Archive for April 24, 2012

Playin’ It Soaked to the Bone: Carruthers vs. Songkitrat 1954 #SMH

Playin’ It Soaked to the Bone: Carruthers vs. Songkitrat 1954 #SMH

By Aaron Lloyd

While the sport of boxing has produced its fair share of controversial and noteworthy moments in its illustrious and remarkable history, there are a handful of events that stand out as being truly beyond belief.   In fact, those with even the slightest familiarity with the sport know enough to always expect the unexpected, and occasionally anticipate the truly bizarre.  Parachuting party crashers, dismembered ears, nervous breakdowns, we have seen it all in the oft squared circle of “distrust,” and you can rest assured that, going forward, the future of boxing will contain no shortage of abnormal anecdotes.      

One unusual event of note, and the feature of this segment, was the circumstances surrounding the bantamweight championship between Australia’s Jimmy Carruthers and Thailand’s Chamroen Songkitrat in 1954, which truly gave new meaning to the phrase, “the show must go on.”  Carruthers, recently crowned as champ, agreed to travel to his challenger’s backyard in Bangkok, and the anticipation of a major world title bout, drove locals and “not-so locals” into a frenzy as they clamored to obtain tickets and accommodations.  Tens of thousands poured into the city by bus, bike, and any other mode of transportation conceivable.  Unfortunately, along with this human convergence came another, more unwelcomed guest that proceeded to disrupt the preparations to an alarming degree; rain-and lots of it.  It rained monsoonal quantities over the National Stadium Gymnasium (a 60,000 seat open air venue) for a solid week, turning the area into a sloppy, soggy nightmare, and putting local organizers on the spot regarding a potential cancellation; and as the event drew closer, there appeared to be no end in sight.

On May 2, the day of the fight, the event planners, out of fear of large scale rioting, had no choice but to go through with the fight, despite the unsavory and potentially dangerous conditions.  Nat Fleisher, Ring Magazine head and boxing historian noted, “The ring looked like a lake, with more than an inch of water covering the entire canvas,” and many agreed it was indeed one of the strangest environments for a major world title fight in boxing’s modern era.

As you can imagine, the fight was an absolute slapstick affair with both fighters swinging wildly, sloshing around, and falling time and time again onto the canvas due to the lack of footing.  At one point, Carruthers missed with a right hand, and actually cut his mouth as he fell.  So frustrated was Carruthers that he suggested they remove their shoes and fight barefoot in order to gain some semblance of traction; and that’s when things truly got bizarre.

In addition to the rain there was also a great deal of wind circling the arena that did more than just cause a chill.  In rounds three and nine, the wind blew so hard that the riggings holding the lights broke loose, causing glass to come crashing down onto the already treacherous ring surface.  Twice, the bout was halted so that shards of broken glass could be swept away, and yet the fighting continued.   As if the potential hazard of another man wanting to take your head off weren’t enough, now both fighters were forced to endure lacerations on their feet from the residual glass left on the canvas. 

The two continued to fight on unabated however, and after twelve rounds of brutal action, Jimmy Carruthers was declared the winner, thus retaining his title by way of the referee’s 7-5 score.  Upon hearing the verdict the crowd immediately began to protest, and voice their violent-fused disapproval, forcing Songkitrat to take the microphone in an attempt to quell the uprising that was developing.  Songkitrat praised his opponent, and succeed in preventing a full scale riot, thus bringing an end to one of the most bizarre, and hard to believe moments in modern ring history.

With the win, Jimmy Carruthers improved to 19-0 with 11 knockouts, and after the bout he immediately announced his retirement from the ring.  More than seven years later he would attempt a comeback, but after losing four of six fights, he would officially call it quits in June of 1962, finishing with an overall record of 21-4 with 13 knockouts.  For Singkitrat, who had a much more extensive Muay Thai background, he would fight just four more times (losing three) finishing with a record of 7-5-1 with 2 knockouts.  In terms of boxing history, however,  these two warriors will forever be remembered for their barefoot, rain soaked battle (the only one of its kind in the gloved era), that could have well been the first fight to have ever been stopped due to a cut on a fighter’s foot.  Talk about occupational hazards.  Think about that the next time your own working conditions start to get you down.

