Archive for boxing

Jack Dempsey: When Fists Get Real

Jack Dempsey: When Fists Get Real

By Aaron Lloyd

During Jack Dempsey’s tenure as heavyweight champion from 1919 to 1926, and for a time afterwards, the pugilist-turned actor scarcely spent more time in a ring then he did in the theater and movie set.  Never the acting equivalent of notable screen legends such as Charlie Chaplain or Douglas Fairbanks, Dempsey did star in two feature films, Daredevil Jack (1920) and Manhatten Madness (1925) and he played a recurring role on Broadway in a play entitled The Big Fight.  In The Big Fight, Dempsey’s role required that he knockout a fellow by the name of Ralph Smith, and for weeks, Dempsey’s “lightly-thrown” right hand was enough to send the seven-foot, 275-pound Smith to the canvas in the plays “climactic scene.”  One night, however, Dempsey accidentally delivered a blow with a tad bit more mustard than he had intended, and Smith went crashing to the canvas (much like he had hundreds of times before), only this time, instead of staying down and being “counted out” in the first round (per the script), the former club fighter-turned actor got up and went after Dempsey in a totally unscripted turn of events.  Dempsey, stunned but sensing the need to continue “acting,” found himself in what was beginning to resemble a real fight.  Dempsey got Smith in a clinch and said, “Hey you bum.  Go Down.  You’re ruining the show.” The bewildered cast and crew kept the play going, as the “mock” bout went to the second, third, fourth, and finally the fifth round, before Dempsey was able to land a genuine knockout blow that sent Jones to the canvas for good.  The crowd, none-the-wiser, cheered the villain’s demise, not knowing that they had just witnessed an extra four rounds of authentic heavyweight fisticuffs.

After the show, an infuriated Dempsey went storming into Jones’ dressing room ready to continue his assault, shouting, “What the hell were you trying to do out there, fight for real?”  To which the dazed actor replied, “Sorry Jack, but you hit me so hard in the first round that I didn’t even know where I was from then on.” 

Apparently the show must go on, even when “fists get real.”           

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Ad Wolgast and the Hard Knock Life

Ad Wolgast and the Hard Knock Life

By Aaron Lloyd

World Lightweight Champion Adolphus “Ad” Wolgast was one of the most courageous, interesting, and tragic figures in the history of boxing.   Born on February 8, 1888 in Cadillac, Michigan, Wolgast, the oldest in a family of seven, took to boxing at an early age and showed an affinity for the sport during a brief but successful amateur campaign.  In June of 1906, he attended his first professional prizefight, both as a spectator and as a participant, when he somehow managed to talk his way onto the fight card, after being short the funds for a ticket! Wolgast won a six-round decision over Kid Moore that day, thus beginning an epic 14-year career that would culminate with him as the lightweight champion of the world, and end with him as a destitute and forgotten man living out the remainder of his life in an institution.

From 1906 to 1909 Wolgast lost only one time officially (5 times counting “newspaper decisions”) in a period of 64 fights.  His aggressive, all-action style earned him the nickname “The Michigan Wildcat,” and by the end of the decade he had moved from smaller venues and lower paying fights around Michigan and Wisconsin to more lucrative engagements along the West Coast.  In 1909, Wolgast met his eventual nemesis (and then champion) Battling Nelson in a scheduled 10-round, non-title bout in Los Angeles, and after ten brutal and bloody rounds, he was declared the winner by way of a newspaper decision.  With the win, Wolgast established himself as one of the best fighters in the division and one of the biggest threats to the lightweight crown; and just seven short months later he would get another opportunity to prove himself, this time with the title on the line.

The rematch with Nelson was set for February 22, 1910 in a city just north of San Francisco called Point Richmond.  More than 18,000 fans showed up that day in anticipation of another epic battle, and with forty-five rounds allotted to determining a winner the second time around, there was no question that the fans would get their money’s worth.  Bitter rivals to the end, the two sounded off before the fight, both confident of victory.  Nelson baited his challenger by saying, “Put a horseshoe in each of his gloves, and bet him he can’t knock me out;” while Wolgast, sans-horseshoes, gleefully obliged. 

