Tag Archives: Heavyweight Championship

Tommy Farr The British Champ Was A Handful For Joe Louis But Never Got A Rematch. Why?

Tommy Farr
The British Champ Was A Handful
For Joe Louis But Never Got A Rematch. Why?

In a recent conversation I had the subject of Joe Louis’s bout against Tommy Farr came up. Farr was Joe’s first opponent after he had won the title by knocking out Jimmy Braddock, and it was expected he would do the same to the Welsh boxer. Tommy surprised everyone by extending Louis for the full fifteen rounds and looking pretty good while doing it.

Tommy Farr

It was Farr’s first fight in the United States. He had earned the title shot by scoring wins over Ben Foord, former champ Max Baer, and Walter Neusel. All of these bouts took place in London. Farr, who was from Tonypandy, Wales was an unknown quantity when he stepped into the ring with Louis on August 30, 1937. While his record was impressive he had not been seen by the American fans. Farr also got off to a bit of a rough start with the American press not being quite up to speed with the wisecracking New York reporters. In the end, and after a four day rain delay, promoter Mike Jacobs was still able to get almost 39,000 fans to show up at Yankee Stadium for the bout.

Farr vs Louis

It turned out there was much more to Tommy Farr than expected. The Welshman turned in an excellent performance keeping Joe off balance with an educated left hand and and good combinations. He even rocked the champion a couple of times. He did something that was rarely seen against Joe Louis; he was able to be competitive with the left jab. Evidence of this can be seen in photos of Louis taken after the bout where his right eye is quite swollen. Of course, the Brown Bomber did pretty well with his own jab busting up both of Farr’s eyes, and in the end Joe won a unanimous decision,

There are fight fans who insist Tommy was robbed that night, but in watching clips of the fight and reading accounts of it I have no doubt Joe Louis deserved the decision. Even Farr never complained about it. But Tommy certainly showed himself to not only be a very tough and courageous fighter, he also proved to be quite the skilled boxer who was the ultimate professional. He remained cool and composed throughout the fight. While Louis won by a fairly comfortable margin, many of the rounds were close.

So, the question that is often asked is why didn’t Farr get another shot at the title? I’ve heard it said that Joe’s management wanted nothing to do with Farr after having seen Joe extended by him. I don’t buy that. I am confident Louis would have gladly given him a rematch.

Braddock vs Farr

Now this is where things get a bit interesting. After the Louis fight Tommy remained in the states, and five months later he fought Jimmy Braddock. Farr lost a close and controversial decision to the former champ in what would be Braddock’s last bout. Not long after this Farr, wth prodding from promoter Mike Jacobs, took on Joe Gould as his manager. The very same Joe Gould who also managed Jimmy Braddock.

I recently read Tommy Farr’s autobiography, a very enjoyable book, and in it he talks about how, with Gould’s encouragement, he traveled to Hollywood where he started partying with the big names in the movie industry. He spent time at the home of Bing Crosby. Became friends with Clark Gable and Victor McLaglen and many others. He even spent time with the ten year old Shirley Temple who wanted to hear all about the Louis fight.

Farr also made some lady friends while out west. He would arrive at a bar frequented by many of these stars early in the evening so as not to miss out on having time with them. I’m sure he wasn’t sitting there drinking ice water. Now, why on Earth would a fight manager want his charge spending time living it up, especially after he had become a hot commodity off of his great performance against Louis? Farr should have and could have returned to Great Britain where he would have received a hero’s welcome, racked up a number of wins, and worked himself back into another shot at Louis for a big payday. Most people agreed he was robbed against Braddock, so that would not have been an obstacle after he scored a few wins. A second Farr Louis fight would also have been a big attraction.

But instead, he took on Max Baer in a rematch. Farr, who was now not in the best of shape, lost a one sided decision against the man he had beaten quite handily just a year earlier. Max dropped him three times in the fight. He then lost decisions to Lou Nova and Red Burman. After these losses Tommy returned to Britain never to fight in the United States again.

Tommy Farr with Family

In the course of a year the Welshman went from giving one of the greatest Heavyweight Champions the fight of his life to being handed the proverbial one way ticket to Palookaville. He had ended his relationship with the man, Joby Churchill, who had been with him from the beginning of his career and took up with a man, Joe Gould, whose now retired fighter, Braddock, owned ten percent of Joe Louis’s future purses. (The agreement with the Louis camp struck in order for Joe to get a title shot at Braddock). Gould now sends his new fighter off to the land of wine, women, and song instead of getting him into serious training for a campaign at another shot at the title.

Here’s my theory for why all that went on. While Louis and his team had no fear of losing a rematch with Farr, and knowing how Joe was, he most likely would have welcomed another go at it with Tommy. Joe Gould was afraid Farr may pull off an upset in a rematch. If that were to happen it would be a heavy financial hit for Braddock, and probably Gould. Joe Gould had a great motive for seeing Farr was removed form the picture, and I believe that is why he led Tommy down the road of self destruction.

Tommy Farr was a terrific boxer. A brave and dedicated fighter who deserved better. He showed what he was made of against Louis. It was his misfortune to have walked into the lion’s den. His great showing against Louis turned out to be a liability for him.

