Category Archives: Boxing Articles

Sonny Liston Vs Floyd Patterson What If There Had Been A Third Fight?

Sonny Liston Vs Floyd Patterson

What If There Had Been A Third Fight?

By Bobby Franklin

Sonny Liston and Floyd Patterson spent some time in the ring together, but not much. Their two fights combined lasted a total of only 4 minutes and 16 seconds with Liston winning by knock out in the first round on both occassions. The first fight took place in Chicago on September 25, 1962 and Sonny floored Floyd once, with that one knock down being for the ten count. Ten months later on July 22, 1963 in Las Vegas Liston dropped Patterson twice the with the second time being for the full count. 

In the two fights Patterson landed only one blow of any consequence, and that wasn’t much of a one. He grazed Liston with a right hand during the second fight. Other than that it was all Sonny. It is interesting to note that while the fights were blow outs, Liston did not come out swinging wildly. He took Floyd apart methodically, setting his man up with left jabs and solid body shots. Sonny showed fast hands, using an accurate left jab, along with hooks and uppercuts. He had a definite game blame and executed it perfectly. If they fought a hundred times during that period the result would have been the same. 

Patterson won the crown that had been left vacant when Rocky Marciano retired. He fought Archie Moore as the two were considered the leading contenders, and it was agreed the winner would be named the new heavyweight champion. After winning the title Cus D’Amato, Floyd’s manager, steered the new champ clear of any serous contenders. He had him fight second raters who appeared to pose no threat to Patterson. Fighters such as Roy Harris, Brian London, and Tom McNeeley. He even took on Olympic Champ Pete Rademacher who was making his pro debut the night of their title fight. 

Floyd did run into one contender who proved himself to be underestimated; Ingemar Johansson. Johansson won the title by defeating Patterson by kayo in the third round. Floyd would come back a year later to become the first man to regain the heavyweight championship when he flattened Ingemar n the fifth round. The two would meet a third time with Patterson winning again. 

From 1956 through 1961 the top contenders for the title were shut out from getting their deserved title shots. Men such as Cleveland Williams, Zora Folley, Eddie Machen, and Sonny Liston had to sit on the sidelines. It was not a good period for boxing, nor was it a good time for Patterson. It turns out that even though Floyd was making money and winning fights, he felt he was not proving himself as a man. In a high testosterone profession such as boxing that can cause feelings of shame.

It was Floyd who pushed D’Amato to make the match with Liston. Floyd had to prove to the world, and even more so to himself, that he was a true champion. Unfortunately, the outcome of both fights only left Patterson feeling more shame. The losses deeply embarrassed him. You think he might have given up boxing and taken up a more peaceful profession, but he soldiered on. 

Free of D’Amato’s protective hand he started fighting top contenders. He beat guys like Eddie Machen, George Chuvalo, and Charlie Powell. These wins put him in line for a shot at Muhammad Ali and the championship. Ali did not like Patterson and wanted to punish him. Floyd, unfortunately, went into the fight with a bad back and was limited in his movement. The one sided fight was stopped in the 12th round. 

Once again, Floyd did not let this stop him and he continued fighting. It was at this point in his career that Patterson started to really mature has a fighter. He would not lose a one sided fight again for the rest of his time in the ring. He kayoed Henry Cooper in four rounds, Fought a draw with Jerry Quarry in a fight many believed Floyd had won. In a rematch it was also thought he got a raw deal when Jerry was given the decision over him. He  beat Oscar Bonavena. 

Ellis vs Patterson

In a shot at Jimmy Ellis for the WBA Heavyweight Championship Floyd was robbed of a decision after fifteen rounds. He broke Jimmy’s nose in the first round and appeared to have captured at least a portion of the title for a third time. The sole judge, referee Harold Valan, thought differently.

During these same years Sonny Liston was on the comeback trail as well. He was also seeking to prove himself after his two embarrassing and suspicious losses to Ali. And, while Patterson was growing as a fighter, Sonny was taking on mostly journeyman and starting to age. He was hardly leading a life of health and fitness. His got wrapped up in the Las Vegas nightlife and was hanging out with shady characters. If you look at photos of him over these years you can see the aging in his face. In 1969 he took on Leotis Martin, and in the early going was having the better of it. But when Sonny came out for the 9th round he suddenly looked like an old man. It was apparent age and bad living had finally caught up with him. Martin flattened him in that round.

Martin Kayos Liston

Sonny would have one more fight six months later when he stopped Chuck Wepner. Six months after that he would be found dead.

I have heard Floyd Patterson always wanted a third fight with Sonny Liston. He still wanted to prove himself and show he good take the Big Bear. If the two had fought a rematch in, say, 1969 or so what would have happened? Patterson was fit and clean living, Sonny was old and had slowed down. It can be argued Floyd was stronger at this point in his life, though he hadn’t really grown much physically. However, he had grown a lot emotionally. 

I think a solid case can be made that Floyd would have won a third matchup. After losing to Ali in 1965 Floyd had 16 more fights with only three losses. Two of those three losses were considered bad decisions that should have gone in Patterson’s favor. He was not stopped again until his last fight which was against Muhammad Ali, and that stoppage was because of a cut eye. In the rematch with Ali, Floyd was doing much better than in their first encounter. He was competitive and it was too bad his eye was cut. It was an interesting fight.

A third fight with Liston would have also proved to be very interesting. Just imagine the Patterson of the Ellis fight fighting the Liston of the Martin fight. I think Floyd could have pulled out the victory. Now, wouldn’t that have been something!

Harry Greb Won The Title From Johnny Wilson But It May Not Have Been Easy

By Bobby Franklin

Wilson and Greb

On August 28, 1923 Harry Greb won the World Middleweight Championship from Johnny Wilson. Greb gained a fifteen round decision over the reigning champ who fought out of Boston. The fight was held at the Polo Grounds in New York. It has always been believed that Greb won the title in easy fashion over an outclassed Wilson. In fact, the New York Times reported that Harry won 13 of the 15 rounds. The headline said “Wilson, Slow and Awkward, Bewildered By Opponent’s Attack”.

After reading the Times’s report it appears it was only a formality for Greb to take the title. Wilson comes across almost as inept. The reporter from the Times also went on to write that “…the crowd showed its approval with a boisterous shout of acclaim for the-newly crowned champion”.

Six months later the two would meet in a rematch. It seems there would have been no call for the two to step into the ring against each other since the first fight was so one sided. Well, one sided at least according to the New York Times. Could the Times’s story been a case of “fake news”?

Greb vs Wilson

In the early years of the 20th Century, most states made it illegal for decisions to be officially given after a boxing match. Professional fights were only supposed to be exhibitions as the game was pretty much outlawed at the time. People still wanted to bet on the matches and in order to decide who won or lost fans would rely on the opinion of reporters covering the fights. Of course, this led to some wheeling and dealing behind the scenes in order to get a newspaperman to give a decision in favor of a certain boxer so that gamblers could collect on their choice. It was just another way of fixing fights. 