For forty rounds the two men tore at each other as advertised, landing maliciously with fists, elbows, incisors, and just about anything else they could get away with.  Nelson controlled the action through the first twenty-five rounds, getting off first and fighting at an exceedingly spirited pace, but as the fight wore on, the Michigan Wildcat began to hit his stride, eventually winning the marathon battle of attrition.  Finally, battered, bruised, bleeding from the nose and ears, and squinting through two slits for eyes, Nelson was declared unfit to continue after the referee determined he could no longer see well enough to continue (at one point he actually tried squaring up with the ring post instead of Wolgast); and after forty grueling rounds, Ad Wolgast was crowned the new lightweight champion of the world.   To this day, the Wolgast-Nelson fight is considered one of the most thrilling and fierce battles in boxing history, earning the 19th spot on Ring Magazine’s “100 Greatest Fights of all Time” list (circa 1996), and prompting ringside observer W.O. McGeehan of the New York Herald Tribune to remark, “For concentrated viciousness, it was the most savage bout I have ever seen.”                

Wolgast would successfully defend his title five times over the course of the next two years, with the most memorable bout occurring in his fourth defense, the infamous “double knockdown” brawl with Mexican Joe Rivers on July 7, 1912.  Trailing in the fight through twelve rounds, Wolgast had virtually exhausted all legal avenues towards victory, and were it not for the actions of a bottle brandishing cornerman (who chased him off the stool between rounds), he might well have conceded defeat.  As it turned out, however, Wolgast came out for the thirteenth round intent on giving old Mexican Joe a little “south of the border” action, and at the first available opportunity, he connected with a left hand below the belt just as Rivers connected with a left-right combination to Wolgast’s jaw.  The two fighters fell in unison, and the referee, unaware that a foul had been committed, began counting both men out.  Wolgast, arguably the more coherent of the two, slowly attempted to rise while Rivers continued writhing in pain on the canvas, and the referee, having finished the ten count, declared Wolgast the winner based on his more “concentrated” effort to get to his feet. Upon hearing the verdict, the crowd (particularly the pro-Rivers contingent) began to voice their displeasure over the unfair ruling, and the referee, a man by the name of Jack Welch, had to beat a hasty retreat back to the dressing rooms in order to avoid the ire of the unruly mob.  Nevertheless, Welch’s decision (a TKO for Wolgast) remained the official verdict, and the champion held onto his title under the most contentious of circumstances. 

On November 28, 1912, Wolgast’s reign as champion would finally come to an end, when, in an ironic twist of fate, he was disqualified against San Francisco native Willie Ritchie for another flagrant infraction (one that was correctly labeled as such this time).  With the loss, only his second “official” loss in more than 84 contests (Wolgast did lose seven newspaper decisions during that span) the Michigan Wildcat, still just 24-years of age, set out to regain his lightweight championship by whatever means necessary.  Unfortunately, the years of punishment were beginning to take their toll on Wolgast, and despite finding sporadic success in the ensuing years (he did beat Battling Nelson by way of a newspaper decision in 1913), the former champion would never again challenge for the world title, and he finished the last 8 years of his career with a record of 19-25-10.  On September 6, 1920, at the age of 32, Wolgast finally retired with an overall record of 59-13-17 (40 KO’s) and a record of 21-21-7 in newspaper decisions.  For the brave champion, his ring career had come to an end, but little did he know, his most difficult battles were just getting started. 

Over the course of his 14-year ring career, Adolphus Wolgast fought 429 rounds in 140 fights and suffered countless injuries, including broken arms, ribs, and damage to his eyes, ears and nose (Wolgast had the latter injected with paraffin wax to remedy its somewhat gnarled appearance).  Unfortunately, the most extensive injury suffered by Wolgast was the trauma to his brain, and by 1918 (still 2 years before his last official bout) he suffered a nervous breakdown, was declared incapable of tending to his affairs, and was institutionalized in a sanitarium.  In 1918, Wolgast escaped from the hospital where he was being held and lived for a time in the mountains of North Carolina, where he was eventually “discovered” and given over to the care of Jack Doyle, a boxing promoter from Vernon, California.  Doyle offered to let Wolgast live and train with him, with the stipulation that Wolgast would never again be allowed to enter a prizefighting ring, and as a result, Wolgast spent the next seven years (from 1920 to 1927) diligently training every day, skipping rope, running, and shadow boxing for a fight that never came.  Wolgast trained from sun up to sun down, and would retire exhausted each evening with the belief that his title shot was always a day away.  For close to seven years, this ritual went on, with Doyle offering encouragement and keeping Wolgast preoccupied and singularly focused, in a sad re-embodiment of his former self.

