at the end of the tenth round. Fighting outdoors in drizzling rain were not the best of conditions, but even when Cokes’ right eye started swelling in the fourth round he still continued to rock Napoles (145) virtually in every session with hard rights until it was impossible for him to see. The only other problem for Cokes was the fact that Napoles was getting through to him, and in the tenth the latter poured in punch after punch when trying for a finish. To his eternal credit Cokes would not go down, making it to the bell before being retired by his corner.
17 October 1969. Jose Napoles w pts 15 Emile Griffith
Venue: Inglewood Forum, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Dick Young.
Scorecards: 11-4, 11-3, 9-4.
Fight Summary: Pacing himself expertly, Napoles (144¾) poured in the punches early on against the former champion, always looking for the opportunity to rip in left hooks. And in the opening two sessions he delighted his supporters when hammering in left jabs and hard rights. In the third, with the men at close quarters, Napoles smashed in a vicious right uppercut to drop Griffith (144½), and when the latter got up he was pounded to the body for the remainder of the round. There were no more knockdowns, but with Napoles always dangerous in close Griffith often had to tie him up in order to avoid punishment, which, more often than not, detracted from the attacking side of his game plan. Although Griffith showed up at best in the fifth, when he came again in the 13th with some terrific left-right combinations Napoles held on in the knowledge that he already had the result sewn up.
14 February 1970. Jose Napoles w rsc 15 (15) Ernie Lopez
Venue: Inglewood Forum, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Larry Rozadilla.
Fight Summary: Punching with machine-like precision, Napoles (145½) opened up to drop Lopez (146) in the first round. Although the latter did well in the opening four sessions, mainly with hard rights to the head, once the champion got on top there was no stopping him. His accurate left jab would find Lopez all night, and in the ninth and 15th he put ‘Indian Red’ over for two more knockdowns. Towards the end of the contest Lopez had shot his bolt, but although still trying to take Napoles out with one blow he was in a weakened state.
Having disposed of his leading challenger, Napoles was given time by the commissions to sort out his next opponent. It was then stated that Napoles would take on Eddie Perkins in Chicago on 20 October, but that too fell through when the promoters could not work out a TV deal. Finally, Napoles signed for what he considered an easy defence against Billy Backus, who was the nephew of former champion, Carmen Basilio. With an in-and-out record of 29 wins in 43 fights, Backus had actually retired earlier in his career before coming back to earn a number two rating after beating Percy Pugh (2) and Manuel Gonzalez. An awkward southpaw and willing mixer, he had won the New York State title when beating Ricky Ortiz.
3 December 1970. Billy Backus w rsc 4 (15) Jose Napoles
Venue: War Memorial Auditorium, Syracuse, New York, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Jack Millicent.
Fight Summary: Backus (146½), a 27-year-old southpaw, stopped Napoles (144¼) after 55 seconds of the fourth round in what was seen as one of the division’s great upsets. The opening session had seen Napoles pushing Backus round the ring with left jabs before both men were cut over their right eyes in the second. At that stage there was a transformation in Backus' fortunes when he began to connect with right jabs as the champion missed with his. The third round saw Backus open a cut over Napoles’ left eye as well, and by the fourth the damage was so serious that the doctor advised the referee to call the contest off. It was alleged that the injuries suffered by Napoles, who had been a 9-1 favourite, were brought about by butts, which was stringently denied by Backus. It was well known that a return would take place, and following two warm-ups for Backus and one for Napoles the match was duly made.
4 June 1971. Jose Napoles w rsc 8 (15) Billy Backus
Venue: Inglewood Forum, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Dick Young.
Fight Summary: Having suffered a cut right eye in the opening round Napoles (146) soon put that behind him as he went in search of regaining his old title from Backus (145¾), giving the latter such a pounding in the second session that it seemed to be just a matter of time. Using a sharp left hand to set Backus up, after Napoles cut the southpaw champion on the left eye in the fifth before too long the right eye began to close. By the eighth Backus was ready to be taken, and having been floored twice, a short right to the chin and a left-right combination to the body doing the damage, he was stopped on the 1.43 mark.
14 December 1971. Jose Napoles w pts 15 Hedgemon Lewis
Venue: Inglewood Forum, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Larry Rozadilla.
Scorecards: 8-6, 8-7, 9-4.
Fight Summary: After building up an early lead, Napoles (145¼) eventually became frustrated at his inability to knock his challenger out, becoming arm-weary from his efforts. Coming into the final third, Napoles slashed away with both sweeping and short left hooks to no avail as the speedy Lewis (140¾) either took his best shots or cleverly avoided them. In the 14th Lewis even staggered Napoles with a right flush on the jaw, but despite narrowing the points deficit it was not enough.
28 March 1972. Jose Napoles w co 7 (15) Ralph Charles
Venue: The Arena, Wembley, London, England. Recognition: World. Referee: James Brimmell.
Fight Summary: Sticking to a jab-and-move routine rather than going with his normal aggressive tactics probably brought the challenger some time, but in doing so he expended a fair amount of energy while Napoles (146¼) merely waited. In the fourth, although Charles (147) was dropped by a right to the body he was soon up, and despite losing his gumshield three times in the session he boxed reasonably well until Napoles cut loose in the seventh. After hurting Charles with a right to the jaw, Napoles poured in a whole range of sharp combinations before the British champion was sent crashing to be counted out with just eight seconds of the round remaining.
10 June 1972. Jose Napoles w rsc 2 (15) Adolph Pruitt
Venue: Monumental Bullring, Monterrey, Mexico. Recognition: World. Referee: Octavio Meyran.
Fight Summary: Taking control from the opening bell, Napoles (146) quickly set about Pruitt (143½) with solid hooks to head and body, inflicting a bad cut over his challenger’s left eye before the end of the first round. There would be no let-up for Pruitt as Napoles went to work with the left jab being concentrated on the injured eye, and at 2.10 of the second the referee deemed it to be too serious for the American to continue. Pruitt had not been off his feet, but the referee felt there was no way back for him. On failing to get Napoles to give Billy Backus a return, further to the latter's win on points over 12 rounds against Danny McAloon at the War Memorial Auditorium, Syracuse, New York on 14 April, the New York Boxing Commission announced that they had matched Backus against Hedgemon Lewis for their version of the title.
28 February 1973. Jose Napoles w co 7 (15) Ernie Lopez
Venue: Inglewood Forum, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: WBA/WBC/Lineal. Referee: Dick Young.
Fight Summary: After opening a cut over the champion’s left eye in the second round Lopez (146½) had something to target, but by the third he was being outboxed and hurt with sharp lefts and rights to head and body. Napoles (146½) had Lopez cut over the left eye and rocking in the fifth after upping his work-rate, and although the latter came on strong in the sixth the champion was well in control. With the eye injury obviously bothering him, Napoles went on the attack in the seventh. After sending in a left hook that was followed by a crunching right uppercut to the jaw Lopez crashed down on his back to be counted out at 1.36 of the session.
23 June 1973. Jose Napoles w pts 15 Roger Menetrey
Venue: Sports Palace, Grenoble, France. Recognition: WBA/WBC/Lineal. Referee: Roland Dakin.
Scorecards: 149-139, 150-134, 150-137.
Fight Summary: Napoles (146) dominated almost every round in this one, solid blows to the body in the opening session alerting Menetrey (145) to what was around the corner. By the third Menetrey was in retreat after being raked with hooks and uppercuts, and while the champion tried his hardest to induce the Frenchman to come forward the bait was not taken. From the ninth onwards Napoles held the centre of the ring, potting Menetrey with left jabs and fast combinations whenever he could, but by now the contest was totally one-sided. As it was, the Frenchman, who finished with badly swollen features, showed great courage in staying the course.
22 September 1973. Jose Napoles w pts 15 Clyde Gray
Venue: Maple Leaf Garden, Toronto, Canada. Recognition: WBA/WBC/Lineal. Referee: Jay Edson.
Scorecards: 71-67, 71-67, 71-65.
Fight Summary: Although losing his unbeaten record, with Gray (147) running the champion relatively close there was not too much in it at the close after he really went for it in the 15th round when sending in some heavy, scoring blows. As was his way, Napoles (147) started well, connecting with hard shots to head and body, and had Gray down in the fifth with a cracking left hook to the jaw. Thereafter, even though Gray did well when often beating his man to the punch it was not enough.
Napoles’ next defence would be against Hedgemon Lewis, the NYSAC champion, in a unification battle.
3 August 1974. Jose Napoles w rsc 9 (15) Hedgemon Lewis
Venue: Sports Palace, Mexico City, Mexico. Recognition: World. Referee: Ramon Berumen.
Fight Summary: Struggling to find his normal rhythm, the strain of weight-making showed up early as the champion made a hesitant start. However, by the end of the second round he was beginning to match Lewis (141) punch for punch. In the fourth session it was noticeable that the altitude was causing problems for Lewis, Napoles (145) taking advantage of the situation when ripping in heavy lefts and rights to the head. After being in trouble in the seventh, Lewis rallied in the eighth to hurt Napoles with hooks and uppercuts before the Cuban came on strongly with a stream of hooks to the head in the ninth. Doing his best to survive Lewis tried to grab Napoles, but when he was pounded into a corner and was being hit almost at will the referee had seen enough, calling a halt at 2.34 of the session.
14 December 1974. Jose Napoles w co 3 (15) Horacio Saldano
Venue: Sports Palace, Mexico City, Mexico. Recognition: World. Referee: Ramon Berumen.
Fight Summary: Despite having difficulties in making 147lbs, when Napoles (146½) came out fast he was soon penetrating the challenger’s defences with left jabs and sparkling combinations. Even then Saldano (143) was catching Napoles with hurtful body blows, and it looked like being a quick and explosive fight. The third round saw Napoles smashing in a left uppercut that knocked Saldano’s gumshield out, leaving him weak and open before a cracking left-right combination sent him down to be counted out on the 1.55 mark.
29 March 1975. Jose Napoles w tdec 12 (15) Armando Muniz
Venue: Convention Centre, Acapulco, Mexico. Recognition: World. Referee: Ramon Berumen.
Scorecards: 149-142, 149-139, 148-142.
Fight Summary: The toughest defence yet for Napoles (147) saw him take on the hard-punching Muniz (145), with much of the action being at close range and neither man prepared to give an inch. Cut over the left eye in the second, Napoles was forced to meet Muniz head on as the latter continued to press forward to attack the body. Although Napoles rocked Muniz on occasion he was being denied the room in which to work. He was also weakening as well as being cut over the right eye by the seventh. Muniz, gashed on the left cheek in the fifth, was still giving it his all in the 11th, pounding in hard rights to Napoles’ badly battered face. By now the champion’s right eye was closed and giving cause for concern. After 50 seconds of the 12th had elapsed, with Napoles on the ropes taking what was on offer, the referee stopped the action to seek medical advice, being told to call the contest off as the champion’s injuries were too bad for him to continue. It was reported that Napoles required 38 stitches afterwards. This appears to be the first world title bout where a technical decision was given after the referee was forced to go to the scorecards. It was later disclosed that Muniz had points deducted for butting in the third and fifth rounds which ultimately cost him, but according to other sources one judge had Muniz ahead 107-102 at the finish before the cards went missing. Despite angry protests from Muniz’s camp, the WBC supported the decision on the grounds that the rulebook had been adhered to. From that point on many fights would be decided on a technical basis if circumstances warranted it. Injuries caused by headwork being the most common factor.
Napoles was stripped by the WBA on 16 May after he had failed to make a fight with either Clyde Gray or Angel Espada.