Farr would have just a few more fights in his homeland before WWII broke out. In 1950, in need of money, he made an ill advised comeback. The Tommy Farr story should have had a much happier ending. Instead, it is just another one in a long list of boxing tragedies. https https

Frazier vs Ellis 1970

Jimmy Showed Incredible Courage

by Bobby Franklin
It was 1970 and Muhammad Ali was still in boxing exile. Ali had been deprived of a license to box by the commissions in all fifty states. The Ring Magazine continued to recognize Ali as the champion arguing a title can only change hands in the ring.

Meanwhile, two other fighters laid claim to a portion of the title. the argument being since Ali could not fight they were deprived of a shot at the championship. In 1967 the WBA sponsored a tournament to find a successor to Ali. Joe Frazier was invited to participate but declined. Jimmy Ellis did take part though he was considered a long shot at winning. He proved the pundits wrong when he went on to win the tournament by defeating Leotis Martin, Oscar Bonavena, and Jerry Quarry. If memory serves me right, Jimmy was the underdog in all three fights.

Frazier went on to win his share of the title with a knock out win over Buster Mathis. Joe’s portion of the crown was sanctioned by the New York State Athletic Commission and a few other governing bodies.

Five months after winning the WBA title Jimmy Ellis traveled to Sweden to defend it against Floyd Patterson. Patterson had taken part in the original tournament but lost a close decision to Jerry Quarry in a semi final match. Ellis, fighting with a broken nose sustained in the first round, won a hard fought 15 round decision over the former two time champion. Because of the damage to his nose Jimmy had to take some time off. When he was better there were proposals for fights against Henry Cooper and Gregorio Peralta, but neither materialized.

During the same period Frazier defended his portion of the title four times defeating Manuel Ramos, Oscar Bonavena, Dave Zyglewicz, and Jerry Quarry. Frazier was staying active and sharp.

The public, now not sure if Ali would ever return to the ring, began to clamor for a unification bout between Frazier and Ellis. You see, back then people were used to there being only one heavyweight champion at a time and having the title divided up just didn’t seem right.

At some point in late 1969 Ali had made a statement that he would never fight again. It was at this point Nat Fleischer, the editor at Ring Magazine, announced he would recognize the winner of an Ellis Frazier fight the undisputed champion.  Fleischer was the most respected voice in boxing and what he said carried a lot of meaning.

The bout was set for February 16, 1970 to take place at Madison Square Garden. As was the norm at the time it was to be a fifteen round affair, fifteen rounds or less.

Ellis entered the ring weighing 201 pounds to Joe’s 206 pounds. This was the heaviest weight Jimmy had ever fought at. Frazier was a 6 to 1 favorite though many in the press gave Ellis a very good chance at winning; after all, he had overcome the odds time and again. He also had something else going for him. Jimmy had tremendous power and speed in his right hand. He had dropped the iron jawed Bonavena twice with that punch. In two fights against Frazier lasting a total of 25 rounds Bonavena was never even staggered.

Both contestants entered the ring looking confident and fit. Ellis did look bigger than in previous encounters, but also looked strong. Frazier was lean and energized.

When the bell rang for the first round it was apparent what Ellis’s strategy was and why he came in at the heavier weight. Jimmy came out with a puncher’s stance. He feet were wider apart than usual, and even though he was moving, he was more setting himself up to be able to throw power shots as Joe came at him.

During that first round Ellis threw dynamite at the bobbing and weaving Frazier. Joe was hit on a number of occasions by the one/two combos Jimmy threw but none of the shots caught him squarely on the chin. While Ellis won the opening stanza Frazier had landed some telling left hooks to the body. Yank Durham, Joe’s trainer had taught his pupil years earlier the old boxing adage, “If you kill the body the head will die” and Joe learned the lesson well.

In the second round Frazier came out on fire. He was extremely aggressive and started crowding Jimmy. Ellis was able to tie him up but it took a lot of strength to do so. He was also taking more hooks to the body from Joe. It is also interesting to see Frazier throwing and landing the occasional left jab.

By round three Frazier was running on all cylinders. While Jimmy was still trying to land the one/two combos he was being kept busy just fending off Joe’s murderous assault. Frazier was firing off brutal combinations to the head and body. His attack was furious and by the end of the round Ellis had been staggered and his legs were very heavy.

Between rounds Jimmy was taking deep breaths while Joe looked like he had hardly broken a sweat.

The fourth round saw Frazier at his murderous best. Jimmy came out and immediately threw two right leads in a desperate attempt to turn the tide of battle. Frazier rolled under both of them and then went to work. He started with a vicious body attack and then moved to the head. At this point Ellis had lost the ability to move much on his legs. With about a minute left in the round Joe backed Jimmy up against the ropes and dropped him with a left hook. Ellis was up at nine and was now fighting on sheer courage.

Jimmy was trying hard to land that one good punch but he had nothing left. As the fighters moved to mid ring Joe stepped to his right and unleashed a brutal left hook to Jimmy’s chin. Ellis went down flat in his back. As the referee, Tony Perez, counted over him the bell rang. By some miracle Ellis staggered to his feet and walked to his corner. It was at this point, against protests from Ellis, that Angelo Dundee called the fight off. It was the right and decent thing to do. Jimmy’s courage could have gotten him killed.

Frazier would go on to defend his title against Bob Foster and then Muhammad Ali. Jimmy Ellis would continue fighting taking on Ali and much later have a rematch with Frazier. He would never again fight for the title.