In 1927, Wolgast’s condition deteriorated to the point that he was once again institutionalized, and it was here, at the Stockton State Hospital in California, where he would spend the remainder of his life.  At the age of 61, Wolgast, never one to back down from a fight, suffered a severe beating at the hands of two hospital orderlies, who in an attempt to “test the toughness” of the former ring great, left him with him with broken ribs and permanently disabled.  Just a few short years later in 1955, Wolgast, at the age of 67, died of heart failure, thus completing the tale of one of boxing’s most tragic and fearless individuals.

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Karl Mildenberger

Karl Mildenberger

By Jim Amato

Outside of former heavyweight champion Max Schmeling, Karl Mildenberger is the most popular heavyweight Germany has ever produced. Karl was born on November 23, 1937 and began his foray into professional boxing in 1958. He won his first eleven bouts, but in 1959 he suffered his first setback to Helmut Ball. Karl then went on to win his next nineteen bouts. Among his victims were Jimmy Slade, Franco Cavicchi, Harold Carter, Young Jack Johnson. Wayne Bethea, Howard King and Pete Rademacher.
 
On February 24, 1962, Mildenberger challenged Dick Richardson for the European Boxing Union title. Richardson shocked Karl stopping him in the very first round. Karl would bounce back to go unbeaten in his next twenty two contests. He fought draws with Archie McBride, Zora Folley and Amos Johnson. Mildenberger would defeat Joe Bygraves, Von Clay, Bethea again and McBride in a rematch. He also defeated Joe Erskine and Billy Daniels. On October 17, 1964 Karl would knock out Santo Amonti in one round to capture the European crown. Mildenberber made three successful defenses against Piero Tomasoni, Gerhard Zech and Ivan Prebeg, before decisioning Eddie Machen.
 
Finally, Karl received a shot at the world’s heavyweight championship. On September 10, 1966, Mildenberger took a lofty 49-2-3 record into the ring to face Muhammad Ali. It turned out to be a tough fight for the champion. Early on it seemed like Ali was a bit confused by Karl’s southpaw style. As the fight progressed though, Ali’s size, speed and superior skills took over. Muhammad finally halted his stubborn challenger in round twelve. Karl has the distinction of being the first southpaw to fight for the heavyweight title.
 
Mildenberger returned to action defending his European title twice against Tomasoni and Billy Walker. He also stopped Amos “Big Train” Lincoln. Ali had been stripped of the heavyweight championship for refusing induction in to the United States Army. The World Boxing Association held a tournament to determine a new title holder. Eight boxers were chosen and Mildenberger was one of them. His first opponent would be strong but crude Oscar Bonavena of Argentina. After Karl’s performance against Ali many felt he had a good chance to defeat Bonavena. Oscar though turned in a career best performance. He floored Karl in four different rounds, but the game Mildenberger made it to the final bell. Bonavena won a clear cut twelve round decision.
 
Karl would again defend his European title successfully against Gerhard Zech. Then came a seventh round knockout loss to Leotis Martin. On September 18, 1968 Mildenberger met Henry Cooper in London for the European crown. Karl lost the title to Cooper via a controversial disqualification for illegal use of the head. It would be Karl’s last fight.
 
Mildenberger would retire with a fine 53-6-3 record. He recorded 19 knockouts while he was stopped on four occasions. He met five men who also challenged for the world title. Karl also held the European title nearly four years defending it six times.

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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Masahiko “Fighting Harada”

Masahiko “Fighting Harada”

By Jim Amato

He just may be the most popular Japanese fighter of all time. In a career that lasted a little over a decade he squeezed in 63 pro contests, winning of 55 of them. He won world championships in two weight divisions and he came very close to becoming a three-weight class titleholder. Please remember this was back in the day when there were only eight weight classes and one champion per division. He is the only man to beat the legendary Eder Jofre and he turned the trick twice. His name was Masahiko but in boxing circles his nickname was “Fighting.” That should tell you something about his aggressive whirlwind style. He was “Fighting” Harada.  
 
The rough and tumble Harada started his career in 1960 and in less than three years he reeled off 25 straight wins. Ten of those were by knockout. He had established himself as a top ranking flyweight contender. Edmundo Esparza upset Harada by decision in June of 1962 to end his win streak, but two fights later on October 10th, he was in a Tokyo ring facing world flyweight champion Pone Kingpetch. The champion was unable to keep the swarming Harada off of him and he finally lost his title in the eleventh round. Kingpetch lured Harada to his home country of Thailand for a rematch and on January12th, 1963 in Bangkok, however, and Pone regained his title by decision. Harada bounced back to win three straight and then he was surprisingly stopped by the talented Mexican Jose Medel in Tokyo. Undaunted, Harada went on a six fight win streak that carried him to the end of 1964.
 