12 July 1975. Jose Napoles w pts 15 Armando Muniz
Venue: Sports Palace, Mexico City, Mexico. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Octavio Meyran.
Scorecards: 149-142, 149-139, 148-142.
Fight Summary: After their previous contest ended so controversially the WBC made sure that Muniz (146½) got first crack at Napoles (146) once the latter’s injuries had healed. Clearly, Napoles was much fitter and faster than before, rarely giving Muniz the chance to capitalise on his aggressive tactics when standing back and punishing him at long range. In the seventh round, after a two-handed blast put Muniz down, although he was saved by the bell he appeared dazed. From thereon in Muniz never gave Napoles many problems, spending most of his time up close to avoid further trouble. Muniz finished with a badly split right eyebrow and various facial cuts.
Napoles’ next defence would come against Britain’s John H. Stracey, who had lost three times in 46 starts and had won British and European titles on the way. Stracey, who had beaten Roger Menetrey and Ernie Lopez, was a solid puncher with a good jab and a fighter prepared to mix things up.
6 December 1975. John H. Stracey w rsc 6 (15) Jose Napoles
Venue: City Bullring, Mexico City, Mexico. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Octavio Meyran.
Fight Summary: Coming to the ring as an underdog, the challenger overturned the form book when beating the once great Napoles (147), who became an old man in boxing terms as the fight progressed. Napoles made a good start when dropping Stracey (145) in the first round with a solid left hook, and when he hurt the Englishman again in the second it looked like he was on his way. However, in the third, Stracey floored Napoles, who was forced to take the mandatory ‘eight’ count. At that stage of the fight, Stracey began to impose himself despite being shaken up by right hands. Stracey also shrugged off a cut over the left eye as he continued to keep the pressure on Napoles, never giving him a moment's rest, while keeping up a gruelling pace. At last it looked as though Stracey’s tactics were paying off. In the sixth, after he had smashed Napoles on to the ropes and was hammering away at the veteran the referee stepped in with 30 seconds of the session still remaining.
20 March 1976. John H. Stracey w rsc 10 (15) Hedgemon Lewis
Venue: The Arena, Wembley, London, England. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Harry Gibbs.
Fight Summary: Fighting with tremendous zeal, Stracey (146¼) survived a shaky opening round to gradually grind down his American opponent, who made life difficult for the champion right up until the eighth. Although Lewis (146¾) boxed well, making Stracey work hard, he slipped further and further behind as the latter never left him alone, and in the eighth through to the tenth the punches kept on coming. At certain stages it seemed as though Stracey would punch himself out, but eventually Lewis slumped against the ropes before falling down under a torrent of leather just as the referee was halting the contest on the 1.25 mark.
Way down The Ring ratings at number six, Carlos Palomino would be Stracey’s next opponent. In 23 contests, Andy Price was the only man to have beaten him, but apart from a draw against Hedgemon Lewis there were no big names on his record to warrant the opportunity. A good, accurate puncher, Palomino would ultimately prove to be a tough nut to crack.
22 June 1976. Carlos Palomino w rsc 12 (15) John H. Stracey
Venue: The Arena, Wembley, London, England. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Sid Nathan.
Fight Summary: Although he made a reasonable start, by the second round Stracey (146) was being caught by solid rights while finding himself out of distance as the challenger constantly moved out of range. As the contest progressed Palomino (145¼) was also outjabbing Stracey. Despite coming back strongly in some sessions, the Boxing News reporter had Stracey five rounds down going into the 12th, having taken a real battering in the previous three. It was in this session that having decided that body blows were his route to the title, Palomino poured in vicious hooks to drop Stracey for two counts of ‘nine’ before the referee came to the champion’s rescue with 1.25 still on the clock.
22 January 1977. Carlos Palomino w rsc 15 (15) Armando Muniz
Venue: Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: John Thomas.
Fight Summary: In his first defence after two postponements due to injuries, Palomino (146½) got off to a poor start when he was dropped by a left hook just before the end of the first before falling behind during the opening four rounds. Although he was being roughed at close quarters by Muniz (147), the champion got himself into gear in the fifth when keeping at range and punching with added authority. Having come back strongly in the 12th for a couple of sessions Muniz then began to weaken, and in the 15th he was dropped by a right cross-left hook combination. After taking the ‘eight’ count, Muniz was set upon by Palomino who bombarded him from both hands until the referee stopped it at 2.26 when he was in a helpless condition.
14 June 1977. Carlos Palomino w co 11 (15) Dave Boy Green
Venue: The Arena, Wembley, London, England. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: James Brimmell.
Fight Summary: Despite giving it his best shot the challenger finally succumbed in the 11th round to the better quality coming from Palomino (147). However, up until the tenth when his left eye suddenly started to close, Green (146¾) had pressed Palomino all the way with his long punches, and in the eighth after the latter was cut over the left eye he even sensed victory. Although he was also cut over the right eye in the ninth Palomino was beginning to reassert himself, firing in uppercuts from both hands and solid hooks and jabs. And at 2.05 of the 11th Green was counted out after being flattened by a crashing left hook which he later admitted he never saw coming. With Green giving one of the greatest displays of indomitable courage seen in a British ring, at times Palomino was almost done for before showing why he was the champion.
13 September 1977. Carlos Palomino w pts 15 Everaldo Costa Azevedo
Venue: Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Dick Young.
Scorecards: 147-140, 145-140, 145-140.
Fight Summary: Showing no inclination to trade with the champion Azevedo (145½) boxed on the back foot, continually moving away from punches while clinching at every opportunity when he was closed down. In what was a poor fight to watch, Palomino (147) had been unable to catch up with Azevedo until the latter stages when the Brazilian finally ran out of gas due to his exertions. Brought down to his opponent’s level, Palomino won the fight on conditioning and his work over the last few rounds, but he disappointed with his inability to corner Azevedo.
10 December 1977. Carlos Palomino w co 13 (15) Jose Palacios
Venue: Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: John Thomas.
Fight Summary: Making his fourth defence in 1977, Palomino (147) was always in command against Palacios (146½), repeatedly landing with fast punches from both hands despite the challenger’s reach advantage. In trouble in the third and ninth rounds, Palacios came back well in the tenth to hurt Palomino with a heavy right, but that would be his final shout. After tearing in to Palomino at the start of the 13th, when Palacios was caught heavily by a short left-right to the jaw he went down to be counted out after 49 seconds of the session. Palacios made a great effort to get his feet in time to beat the count, but after collapsing to the floor again he had to receive treatment before leaving the ring.
11 February 1978. Carlos Palomino w co 7 (15) Ryu Sorimachi
Venue: Hilton Sports Pavilion, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Ferd Hernandez.
Fight Summary: Getting away slowly, Palomino (147) did not really warm up until the fourth round when the challenger began to fire in punches, but the exchanges were wild and mainly ineffectual. It was in the sixth that Palomino began to get his punches off, sending in punishing blows to the body, Sorimachi (147) barely making it to his corner at the end of the session. Realising that he had his man where he wanted Palomino stormed into Sorimachi in the seventh, and having softened him up with a vicious body attack he sent the Japanese down to be counted out with a smashing left hook to the jaw. The finish was timed at 2.03.
18 March 1978. Carlos Palomino w rsc 9 (15) Mimoun Mohatar
Venue: Aladdin Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Charles Roth.
Fight Summary: Defending for the second time in five weeks, Palomino (147) allowed Mohatar (145¼) to make the early running before dropping him with a left hook to the jaw in the fourth round. Decked for the first time in his career Mohatar was up at ‘eight’, but from thereon in he would be under constant pressure as Palomino worked on the body, and towards the end of the eighth it appeared that the Moroccan was almost through for the night. Coming out for the ninth against his better judgement Mohatar was quickly dropped, following lefts and rights to the head, and after getting up the referee stopped the bout 57 seconds into the session.
27 May 1978. Carlos Palomino w pts 15 Armando Muniz
Venue: Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Rudy Ortega.
Scorecards: 148-141, 148-139, 145-142.
Fight Summary: It was no surprise that Muniz (146) took the opening three rounds as Palomino (147) started slowly, but by the fifth the champion had begun to go up through the gears. Thereafter, Palomino was in control, landing from head to body without too much coming back, and although Muniz continued to bore in his attacks became more and more ineffectual. In the last couple of sessions it seemed as though Muniz was fighting from memory, but despite Palomino firing in punches from both hands the challenger held out to the final bell. If Palomino’s punches lacked zip in the latter stages it was mainly down to the fact that he had fractured his left hand around the halfway mark.
The former undefeated WBA junior welterweight champion, Wifred Benitez, would be next for Palomino. With just one draw against Harold Weston marring an otherwise perfect 37-fight record, Benitez’s speed and power had made sure that 25 of his opponents failed to reach the final bell, while two wins over Bruce Curry and a forced retirement of Randy Shields gave him every chance against Palomino.
14 January 1979. Wilfred Benitez w pts 15 Carlos Palomino
Venue: Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Jay Edson.
Scorecards: 148-143, 146-143, 142-146.
Fight Summary: Being out of the ring for nine months affected Palomino (146½) badly, his timing off while his punching power rarely troubled the challenger. Benitez (146) was never in difficulty despite one judge alarmingly voting for the champion. With Benitez's speed a major plus in the fight, by the ninth he was dictating matters, hitting Palomino with left jabs and right crosses and generally pacing himself to the finishing post. Between the tenth and 13th rounds Palomino had his best time when pounding Benitez’s body, but the last two sessions proved that the former undefeated NY and WBA junior welterweight title holder had been holding back.
25 March 1979. Wilfred Benitez w pts 15 (15) Harold Weston
Venue: Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Richard Steele.
Scorecards: 149-138, 144-142, 146-145.
Fight Summary: Having struggled to make the weight the champion was not his normal self. To add to his woes he was cut over the left eye in the fourth round as Weston (147) tried to take a grip of the fight. Luckily for Benitez (147), the sweltering heat affected Weston more than it did him, the fight rarely ever coming to life. Weston claimed later that he had also had trouble making the weight. With both men sagging, after Benitez finally came back with some heavy combinations in the 12th from thereon in he just about kept ahead of Weston to earn the decision.
The brilliant Sugar Ray Leonard who had moved up to number one in The Ring magazine ratings would be Benitez's next challenger. Lightning fast of hand and foot, with ring skills to match his power, the 1976 Olympic gold medallist had cut a swathe through the welterweight ranks since turning pro. With 25 straight victories to his name, he had beaten Floyd Mayweather, Randy Shields, Armando Muniz, Adolfo Viruet, Marcos Geraldo, Pete Ranzany and Andy Price. He was also the reigning North American champion.
30 November 1979. Sugar Ray Leonard w rsc 15 (15) Wilfred Benitez
Venue: Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Carlos Padilla.
Fight Summary: A contest between undefeated fighters, and the richest ever outside of the heavyweight division at the time, although the champion showed excellent defensive skills against the harder-hitting Leonard (146) he was unable to keep the latter out indefinitely before slumping to a controversial last-round defeat. Down in the third from a solid left jab and cut on the forehead from a clash of heads, Benitez (144½) eventually began to get his left working to even up matters. However, by the ninth Leonard was letting the big punches go again. Despite Benitez being hurt in the ninth and 11th the fight was fairly even going into the 12th, but after Leonard picked it up to edge the 13th and 14th it appeared that he might just be in front. Thus it was set up for a grandstand finish, and with both men giving it all they had and nearing the end of the contest a left jab-left hook dropped Benitez. With Benitez forced to take the mandatory ‘eight’ count, when Leonard rushed in to land lefts and rights the referee jumped between the two men to rescue the champion with just six seconds of the fight remaining.