By the time Greb and Wilson fought, it had become legal for official decisions to be given in fights. However, newspaper reporters still liked to pick up that extra cash on the side and would take payoffs from managers and promoters to give favorable publicity to certain boxers. In some cases reporters would write stories about fights they had not even attended. Fake news was just as abundant then as it is today. 

In the case of the first Wilson vs Greb fight, the coverage from the Times has pretty much defined how that fight is remembered. Recently, the great boxing historian Gregory Speciale uncovered another report on the the fight. This one was written by the very highly esteemed reporter Robert Edgren. Mr. Edgren’s account of the fight is quite  different from the New York Times’ piece.

“Nobody felt sure which would get the decision when the fifteenth round was over.”

He begins his story, which was published in the New York Evening World on September 1, 1923, by completely contradicting the New York Times’ reporter who said the crowd shouted its approval of the verdict. Edgren wrote “Harry Greb today is the middleweight champion of the world but when Announcer Joe Humphreys…began his announcement ‘Winner and new champion’ there was no wild burst of applause. It was a victory with no sensational features, and not at all the overwhelming triumph the crowd had expected him to score over Johnny Wilson. Nobody felt sure which would get the decision when the fifteenth round was over.”

That’s quite different from what was reported in the Times. Edgren went on to report that Wilson gave Greb all kinds of trouble and even stated there was a case for Greb being disqualified because of the amount of holding and hitting he did. Wilson’s southpaw style and tactic of going to Greb’s body seems to have made things difficult for Harry. 

Johnny Wilson

Edgren ended his piece by opining how it was not a very exciting fight. He wrote “I’ve seen more excitement at a chess tournament, but it was all right. A world’s championship changed hands as expected.” I think if you read just a bit between the lines you get the message that there was no way Greb was going to lose that night.

I tend to believe the Edgren version over the NYT one as Robert Edgren had an impeccable reputation until the day he died. In fact, the same New York Times wrote in Edgren’s obituary that he was “known for truthfulness”.

There is no doubt that Harry Greb was one of the greatest middleweights of all time, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have trouble with certain boxers. As I have written before, Greb was the only middleweight champ to both win and lose the title to southpaws. (He lost it to Tiger Flowers). 

Greb and Wilson fought two more times. Their second was a rematch for the title six months later, and according to Boxing Blade it was a close fight. The last fight took place in Boston on April 17, 1925 at the Mechanics Building. This was reported as the most exciting of their three fights with Greb winning a very close decision. 

It appears Wilson’s southpaw style was a problem for Greb, and it is also possible that Johnny very possibly could have been given the decision in any of these fights. 

It is unfortunate that Johnny Wilson is often considered more of a footnote in boxing history and best remembered for losing to Greb. It is also unfortunate that most people think Greb won in a cakewalk over him when it turns out Johnny Wilson gave Harry Greb more than enough to handle. It’s time to reassess Wilson’s talents as a fighter. The man could fight.

INSIDE THE RING WITH TEDDY ATLAS and ESPN 

By

Mike Silver

Timothy Bradley and Teddy Atlas

Considering the level of ignorance, incompetence and sophistry that has taken over virtually every aspect of today’s schizophrenic professional boxing scene it was a revelation of sorts—not to mention a breath of fresh air—to discover the recently televised (ESPN) series of five master classes conducted by world renowned boxing teacher-trainer Teddy Atlas. The program’s title, Inside the Ring, doesn’t do justice to the quality of “insider” information and knowledge that is imparted in each of the five segments totaling 47 minutes. Atlas, a protégé of the legendary Cus D’Amato, is the former trainer of Mike Tyson, Michael Moorer, Timothy Bradley and a slew of other notable champions and contenders. For over 20 years he also served as a ringside commentator for ESPN’s televised boxing cards.

With the premier of Inside the Ring (first televised in May and June) Teddy’s role as teacher, historian and boxing psychologist is fully realized. The program brought together Atlas and one of the best boxers in the world, the undisputed super lightweight champion Terence Crawford whose current record shows 33 victories and no losses. Last month Terence added a welterweight title belt to his already impressive resume. 

With both men seated in a boxing ring they reviewed filmed highlights of five of Crawford’s most important fights and discussed how each contributed to the progression of his boxing skills. At its core this program is an engaging and enlightening conversation between an accomplished boxer and a master trainer as they examine and explain the various technical subtleties and strategies on display.  

What transpires is a wonderful “teacher and student” vibe in which the audience becomes privy to aspects of boxing technique that are seldom revealed or understood.

Inside the Ring makes good use of the fight films, often reverting to slow motion so the audience can more readily see what is being described and analyzed. Atlas’s insightful observations, interspersed with Crawford’s astute comments, are both eye opening and entertaining. The mutual respect each has for the other is obvious. Crawford comes off as personable and intelligent. In explaining to Atlas why he decided on a certain strategy Crawford reveals himself to be a thinking fighter who can easily articulate his methodology. What transpires is a wonderful “teacher and student” vibe in which the audience becomes privy to aspects of boxing technique that are seldom revealed or understood.

Teddy Instructing Michael Moorer

Each episode also includes Atlas and Crawford standing up to demonstrate a significant move or counter move that was utilized during the course of a match. Some of the topics discussed include how timing can nullify speed, how to handle a taller opponent, the importance of footwork for defense, or why Crawford was getting hit by an opponent’s left jab. There is a wonderfully revealing moment during the viewing of Crawford’s breakthrough bout with Yuriorkis Gamboa, a talented fighter with as much boxing skill as Crawford but of late hampered by inactivity and age. A slow motion replay shows Crawford getting tagged with a solid right cross. It was Gamboa’s best punch of the fight. Atlas explains that Gamboa set up the punch with a feint and a “throwaway left hook” that distracted Crawford and left him open. Lesson learned. 

This type of real boxing knowledge is like imbibing a cool glass of sweet lemonade on a hot summer day.

This is as far away as one can get from the mindless “rock ‘em sock ‘em” robotic style of too many of today’s poorly coached boxers. Every moment of Inside the Ring is filled with information that relates to tactics and strategy. Thankfully the overused and simplistic “punch stats” aka “CompuBox” numbers are never mentioned. Atlas and Crawford are less concerned with counting up the number of punches than with understanding and explaining what created the situations for those punches to find (or not to find) their targets in the first place. As opposed to the usual mundane and hyperbolic verbiage that accompanies most televised fights, exposure to this type of real boxing knowledge is like imbibing a cool glass of sweet lemonade on a hot summer day. 

As of today there are no plans to continue the series. That is unfortunate because ESPN is in possession of a treasure that is not being utilized to its fullest extent. That treasure is Atlas’s extraordinary knowledge and teaching skills combined with ESPN’s vast collection of boxing films from the 1890s to the present. 

Not only would such a program improve the boxing IQ of every fan, it would improve the overall quality of the sport!