In 1965, Harada entered the bantamweight class and on May 17th he met the unbeaten and highly respected champion Eder Jofre. In a classic between two great boxers, Harada out slugged Jofre to capture his second world title. By the year’s end he would add a successful defense against Britain’s highly touted Alan Rudkin. Harada and Jofre would hook up again on June 1st, 1966 and the verdict again went to the busier Harada. On January 3rd, 1967 Harada avenged his knockout loss to Medel while retaining his title via the decision route. On July 4th Harada turned back the challenge of tough Bernardo Caraballo and it looked like he would reign for quite some time. On February 27th, 1968 Australian Lionel Rose came to Tokyo to challenge Harada. In an impressive display of ring generalship the classy Rose out-boxed Harada to lift the crown.
 
Harada would come right back in June to decision a fine fighter in Dwight Hawkins. On April 2nd, 1969 Alton Colter upset Harada on points. Nevertheless he was invited to Sydney, Australia on July 28th to challenge Johnny Famechon for the world featherweight championship. It was a rock-em-sock-em affair that in the end was called a draw by guest referee Willie Pep. After re-checking Pep’s scorecard a mistake was found and Famechon was awarded the decision. Many felt that Harada had done more than enough to earn the verdict and the title. There was a high demand for a rematch. Famechon and Harada would meet again on January 6th, 1970 in Tokyo. This time there would be no controversial decision. Famechon saw to that. Harada seemed to age overnight. Famechon blasted Harada out in the fourteenth round to end any doubt about who the better man was. Harada realized he was no longer the fighting machine he had been and the next day he announced his retirement. The end of the line had come for one of the most exciting fighters of his era.

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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Roy Jones Jr. Versus the 70’s and 80’s

Roy Jones Jr. Versus the 70’s and 80’s

By Jim Amato

Where would Roy Jones Jr. have fit in during the talent rich 70′s and early 80′s? I have picked who, in my opinion, were the ten best light heavyweights of that time period (eight were champions and two were long time contenders). I then matched each against Roy in scheduled fifteen round bouts as they were back then. Based on my recollections of these boxers’ talents, I have formed the following scenarios.

PIERRE FOURIE – Pierre was a gifted boxer, but a light hitter. What saw him through two wars a piece against Bob Foster and Victor Galindez was his craftiness and his durability. Those same attributes would probably carry him fifteen rounds against Jones. Fourie would steal a few rounds, but drop a rather one sided decision.

YAQUI LOPEZ – Yaqui fought them all; Galindez, Conteh, Saad Muhammad, Spinks, and Rossman. He was a strong, durable fighter with a decent punch. His draw backs were slow hands and feet and the fact that he cut easily. Roy eats up slow fighters. This one would have resembled Jones’ bout with Del Valle. Jones by shutout decision or late round stoppage.

MARVIN JOHNSON – This one could be interesting. Marvin’s southpaw style and aggression may have surprised Roy. In the early going, Roy would have his hands full. Marvin was like a wind-up toy though, and as he started to slow down Roy would begin to take over and punish him. Jones by knockout between rounds 7 and 10, but it would be exciting while it lasted.

VICTOR GALINDEZ – Styles make fights and Victor was made to order for Roy. Victor’s style of leaning against the ropes and covering up while waiting to throw counter shots would be suicidal against Jones. Galindez was a tough guy and I don’t know if Jones could have knocked him down, but Roy would have cut him to ribbons. The fight would be stopped within ten rounds.

MATTHEW SAAD MUHAMMAD- Try as he might, I don’t think Saad would be able to catch Roy with his hammer like right hand. I think Roy would box cautiously respecting Saad’s power. Jones would be in and out punching in flurries and piling up points. Saad’s tendency to cut could play a role here. Jones by decision or late round stoppage.

DWIGHT MUHAMMAD QAWI- They didn’t call Dwight the “Camden Buzzsaw” for nothing. This man was a blend of aggression and style. It took a prime Michael Spinks and Evander Holyfield all they had to edge past him. Styles make fights and this is one style that could trouble Roy. Jones would have to box Qawi just like Holyfield did in their first fight. It would be all action and I wouldn’t be surprised if Roy didn’t hit the canvas in this one. Qawi might too. Roy has a lot of good qualities but he has yet to prove he has Holyfield’s heart. I’ll go out on a limb and take Qawi by decision.