31 March 1980. Sugar Ray Leonard w rsc 4 (15) Dave Boy Green
Venue: Capital Centre, Landover, Maryland, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Arthur Mercante.
Fight Summary: Showing terrific hand-speed, power and movement, the champion had a good look at Green (147) for three rounds before proving what a great fighter he was when dismantling the game Englishman in the fourth. Having been stung by two left jabs Leonard (147) finally began to open up with blinding combinations, and after a right uppercut rocked Green down to his boots a thundering left hook to the jaw sent him crashing down to be counted out on the 2.27 mark. It should have been seen as a clean knockout as Green was out cold, but when the referee stopped the count at ‘six’ to remove the gumshield, regardless of what was said afterwards, it has to be recorded as a stoppage.
Having given up his lightweight titles, the hard-hitting Roberto Duran, who had punched his way to number two in the ratings after beating Monroe Brooks, Jimmy Heair and Carlos Palomino, would be Leonard’s next challenger. With just one loss in 72 contests, and with Leonard unbeaten on 27 straight, it would be a fight that appealed to boxing fans everywhere.
20 June 1980. Roberto Duran w pts 15 Sugar Ray Leonard
Venue: Olympic Stadium, Montreal, Canada. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Carlos Padilla.
Scorecards: 145-144, 148-147, 146-144.
Fight Summary: In a battle between two great fighters, it was Duran (145¼) who came out on top when defeating Leonard (145) by a close but unanimous decision. For 15 rounds there was no let-up as both men showed their quality. Duran started fast, staying in close and putting terrific pressure on Leonard, and it was only in the fifth that the latter began to find the jab to distance himself from the aggressive former undefeated world lightweight champion. At the end of the contest, although Leonard had just about landed the most punches Duran’s heavier hitting swung it for him. Due to public demand and the fact that Leonard wanted to get even it was no surprise that a return was quickly in the pipe line.
25 November 1980. Sugar Ray Leonard w rsc 8 (15) Roberto Duran
Venue: The Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Octavio Meyran.
Fight Summary: Helped by a large ring, Leonard (146) was a different man to the one who fought Duran (146) previously, being able to counter and move effectively against the champion regardless of him visiting the ropes more than he would have wanted. Despite both men letting their punches go it appeared relatively even until the sixth when Leonard picked it up, boxing well behind the jab, while Duran began to land less frequently. The seventh was dramatic, as Leonard, hands down and swaying from side to side, taunted a bemused Duran and made him look foolish when winding up the right hand before snapping left jabs into his face. With Leonard now in control, following an exchange of blows in the eighth Duran suddenly and inexplicably quit when walking back to his corner. Asked to fight on by the referee Duran said that he’d had enough, and at 2.44 of the session the third man was forced to bring the fight to an end. Later, Duran would say that he had cramps in his stomach and arms, but when the press did not believe him the fight quickly became labelled as the ‘No Mas’ (Spanish for ‘No more’) affair due to the way in which the champion gave up.
28 March 1981. Sugar Ray Leonard w rsc 10 (15) Larry Bonds
Venue: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, New York, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Arthur Mercante.
Fight Summary: The southpaw challenger did well to last so long, proving extremely game, and gave Leonard (145½) a few problems with his awkward style. Dropped by a right to the jaw in the fourth round following several heavy body shots, Bonds (144¾) was saved by the bell before coming back in the fifth to peck away with the jab and make a nuisance of himself. There was no doubt that Leonard was in control, but he had not pressured Bonds enough, something he rectified in the ninth when jumping on the latter with blows to head and body. Coming out for the tenth, with Bonds soon in trouble as Leonard stayed right on top of him he was eventually dropped from heavy blows to head and body. After taking the mandatory ‘eight’ count, Bonds was soon under attack and not hitting back when the referee called it off on the 2.22 mark.
16 September 1981. Sugar Ray Leonard w rsc 14 (15) Thomas Hearns
Venue: Caesar’s Palace Omnimax, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Davy Pearl.
Fight Summary: Battling to unify the title, Leonard (146) ultimately proved to be the superior man when stopping the WBC’s Hearns (145) at 1.45 of the 14th round after being behind on all three cards. Billed as 'The Super Fight', Leonard fought from the third with a swollen left eye that obscured his vision, but after being on the end of Hearns’ long reach he eventually came into the contest in the sixth when almost putting the latter down. The seventh was a big one for Leonard as he let the punches go, and he continued to stalk his man for the next three sessions without doing too much. After being held at bay in the 12th, when Hearns jabbed and crossed him throughout, Leonard opened up again in the 13th, pouring punches in to enforce a count over the WBA champion before the bell rang to end the round. Although Hearns made one last defiant stand in the 14th he was clearly spent, the referee coming to his aid following a six-punch burst that left him defenceless.
15 February 1982. Sugar Ray Leonard w rsc 3 (15) Bruce Finch
Venue: Centennial Coliseum, Reno, Nevada, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Mills Lane.
Fight Summary: Although he started promisingly, after Finch (145¼) was dropped for ‘nine’ by the champion in the second, when blasted by a left hook-right to the head, the end appeared ominous, especially when he fell down immediately afterwards. Seemingly distressed, but up at ‘eight’, Finch somehow struggled through the round. Coming out for the third Finch tried to get himself going, but having taken punches a plenty a crunching left uppercut from Leonard (146) dropped him. On lurching to his feet in an unstable condition the referee took a good look at Finch before deciding that he was not fit to continue, stopping the bout on the 1.50 mark.
Leonard relinquished the world title on announcing his retirement on 9 November. Further to that, the WBA lined up Donald Curry (who had won a final eliminator on points over 12 rounds against Marlon Starling at the Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey on 23 October) to fight Jun-Suk Hwang for their version of the championship. Unbeaten in 15 starts Curry had been the American amateur champion, and with all-round ability to match heavy hands he was expected to go a long way. Having beaten Hwang to win the WBA title and then make a successful defence when stopping Roger Stafford inside a round, Curry was given added support as champion on 5 November 1963 by the International Boxing Federation (IBF), who had started life the previous April as the United States Boxing Association (USBA/I). Following that, he should be seen as the ‘world’ champion in line with my formula.
4 February 1984. Donald Curry w pts 15 Marlon Starling
Venue: Bally’s Park Place Hotel, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA. Referee: Joe Cortez.
Scorecards: 144-142, 145-140, 145-140.
Fight Summary: With Curry (147) forcing the fight all the way, landing the harder blows throughout, even though the challenger took heavy punishment he was always there throwing punches in response. It was always uphill for Starling (146), but fighting on gamely he even shook Curry up on occasion. While there were no knockdowns, Curry had Starling wobbling in the 15th as he looked to finish strongly, and despite one judge marking it much closer than it was the unanimous decision was a formality. Although not involved in the promotion, the recently formed IBF recognised Curry as champion.
21 April 1984. Donald Curry w rtd 7 (15) Elio Diaz
Venue: Will Rogers’ Coliseum, Fort Worth, Texas, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA. Referee: Stan Christodoulou.
Fight Summary: Being dropped after just 20 seconds was not the best of starts for the challenger, but he continually moved and made himself as difficult a target as he could as Curry (147) went looking for him. Pressing forward and picking his punches with care, Curry appeared to hurt Diaz (145½) every time he landed, and he had him down again in the fifth and the seventh rounds before the Venezuelan was retired during the interval. With his right eye almost closed shut and having done his best it would have been foolhardy to have sent out Diaz for the eighth.
22 September 1984. Donald Curry w rsc 6 (15) Nino La Rocca
Venue: Circus Tent, Monte Carlo, Monaco. Recognition: IBF/WBA. Referee: Stan Christodoulou.
Fight Summary: Stalking the challenger from the start, Curry (147) pressed forward, blocking punches with a high guard, and by the third round appeared to have matters under control. Having hurt La Rocca (146¾) in the fourth with a hard right to the head, Curry repeated the dose in the fifth before opening up with his full armoury in the sixth. With Curry now in full swing, La Rocca was dropped by two solid lefts. After taking the mandatory count and in a groggy condition he was hunted down and quickly floored again by a cracking left hook, whereupon the referee called a halt at 1.27 of the session.
19 January 1985. Donald Curry w rsc 4 (15) Colin Jones
Venue: NEC, Birmingham, England. Recognition: IBF/WBA. Referee: Ismael Fernandez.
Fight Summary: Catching Jones (146) with three fast jabs immediately the first round got underway set the tone as the champion quickly moved into punching range. With Curry (147) continuing to press in the second there were several heavy exchanges between the pair, but in the third it all went wrong for the Welshman when the bridge of his nose was split. Unfortunately, the cut was too bad to repair during the interval, and after just 36 seconds of the fourth on the ringside doctor’s advice the referee halted the bout, thus ending Jones’ dream of becoming a world champion.
The world championship would be on the line when Curry met Milton McCrory, the WBC champion.
6 December 1985. Donald Curry w co 2 (12) Milton McCrory
Venue: Hilton Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Mills Lane.
Fight Summary: Wobbled in the first round by a searing left hook, McCrory (146¾) found the WBA/IBF champion right in front of him throughout the contest, seemingly unable to keep him off with his best punches having no effect. In the second session, picking it up where he left off, Curry (146¾) soon had McCrory over from a solid left hook to the head. It was clear that McCrory had little left, and after he just about got himself up by the end of the mandatory ‘eight’ a smashing right to the jaw sent him down to be counted out on the 1.53 mark.
9 March 1986. Donald Curry w co 2 (15) Eduardo Rodriguez
Venue: Will Rogers’ Coliseum, Fort Worth, Texas, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Hubert Earle.
Fight Summary: Having unified the title, with Curry (146¾) making a slow start he even went down in the first as Rodriguez (146½) threw lefts and rights to head and body. Despite it being ruled a slip it certainly woke Curry up. More focused in the second, Curry started to back Rodriguez up, nailing him cleanly, and although the latter was throwing punches he was looking increasingly under pressure before two left hooks dropped him for the full count on the 2.29 mark.
Lloyd Honeyghan, who would be Curry’s next challenger, had risen to the top of British boxing when winning British, Commonwealth and European titles. Unbeaten in 27 contests, he had good skills to match a solid punch in either hand and was fearless.
27 September 1986. Lloyd Honeyghan w rsc 6 (12) Donald Curry
Venue: Caesar’s Hotel, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Octavio Meyran.
Fight Summary: In what was one of the biggest shocks ever for the weight division, Honeyghan (146½) forced a stoppage after the sixth round had ended when the ringside doctors decided that Curry (146½), who had suffered a broken nose, a bad cut on the left eye and a gashed mouth, was too badly injured to carry on. That was the official reason given, but Curry, who looked weight-drained, had taken a beating virtually all night as Honeyghan kept right on top of him. The action in the second round was a sign of things to come when Honeyghan opened up to almost have Curry over early on, and then had him in further trouble immediately prior to the bell. Although Curry came back well in the next couple of sessions, he was again badly hurt in the fifth before being worked over throughout the sixth and being taken out of the fight. It was clear afterwards that Curry had suffered from taking off weight, but it should not detract from a magnificent performance given by the British-based, Jamaican-born fighter.
Honeyghan relinquished the WBA version of the title on 22 December after being told that his first defence would have to be against their number one challenger, the white South African, Harold Volbrecht. He refused the edict on the grounds of the organisation’s attitude towards apartheid.