How great would it be to experience Atlas analyzing and interpreting the boxing techniques, strengths, and weaknesses of the sport’s biggest stars of the past and present in the setting described above? I have no doubt that such a program would do much to revive, or at the very least improve, the lost art of boxing. It would be a shame if this program was just a one shot deal thus depriving us of future insights into the mysteries of the sweet science. Not only would such a program improve the boxing IQ of every fan, it would improve the overall quality of the sport! In other words, it would be a gift that would keep on giving. 

Boxing historian Mike Silver is the author of The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science and Stars in the Ring: Jewish Champions in the Golden Age of Boxing. Both are available at Amazon.com

Tommy Burns: Smallest Heavyweight Champ Packed A Punch

A True “World” Champion

By Bobby Franklin

Unfortunately, Tommy Burns is best remembered for being the man from whom Jack Johnson won the Heavyweight title. That fight took place in 1908 in Sydney, Australia with Johnson winning a one sided victory. The fight has been recorded as a stoppage win for Johnson, but in some records it is stated Johnson won on points. The reason for the discrepancy is because an agreement had been made before the bout that if the police stepped in and stopped the fight it would be decided on points. Indeed, the police did put an end to the action, but it was apparent Tommy was not going to last much longer, so a stoppage victory is more the truth.

It has also been reported that Burns went into the fight still suffering from the effects of influenza. This is not to imply he would have beaten Johnson if he had been in top shape, but it goes to show the tremendous courage Tommy showed in standing up to Johnson for 14 rounds. Tommy not only stood up under a heavy physical beating, but also had to endure Johnson’s humiliating taunts. In spite of all this Burns never took a backwards step and gave it his all.

Born Noah Brusso on June 17, 1881 in Normanby Township near Hanover, Ontario, Canada, his family was of German descent and very poor. Tommy was the 12th of thirteen children, five of whom died before reaching adulthood. Tommy eventually landed in Detroit where he began his boxing career. He changed his name to Tommy Burns and began gaining quite the reputation as a small man who would take on opponents regardless of size. Burns had very strong legs from where he got much of his power.

Burns and Philadelphia Jack O’Brien

Tommy’s first major bout was against all-time great Philadelphia Jack O’Brien, and while he lost a decision to O’Brien he gave a good account of himself. He would go on to fight O’Brien two more times, both matches being in defense of his heavyweight title with one bout ending in a draw that most people thought Tommy won and the other in a clearcut victory for the champ.

At 5’7” Tommy Burns was the smallest heavyweight champion to ever hold the title. He was also one of the most active, as well as a true world champion defending the title all around the world and against all comers.

Burns first laid claim to the heavyweight championship with a victory over Marvin Hart. Hart had been designated the champion by Jim Jeffries when Marvin defeated Jack Root. Jeffries, who had retried as undefeated champ, thought he could name a successor, but the public never really accepted Hart. Nor did they accept Burns when he defeated Hart. Tommy knew this and decided to prove his worth by traveling the world and fighting the best fighters different countries had to offer. This took him to such places as London, Dublin, Paris, and Melbourne, Australia. Eventually he would gain public acceptance.

Burns and Philadelphia Jack O’Brien

Because of his small stature Tommy was often the underdog even when defending the title. He proved the oddsmakers wrong time and time again making thirteen defenses of the crown, the 4th most of any title holder. Two of those defenses came on the same night. Eleven of the victories were by knock out with only Jack O’Brien lasting the distance with him which he did on two occasions by running and holding. Burns’s kayo of Bill Squires at 1:28 of the first round is one of the fastest wins in any heavyweight title fight.

It has been widely reported that Tommy was ducking Jack Johnson and was forced into fighting him when Jack pursued him around the world. In reality, Tommy was also a smart businessman who managed himself. He held out for a big payday knowing the fight would be a huge attraction. When his demand for $30,000.00, more than twice the amount ever paid to a heavyweight champ was met, he quickly signed for the fight.

Burns was the first and only Canadian born boxer to win the heavyweight title. He holds the record for consecutive knock outs in heavyweight title fights with eleven. He is ranked 4th highest in heavyweight history for the number of times he defended the title. Jack Johnson was the first man to stop him in a fight and he would only lose by stoppage one more time, in his last fight when he was 39 years old and had been inactive for two years.

Tommy Burns may not have been an all-time great, but in his day he was a force to be reckoned with. Always in shape with an aggressive counter punching style, he packed dynamite in both fists.

Burns retired from the ring in 1920. He engaged in several business ventures including managing boxers and running a saloon. He eventually became a minister. Burns passed away in 1955 at the age of 73.

There is a Youtube clip of him speaking long after he retried. His voice is clear and strong and he shows no effects from having engaged in 58 fights, a testament to his skills. His final record stands at 46 wins (34 by knockout), 4 losses (2 by stoppage), and 8 draws. Very impressive.

Tommy Burns deserves to be remembered for much more than his bout with Jack Johnson. He was a true World Champion.


Stop Complaining About The Heat!

Just Imagine What It Was Like Being Ringside

At Toledo On July 4, 1919

By Bobby Franklin

So, now that the long winter is finally a thing of the past and summer is in full swing we are already hearing the complaints about the heat. As people go from there air conditioned homes to their air conditioned cars to their air conditioned offices they can’t seem to resist bemoaning the hot weather. While having dinner in an air conditioned restaurant after attending a movie at an air conditioned theater the topic turns to how miserable they are because of the heat. 

We live in an unprecedented time in human history. Never have so many lived in such comfort; We have indoor plumbing, central heating, cooling, home entertainment centers, and supermarkets with an endless supply of food at our fingertips, and medical care that is beyond what anyone could have imagined just a few years ago. Poor people in the United States today have more comfort than the wealthiest people did as little as a hundred years ago, yet we all seem to be complaining more than ever. It seems human beings react to positive change by looking for more reasons to be unhappy.

A lot of this may be blamed on the amygdala, the part of our brain that plays the primary role in our processing of memory, decision making, and emotional response. The amygdala is programmed to seek out bad news. It does this because bad things can harm us, and in order to be able to defend ourselves from harm we must be alert to danger. With less danger around us the amygdala will become alert to more minor problems. It is one of the reasons we are so influenced by bad news. The more negative things we hear, the more likely we are to think things are much worse than they are.

At a time when we should be counting our blessings we have become a nation of whining children.

At a time when we should be counting our blessings we have become a nation of whining children. It really is tragic that with so much good around us we just can’t seem to stop and smell the roses. We have lost all sight of how tough things used to be. 

As July 4 approaches I think back to an earlier Independence Day. No, not the one in 1776, but one just less than a hundred years ago. I have written about it before, the day Jack Dempsey won the Heavyweight Title from Jess Willard. While it was a brutal fight, I have often wondered what it was like have been sitting at ringside that day in Toledo, Ohio. While the fighters had to deal with the heat, they were in the ring for less than a half an hour, the spectators spent all afternoon there, and what an afternoon it was. 