MICHAEL SPINKS - How can a fighter do so much wrong and yet never lose a fight at 175 pounds? The “Spinks Jinx” is how. Roy would respect Michael’s power but Spinks looks so easy to hit that Roy would try to go after him. Jones would land his share of shots, but Mike’s twisting, turning style would keep him from putting too many together. When there is a lull in the action Spinks would trade jabs with Jones on a fairly even basis. As the bout wears on past the tenth round Roy is becoming frustrated by Mike’s style. Although ahead on points Jones in his frustration gets careless and the “Spinks Jinx” takes him out. Spinks by a late round come from behind knockout.

BOB FOSTER – The most intimidating light heavyweight of our time. I honestly think Bob would come into this bout with a strong dislike for Jones. You don’t trash talk Bob Foster; and we know how Bob gets when he’s angry. Remember Vincente Rondon? That’s not saying that Roy is anything like Rondon, but Jones would be facing a man who was jabbing on even terms with Muhammad Ali !!! Roy’s speed would give Foster trouble early on but Roy would have trouble getting past Bob’s jab. I think once Roy tasted Foster’s power he’d be on his bicycle for the rest of the evening. This could be like Foster’s bout with Ray Anderson. Foster by easy decision or by kayo, anytime.

EDDIE MUSTAPHA MUHAMMAD – This may have been more competitive at 160 pounds. At this weight Eddie, although a dangerous puncher, was slow. He would try to counter punch Roy with little success. Jones would out speed and out box Eddie and win an easy, boring decision.

JOHN CONTEH – Conteh may have been one of the best boxers to come out of England in the last thirty years. In his prime, he was a masterful boxer and a hard puncher. This could have turned into a chess match and there would be some exciting exchanges. The difference here would be Roy’s slightly quicker hands and Conteh’s weak chin. Jones by a hard earned decision or a late round stoppage.

Well I’m sure I’ve rubbed a lot of Roy Jones fans the wrong way. The three boxers I picked to beat Roy are all in the Hall Of Fame so there is no shame there. Roy dominated a weak division for a very long time. Although not his fault, it is very difficult to determine how good Roy really was. By the time some tough competition appeared, Roy’s skills had started to erode. Antonio Tarver and Glencoffe Johnson are very good fighters and worthy champions. Still I’ll always feel that a prime Roy Jones Jr. would have handled them.
 
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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Boxing Heroes

Boxing Heroes

By Jim Amato

It is usually a given that all boxers should be respected just for their mere courage to step into a boxing ring and to do battle on presumably equal terms with another human being. Yet, just as some doctors and lawyers are more respected for their knowledge than others, the same holds true for boxers. Admiration for the talents of say Muhammad Ali or Sugar Ray Robinson comes easily. These men were blessed with the extraordinary ability to humble other men in the ring. So too is it easy to have a less then healthy respect for the lower echelon fighters. The one’s who serve as mere opponents to inflate another boxer’s record. “Tomato cans” is the term used in the business to describe these less then fortunate of fisticuffs.
 
Each one of us has the indisputable right to determine the critique of our own heroes. I admit to having chosen mine in the land between the seemingly indestructible champions and the lowly tomato cans (a preference that leans toward the near champions and the fringe contenders), AKA, “The hearty battlers” who came so close but yet so far from attaining their goal of becoming a champion. They were left with memories of crushing defeats etched on their “scar tissued” faces and thoughts of what could have been.
 
In boxing you will see the names of those who were past champions in the record books. What about the boxers who fought the ones we hold in such high esteem, those pugilists who appear in the record books as just an opponent to the elite? It is very conceivable that more than a few of these past pursuers of glory may have attained the moniker of “champion” if they were competing today.
 
I would like to reflect back to the names of boxers who fell just short of their quest. Men whose soul and courage were bared for all to see on blood stained canvas. They rose from the ashes of defeat time and time again to resurrect their careers only in the end to fall and remain in the ashes forever. Hopefully this may be a comeback of sorts for the boxers I am about to mention (one more chance for them to come out swinging in our memories).
 
So here is to guys like Jerry Quarry, George Chuvalo, Yaqui Lopez, Bennie Briscoe, Armando Muniz, Earnie Shavers, Tex Cobb, Ron Lyle, Ernie Lopez and Clyde Gray. These ten boxers and several others like them endeared me to the sport even more then the past champions. They are truly champions in my mind.

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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The Crunching Power of Carlos Zarate

The Crunching Power of Carlos Zarate

By Jim Amato 

When the question comes up, “Who was the greatest fighter to come out of Mexico,” the answer is usually Julio Cesar Chavez. Some say Salvador Sanchez while others may say Ruben Olivares. These three are truly legendary fighters, although to me one other outstanding boxer from Mexico is Carlos Zarate. 