22 February 1987. Lloyd Honeyghan w rsc 2 (15) Johnny Bumphus
Venue: Grand Hall, Wembley, London, England. Recognition: IBF/WBC/Lineal. Referee: Sam Williams.
Fight Summary: The fight began with the champion opening up straight away to blaze into Bumphus (145½), and eventually a left jab followed by a solid straight right dropped the latter, who was forced to take the mandatory ‘eight’ before being stunned again before the bell. With great expectations for Honeyghan (146½), the second round started controversially as he tore out of his corner to smash in a left hook that floored Bumphus, who was still in the process of getting off his stool. With Bumphus’ cornermen still partially in the ring, when his manager climbed back in to claim a disqualification win it was half a minute before the referee asked the judges to deduct a point from Honeyghan and the fight recommenced. He need not have bothered as Bumphus was almost through for the night. After 55 seconds of the session the referee stopped the uneven contest when a Honeyghan blast saw the American sliding towards the floor under a barrage of blows. There was no doubt that blame for the incident in question lay entirely with the referee, as he had allowed Honeyghan to advance to mid-ring before the bell had been rung. Officially, the WBC not involved in the promotion as they no longer saw 15 rounds as the championship distance, and had Honeyghan lost they would have stripped him rather than recognise the winner.
18 April 1987. Lloyd Honeyghan w pts 12 Maurice Blocker
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, Kensington, London, England. Recognition: IBF/WBC/Lineal. Referee: Bob Logist.
Scorecards: 117-114, 119-112, 119-114.
Fight Summary: Proving a different proposition to his last challenger, Blocker (146¾) gave Honeyghan (147) all the trouble he could handle, the latter ending up with his left eye almost closed. Not recognised by the IBF as a title fight due to it being scheduled for 12 rounds, Honeyghan switched between orthodox and southpaw in a bid to confuse Blocker, but as the fight moved on it was the latter’s better boxing, with excellent jabbing and right-hand counters that was asking the questions. Towards the finish Honeyghan appeared to have something in hand before he had a couple of shockers in the 11th and 12th, when utterly exhausted, and had to call upon all his reserves to get through. On the face of it, the scorecards in Honeyghan’s favour appeared much wider than they should have been.
30 August 1987. Lloyd Honeyghan w rsc 1 (15) Gene Hatcher
Venue: New Andalveia Bullring, Marbella, Spain. Recognition: IBF/WBC/Lineal. Referee: Jean Deswerts.
Fight Summary: All over after 45 seconds of the opening round, Honeyghan (147) set a record as the quickest winner of a world title bout up until now when stopping a challenger who had barely warmed up. Having knocked Hatcher (147) down with the first punch of the contest, a right hand that seemed to come from the floor, Honeyghan quickly went to work following the mandatory count. At least 20 punches smashed into Hatcher before the latter slid to the canvas as the referee was belatedly halting the bout. Due to it being contested over 15 rounds and not 12, although the WBC recognised Honeyghan as the champion they were not involved in the promotion.
It was a win over Saoul Mamby that gained Mexico’s unrated Jorge Vaca a shot at Honeyghan, but with six losses from 48 fights, all of them by the knockout route, he was seen to be a victim rather than a future champion. However, Vaca was a two-fisted battler who was happy to fight anybody put in front of him.
28 October 1987. Jorge Vaca w tdec 8 (12) Lloyd Honeyghan
Venue: Grand Hall, Wembley, London, England. Recognition: IBF/WBC/Lineal. Referee: Henry Elesperu.
Scorecards: 67-65, 67-66, 65-67.
Fight Summary: Well below his best in a give and take battle, boxing wildly at times, the champion ended the second round with a swelling under the right eye as Vaca (147) matched him blow for blow. Indeed, it was Vaca who was often doing the better work and was taking the best punches that Honeyghan (146¾) had on offer. Honeyghan had a good round in the fifth, but in the sixth he went badly low. Although Vaca was given half a minute to rest the champion failed to have a point deducted. Honeyghan was in trouble at the end of the seventh as Vaca, now cut over the left eye, smashed in a tremendous left hook to the head. However, with the contest nicely poised in the eighth heads came together with a sickening crack, leaving Vaca with a deep, jagged cut over the right eye and unable to continue. Inexplicably, because the head clash was obviously an accidental one, the referee asked the judges to deduct a point from Honeyghan’s total before adding up the scores, which gave the fight to the Mexican. Without the point deduction, Honeyghan would have held on to his titles.
Not recognised as a title bout by the IBF due to the duration of the bout being over 12 rounds and not 15, as required by that body, Vaca was not given credence by them as champion. Following the fight, the IBF title was declared vacant.
29 March 1988. Lloyd Honeyghan w co 3 (12) Jorge Vaca
Venue: The Arena, Wembley, London, England. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Joe Cortez.
Fight Summary: Fighting like a man possessed, Honeyghan (146½) tore into Vaca (145¾), barely letting up, before inflicting a cut over the champion’s right eye in the opening two minutes. There was little science in his work, just slugging, and although Vaca complained that the cut had been caused by Honeyghan’s illegal use of the head it made little difference as the latter kept punching away. The third round saw Honeyghan begin to think about his boxing, but he was soon back looking to take the Mexican out. Towards the end of the session, Vaca was finally dropped by clubbing right hands and counted out with just two seconds remaining.
29 July 1988. Lloyd Honeyghan w rsc 5 (12) Yung-Kil Chung
Venue: Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Tony Orlando.
Fight Summary: The challenger started strongly, forcing Honeyghan (147) to stumble in the opening round before the latter began to get a better grip of things in the fourth when turning southpaw to land punches with ease. Coming into the fifth ahead on all three cards, after banging in a few right jabs to the face Honeyghan went badly low with a clumsy left that sent Chung (146¾) writhing to the canvas in pain 42 seconds into the session. With Chung having been given five minutes to recover but unable to continue at the end of that period, the referee then awarded the decision to Honeyghan by way of a technical knockout.
A classy box-fighter, who picked his punches well and mixed them up with solid shots, the former WBA champion, Marlon Starling, would be the next challenger for Honeyghan. In 49 contests, that included a no contest and a draw, Starling had lost just four, two of them to Donald Curry, and had beaten Kevin Howard, Tommy Ayers, Lupe Aquino, Floyd Mayweather, Simon Brown and Pedro Vilella. Although Starling had won the WBA title from Mark Breland and made successful defences against Fujio Ozaki and Breland, he had been knocked out inside six rounds by Thomas Molinares in his last contest. Regardless that the result was later changed to a no contest, as far as the WBA were concerned Starling had lost his title.
4 February 1989. Marlon Starling w rsc 9 Lloyd Honeyghan
Venue: Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Mills Lane.
Fight Summary: After wobbling Starling (146) with a right to the head in the third round, the champion failed to follow up his advantage, being dominated in every round from thereon in. The real problem for Honeyghan (146½), it later transpired, came after being hit early on and suffering terrible pain from around the jaw every time Starling landed in that area. By the sixth Honeyghan had run out of ideas, and with his gumshield continuously coming out he went back to his corner with his right eye closing fast and a badly swollen jaw. Bravely fighting on, Honeyghan was dropped by quick combination punches at the beginning of the ninth, and on getting up and being hit at will without firing back the referee stopped the fight on the 1.19 mark to save him from taking further punishment. Following the fight it was announced that Honeyghan’s post-fight mandatory urine sample had revealed a quantity of the pain killing lidocaine. Although Honeyghan later stated that the substance had been prescribed by an official doctor to help get rid of the pain he had been suffering in his right hand he was still fined.
15 September 1989. Marlon Starling w pts 12 Yung-Kil Chung
Venue: Civic Centre, Hartford, Connecticut, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Arthur Mercante.
Scorecards: 119-109, 119-110, 117-112.
Fight Summary: Although dictating the fight virtually from start to finish, Starling (146), unable to put his challenger on the floor, had to be satisfied with an easy points win. Chung (147), who proved to be tough and resilient, never gave up trying and was always in front of Starling, but he lacked the know-how to get to his man effectively, many of his best punches being taken on the arms and shoulders. In the latter stages, having realised that he was not going to knock Chung out, Starling contented himself with putting more points in the bag while coasting home.
Having been defeated by Michael Nunn in an IBF middleweight title challenge, Starling’s next defence would be against the fifth-ranked Maurice Blocker. With 30 wins from 32 contests under his belt, his only blemishes coming at the hands of Lloyd Honeyghan and a no contest, the 6’1” Blocker was known for his trombone left jab that could be delivered with great accuracy.
19 August 1990. Maurice Blocker w pts 12 Marlon Starling
Venue: Bally’s Park Place Hotel, Reno, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Mills Lane.
Scorecards: 115-113, 115-113, 114-114.
Fight Summary: Utilising a four-and-a-half-inch-reach advantage, the challenger came out firing left jabs, continuing to slot them in all night as Starling (146) seemed to have no defence against them. With Blocker (146) also outhitting Starling on the inside, it was not until the fifth that the latter actually connected with one of his right-hand specials. By the eighth Blocker’s lefts were really paying off as Starling’s left eye suddenly poured blood, and while the champion started to work well in an effort to cut back the deficit at the final bell he knew that he had not done enough.
Blocker’s first defence would be against Simon Brown, the IBF champion, a smooth, classy boxer with a solid shot in either hand, who had 33 (25 inside the distance) wins and one loss on his record.
18 March 1991. Simon Brown w rsc 10 Maurice Blocker
Venue: Mirage Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBC/Lineal. Referee: Mills Lane.
Fight Summary: Boxing brilliantly with the long left lead, Blocker (146) came within two rounds of unifying a couple of titles before he ran out of steam in the ninth and was taken apart in the tenth. It was only in the tenth that the IBF’s Brown (147) had any joy, having had to wait his turn, but when it came he took it with both hands, a right-left to the head putting Blocker down. On getting up and hoping to get through the session, Blocker looked to have a chance as Brown missed with just about everything he threw until tremendous left and right uppercuts saw the former staggering around the ring prior to being stopped on the 2.10 mark.
Brown relinquished the IBF version of the title on 12 May to concentrate on the WBC crown. Brown’s next defence of the WBC and lineal titles would be against Buddy McGirt, a former IBF junior welterweight champion, who carried a 57-fight record into the contest, made up of 54 wins, one draw and two defeats. A skilful, tactically astute boxer with a fair dig, McGirt’s only defeats had come at the hands of Frankie Warren and Meldrick Taylor, whilst he had wins over Saoul Mamby, Howard Davis, Tony Baltazar, Gary Jacobs, Joe Manley and Tommy Ayers.
29 November 1991. Buddy McGirt w pts 12 Simon Brown
Venue: Mirage Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Mills Lane.
Scorecards: 119-108, 117-110, 117-110.
Fight Summary: Gliding in, getting his punches off and moving away from the champion before he could be caught, McGirt (145) boxed brilliantly, especially up until the sixth when he was forced to take left hands to the body. By this time Brown (147) was bleeding from a cut over the right eye, which was beginning to close. Brown was also turning southpaw to try his luck, but in the tenth he was dropped by a left hook to the jaw before making it to the bell. The last couple of sessions saw Brown all at sea on occasion as McGirt went all out, with the referee appearing to be ready to halt the fight before it eventually ran its course. On winning, McGirt became a two-weight world champion.
25 June 1992. Buddy McGirt w pts 12 Patrizio Oliva
Venue: Lincola Aquaflash, Naples, Italy. Recognition: WBC/Lineal . Referee: Arthur Mercante.