110 Degrees At Ringside!

When the crowd first arrived the temperature was in the nineties and rose to 110 degrees by the time the main event took place. The fight was outdoors and there was no shade. The sky was clear and the sun was blazing. On top of this, there was a shortage of beverages. The night before, a huge batch of lemonade had been made, but the fighter Battling Nelson mistook the tub containing the refreshing drink for a bathtub and bathed in it. Water was brought in, but not enough, and what there was was warm.

Promoter Tex Rickard had the stadium built just for the fight, and it was put up fast. The lumber used had not had time to season so when people sat down on the boards the sap was leaking out sticking many of them to their seats and ruining there clothing. I guess it was one way to keep people from staying in their seats.

You also have to remember that back then people did not have access to cool clothing. Most were wearing wool pants and jackets. The only protection they had from the sun were the straw hats they were wearing. There was no where to go for relief. Hotels and bars were not air conditioned. They might find a place with a fan or two, but that would mostly just circulate the hot air. It had to be miserable being there, but watching a film of the fight and the reaction to Dempsey winning the title, the heat did not dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd. 

It’s funny, but as tough as things were back then, I doubt many people complained. Daily life even for the best off was something we could not even imagine today. Life was hard and so were the people, but they dealt with it and moved forward. And, in moving forward they continually worked to make things better. Now that we have achieved so much it might be nice if we put things into perspective and stopped complaining for a while and instead, started counting our blessings. 

As hot and sticky a day it was on July 4, 1919, the people attending the Dempsey/Willard fight were actually there to have a good time, and they did. It would soon be back to work for them where things would be even harder. I’ve often thought that Jack Dempsey was possibly the toughest man that ever lived, but those fans at ringside were pretty hard characters too. Next time you complain about the heat while sitting with friends in an air conditioned room, just imagine yourself at ringside in Toledo in 1919. And also remember, those folks were there to have fun.

 

The Ros Muc Legend

THE MAN WHO WAS NEVER KNOCKED DOWN: The Life of Boxer Sean Mannion.

By Ronan Mac Con Iomaire.

Rowman & Littlefield, June 2018. 240 pages.

Reviewed by Len Abram

Boxing biographies, like boxers in fiction and film, are usually about champions, those who reached the craggy peak of success, a title. This book is about a contender, who missed being champion, by not that much. In the 1980s, although Sean Mannion was a top contender, with many great fights, he never wore the gaudy belts of the WBA or the WBC, arbiters of the sport. For fellow Irishman Ronan Mac Con Iomaire, his biographer, Mannion deserves a second chance for the public to respect the fighter he was, and honor the man he is. The man who was never knocked down is still standing.

Iomaire has already helped produce a documentary about Mannion. In 2017, his “Rocky Ros Muc” was well received by Irish film critics. Mannion’s story begins in the village of Ros Muc in Connemara, western Ireland. Its most notable inhabitants, including Mannion, had to leave to find fame and success. Ireland’s people, it has been said, is its greatest export. The mother of the current mayor of Boston came from the village.

When Sean Mannion climbed through the ropes for every fight, the label on his trunks read “Rosmuc,” for his village of 500. Mannion was once offered thousands of dollars to change the “Rosmuc” to the name of a business or a product, but he refused. He wouldn’t do it for a million, he said. “Rocky Ros Muc” is a reference to the Rocky of the most popular boxing story on film. That Rocky was a thick tongued, Phillie native, who punches his way to glory against all the odds, from lower class to sports aristocracy. The 20 foot square of the ring has its own truth to tell in the sweat and blood of opponents. Pedigree, privilege, and position don’t count a whit once the bell is rung and the fight is on. At its best, the ring is a meritocracy.

In reality, as Iomaire explains, boxing is a big business, where few are fortunate – Sugar Ray Leonard was the first to make $100 million in the sport – and most of the rest, like Mannion, barely make a living. Managers, those who direct the talent and careers of the boxer, make a major difference, the choice of manager a mix of opportunity and luck. Mannion’s best manager, the legendary Angelo Dundee, appreciated his boxers and called each “my guy.” For Dundee, boxers, their well-being, came first. His job was to enhance their physical and psychological health to make them champions.

Dundee finished his career with 15 champions. He considered Mannion as one of his most talented boxers. Dundee noted how tough Mannion was. It was he who remarked that Sean had never been knocked down, the title of Iomaire’s biography. Mannion could take a punch and distribute its force, roll with it, to lessen its impact. Mannion was a natural fighter, and often sparred out of his weight class. Dundee’s regret is that he didn’t manage Mannion when he was 20, instead of 30, nearing retirement.

Iomaire has a convincing example of the other kind of management, where the boxer’s interests do not come first. In the early 1980s, a fight between the highly ranked Tommy Hearns and the unknown Sean Mannion was proposed. Aside from more money, success or even a good showing in the matchup would have elevated Mannion’s career and prospects. NBC commentator Dr. Ferdie Pacheco vetoed the fight because of Mannion’s manager then, Jimmy Connolly.

In June 1981, Connolly had committed Mannion to fight Davey “Boy” Green in London, but Mannion remained stateside for a wedding. Connolly was on the hook for a fighter against Green. He put in Danny Long after Long, just coming off a hard loss against Alex Ramos, had only 10 days of rest. Against Green, Long was beaten in four rounds, and his face, according to Iomaire, looked like someone had taken a baseball bat to it.

Pacheco was furious. Allowing Long only 10 days of rest was abuse, an example of what’s wrong with boxing. To the newspapers, he complained that’s how boxers got killed. Pacheco wouldn’t  allow any fighter managed by Connolly to be on NBC, not because of the boxers, but their manager. So the bout between Mannion and Hearns didn’t happen.  (Pacheco also told Muhammed Ali to retire when Ali’s reflexes slowed, but the champ ignored the advice.) 

Mannion continued his rise in the ranks until he got his chance to fight for the light middleweight crown. On October 19, 1984, in perhaps the most meaningful contest in his career, he went 15 rounds against one of the best of his class, Mike McCallum, whom Tommy Hearns reportedly feared and avoided fighting. A veteran of over 250 fights, a natural warrior like Mannion, McCallum would be his toughest opponent. Mannion, however, was fearless.

Fortune did not smile on the Irishman. Five weeks before the fight, Mannion’s eye was cut by an errant elbow during sparring. The stitches made it impossible for him to spar. The wound had to heal. Mannion trained, hit the bags and pads, and ran the miles, but he lost the sharpness gained through sparring. In the fight, McCallum’s punches reopened the cut and shut Mannion’s right eye. Although he was lucky to last through the 15th , Mannion lost the decision. McCallum went on to defend his title many times after, but never faced Mannion again, his toughest opponent.

The fight at Madison Square Garden, as Iomaire describes it, explains elements of Mannion’s identity, what made the fighter into who he is. South Station ran extra trains to New York to accommodate all the Boston Irish, on their way to attend the fight. Iomaire estimates that 10,000 of the 20,000 in the arena were Mannion fans.