Zarate began his career in 1970 and won his first fifty two fights with fifty one by knockout (clearly a simply amazing number). That being said, a lot of Zarate’s early opposition may have been in the words of Greg Haugen, when he questioned Chavez’s fine record, a bunch of Mexican taxi drivers. Well I don’t know if I’d go that far, but Carlos beefed up his record with some poor opposition yet he was also learning his trade and learning it well.

By 1974, Zarate was moving up in the ratings. During that time he stopped a tough fighter from Odessa, Texas named James Martinez. He then halted unbeaten Joe Guevara, as well as Orlando Amores, Benicio Sosa and Nestor Jimenez too.

In May of 1976, Zarate halted the talented Rodolfo Martinez in nine rounds to win the World Boxing Council bantamweight title, which would lead to a run of seven title defenses. In 1977, Zarate would meet World Boxing Association champion Alfonso Zamora in a non title match. Zarate won the “Battle of the Z Bombers” with a convincing fourth round kayo. In 1978, Zarate would turn back the challenge of future champion Alberto Davila.

Zarate decided to move up in weight and challenge the also undefeated Wilfredo Gomez for the WBC 122 pound title. The fight took place October 28, 1978 in Puerto Rico. The extremely gifted Gomez appeared to be too fast for Zarate. Wilfredo had Zarate down and the fight was stopped in the fifth round with Gomez retaining his title.

Zarate would drop back to 118 pounds where he would defend his WBC title one more time before meeting the tough Lupe Pintor. Zarate started well but Pintor came on strong in the later rounds. After fifteen rounds Pintor was awarded a very controversial decision and the title. In disgust Zarate would walk away from the game for nearly seven years.

Zarate returned in 1986 and would reel off twelve more wins, ten by knockout. In 1987 he took on Australian sensation Jeff Fenech for the WBC super bantamweight title. Jeff held on to his crown by a technical decision in four rounds. On February 29, 1988 Zarate met Daniel Zaragoza for the vacant WBC 122 pound title. The rugged Zaragoza stopped Zarate in the tenth round. It would be Zarate’s last fight.

In all, Carlos Zarate had 70 fights winning 66 with 63 knockouts. He was tall and rangy. He had a stiff jab and a booming overhand right. He also had one of the best left hooks to the liver I have ever seen. Three of his four losses were to boxers now enshrined in the International Boxing Hall Of Fame. To me he has to rank among the best bantamweights of all time as well as one of the greatest Mexican fighters.

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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Bat Nelson and the Toledo Whammy

Bat Nelson and the Toledo Whammy

By Aaron Lloyd

Former World Lightweight Champion “Battling Nelson,” known for his wild ring wars and even wilder antics outside the ring, attracted some rather “unwanted” press coverage of his own while reporting on the heavyweight title bout between Jack Dempsey and Jess Willard in Toledo, Ohio on July 4th, 1919.  Nelson, whose own fighting career had ended in 1917, was covering the fight for the Chicago Daily News, and being as tightfisted as he was, decided to set up camp outside of Dempsey’s training headquarters rather than yield to the disbursement of “travel expenses” as most sportswriters did.  So, living out of a big blue tent, aptly labeled “Bat Nelson,” the Durable Dane proceeded to fulfill his journalistic duties, all the while disregarding societal norms regarding personal hygiene and appeals to cleanliness.

To make matters worse, beginning in late June of that year, the Toledo area was struck by an almost unprecedented two-week heat wave that had residents and vendors scrambling to find creative ways of dealing with the triple digit heat.  Food rotted, ice cream melted, and even the pine seats of the custom-built stadium oozed sap, forcing spectators to bring (or purchase at $.50 apiece) cushions in order to avoid getting the annoying sap on their clothing.  Perhaps no one was more indirectly affected by the heat, however, then the poor lemonade vendor, who, after word of a “Bat Nelson-related contamination,” suffered the most dramatic sales decline of all.    