Scorecards: 118-111, 116-112, 118-110.
Fight Summary: Making his first defence against an awkward, long-armed opponent, McGirt (144) eventually decided that his best form of attack was to work the body. The taller man of the two, Oliva (146¼) had certainly made life difficult for McGirt with his holding tactics, but apart from a bad moment in the eighth round when he was hurt by a right to the head the champion was rarely worried. By the halfway stage McGirt was hammering away at Oliva’s body, and in the 11th he had the latter in some trouble before coasting through the 12th to a well-earned points win.
12 January 1993. Buddy McGirt w pts 12 Genaro Leon
Venue: Paramount Theatre, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Arthur Mercante Jnr.
Scorecards: 118-113, 117-114, 117-111.
Fight Summary: Regardless of the fact that he injured his left arm ten days before the fight was due to take place, the champion had a reasonably comfortable time against Leon (147) apart from in the final two rounds. Although Leon was the bigger puncher of the pair, McGirt (147) had far too many skills for him, and it was not long before he was becoming frustrated and being deducted a point in the third for hitting and holding. Up to the end of the tenth it had been relatively easy for McGirt as he weaved around Leon’s fists without being unduly troubled, but after taking some heavy blows in the 11th he was given little respite in the 12th as the Mexican came out fast. Driven around the ring and hurt, McGirt was forced to fight back in order to save himself. And at the final bell the two men were still banging away at each other.
McGirt would next take on Pernell Whitaker, an extremely clever southpaw and former undefeated title holder at lightweight (IBF/WBA/WBA) and junior welterweight (IBF). With 31 wins to his name, the former Olympic champion Whitaker had lost just once, to Jose Luis Ramirez, and was a formidable fighting machine.
6 March 1993. Pernell Whitaker w pts 12 Buddy McGirt
Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Larry Hazzard.
Scorecards: 117-111, 115-113, 115-114.
Fight Summary: Having gone reasonably well for the opening six rounds against Whitaker (146¼), after it could be seen that the champion was struggling with an old injury to his left arm, the punches that had kept him in contention up until then, the left hook and jab, were going to be at a premium from there on. Even without the injury it would have been difficult for McGirt (147) to beat the highly-skilled southpaw, and at that moment it was bordering on the impossible. Although McGirt managed to stay in the fight it was reckoned by the end of the ninth he would need a knockout, and while he won two of the remaining three sessions he never came close to stopping Whitaker. On winning, Whitaker became a three-weight world champion.
10 September 1993. Pernell Whitaker drew 12 Julio Cesar Chavez
Venue: Alamo Dome, San Antonio, Texas, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Joe Cortez.
Scorecards: 115-113, 115-115, 115-115.
Fight Summary: In front of 60,000 paying customers Whitaker (145) retained his title after drawing with Chavez (142), but following the result it was difficult to find anyone who felt that the latter had come anywhere near getting a draw. And if one of the judges, Mickey Vann, had not taken a point away from Whitaker in the sixth for a low blow at his own discretion the champion would have won, rather than shared the verdict. Although Chavez did reasonably well in the earlier sessions Whitaker was always around, and from the seventh through to the ninth he was firmly in control, avoiding the challenger’s rushes and planting southpaw rights and lefts to head and body from his crouching stance. While the last round saw Whitaker on the run after being thumbed, despite it being Chavez’s best period he never came close to dropping his man.
9 April 1994. Pernell Whitaker w pts 12 Santos Cardona
Venue: The Scope, Norfolk, Virginia, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Al Rothenberg.
Scorecards: 119-109, 119-111, 119-109.
Fight Summary: Easily winning the battle of the jabs, the southpaw champion put on a great display against the very good Cardona (146½), and despite having to take the occasional solid right hand he never once looked like losing. Although his left eye began to swell in the sixth, Whitaker (147) kept on pumping in the right leads followed by sharp lefts. By the 11th Cardona was stumbling around the ring, seemingly lost. With the right lead continuing to find its mark, at the final bell Cardona was still there bravely doing his best, which unfortunately for him had not been good enough.
1 October 1994. Pernell Whitaker w pts 12 Buddy McGirt
Venue: The Scope, Norfolk, Virginia, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Larry O’Connell.
Scorecards: 117-110, 117-113, 118-112.
Fight Summary: Once again McGirt (146) showed that he had lost the use of his wonderful left hook through injury, and although he put the southpaw champion down with a lunging right in the second he was steadily outboxed over the duration. The moment Whitaker (147) got the right jab working, McGirt, whose left eye began to swell early in the fifth, spent the rest of the evening chasing shadows. McGirt’s surgeon, who had said that the fighter would find it difficult with his left shoulder in such bad shape, was proved correct.
26 August 1995. Pernell Whitaker w pts 12 Gary Jacobs
Venue: Convention Centre, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Ron Lipton.
Scorecards: 118-108, 118-109, 117-109.
Fight Summary: Closer than the scoreline indicated, the challenger gave Whitaker (147) a run for his money in a battle of southpaws, and at times had the upper hand, especially in the third, ninth and 11th. Proving to be stronger than Whitaker, the Scot often pushed the champion around, but was also made to pay when he walked forward discarding his guard. Once Whitaker started to use the ring more in the seventh he had more success, scoring well with the jab and solid left crosses, but back came Jacobs (147) in the ninth with a series of right hooks. In the tenth Whitaker’s speed was the deciding factor, but in the 11th he was on the floor after missing his target prior to Jacobs going after him with the right. The final session saw Jacobs deducted a point for holding before being dropped twice from big left crosses and saved by the final bell.
18 November 1995. Pernell Whitaker w co 6 Jake Rodriguez
Venue: Convention Centre, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Frank Cappuccino.
Fight Summary: Once a sparring partner for the champion, Rodriguez (146¼) gave it his best in a battle of southpaws, but while he showed a pretty good jab he lacked the power for the title to change hands. Once Whitaker (147) got himself going he began to send in single hard shots to Rodriguez’s jaw, and although the latter stood up to them by the fifth his right eye was swelling fast. By the sixth Rodriguez running second best in every department, with Whitaker’s jabs landing flush, and after taking a pounding a wide left hook to the body sent him down. Getting up at ‘seven’, with Rodriguez all at sea, a series of telling body shots put him down again to be counted out by the referee with 15 seconds of the session remaining.
12 April 1996. Pernell Whitaker w pts 12 Wilfredo Rivera
Venue: Atlantis Casino, St Maarten, Dutch Antilles. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Larry O’Connell.
Scorecards: 116-111, 115-113, 112-115.
Fight Summary: Although he dominated early on this was a poor performance by the champion, Rivera (147) giving him problems when switching from orthodox to southpaw and finishing the stronger. Following a clash of heads in the third round Whitaker (147) was left with a swelling over the left eye and Rivera with a cut on his forehead, and as the fight wore on the latter began to catch the champion with solid blows without ever giving him grief. However, it was not a great performance by Whitaker’s high standards, the eye damage obviously concerning him, but he made sure of winning by just doing enough.
20 September 1996. Pernell Whitaker w pts 12 Wilfredo Rivera
Venue: Hyatt Regency Knight Centre, Miami, Florida, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Frank Santore Jnr.
Scorecards: 113-112, 115-111, 115-113.
Fight Summary: Showing signs that he was beginning to slow up a bit the southpaw champion elected to slug it out with Rivera (147) at times, nearly paying the price, especially in the fifth when he was dropped. Quickly back on his feet Whitaker (147) went for Rivera in the sixth, and after the latter had been docked a point for going low he was floored by a cracking left counter moments later. Rivera had soaked up a lot of punishment in that session, but was soon back on course. By the tenth, after Whitaker had slowed, the Puerto Rican came on strong to win three of the last four rounds. Despite it not being enough it showed that Whitaker was not the fighter he once was and, at 32 years of age, would struggle once his legs gave up on him.
24 January 1997. Pernell Whitaker w rsc 11 Diosbelys Hurtado
Venue: Convention Centre, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Arthur Mercante Jnr.
Fight Summary: Once again the southpaw champion disappointed, but behind on points on all three cards and very close to losing his title to Hurtado (146) he finally found the punches that mattered to force a stoppage at 1.52 of the 11th round. Down from a short right to the head within the opening 12 seconds, Whitaker (147) boxed his way back before he was dropped again by a fast left-right to the head in the sixth. While the taller Hurtado appeared to have the beating of Whitaker at this stage of the contest, with the latter still working the body hard in an attempt to weaken his rival, eventually his pressure paid off. Coming in to the 11th it was obvious that Whitaker needed a stoppage, and after firing in a hard left to the head followed by a whole blast of punches Hurtado finally wilted and was left hanging over the middle strand when the referee intervened. Prior to the finish, both men had been docked points for illegal blows, Hurtado in the fifth and seventh and Whitaker in the ninth.
Oscar De La Hoya, the former undefeated champion at junior lightweight (WBO) and lightweight (IBF/WBO), and current WBC junior welterweight title holder, stepped up to become Whitaker’s next challenger. Unbeaten after 23 pro contests, the 1992 Olympic champion, De La Hoya, had skill in abundance to go with added power and supreme confidence.
12 April 1997. Oscar De La Hoya w pts 12 Pernell Whitaker
Venue: Thomas & Mack Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Mills Lane.
Scorecards: 115-111, 116-110, 116-110.
Fight Summary: At the end of the contest, Whitaker (146½), his right eye almost closed, could hardly believe he had lost to De La Hoya (146½), having dropped the latter in the ninth round and kept him at bay with an accurate right jab and a sound defence. Many people, other than the judges, agreed with him. Repeatedly going southpaw to confuse Whitaker, the WBC junior welterweight champion was the one who landed the heavier blows. And he always seemed to catch the eye with bursts of punches towards the end of rounds, but was unable to knock his man over however hard he tried. While Whitaker continually showed his experience, often forcing De La Hoya to punch down at him, he did not do enough scoring. This was ultimately the difference between the pair. On winning, De La Hoya became a four-weight world champion prior to relinquishing his junior welter title.
14 June 1997. Oscar De La Hoya w co 2 David Kamau
Venue: The Alamodrome, San Antonio, Texas, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Laurence Cole.
Fight Summary: Despite having a huge reach advantage the challenger was unable to make it work for him, as De La Hoya (147) carefully weighed him up in the opening round before going to work in the second. Sending in solid, fast jabs that hit the target, De La Hoya was soon busy, a cracking left hook having Kamau (146¾) over for the mandatory ‘eight’. Back on his feet Kamau was still gamely trying to present De La Hoya with a few problems, but following a round of heavy blows a smashing right-left to the head sent him to the floor to be counted out on the 2.54 mark.
13 September 1997. Oscar De La Hoya w pts 12 Hector Camacho
Venue: Thomas & Mack Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Richard Steele.
Scorecards: 119-108, 120-106, 120-105.
Fight Summary: Close to being dropped on several occasions before a three-punch attack sent him down in the ninth for only the third knockdown in his career, the challenger did little to show that he was up to beating De La Hoya (147). Concentrating on the body, De La Hoya tried hard to finish Camacho (147) off, but was unable to do so as the latter held like a limpet, moved at speed whenever challenged, and when he was deducted a point for holding and hitting in the 12th it just about summed up his title challenge. However, if it was just survival he wanted then Camacho achieved his aim, but in terms of winning a world title he wasted the opportunity.
6 December 1997. Oscar De La Hoya w rsc 8 Wilfredo Rivera
Venue: Convention Centre, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Joe Cortez.