Like the “Rosmuc” stitched onto his trunks, the Gaelic language of Ireland epitomized Mannion’s roots, and perhaps Ireland’s painful history, the poverty, wars, famines, and oppression. Paddy, Mannion’s brother and cornerman at his fights, used to shout at him in Gaelic to lift Mannion’s spirits and remind him who he was. Mannion feared no man, but he was worried that he would bring shame to Ireland and Ros Muc.

That wasn’t the case. When he returned to Ros Muc after his defeat, he was treated as a hero for representing Ireland in a championship bout. Sean Mannion never became champion in any division. He fought until retiring in 1993 at age 36. He worked construction in Boston to make a living. For a while, he trained boxers, but apparently his gym closed, the interest in boxing waning and the interest in property rising, as poorer sections of Boston gentrified.

Iomaire says little about Mannion’s personal life (we learn late he was divorced, remarried, and has a daughter) or his problem with drinking, perhaps those empty calories one reason he struggled to make his weight class. Readers will be fascinated by the episode when Mannion had to lose nine pounds in a day to make the welterweight requirement, or forfeit the fight. Mannion got through that ordeal, as he did through every challenge in the sport of boxing – except winning the title, champion.

Could Joe Louis Beat Today’s Big Heavyweights? He Sure Could.

He Beat Giant Buddy Baer Twice

By Bobby Franklin

Poking around on social media recently I came across a discussion where the “experts” were once again going on about how today’s big heavyweights would be just too strong for the champs from previous eras. There was little disagreement that guys like Wilder, Joshua, and the Klitschko brothers would walk through fighters such as Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, and Jack Dempsey. One person commented that all of the big heavyweights of the past 25 years would have beaten all of the smaller heavyweights that came before them. These people seem to believe we were living in Munchkin Land until the past couple of decades. Using their reasoning we would have to believe Jess Willard and Primo Carnera were the greatest heavyweight champions of the past century since they were comparable in size to today’s fighters. 

I could go on about the number of “small” heavyweight champs who took apart men much larger in size than they were. I have written in the past that in many of these matchups where the champ was taking on a much larger opponent, not only did the smaller man win, but it was not even close to being his toughest fight.

Since it seems so many of these experts just can’t get past believing size is the most important factor in deciding the outcome of a heavyweight fight I thought I would once again come up with an example of why someone like Joe Louis would have had no problem defeating today’s crop oversized champs.

Buddy Baer was a contender for the heavyweight title in the early 1940s. He was the brother of former champ Max Baer. At 6’ 7” and weighing in at around 250 pounds he was comparable in size to today’s heavyweights. Buddy was also a tremendous puncher scoring 49 knockouts in his 53 wins. He lost only 7 fights and was stopped just twice. Baer was also lean and agile. He had excellent boxing moves to go along with his great strength. Unlike today’s wild swinging heavyweights, Baer threw short, accurate punches.

In 1941, Buddy stopped Tony Galento a win that put him in position to challenge heavyweight champ Joe Louis. The fight was set for May 23, 1941 in Washington, DC. Louis weighed in at 201 3/4 to Baer’s 237 pounds. Buddy, at 6’7”, was also 5 inches taller and had a much longer reach. Seeing the two of them step into the ring together gives you a sense of what Louis would have looked like matched up against Klitschko or Wilder. The one difference being that Buddy Baer was a much better boxer that either Deonty or Vlad.

Boxing experts covering the bout in 1941 were bit more savvy than those around today. They made Joe Louis a ten to one favorite over Baer despite the difference in weight and height. The experts I hear from today would have had Baer a hundred to one favorite based on his size. After all, how could Louis possibly beat someone so much bigger than he was? We all know Wilder and Klitschko would just walk through Louis because of their size and strength. The same would have to hold true for Baer. 

A funny thing happened when the bell rang for the start of the fight. Baer came out aggressively and went after Louis. Baer was not prone to the wild swings such are used by Deonty Wilder. Instead, he used much shorter and well placed punches. He did back Louis up. He even managed to deck Joe with a short and accurate left hook, sending Joe through the ropes. But after that  the fight became pretty much a one sided affair. You see, Louis did something that today’s experts aren’t terribly familiar with; He used his great boxing skills to turn Baer’s size against him. Joe was able to slip inside the big man’s arms and hit him with short and powerful punches that hurt him. 

Buddy Baer was no quitter and did manage to stay in the fight trying his best to overpower Louis, but by the sixth round he was nearing the end. In that round Louis floored Baer three times with devastating and accurate blows. The final knock down finished him off. There was some controversy over the ending of the fight as Baer’s handlers argued the last knock down had come from a punch that was landed after the bell. Baer was protecting himself at the time it was landed, so if the bell had indeed rung before the punch had landed neither fighter heard it. It made no difference in the outcome of the fight.

It did make a difference in how the fight was ruled. Baer was helped back to his corner and was on his stool when the bell rang for the seventh round. His handlers argued he should be given the win because of a foul. Referee Arthur Donovan did not agree and instead disqualified Baer because his seconds would not leave the ring and allow the fight to continue.

Louis v Baer Second Fight

The minor controversy was enough to get Buddy a rematch with Louis, and on January 9, 1942 the two met again at Madison Square Garden. This time Baer came in even heavier for the fight probably figuring the extra weight would work to his advantage. That theory feel apart before the bell could ring ending the first round. Louis was devastating in taking the giant apart dropping him three times in less than three minutes with the final knockdown being for the ten count.

If you can’t seem to visualize Joe Louis handling himself against the overgrown champs of today just take a look at his matches with Buddy Baer. You will see how the old adage “The bigger they are, the harder they fall” applies. 

Joe Louis would have no problem dealing with today’s unschooled giants. They would provide target practice for him. To say a Deonty Wilkder would be too big and strong for Louis is simply laughable. Joe would have had a field day with him.

It should also be noted that when Louis and Baer fought the second time WW II was underway. To help with the war effort Louis donated his entire purse of $47,100.94 from the fight to the Navy Relief Fund. Not only was Joe Louis a great champion, he was also a great American.  

Mickey Walker

The Toy Bulldog Took

On Heavyweights

Fought Greb In And Out Of The Ring

By Bobby Franklin

When trying to rank the greatest fighters of all time there are many different criteria used. Included in these are boxing ability, punching power, defensive skills, longevity, consistency, the ability to take a punch, and the opposition encountered.

Mickey Walker

Former Welterweight and Middleweight Champion Mickey Walker  would not rank high in the categories of boxing boxing ability and defensives skills, but he more than made up for that in the ability to take a punch, longevity, and the quality of the opponents he took on. Not only did he win the welterweight and middleweight titles, he also fought for the light heavyweight championship losing a decision to Tommy Loughran. But that was not enough for the 5’7” slugger. He also became a contender for the heavyweight championship. 

Walker, from Elizabeth, New Jersey, began his professional career in 1919, and in 1921 he held welterweight champion Jack Britton to a draw over 12 rounds. In 1922 he would get another shot at Britton and this time he pulled out a decisive win knocking the champion down 4 times on his way to winning the title.