It all started on July 3 (the night before the fight), when Nelson, determined to beat the heat, snuck out of his tent and decided to go for a dip in nearby Maumee Bay, just as he had done the previous night.  Nelson went searching for the same swimming trunks he had “borrowed” from Dempsey’s manager Jack “Doc” Kearns the night before, but unbeknownst to him, the trunks had been burned after Kearns got wind of their previous unauthorized appropriation.  Undeterred, Nelson decided to venture out into the night wearing just his underwear and the strong scent of alcohol on his breath.  On his way to the Bay, Nelson came across six liquid filled zinc tubs that, oddly enough, were meant to hold a syrupy lemonade concoction and not the stinking, unclean body of someone looking for a little relief from the heat.  Nevertheless, Nelson climbed the ladder into the vats and plunged headfirst into the syrupy mixture anyway, quickly realizing that the contents in the container were more lethal than refreshing.  Immediately seeing the error of his ways, Nelson began flailing and screaming for help, and were it not for the quick response of a few close good Samaritans, might well have drowned in a sweet and citrusy grave. 

Unfortunately, this story, while ending happily for Nelson (he lived until 1954), was a financial disaster for the individual who had paid $1,000 for the rights to sell lemonade during the fight.  In fact, when word got out that Nelson had taken a “bath” in the vats (arguably the only one he ever had), even those with the most unquenchable thirsts were not willing to accept the one in six odds that Nelson had not been dredged from the vat that their particular glass of lemonade originated.  As a result, sales tanked, and despite the 114 degree temperatures at ringside, the lemonade vendor sat patronless; just another victim of the “Toledo whammy.”

 

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Pernell Whitaker

Pernell Whitaker

By Jim Amato

Pernell Whitaker is a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, an honor he richly deserves. His storied amateur career along with his “ Who’s Who ” list of boxers he met in the professional ranks surely entitles him to this honor. What a career he had !

Within two years after turning pro, Whitaker was beating the likes of John Montes, Rafael Williams and former champion Alfredo Layne. In 1987 he outpointed the highly regarded Roger Mayweather. He garnered his first title shot in 1988 and he lost a decision that has to be rated among the most unjust of all time. Tough Jose Luis Ramirez had “retained ” his World Boxing Council lightweight title. It was quite a gift.

Pernell regrouped in 1989 and proceeded to give rugged Greg Haugen a boxing lesson to win the International Boxing Federation version of the lightweight title. Later that year he avenged his “loss ” to Ramirez and picked up the WBC title too. Pernell was awesome at 135 pounds beating back the challenges of men like Freddie Pendleton, Azumah Nelson, Juan Nazario and Jorge Paez. In 1992 he moved up to the 140-pound division and captured the IBF crown with a win over Rafael Pineda.
In 1993 Pernell moved up in weight again and won a decision over the crafty Buddy McGirt to win the WBC welterweight title. Next came a “draw ” with the unbeaten Mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez. This was a ludicrous verdict as Pernell out-boxed, out-slicked and frustrated Chavez throughout the contest. In 1994 Pernell would again out-duel McGirt and in 1995 he moved up again to challenge Julio Cesar Vasquez for the WBA light middleweight title. Pernell put on a boxing clinic in winning another title belt.
Pernell decided to stay at welterweight and in 1996 he received a stiff battle from feisty Wilfredo Rivera. Pernell retained his title but it was really the first time in his pro career that somebody almost beat him on a legitimate level. Cracks were beginning to show in his armour. He defeated Rivera convincingly in a return match. Then in 1997 he nearly met disaster against a spirited Diosbelys Hurtado. Behind on the cards Pernell showed his champion’s heart by stopping Hurtado in round eleven. No longer did Whitaker appear invincible.
Next it was Pernell vs. the Golden Boy, Oscar De La Hoya. Although the judges gave Oscar the decision by a comfortable margin there were many who felt Pernell had again been robbed. A fight against Andrei Pestriaev resulted in a No Contest after Whitaker tested positive for cocaine. In 1999 Pernell had one more shot at the limelight as he faced IBF titleholder Felix ” Tito ” Trinidad. Tito soundly defeated an older, slower and fading Whitaker. Pernell would have one more fight but an injury led to his defeat in four rounds against Carlos Bojorquez.
Pernell retired with a stellar 40-4-1 record. I was not a Whitaker fan when he was on top. I found him rather boring to watch, but he rarely even lost a round during a fight. Looking back I see now that Pernell was so boring because he was so good. I watch tapes of him now and I see just how gifted he was. Roberto Duran is my favorite fighter. I feel he was the best lightweight of my time. Nevertheless I feel that there was one lightweight who would have given him fits. That man was Pernell Whitaker. Ironically they were both inducted the same year. Two of the finest lightweights I’ve ever seen.