Fight Summary: Taking his time, De La Hoya (147) picked it up towards the end of the first round, but after he had opened up with fast left jabs the challenger hit back with some blows of his own before disaster struck for him in the second when his right eye was sliced open by a short left uppercut. Surprisingly allowed to carry on, Rivera (147) somehow continued. However, when he was smashed to the floor by a solid right to the jaw in the fourth it looked all over. Beating the count, Rivera stayed in the contest mainly because De La Hoya let him. Although Rivera fought on bravely the end came when De La Hoya unleashed more combinations in the eighth, and with blood pouring from the Puerto Rican’s eye the referee called a halt with two seconds of the session remaining.
13 June 1998. Oscar De La Hoya w rsc 3 Patrick Charpentier
Venue: The Sunbowl, El Paso, Texas, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Laurence Cole.
Fight Summary: Showing his ruthless streak, the champion edged up on Charpentier (146) in the opening two rounds, having a good look at what the shorter man had to offer before unleashing his big punches in the third. Although Charpentier started the session with a rush, a fast right-left hook exploded on his head to put him down for ‘five’. On getting back into the fray two rib benders followed by a crunching left uppercut to the chin had the Frenchman over again, this time for ‘six’. Moments later, after De La Hoya (147) had sent Charpentier down for the third time with a right over the top the referee immediately called a halt, the finish being timed at 1.56.
18 September 1998. Oscar De La Hoya w rtd 8 Julio Cesar Chavez
Venue: Thomas & Mack Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Richard Steele.
Fight Summary: Making a cautious start against Chavez (144½) the champion was soon one step ahead, whether countering, throwing combinations with blurring speed or getting left hooks off. By the fifth, De La Hoya (146½) had probably shaded every round, but Chavez was still there connecting with left hooks and rights over the top despite being gradually ground down. Even though De La Hoya went up a gear in the sixth and seventh Chavez was staying put, and it was not until the champion began to sit on his punches more in the eighth that the fight ended. Having taken some terrific blows to the head and sent staggering back to his corner at the end of the session, it was announced during the interval that Chavez had retired.
13 February 1999. Oscar De La Hoya w pts 12 Ike Quartey
Venue: Thomas & Mack Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Mitch Halpern.
Scorecards: 116-112, 116-113, 114-115.
Fight Summary: This was not the fight that most people expected, the challenger more than giving De La Hoya (147) a run for his money, and many even agreed with one of the judges who had the man from Ghana winning by one point. Prior to the sixth neither man had dominated, it being extremely intense, but in that session first Quartey (146½) was dropped and then De La Hoya before the latter had to endure many heavy right hands. His left eye was also beginning to swell. Two of the next three sessions saw De La Hoya taking more heavy blows prior to him coming through to win the last three rounds on all of the cards. Knowing that the 12th had to be a big round for him De La Hoya charged from his corner, throwing punches, before dropping Quartey with a cracking left hook. Back on his feet, although the Ghanaian was unsteady he somehow weathered everything that was coming his way. It was also clear that near the end of the session De La Hoya, having punched himself out, would not be getting the 10-7 score he so badly wanted.
22 May 1999. Oscar De La Hoya w rsc 11 Oba Carr
Venue: Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC/Lineal. Referee: Richard Steele.
Fight Summary: Up against a clever fighter in Carr (147), the champion showed a marked improvement after tightening his defence and letting the punches go right from the opening bell. Putting Carr down with a left hook to the head halfway through the first round before hurting him again with a big uppercut on the inside, even though De La Hoya (147) showed his intent he seemed happy to cruise along with the jab picking up the points. In the seventh a clash of heads saw De La Hoya cut under the left eye, for which Carr had a point deducted. Then, a little later in the session a left hook that went low saw the challenger lose another point. Although he won the ninth, by the tenth Carr knew that he could only capture the title if he could score a knockout, but it was De La Hoya who struck next. Having driven in some hurtful body shots in the 11th, De La Hoya then found a great left counter to the jaw to drop Carr and after the latter got to his feet and was unable to co-ordinate the referee stopped the contest, the finish being timed at 0.55.
Next time out, in a battle of unbeaten fighters, De La Hoya would take on Felix Trinidad in a contest that could unify the IBF and WBC titles. Tall, muscular and powerful, with skill to match, Trinidad would be meeting a man who would push him all the way. Having won the IBF title when beating Maurice Blocker, Trinidad had made successful defences against Luis Garcia, Anthony Stephens, Hector Camacho, Luis Ramon Campas, Oba Carr, Roger Turner, Larry Barnes, Rodney Moore, Freddie Pendleton, Ray Lovato, Kevin Lueshing, Mahenge Zulu, Pernell Whitaker and Hugo Pineda, and was on 35 straight wins, 30 of them ending inside the distance since starting out as a pro in 1990.
18 September 1999. Felix Trinidad w pts 12 Oscar De La Hoya
Venue: Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBC/Lineal. Referee: Mitch Halpern.
Scorecards: 115-113, 115-114, 114-114.
Fight Summary: In most eyes De La Hoya (147) retained his WBC and lineal titles and won the IBF crown, but the judges saw it differently when giving their votes for aggression rather than quality boxing. It was really a case of Trinidad (147) throwing more punches, many of them not landing cleanly, and De La Hoya doubling up with the jab, more often than not finding the target. By the end of the fifth Trinidad’s left eye was damaged, and in the sixth De La Hoya moved in with excellent combinations which he repeatedly threw from there onwards before tiring towards the end. The last three rounds saw De La Hoya moving away from Trinidad, which could have given the impression that he was being chased down, whereas in reality he was allowing the one-dimensional Puerto Rican to merely follow him around until the final bell.
After Trinidad relinquished the IBF and WBC versions of the title on 3 March 2000 on winning the WBA junior middleweight title, De La Hoya was reinstated as the WBC champion. The top-rated De La Hoya’s first defence since being reappointed as the WBC champion would be against third-ranked Shane Mosley, the former undefeated IBF world lightweight champion, in what should also be seen as a battle for my version of the ‘world’ title. A stylish box-fighter, Mosley had run up 34 straight wins coming into the fight, having beaten Wilfredo Rivera to augment his high rating among the welters.
17 June 2000. Shane Mosley w pts 12 Oscar De La Hoya
Venue: Staples Centre, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Lou Moret.
Scorecards: 116-112, 115-113, 113-115.
Fight Summary: Outspeeding the champion after stepping up two weight divisions, Mosley (147) came from behind over the last half to snatch victory by what turned out to be a close margin. Both men went for the body and both threw blurring punches to the head, but just when it looked likely that De La Hoya (146½) would get on top Mosley upped his work-rate. The longer it went on the more frantic it became, and by the tenth De La Hoya was feeling the pace whilst Mosley was getting in and out with sharp scoring punches. The final session saw both men tired, but it was Mosley, punching more cleanly and deliberately than De La Hoya, who was making more of a show at that stage. The punch stats had the third-ranked Mosley landing in total 284 to 257 blows for De La Hoya, the number one man in the division, having the best of the jabs with 110 to 92 and power punches with 174 to 165.
4 November 2000. Shane Mosley w rsc 6 Antonio Diaz
Venue: MSG Theatre, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Arthur Mercante.
Fight Summary: Stepping up from junior welter seemed to be too much of an ask for Diaz (146½), especially when facing someone of the champion’s calibre, and after being smashed to the canvas by a fast burst of combination punches in the second round it became blatantly obvious that he was out of his depth. For the next few sessions it was almost as if Mosley (146½) was allowing Diaz a stay of execution, but in the sixth he struck with a terrific right to the head to drop the latter. Up almost immediately, the tough Diaz took several more hard rights before another smash sent him crashing. With Diaz floundering but wishing to continue, the referee, a magnificent 80-years of age, made a perfect stoppage on the 1.36 mark.
10 March 2001. Shane Mosley w rtd 5 Shannan Taylor
Venue: Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Vic Drakulich.
Fight Summary: Giving a breath-taking display of boxing the champion had too much of everything for Taylor (147), who had courage a plenty but lacked the skill, power and speed required to deal with an opponent with such qualities. Towards the end of the first round, and having already been blinded by the speed of Mosley (147), the Australian was dumped by a flashing right hand to the head before being saved by the bell. Punching to the body to slow Taylor down, Mosley was merely biding his time. Although Taylor tried to rally, in the fourth he was deducted a point for roughhouse tactics before punches rained in on him again during the fifth, ending the session having to take a terrific blow to the body that almost doubled him up. It was no surprise when Taylor’s corner retired their man during the interval leading up to the sixth, stating that the protection of the fighter was paramount.
21 July 2001. Shane Mosley w rsc 3 Adrian Stone
Venue: Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Jay Nady.
Fight Summary: Starting fast, the challenger went forward with the jab trying to take Mosley (147) out of his stride during the opening two rounds. Although those sessions were given to Mosley his work was not of the standard expected, missing with far too many punches as Stone (147), pressing forward, went for the body. However, the third round saw Mosley beginning to move better, but despite hurting Stone to the body he bided his time, waiting for the opportunity to strike rather than punching away at his opponent who was moving from side to side and showing a high guard. Eventually measuring Stone with lefts Mosley banged in three rights to the top of the head, and when the target opened up he cracked in a fast left hook-right to the jaw that sent the Englishman crashing. Not bothering to pick up the count, the referee called the fight off on the 2.01 mark so that Stone could be tended to as quickly as possible.
Mosley’s next defence would come against Vernon Forrest, who had recently forfeited the IBF belt he had won when beating Raul Frank after deciding to challenge Mosley for the WBC crown. Tall for his weight and fast, and with a heavy right hand to compliment his skill, Forrest came into the fight with 33 (26 inside the distance) wins and a technical draw on his record. This fight also involved The Ring Championship Belt.
26 January 2002. Vernon Forrest w pts 12 Shane Mosley
Venue: MSG Theatre, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: WBC/The Ring. Referee: Steve Smoger.
Scorecards: 118-108, 117-108, 115-110.
Fight Summary: In what was a huge upset, Forrest (147) dropped the champion twice and hurt him badly on more than one occasion prior to winning the fight by a unanimous decision. When Forrest, who had been the last man to beat Mosley (146) in the amateurs, used his height-and-reach advantages he neutralised much of the champion’s work by not allowing him to fire away at close quarters. With equally fast hands, Forrest’s added power also stopped Mosley in his tracks at times, and when the latter did get through, more often than not he was held in a vice-like grip. In the second session heads came together, leaving Mosley cut on his scalp and dazed before being dropped by heavy rights, which obviously affected his game plan from thereon in. Never at any time was Mosley able to work Forrest out, being in trouble again in the tenth after taking heavy belts to the body and smashed with solid right hands. In only three rounds did Mosley land more than a dozen punches, testament to the new champion’s control over him.
20 July 2002. Vernon Forrest w pts 12 Shane Mosley
Venue: Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. Recognition: WBC/The Ring. Referee: Laurence Cole.
Scorecards: 115-113, 116-112, 117-111.
Fight Summary: Having proved to be the master of Mosley (147) in their first fight the champion continued to be the latter’s bogeyman when repeating the dose in what was a contest without thrills, possibly due to both men knowing each other too well. As before, Forrest (147) used his extra reach to keep Mosley at bay. Due to the continual clutching by both men the fight never flowed, and because there were no knockdowns the interest ebbed away despite hard punches being thrown on occasion. Mosley’s best round was the ninth when he landed several good shots, but unable to follow up as Forrest moved away by the 12th it was clear that the latter would remain in control.