In 1925, Walker moved up in weight class and took on middleweight champ Harry Greb in a bout that would become the stuff of legend. Well, not the bout in the ring but the one that supposedly took place in the hours after that encounter.

Walker and Greb Before The Bell

In a 1981 interview with Peter Heller for his book “In This Corner”, Walker told his side of the story. He concedes Greb won the fight in the ring that night but says he won the rematch that took place outside of a barroom hours later. About Greb, Walker had this to say “He gave me a good shellacking the night we fought. The fight after, on the street, I always take credit for winning that, so I was champion anyhow.” He goes on to relate how the two had been drinking together in the company of their girlfriends. The trouble began when they walked outside and Mickey told Greb “You know Harry, you’d never have licked me if you didn’t stick your thumb in my eye.” Walker said he didn’t mean it as an insult, but Greb certainly took it as one. Harry responded “Why you bum, I could lick you if I had no hands, and I’ll show you.” As Greb said this he began taking off his jacket. Just as Harry had his coat part way off and with the sleeves down by his elbows Walker fired off his best shot at him. According to Mickey, Greb flew four feet into the air and up against a wall before crashing to the ground. At this point a huge policeman stepped in and broke things up. 

After his evening with Greb, Mickey returned to defending the welterweight title but in 1926 he lost it to Pete Latzo. At this point he was having difficulty making the weight. He returned to the middleweight division and later that same year he won the title from Tiger Flowers. 

It was at this point that Walker got an itch to go after bigger game. Though he had not gotten any bigger he decided to campaign in the light heavyweight division and took on former champ Mike McTigue whom he kayoed in one round. He then won a decision over Paul Berlanbach. Mickey continued defending his middleweight crown while fighting the bigger men and eventually earned a shot at the light heavyweight championship taking on champion Tommy Loughran. On March 28, 1929 he lost a ten round split decision to the smooth boxing Loughran.  

After the loss to Loughran, Walker ran off 22 straight victories in the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions. He also did something else; he began fighting heavyweights. He believed he would have better luck against the very big guys because they would be slower and easier to hit. For a time it looked like his reasoning was paying off. He beat the very tough Johnny Risko twice and then took on the fearsome Bearcat Wright. Outweighed by 42 pounds and a half a foot shorter than his opponent, Walker, after being down briefly in the first round, came back to floor Wright and by the tenth and final round had Bearcat hanging on. Mickey won the decision and the opportunity to take on Jack Sharkey in an elimination bout to determine a challenger to champion Max Schmeling.

Walker vs Sharkey

Walker fought aggressively against Sharkey and, while absorbing quite a few heavy blows fromJack, kept the pressure on to earn a draw with the future heavyweight champion. It was an amazing performance by the 5’7″ Toy Bulldog.

Mickey continued taking on heavyweights and defeated King Levinsky and Paulino Uzcudun while dropping a decision to Johnny Risko in their third meeting. In 1932 he would be matched with the now former champion Max Schmeling. A win over Schmeling would put Walker in line for a shot at champion Jack Sharkey. 

Walker vs Schmeling

Schmeling was the one big man Walker should not have stepped in with. Mickey’s straight at you style was made to order for the counterpunching German who knocked Walker down late in the first round. Mickey took an awful beating as Max continually landed with his vaunted right hand. Mickey kept attempting to land hooks on Max but was out punched time and again In the 8th round Walker, with his eyes swelling shut was dropped two more times. At one point Schmeling pleaded with the referee to stop the fight. When Walker returned to his corner his seconds waved the towel signifying their man had had enough. 

In the Schmeling fight Mickey showed incredible courage, but this fight also took a lot out of him. He would continue fighting but was never the same again. He would challenge one more time for the light heavyweight title, losing a decision to Maxie Rosenbloom. He never lost his middleweight title, rather he gave it up when he set his sights on the heavyweight throne. 

Schmeling Pleads With The Referee To Stop The Bout

Mickey Walker retired from the ring in 1935. His final record is believed to be 131 wins (60 by knock out), 25 losses, 2 draws, and 2 no contests. After retiring he opened a restaurant in New York City and also took up painting. He earned some renown as an artist and his work was displayed in galleries in New York and London.

Walker died in 1981 after suffering from Parkinson’s Syndrome no doubt brought on from his years in the ring. If greatness was judged solely on toughness and heart Mickey Walker would rank very near the top.

A Few Pearls of Wisdom from My Interview with the Great Archie Moore

A Few Pearls of Wisdom from My Interview with the Great Archie Moore

By 

Mike Silver

On February 26, 1983 I had the great good fortune to meet and interview the legendary Archie Moore. The former light heavyweight champion (1952-1962) had amassed one of the greatest records in boxing history. After a long and arduous 17 year campaign Archie finally won the championship in his 177th professional fight. He fought from 1935 to 1963 and retired with an outstanding 186-23-10 won-lost-draw record (including one no contest). It is safe to say his extraordinary number of knockout victories—131—will never be eclipsed.  

Archie was in New York City to present an award to one of his former opponents, Charley Burley. Burley was just one of at least a score of genuinely great boxers that Moore fought during his illustrious career. Many of the names in that record read like an entire HOF roster: Cassius Clay (Moore made it a point to say that he never fought Muhammad Ali since the future heavyweight champion had not yet changed his name at the time they fought), Rocky Marciano, Ezzard Charles, Charley Burley, Jimmy Bivins, Holman Williams, Bert Lytell, Lloyd Marshall, Harold Johnson, Eddie Booker and Teddy Yarosz, to name a few. If Archie Moore were fighting today he would be heavyweight champion after already having won both the middleweight and light heavyweight titles. 

Although his formal education ended in high school, Archie never stopped learning. He was a worldly individual and full of the wisdom of life experiences. He possessed an analytical mind and was intensely curious about a wide range of topics. Mostly self-educated Archie was, without question, one of the most remarkable, charismatic and accomplished characters I have ever met—in or out of boxing.  

Archie was an artist in the truest sense of the word.

As author Joyce Carol Oates has so accurately stated—“The brilliant boxer is an artist, albeit in an art not readily comprehensible, or palatable, to most observers”.  Archie was an artist in the truest sense of the word. In 1955 the near 40 year old Moore challenged Rocky Marciano for the heavyweight championship of the world. Although knocked out in the 9th round Moore put up a rousing fight, even dropping Rocky hard in the 2nd round for a short count. This is how the New York Times reported it the following day: “Moore…gave an exhibition of boxing skill that, even in defeat, was almost as thrilling and moving as the display of awesome power that eventually brought the victory to Rocky.” When this sport was still worth our time and attention Archie Moore’s name stood out like a brilliant shining star. 

Here is the interview:

MS: Archie, you are in New York to honor one of your former opponents, the great Charley Burley. So I think it’s appropriate to begin with him. You lost a unanimous 10 round decision to Burley and were knocked down four times. What happened?

