1937-06-03 John Henry Lewis w rsc 8 (15) Bob Olin, The Arena, St Louis, Missouri, USA - NY/NBA/GB

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1937-06-03 John Henry Lewis w rsc 8 (15) Bob Olin, The Arena, St Louis, Missouri, USA - NY/NBA/GB. Referee: Walter Heisner. Having kept Olin (174¾) at arm's length during the opening two sessions, Lewis (174) opened up in the third with a vicious body attack. After putting Olin down in the fourth with a cracking right under the heart that fractured a rib, Lewis continued to attack the body from there onwards. Those tactics certainly paid dividends, and at 1.20 of the eighth with the challenger down for the second time in the round the referee stopped the fight.

On 15 July, the fourth-rated Tiger Jack Fox met Leo Kelly, who was one place above him, in what was reported to be an elimination contest to find Lewis’ next challenger. Kelly, who had spent almost two years campaigning in Australia, had temporarily been The Ring magazine’s top-rated fighter in May 1936 after beating Ambrose Palmer, and had an interesting sideline as a Deacon in a Los Angeles Baptist Church. Contested over 15 rounds Fox beat Kelly (w rsc 6 at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York), but found himself no nearer to a title crack as it was clear at this time that Lewis was eying up the heavyweight division.

Along with Fox, Al Gainer, Jock McAvoy, George Black, Jack Gibbons, Eddie Wenstob, Fred Lenhart, Gus Lesnevich, Oscar Rankins and Ray Actis constituted The Ring magazine’s top ten at the end of September, all of them looking to make progress in a division that was rapidly stagnating.

Although it was reported in December that Lewis would be making a defence against Lenhart in January 1938 it did not happen. Then, after being pressed by both the NYSAC and NBA to make a defence, it was announced on 29 January that Lewis would relinquish the title if he could get a crack at Joe Louis for the heavyweight crown. At the same time the NYSAC stated that they would look favourably at the winner of a contest at 175lbs between Fox and Lou Brouillard at The Garden, Boston, Massachusetts on 18 February being given an opportunity to meet Lewis for the title. Fox won by a count-out in the seventh round.

On 24 February 1938, it was reported that contracts were in place for Lewis to defend against Gainer, but when that match was agreed for June (eventually moved on to October) Lewis continued fighting over-the-weight contests before signing up on 8 April 1938 for a title match against Emilio Martinez.