The next challenger for Forrest would be Nicaragua’s Ricardo Mayorga, a wild fighter with a hard punch in either fist. He was also a drinker and a smoker. Having been a pro since 1993, he had recently won the WBA title when beating Andrew Lewis. In 28 contests, his record showed that he had 23 wins, two draws (one of them being technical) and had lost three times.
25 January 2003. Ricardo Mayorga w rsc 3 Vernon Forrest
Venue: Pechanga Resort & Casino, Temecula, California, USA. Recognition: WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Marty Denkin.
Fight Summary: In a unification battle, which also involved The Ring Championship Belt, the WBA's Mayorga (146) proved to be too strong for Forrest (146½), the WBC champion, the latter being dragged into a war of attrition by his powerful rival. On the attack from the opening bell the wild-swinging Mayorga, smashing in big left hooks and heavy rights, put Forrest down with a head punch. Although it did not look a genuine knockdown it was classified as one. Following this, Forrest took the fight to Mayorga in the second round, matching him when whacking in left hooks to the body and right uppercuts to the head. There was more of the same in the third, but after having no effect on Mayorga and being hurt by a solid right to the temple, the WBC champion was sent to the floor by lefts and rights as the Nicaraguan unloaded. Despite getting back on his feet Forrest appeared unstable, and at 2.06 of the session the referee called the fight off to make sure that the latter took no further punishment that night.
12 July 2003. Ricardo Mayorga w pts 12 Vernon Forrest
Venue: Orleans Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Jay Nady.
Scorecards: 116-112, 115-114, 114-114. Proving that his earlier victory over the challenger was no fluke, Mayorga (146) got down to business right from the opening bell, swinging in punches from both hands. Slipping down on unsteady legs on occasion, although Forrest’s left eye was swelling by the sixth he came on strong as the fight progressed and had closed the gap before Mayorga hit back hard. When the action was over Forrest (147) thought that he had done enough to warrant the verdict, especially as Mayorga missed with more than he landed, but it was not to be.
Mayorga’s next defence would be against Cory Spinks, the son of Leon Spinks, who would be defending the IBF title that he had recently taken from Michelle Piccirillo. Coming into the contest with 31 wins and two losses on his tab, Spinks, a clever southpaw, had also beaten Jorge Vaca, Leonard Townsend and Larry Marks among others
13 December 2003. Cory Spinks w pts 12 Ricardo Mayorga
Venue: Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Earl Morton.
Scorecards: 117-110, 114-112, 114-114.
Fight Summary: In a fight involving three championship belts and recognition from The Ring, the IBF's Spinks (146) eventually won the majority verdict. However, in so doing he had to rely on Mayorga (146) being deducted two points for hitting after the bell in the fifth and holding behind the head in the 11th. Spinks, who was too slippery and by the far the better stylist of the pair, had to contend with wild rushes from Mayorga throughout, but sticking to his boxing he was often able to bang in countering blows before moving on. According to Mayorga, Spinks should have been counted on at least three times. He certainly had a legitimate case in the last round when Spinks was dropped by a right to the body. Unfortunately for the Nicaraguan, because his style was not always conducive to the rules the officials saw it as being more of a push than a punch.
10 April 2004. Cory Spinks w pts 12 Zab Judah
Venue: Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Joe Cortez.
Scorecards: 116-111, 114-112, 114-112.
Fight Summary: This clash of southpaws saw Spinks (147) outscore his challenger in a contest that was more like a fencing match between very clever tacticians. Behind on the cards, Judah (146) tried to step it up in the 11th, only to be put down by a countering left to the jaw, and although getting up smartly and boxing well for the rest of the session it seemed that he had lost his chance. Having to win by a knockout Judah opened up in the 12th, going close on a couple of occasions before ramming in a solid left that dropped Spinks heavily. On his feet at ‘five’, but on unsteady legs, Spinks was forced to take a solid right hook that had him holding on immediately prior to the bell to end the fight.
4 September 2004. Cory Spinks w pts 12 Miguel Angel Gonzalez
Venue: Bay Events Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Joe Cortez.
Scorecards: 118-109, 118-109, 118-109.
Fight Summary: Putting up all his championship belts, Spinks (147) was just too big and too fast for Gonzalez (146½) to handle. In the main, as Gonzalez pushed forward with the right the champion would counter him with southpaw left-right combinations. The former world lightweight champion obviously thought his best chance lay in going for the body, having had fair success in this direction before being docked a point in the eighth for a serious low blow. Although the Mexican went well in the ninth, following that it was nearly all Spinks, the latter giving an excellent display when landing jab after jab prior to moving away and countering with quality shots from both hands.
Spinks’ next challenger would be a previous victim in Zab Judah, the former IBF and WBO junior welterweight champion, who had 32 wins and technical draw from 35 contests, Kostya Tszyu being the only other man to have defeated him. A skilful southpaw, he had beaten Angel Beltre, Micky Ward, Junior Witter, Terron Millett and DeMarcus Corley.
5 February 2005. Zab Judah w rsc 9 Cory Spinks
Venue: Savvis Centre, St Louis, Missouri, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Armando Garcia.
Fight Summary: Gaining revenge for the defeat Spinks (147) inflicted on him five months earlier, and at the same time taking over the championship belts, Judah (146) proved emphatically that he was the better man on the night. Making a good start in this battle of southpaws after deciding that speed was in his favour, the former IBF and undefeated WBO junior welterweight title holder was soon beating Spinks to the jab. Judah was travelling so fast, Spinks just could not find him. Although it looked as though Judah was possibly fading in the fifth and sixth he came back strongly in the seventh when he appeared to have dropped Spinks with a left cross-right hook, but the referee failed to recognise it as a knockdown, stating that the bell had already sounded. By the ninth, however, Judah had taken over completely and, after landing punch after punch to put Spinks down, when the latter got to his feet he was chased, lurching along the ropes, before being rescued by the referee with 11 seconds of the session remaining.
14 May 2005. Zab Judah w rsc 3 Cosme Rivera
Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Joe Cortez.
Fight Summary: Defending three championship belts for the first time, and not wishing to lose one of them by default, Judah (146½) quickly had Rivera (147) in some difficulty when smashing him down in the opener with a southpaw left to the jaw. Back on his feet but dazed, Rivera was soon on the deck again following a flurry of blows. Although he lasted out the round and got through the second he would not be so lucky thereafter. Appearing to take it easy in the early stages of the third Judah eventually moved in on Rivera, and following a left uppercut to the jaw another flurry of punches had the latter down. That was it as far as the referee was concerned, the contest being called off at 2.11 of the session.
Carlos Baldomir would be Judah’s next challenger. With 41 wins, six draws and nine losses to his name, Baldomir had earned his title shot by beating Miguel Angel Rodriguez (w pts 12 at the United Centre, Chicago, Illinois on 21 May 2005) in an eliminator. He had also defeated Joshua Clottey and Jose Luis Cruz.
7 January 2006. Carlos Baldomir w pts 12 Zab Judah
Venue: MSG Theatre, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Arthur Mercante Jnr.
Scorecards: 115-113, 115-112, 114-113.
Fight Summary: After reeling off five of the opening six rounds, when the southpaw champion was caught heavily by a Baldomir (146¼) overarm right in the seventh he was all at sea as the latter desperately tried to finish him off in what was a 10-8 round on all three cards. Despite Baldomir being cut over both eyes, the left in the ninth and the right in the 11th, he continued to crank up the pressure as Judah (146¾) tired. Coming into the final session there was still a chance that Judah could pull it off, but that was before he was outworked by a rampant Baldomir.
Baldomir forfeited recognition from both the WBA and IBF when refusing to pay the sanctioning fees.
22 July 2006. Carlos Baldomir w rsc 9 Arturo Gatti
Venue: Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: WBC/The Ring. Referee: Wayne Hedgpeth.
Fight Summary: Outboxed from the beginning, his hard career catching up with him as the rounds passed by, Gatti (147) gave it everything he had left against a champion who continually caught him with the jab and was a hardy customer to boot. In the eighth it was clear that Gatti, cut under the right eye, was struggling as Baldomir (147) raised the tempo, and he twice went to the floor from what were classified as slips but seemed more than that. Coming out for the ninth intending to finish there and then, with Baldomir smashing in several heavy blows a left hook saw Gatti crash to the floor. Although Gatti just about made it up he was rescued by the referee at 2.50 of the session after he had gone down again.
On 15 August it was announced that Floyd Mayweather Jnr had relinquished the IBF title he had won from Zab Judah in order to challenge Baldomir for the WBA crown, rather than defend against the little known Mark Suarez. A brilliant box-fighter of the highest order, Mayweather was an undefeated three-weight world title holder for the WBC at junior lightweight, lightweight and junior welterweight as well as having held the IBF title at welterweight. Coming into the ring with 36 straight wins under his belt, the hugely talented, undefeated Mayweather was not expected to falter.
4 November 2006. Floyd Mayweather Jnr w pts 12 Carlos Baldomir
Venue: Bay Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC/The Ring. Referee: Jay Nady.
Scorecards: 120-108, 120-108, 118-110.
Fight Summary: Despite being outjabbed and losing the opening two rounds, the champion was working the body well while looking to slow Mayweather (146) down in the latter stages. However, by the sixth Baldomir (147) was being outboxed and unable to find a way through Mayweather's defences. It was later learned that Mayweather was using his right hand sparingly from here onwards as had injured it, but it made no difference to the way the fight was going. An easy win for Mayweather, the CompuBox stats showed that the latter scored with 199 from 458 thrown, while Baldomir had landed just 79 times from his 670 output.
8 December 2007. Floyd Mayweather Jnr w rsc 10 Ricky Hatton
Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC/The Ring. Referee: Joe Cortez.
Fight Summary: Rattling up the rounds against the tough Hatton (145) the champion showed his class when overcoming a rival who was still in the fight by the fifth round, even if he was behind on the cards. It was after Hatton was deducted a point for hitting Mayweather (147) on the back of the head in the sixth that the latter began to warm up, picking his punches with deliberation and drawing his man on to him. Having been cut over the right eye in the third Hatton ploughed on, but in the tenth he ran headlong into a tremendous left hook that smashed him to the floor, via a ring post. Although Hatton made it to his feet and was allowed to box on, when he was caught heavily by a left-right-left the referee stopped the contest just as he was collapsing to the floor. The finish was timed at 1.35 of the tenth.
After Mayweather announced on 6 June 2008 that he was retiring, The Ring magazine’s version of the world title became vacant on 29 June. Further to that, when the top-ranked Cotto was contracted to defend his WBA title against Antonio Margarito, rated at number four, it would also involve my version of the ‘world’ title. This would be a contest between two front-foot fighters who would not give an inch. Cotto had been an undefeated WBO junior welterweight champion before moving up to win the vacant WBA 147lbs title, beating Carlos Quintana, and had then gone on to make successful defences against Oktay Urkal, Zab Judah, Shane Mosley and Alfonso Gomez. He would be bringing 32 straight wins into the fight, while Margarito, who had been a former WBO and undefeated IBF champion, had 36 wins, five losses and one technical draw on his tab. Having beaten Antonio Diaz for the WBO title, Margarito made successful defences against Danny Perez, Andrew Lewis, Hercules Kyvelos, Sebastian Lujan, Kermit Cintron, Manuel Gomez, Joshua Clottey before losing his belt to Paul Williams. He next won the IBF crown, defeating Cintron, prior to handing back the belt in favour of meeting Cotto.
26 July 2008. Antonio Margarito w rsc 11 Miguel Cotto
Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Kenny Bayless.