AM: Charley Burley had a very deceptive style of fighting. He just tricked me. He tricked me because we both boxed similar but whereas mine was an apparent forward movement Burley’s was a continuous serpentine movement. He was like a threshing machine going back and forth. His body would sometimes lean over towards you and he’d pull it back just in time. Hitting him solid was almost impossible. But what made him so dangerous was that he could punch from any angle. He was never off balance although he appeared to be off balance on many occasions. 

MS: You had one of the longest careers of any boxer who ever lived. You fought in five separate decades—the 1930s to the 1960s. What was the secret of your boxing longevity?

AM: Well, I knew how to fight. I was also a master of pace. It was very important to know how to force pace and set a pace. As a result very few people could make me fight out of my system of fighting. Eddie Booker, Lloyd Marshall and Charley Burley made me fight out of my system. In my winding up years Marciano was one, as was Durelle. I had to fight out of my system to get back into that fight. Another boxer I had trouble with was Jimmy Bivins. Jimmy knocked me out the first time we met because he had such a deceptive reach. Although he was no taller than I was (5’ 11”)his arms touched below his knees. When he pulled his arms up they looked no longer than mine, but when he reached them out he hit me with the hook. 

MS: Well, you obviously learned from your mistake because you defeated Bivins four times after that. Looking over your amazing record I noticed that the great Ezzard Charles defeated you three times during your prime fighting years. Did Ezzard make you fight out of your system of fighting?

AM: No…no. He just outfought me. Ezzard was always in superb condition. He was a nice standup fighter and an expert boxer. Whereas he was not a terrific puncher, but he was a good puncher with both hands.

MS: Archie, you are acknowledged to be one of boxing’s all-time knockout artists. Are great punchers born or can a boxer increase power by perfecting such things as balance, leverage, and timing?

AM: Those ingredients you just mentioned are conclusive; all are an admixture as such as you just described, especially timing. 

MS: Who were some of the great punchers Archie Moore fought?

AM: Charley Burley was a terrific puncher, although to look at him you would not know it. His build fooled everybody. Burley’s legs were skinny, he was not extra wide of shoulder, he was small in weight and his height was the same as mine. But that man could get more leverage into a punch than anyone I ever fought. Another great puncher was Curtis “Hatchetman” Sheppard who once missed a punch to the jaw and broke a man’s collar bone. Lloyd Marshall was the snappiest hitter of them all. He could knock you out with either hand. Ron Richards was a tough hitter. Marciano was a very hard puncher—a bludgeoning type of hitter—super conditioned by Charlie Goldman. He was 100% aggression. There were others but I’d have to look at the record because I forget. 

MS: Archie I think it’s fair to say that since you were still fighting at an age when most other boxers were long retired you had to utilize every advantage, mental, physical and psychological, in order to maintain your edge over much younger opponents. Can you give an example?

AM: In 1955 I fought Nino Valdez in Las Vegas, Nevada. At the time Nino was the top ranked heavyweight. He was 6’ 4’ tall and weighed about 215 pounds. It was a 15 round bout and the winner was promised a bout with Marciano for the heavyweight title. The fight was staged at an outdoor arena in the late afternoon. As the sun began to settle on the west side of the ring I was sitting in my corner facing the sun and noticed that Nino was sitting with his back to the sun. The bell rings and I move to maneuver and before any activity starts I’ve already got my head under his chin and I’m muscling this big guy around. I face him into the sun and I keep turning him to the sun. He’s trying to get back around and I keep cutting him off. I’m always maneuvering him back to face the sun which was very bright. And all the while I keep spearing him with the left hand and keep twisting and twisting and turning him and try as he could, he could never make me turn into the sun. The sun was of course bothering him and I kept thumping him with the left jab. Hard stiff stiff jabs.  Pretty soon his eyes began to lump up. One eye closed up completely and the other was closing fast. By this time the sun was going down and the fight was coming to a close. I won 14 out of 15 rounds. 

MS: What does Archie Moore think of today’s boxers?

AM: “I think modern day fighters do not get proper basic training.  Boxing is based on disciplined training and disciplined repetition. Do you know the best friend a fighter has when coming up? (Archie pointed to a large floor length mirror). A very important part of training is practicing your moves in front of the mirror. But most fighters never come in contact with the mirror until they start to jump rope. Since they skip rope in front of a mirror why don’t they shadow box in front of a mirror? You can do that at home. You go through the motions. You learn how to duck. I can see where I’m going to hit my opponent. Am I at the right distance from him? I can hit him over the heart. I can hit him in his liver. I can step aside and hit him in the kidney. Go over the top, whatever. 

MS: After your victories over Joey Maxim for the title you defended it against Harold Johnson. This was your fifth meeting with Johnson, who you already had outpointed three times. In this fight you were behind on points when you knocked Harold out in the 14th round. 

AM: Harold Johnson was a great fighter. A picture book boxer. I was just his nemesis the same way that Ezzard Charles was my nemesis. Joey Maxim was a difficult boxer to fight because he knew so much about defense. Joe was 99% defense. And Joe was very durable and tough. 

MS:  What are the ingredients that go into making a successful prizefighter and what advice would you offer to a young boxer asking for guidance and direction?

AM: The first ingredient is discipline. Discipline and desire. It is said that desire is the candle of intent and motivation is the match that lights it, and that candle must be kept burning.  Once you make up your mind to go all the way to the top in boxing, first of all, go and get the best qualified instructor to teach you of the things you need to know. It should be someone you like, someone that you can deal with and someone you can listen to and obey. It should also be someone that you have trust in. Otherwise, somewhere down the line you’re going to have a breakup, a mix-up, or an argument and you lose a friend. Because the person who is your instructor, your trainer, your teacher, he’s closer to you than your father. 

MS: Trying to find a qualified trainer nowadays is easier said than done. The number of expert boxing instructors, as compared to years ago, has diminished. What can be done about that?

AM: As far as the area of improving the skills of boxers is concerned, I have developed a whole new system of teaching the basic boxing techniques. It is a new and revolutionary technique. I taught it to George Foreman and we went down to Jamaica and won the title with it. I thought George had untapped reservoirs of strength and it was up to me to channel it. 

MS: Can you describe your revolutionary system and how it works?

AM: I could readily describe it but I prefer not to at this time.

MS: OK. Let’s change the subject. Who in your opinion was the greatest pound for pound boxer you have ever seen. 

(Author’s note: Archie did not answer immediately, taking about ten seconds to consider his answer)

AM: Henry Armstrong. Here is a man who won the featherweight, lightweight and welterweight titles all in the same year, and the men he beat to win those titles were great fighters in their own right. 

MS: What about Sugar Ray Robinson?