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WHAT IF? KEN BUCHANAN -VS- MANDO RAMOS

WHAT IF? KEN BUCHANAN -VS- MANDO RAMOS

By Jim Amato

In the time that I have followed boxing there are many matches that could have happened and should have happened.  Some, like Archie Moore-Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta-Rocky Graziano were before my era.  They might have been thrilling matches but for one reason or another they just never came off.  One from “my era, “the early 1970′s, was Ken Buchanan against Mando Ramos.  Mr. Ramos was one of my early favorites.  He was just a few years older than me when he won the lightweight title in his second try versus the talented Carlos Teo Cruz (barely 20 years old).  He lost the title soon after to Panama’s slick former world champion Ismael Laguna.  Mando was cut up by the jab and quick hands of Laguna.  He also had trouble with Laguna’s fast feet and shifty style.  Soon after, Ismael handed the crown to another crafty boxer, the gritty Ken Buchanan of Scotland.  Mando regrouped and won three straight against tough competition.  He was sliced up again but won a hard fought decision over former featherweight champ Sugar Ramos.  He then halted ex-WBA featherweight titleholder, the rugged Raul Rojas, and then won a decision over rated lightweight contender Ruben Navarro.

After Mando’s wins over Sugar Ramos and Rojas he was supposed to meet Buchanan to try to regain the championship ( Mando may have been injured and Navarro took his place). Nevertheless, Buchanan outboxed Ruben to retain the crown.  The WBC (the IBF and the WBO did not exist yet, thank God ) still wanted Buchanan to fight Mando Ramos as a mandatory defense.  Buchanan decided instead on a return with Laguna, who he again decisioned. Ramos would go on to defeat Navarro, and the WBC stripped Buchanan of their version of the title.  They then matched Ramos with Spain’s Pedro Carrasco for the vacant title.  Carrasco was floored four times but was awarded the  “crown ” on a very controversial twelfth round disqualification.  Due to the questionable result, the two were matched again.  This time Ramos won a close decision and his second title.  Mando then won another verdict in the rubber match to end the trilogy.  By this time (and maybe before?), Mando’s well documented history of drug abuse was eroding his great skills.  He would lose the title to Chango Carmona and his career unraveled.  Buchanan would eventually run into a stone wall, and the Hands of Stone, Roberto Duran, losing his crown in June of 1972.

What if the possible match between Buchanan and Ramos would have came off in 1971 before the WBC stripped Buchanan ?  Who would have won that one?  Ken was not as fast or as elusive as Laguna but he was a very clever boxer who moved well.  I believe he had a stiffer jab and better all round power then Laguna too.  Ramos was a very strong fighter who I believe would have pressed the action against Buchanan.  Ken was a good counter puncher but he was not afraid to mix it up on the inside.  I really do feel that this had the makings of a sensational bout.  Ramos might have carried more power but neither was regarded as a kayo puncher.  They were both well educated in fisticuffs, as Eddie Thomas had brought Buchanan around and Jackie McCoy handled Ramos.   I think the deciding factors in this match would have been Buchanan’s jab and the thin skin of Ramos.  Plus, there would have been a fair amount of infighting and the heads bumping together would have also cost Ramos some blood even though that was where he needed to be for his best chance to win.  My pick would be Buchanan via a cut eye TKO in between the tenth and fifteenth rounds. This was back when fights still went fifteen rounds for the title.  Ah…the good old days!

Jim Amato is a participating member of both the Boxing Writers Association of America and the International Boxing Research Organization. He is a longtime correspondent of sport, both inside and outside the ring, and he is currently the president and owner of Amato Sports Memorabilia. Jim’s other works and “Legends of Leather” articles can be found at http://boxinggreats.multiply.com.

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