Fight Summary: Having given up the IBF title to take Cotto (147) on, Margarito (147) justified his decision when stopping the champion at 2.05 of the 11th. The faster and more precise Cotto had gone well at first, taking four of the opening five rounds, but after Margarito stepped it up in the sixth he took over when gradually grinding his man down. By the latter stages of the tenth Cotto was being overwhelmed, and into the 11th he was dropped by a heavy left and two straight rights. Although he was quickly back into the fray, Cotto was soon decked again when he was blasted to the floor by two rights to the jaw, having been sent to the bottom strand earlier in the round without a count. At that point, with the towel on its way into the ring, the referee called a halt to proceedings.
Margarito’s first challenger would come in the shape of Shane Mosley, who had beaten Ricardo Mayorga to get the job. A three-weight world champion, Mosley would be coming to the ring with 45 wins, five losses and a technical draw on his tab.
24 January 2009. Shane Mosley w rsc 9 Antonio Margarito
Venue: Staples Centre, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Raul Caiz.
Fight Summary: At the age of 38, Mosley (147) showed that he was still a player when stopping the champion in the ninth round, having given a tip-top performance in the art of boxing from the opening bell. Taking control from the off, with jabs and solid rights going in up and down, just when it looked as though Mosley was tiring from his exertions in the fourth Margarito (145¾) was staggered by some heavy right-handers. In the sixth Margarito was badly hurt by another batch of rights, and in the eighth he was eventually dropped after taking several punches from both hands full on. Getting up to be saved by the bell, Margarito had nowhere to hide in the ninth, being caught by blow after blow until the referee, seeing the towel coming in, came to his rescue 43 seconds into the round. It was no surprise that Margarito collapsed to the deck once Mosley had been pulled off him.
Initially billed for the WBA title, Mosley’s contest with Floyd Mayweather jnr set for 1 May 2010 went ahead without their backing after the latter refused to pay the sanctioning fee.
1 May 2010. Floyd Mayweather Jnr w pts 12 Shane Mosley
Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Referee: Kenny Bayless.
Scorecards: 119-109, 119-109, 118-110.
Fight Summary: Originally contracted to be a defence of Mosley’s WBA title it went ahead without their support after Mayweather (146) refused to pay the sanctioning fee. As expected, Mayweather won clearly, although he had to endure a tough second round after being badly hurt by two big overarm rights to the head. However, he would not get caught again. Having not boxed for close on eight months it took a while for him to get into gear, but once he had got the left jab going there was no stopping him. At 38 years of age and feeling the pace, Mosley (147) could not keep up with the younger man, and although he stayed in the fight he went further and further behind on the cards. As well as that, he had to take some heavy right hands, especially in the seventh, and despite going looking for his man he never really got close again.
17 September 2011. Floyd Mayweather Jnr w co 4 Victor Ortiz
Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Joe Cortez.
Fight Summary: Right from the opening bell this was Mayweather's fight as Ortiz (147) continually walked into countering blows and was outspeeded throughout. There were moments of joy for the southpaw WBC champion, but they were few and far between as Mayweather (146½) placed himself exactly where he wanted to be. Having rushed Mayweather in the fourth and failed to land effectively, Ortiz was deducted a point for a deliberate head butt. There would be no way back for him after that as moments later an angry but focussed Mayweather slammed in a heavy left hook to the head, and with Ortiz still looking towards the referee he was decked by a right cross. Unable to get to his feet, Ortiz was counted out at 2.59 of the session after ignoring the maxim of protecting yourself at all times. Now fighting at two different weights simultaneously, Mayweather won the WBA junior middleweight title when outscoring the champion, Miguel Cotto, over 12 rounds at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas on on 5 May 2012.
4 May 2013. Floyd Mayweather Jnr w pts 12 Robert Guerrero
Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC/The Ring. Referee: Robert Byrd.
Scorecards: 117-111, 117-111, 117-111.
Fight Summary: With the WBC title on the line, Mayweather (146) controlled the fight with some ease against the WBC 'interim' champion, Guerrero (147), who was outclassed most of the way. Although Guerrero, a southpaw, won the seventh and 12th rounds according to the judges it was more to do with Mayweather taking time out than the challenger, who was cut over the left eye in the eighth. Picking his punches carefully throughout as Guerrero came on to them, Mayweather proved that there was still plenty of life left in his 36-year-old legs.
3 May 2014. Floyd Mayweather Jnr w pts 12 Marcos Maidana
Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Tony Weeks.
Scorecards: 116-112, 117-111, 114-114.
Fight Summary: With Mayweather's WBC title on the line in a contest that also saw Maidana's WBA crown thrown into the mix for good measure, the latter made the running when never giving his opponent a minute's rest. Defending himself at all times as Maidana (146½) continually tore in, by the halfway point Mayweather (146) was beginning to put some distance between himself and the Argentine, banging out the jab and looking to go to the body before moving on. With the ninth and tenth going to Mayweather on all three cards, Maidana continued to force the pace in the last two sessions but was unable to turn things around. Mayweather, who finished with a cut over his right eye and a swelling on the left cheek, was ultimately far too clever for the tough Maidana who fought above expectation.
13 September 2014. Floyd Mayweather Jnr w pts 12 Marcos Maidana
Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Kenny Bayless.
Scorecards: 116-111, 116-111, 115-112.
Fight Summary: This was also surprisingly seen by the WBC as involving Mayweather's 154lbs title as well as the welter title. Yet again a relatively tough fight, the champion being forced to work at all times, Maidana (146) was always there or thereabouts. Although Mayweather (146½) was by far the better boxer, Maidana was continually trying to rough him up even though he was forced to take some heavy shots in return. In the ninth Mayweather complained that Maidana had bitten into his left glove, hurting his fingers and numbing his hand from thereon in. When Mayweather was blatantly pushed over in the tenth a point was deducted from Maidana's total, which only made the latter even wilder. Following a wild right that hurt Mayweather, and with blows being tossed in from all angles, the champion calmly boxed his way through to the final bell without putting himself in the firing line.
2 May 2015. Floyd Mayweather Jnr w pts 12 Manny Pacquiao
Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA/WBC/WBO/The Ring. Referee: Kenny Bayless.
Scorecards: 116-112, 118-110, 116-112.
Fight Summary: Despite some claiming that this would be 'The Fight of the Century, it was nothing of the kind as the ultra-clever Mayweather (146) thwarted the WBO's Pacquiao (145), while taking over the latter's crown in the process. Every now and again Pacquiao would bang in a barrage of blows from his southpaw stance, most of which would not hit the target due to Mayweather's brilliant defensive skills, especially when on the ropes. Although there was not much in it at the halfway stage, Mayweather upped his work-rate from thereon in, his left jab and single shots picking Pacquiao out, and he rubber stamped it when clearly taking the last two sessions. According to the CompuBox stats, Mayweather landed 148 to Pacquiao's 81, the Filipino's low punch rate being explained by the fact that he sustained a torn muscle in his right shoulder three weeks earlier.
Further to an ultimatum to comply with WBO rules, Mayweather was stripped of the WBO title on 6 July.
12 September 2015. Floyd Mayweather Jnr w pts 12 Andre Berto
Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Kenny Bayless.
Scorecards: 120-108, 117-111, 118-110.
Fight Summary: In what Mayweather (146) stated would be his last contest, he took on Berto (145), the WBA 'interim' champion. To be fair, Berto was never in with a chance against a master of defensive boxing, an expert in laying traps before drawing opponents into them. Even when Berto got close in the seventh he was punished by solid uppercuts to deter such a notion. Berto's battle plan had been to attack the body, but whenever he got close to Mayweather the opportunity quickly disappeared. One of the judges gave Berto three rounds and another gave him two, probably in sessions where Mayweather stopped working while the challenger was at least trying to make the fight. Having made the toughest of sports look easy it was rumoured that Mayweather would retire on 49 straight wins.
Following Mayweather’s announcement that he had retired from boxing the day after the fight, recognition from The Ring magazine eventually lapsed on 19 September, although it took some time for the WBC to accept that Mayweather was not coming back before vacating their title on 4 November. My version of the ‘world’ title would be on the line once again when the second-ranked Keith Thurman, the WBA champion, met Danny Garcia, the WBC title holder, in a battle to unify two titles. Garcia had been an undefeated WBC/WBA champion at junior welterweight before stepping up to beat Robert Guerrero for the WBC welter title. Unbeaten after 33 contests, he was a busy fighter who hit solidly with either hand. His opponent, Thurman, who was nicknamed ‘One Time’ for his punching ability, had won the WBA title from Guerrero before successfully defending his belt against Luis Collazo and Shawn Porter. He came to the ring with 33 (22 inside the distance) wins and a technical draw in 34 contests.
4 March 2017. Keith Thurman w pts 12 Danny Garcia
Venue: Barclays Centre, Brooklyn, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Michael Griffin.
Scorecards: 116-112, 115-113, 113-115.
Fight Summary: In what was a unification bout, the WBA’s Thurman (146¼) met Garcia (146½), who held the WBC belt. Both men got away well with Thurman landing the more eye-catching punches but, regardless of that, Garcia was always in the fight, often targeting the body. Even in the early stages it had become tactical as neither man wished to take too many risks, although Thurman’s work was more varied. Coming into the final three rounds, Thurman appeared to be ahead before inexplicably coming off the pace and being badly hurt by a left hook to the jaw in tenth. Although Thurman received the decision it could have easily gone the other way. Out of action since March 2017, Thurman handed in his WBC belt on 25 April 2018 following elbow surgery and a recent hand injury.
26 January 2019. Keith Thurman w pts 12 Josesito Lopez
Venue: Barclays Centre, Brooklyn, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Steve Willis.
Scorecards: 117-109, 115-111, 113-113.
Fight Summary: Having been out of the ring for close on two years, the champion was pressed much harder by Lopez (146½) than thought possible by those looking after him. At first things went well for Thurman (146½), especially in the second when he beat Lopez to the punch with a cracking left hook which saw the latter take a count of ‘six’ before being saved by the bell to end the session, but from thereon in it was more of a struggle for him. Always in the fight, landing well to the body, Lopez had a good sixth before it got even better for him in the seventh. After catching Thurman with a left right, Lopez chased his man around the ring and did all he could to finish matters, but somehow the champion survived a 10-8 round despite the lack of a knockdown. Although Lopez went all out for the remainder of the contest and finished better it was Thurman’s better work that earned him the majority decision.
Manny Pacquiao, the 40-year-old WBA ‘second tier’ champion would be next for Thurman. An eight-weight world champion, Pacquiao had lost the WBO welter title to Jeff Horn in a big upset in July 2017 before coming back to pick up Lucas Martin Matthysse’s WBA ‘second tier’ belt and then make a successful defence against Adrien Broner to secure a shot at Thurman.
20 July 2019. Manny Pacquiao w pts 12 Keith Thurman
Venue: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Kenny Bayless.
Scorecards: 115-112, 115-112, 113-114.
Fight Summary: Up against a 40-year-old challenger in Pacquiao (146½), one of the wonders of the ring, Thurman (146½) was going quite well in the opener until caught napping by a southpaw straight left to the body, followed by a solid right jab to the head that dropped him. Although he got back into the fight by the third, Thurman was never able to take control and was forced to give and take. Having had his nose damaged in the fifth after Pacquiao landed heavily, Thurman probably won the next four rounds after getting his jab going, but in the tenth he was badly hurt by a hurtful body shot and went on the run. However, he came back strongly in the 11th when catching Pacquiao with a terrific right cross, but unable to follow it up he had to settle for the split decision going against him.