AM: When Ray was active there was nobody any smoother. Watching Ray fight was like drinking a nice…soft…drink. I enjoyed watching Ray Robinson fight because I appreciate beauty in athletics. I enjoyed watching Oscar Robertson move on the basketball court, Jim Brown on a football field, Andretti in an automobile, Willie the Shoe ride the horses. Everybody had their way of doing things with skill. These are skilled men and there’s nothing I like better than skill. When a guy does something, and does it well, I admire that. There’s never been anybody more graceful, skillful with a rope than Ray and I’ve seen some awfully good rope skippers. I would rather see Ray Robinson punch a speed bag than watch the average guy go out and fight a six round fight. Ray was a skillful man, he was a game man. In his time there was nobody more beautiful than he was, although there were one or two guys that might have beaten Ray in their time. I would like for someone to say, personally, that I think Charley Burley could have beaten Ray in Ray’s best time. But people hate to go out on a limb. 

MS: Is there anything about your boxing life you would have changed or done differently?

AM: I’d have like to have made some money and have more financial gain out of boxing. You see a  boxer’s wish is to be independent. This is a profession. I like to be without obligations to other people but I was obligated. But I was mindful of whom I borrowed money from and I was careful not to get mixed up with people who would be embarrassing to you at a time when they wanted to collect.

MS: Thank you for your time Archie. 

(Mike Silver is the author of Stars in the Ring: Jewish Champions in the Golden Age of Boxing and The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science. Both books are available on Amazon.com)


https://youtu.be/c7qFsEmK1gE

Tommy Collins vs Jimmy Carter

The Boston Massacre

By Bobby Franklin

It was April 24, 1953 when Tommy Collins stepped into the ring at the Boston Garden to challenge Lightweight Champion Jimmy Carter for the title. Collins had become a favorite of fans who were taken with his exciting style and hard punching. At the time of the Carter fight Collins had scored knock outs in 40 of his 58 victories. He had also lost 9 bouts with 7 of those losses coming via stoppage. His biggest win was a kayo of former Featherweight Champion Wille Pep, though many questioned whether that fight was on the level.

Carter Drops Collins

Collins was coming off of a 6 fight winning streak going into the fight while  Jimmy Carter had dropped his last 2 contests, both non title fights.  Carter’s record  stood at 87 fights, 64 wins (20 by stoppage),15 losses (1 by stoppage), and 8 draws. While Collins, on paper, appeared to be the superior puncher, Carter had fought and beaten much stiffer competition. The champion was also an extremely skillful boxer who threw his punches with great accuracy, something Collins would experience first hand. The odds were set at 2 to 1 in the champions  favor, but it was not long after the opening bell that 100 to 1 would have made more sense. The referee for the bout was Tommy Rawson, a former amateur boxing star who was reported to have had 220 simon-pure fights before turning pro. 

The fight was a huge event in Boston, drawing approximately 12,000 fans and setting a record gate for the time with gross receipts adding up to $152,155.00. It was also broadcast live on national television. 

As the fighters entered the ring a Marine Corps color guard stood at attention for the playing of the National Anthem. The Garden crowd was filled with excitement at the anticipation of their local hero winning the title. That excitement would dissipate quickly and turn to concern the local boy would be seriously injured or even killed.

As the fight began it didn’t take long to see it was a serious mismatch. Carter immediately showed he was the superior fighter taking control of the bout before the sound of the opening bell had faded. He boxed rings around Collins for the first two rounds. As bad as this was, it would turn much worse for Collins.

There is little doubt the bout should have been stopped after the third time Tommy hit the canvas.

At the bell for the third round Carter came out and landed a solid left hook to the chin of Collins. Seconds later he landed with a tremendous right hand that dropped Collins flat on his back. Tommy appeared to be out before he hit the canvas, but by some miracle, or perhaps curse, he made it  back to his feet at the count of nine. Referee Tommy Rawson very quickly wiped off Collins’ gloves and immediately sent him back into action. Carter dropped Collins again with a left/right combination. Again, Collins looked to be out but got back to his feet at the count of eight. And again, referee Rawson didn’t take any time to examine Collins and had him resume fighting. Carter would go on to deck Collins for a total of seven times in that third round. Collins was attempting to fight back but what little resistance he showed was displayed with wild swings. Six of the seven knockdowns were brutal. It can be argued the fight should have been stopped after the first one. There is little doubt the bout should have been stopped after the third time Tommy hit the canvas.

At the end of the third round, Collins with his left eye swollen shut couldn’t find his corner and had to be helped there by his seconds. Referee Rawson did not examine Collins between rounds. His seconds never should of allowed him to come out for the fourth round, but they did. Carter dropped Collins again shortly after the start of the round and again Referee Rawson allowed the bout to continue. Collins went down again, and as Rawson was counting over him his handlers jumped into the ring and called a halt to the fight. If Collins had managed to regain his feet it is apparent Rawson would have let the carnage continue. I woudn’t have been surprised if Rawson picked Collins up off the canvas and pushed him back towards Carter. 

Shortly after the fight, switchboards at TV stations across the country lit up with calls from the public who had witnessed this disgraceful officiating by the referee. The callers were expressing outrage at the brutality they witnessed and the fact it was allowed to go on for so long. 

“I asked Rawson, what do you want to do, get him killed?”

After the third round, Carters’ trainer Willie Ketchum pleaded with Rawson to stop the fight. He said “I asked Rawson, what do you want to do, get him killed?” Rawson replied “I know what I’m doing.” Fans at ringside were yelling for the fight to be stopped. The Boston Globe reported  a priest in attendance had started praying for Collins’ life. Even by the standards of 1953 when fights were allowed to go on longer before being stopped, this was a travesty. Rawson never hesitated to send Collins right back into the fray, and never even gave him a close look after the knockdowns. It was a sickening exhibition of officiating. It was also a disgrace the ringside doctor didn’t intervene or for that matter did anyone from the Boxing Commission. 

After the bout, commissioners from around the country weighed in with criticism of how Rawson handled the fight. George Barton President of the National Boxing Association said “It was the worst exhibition of boxing officiating I have seen in fifty years. I can’t understand why the referee allowed Collins to take such a beating. The fight was so hopelessly one sided that I think it should have been stopped after Collins had been knocked down for the third time in the third round.” Harold Kaese wrote in the Boston Globe “It was pitiful to see…where does the contest leave off and humanity step in?” Former Welterweight Champion Barney Ross was quoted as saying “I have never seen such a brutal affair in a ring in all my life.”

Referee Tommy Rawson stood by his actions in the ring that night stating that “Since it was a championship fight, I regarded it as my duty to see it ended in a decisive fashion.” If it had ended any more decisively poor Tommy Collins would have been dead.

This bout and Rawson’s actions during it were a stain on boxing. it did lead to some changes being made to the rules. These changes included implementation of the three knock down rule and the mandatory eight count. Amazingly, Rawson was not officially censured for his bizarre and disgraceful behavior. In fact, he was allowed to continue working as a referee which he did for many years. 

Boxing by its very nature is a dangerous sport where the possibility of severe injury and death are always present. That’s why it is so important for officials to do their utmost to watch out for the welfare of the participants. Watching the Collins/Carter fight and the disgraceful manner in which Tommy Rawson behaved is a text book example of what not to do.

It appears Tommy Collins was lucky a priest was at ringside praying for him. God heard his plea.