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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Archie Moore

Archie Moore

By Jim Amato

He was possibly the greatest light heavyweight of all time, the wily “Old Mongoose” Archie Moore. The man who scored 140 knockouts in a career that spanned from 1936 to 1963 never lost his crown in the ring. Although he unsuccessfully challenged twice for the heavyweight title, he did campaign successfully among the “Big Boys” throughout his tenure as a professional boxer. His record reads like “Who’s Who” of boxing history. In 228 recorded bouts, Archie was only stopped seven times, a testimony to his courage and uncanny defensive ability.
 
Born on December 13, 1913, (or 1916 to Archie) Moore boxed for years without due recognition. He fought all over the country. He even traveled to Australia and Argentina in search of fame and fortune. After six years on the circuit, Archie began to make his move toward the big time. In 1942, he knocked out Shorty Hogue in two rounds. Hogue had decisioned Archie no less than three times earlier in his career. He also beat rugged Jack Chase and drew with Ed Booker. In 1943, he won two out of three against Chase. In 1944, Moore lost by a knockout to Booker and also dropped a decision to the great Charley Burley. 1945 was a good year for Archie as he lost only two of fourteen fights. He beat Cleveland’s Lloyd Marshall twice. He was stopped by another Cleveland native, the outstanding Jimmy Bivins, and he lost a decision to Holman Williams, but he kayoed Holman in a rematch.

By this time Archie was formidable enough to warrant a title shot but it would be seven long years before he was granted one. Along the way Moore would beat Curtis Sheppard twice and Bert Lytell twice. He would beat Bivins four times in rematches and he would defeat Harold Johnson in three out of four contests. He also scored victories over Ted Lowry, Bob Satterfield, Phil Muscato, Alberto Lovell and Jimmy Slade. The only boxer who could handle Archie was Ezzard Charles. Ezz beat Moore three times, the last time by a spectacular eighth round knockout in Cleveland. Finally on December 17, 1952, presumably just after his 39th birthday, Archie met yet another Cleveland legend Joey Maxim. With Maxim’s world light heavyweight title on the line Archie won a clear cut decision to become a champion at last.
 
As world champion the legacy of Archie Moore would flourish. He defeated Maxim twice in title rematches. He beat heavyweights Nino Valdes twice, Bob Baker and Bert Whitehurst. He would successfully defend his crown with knockouts over Harold Johnson and Bobo Olson. On September 21, 1955, Archie would get his first crack at the heavyweight crown when he met Rocky Marciano. In the second round Archie sent Marciano to the canvas. Rocky beat the count and lasted out the round. Slowly the tide turned in Marciano’s favor. Rocky proved to be too strong for the gritty Moore who finally succumbed in round nine. Archie kayoed Yolande Pompey in a title defense and on November 30, 1956, he was matched with Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight championship that Marciano had vacated. Although Archie was given a good chance to win by experts the youthful Patterson was much too fast and stopped Moore in round five.
 
Archie went back to defending his light heavyweight crown stopping the highly regarded Tony Anthony in seven rounds. Moore continued to meet heavyweights in hope of securing one more shot at that title. Archie defeated Howard King twice, Roger Rischer, Willi Besmanoff and Charley Norkus before putting his title on the line. Moore’s 1958 bout with Canada’s Yvon Durelle secured Archie’s place in fistic history. Repeatedly knocked down in the early rounds and then down again in the fifth, Moore refused to surrender. By the middle rounds Durelle began to tire. Archie came on to stop Durelle in the eleventh round to retain his title in a classic thriller. In their 1959 rematch, Yvon was a lot less troublesome as he exited in round three. Moore did not defend his title at all in 1960, much to the dismay of the National Boxing Association who withdrew recognition of Archie as a champion on October 25th, and old foe Harold Johnson beat Jesse Bowdry to claim the vacant NBA title. Still recognized by the New York State and the European Boxing Union, Archie decisioned Giulio Rinaldi in his final title defense. On February 10, 1962 New York and the EBU stripped Archie of his crown. A feat no mere mortal could accomplish in the ring.
 
Finally the ageless wonder began to slow down. Archie still wanted to prove he had something left and met former protégé Cassius Clay. Cassius (Muhammad Ali) had won the light heavyweight Gold Medal at the 1960 Olympics and had trained briefly under Archie early in his pro career. The brash upstart overwhelmed the aging warrior as he had predicted in round four. Archie had no more illusions of becoming heavyweight champion.
 
Upon his retirement, Archie did some acting and he also became very involved in helping the youth of America. He started a program called “Any Boy Can” and used this as a vehicle to reach young people in a positive manner. Archie’s book which is aptly titled “Any Boy Can” explains Archie’s views on helping youth as well as Archie covering his life and boxing career.

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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