1921-09-05 Johnny Wilson nd-drew 12 Bryan Downey, Boyle’s Thirty Acres, Jersey City, New Jersey, USA - NY/NBA

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1921-09-05 Johnny Wilson nd-drew 12 Bryan Downey, Boyle’s Thirty Acres, Jersey City, New Jersey, USA - NY/NBA. Referee: Jim Savage. A return fight, this time with the title at stake, Wilson (159) had his purse suspended for ‘spoiling’ and not wishing to make a fight of it, while Downey (154½) was exonerated. There had been nothing to choose between the pair and whether Wilson had failed to extend himself was debatable, but with few clean blows landed and the champion fighting defensively, despite occasionally jabbing with an extended southpaw right, the New Jersey Boxing Commission thought otherwise. Although Wilson was twice staggered, in the first and fifth rounds, Downey, who was cut over the right eye in the fifth, lacked direction and was all hit and miss when failing to finish the champion off.

In defence of his unofficial ‘black’ title claim towards the end of 1921, Panama Joe Gans beat Sailor Darden (w pts 15 at the Convention Hall, Rochester, New York on 13 September and w pts 15 at The Arena, Syracuse on 5 October), Nero Chink (w pts 12 at the Commonwealth SC, Manhattan, NYC, New York on 22 October), Allentown Joe Gans (nd-w pts 12 at McGuigan’s Arena, Harrison, New Jersey on 6 December), Tiger Flowers (w co 5 at The Auditorium, Atlanta, Georgia on 15 December) and Young Sam Langford (w co 9 in Detroit, Michigan on 28 December).

On 31 October, Mike Gibbons outpointed Happy Littleton over 15 rounds at the Louisiana Auditorium, New Orleans, Louisiana in a fight that was billed as a 160lbs title fight after Wilson had refused to box either man. However, according to the New Orleans Daily Picayune the winner scaled 160½lbs to Littleton’s 160 and it was the loser who went forward to fight Downey in a contest that would be recognised by both the Cleveland Boxing Commission and the Louisianan Boxing Commission as being a world title bout.

Although Downey (157¾) stopped Littleton (160½) inside five rounds at the Louisiana Auditorium on 12 December, Littleton fluffed his opportunity when coming in over 160lbs, something strangely reminiscent of what happened in his previous contest.

Meanwhile, on 4 January 1922, Wilson was barred by the NYSAC from fighting in New York for not agreeing to defend his title against Harry Greb, an action that was followed by the NBA, who represented 16 States, banning him 12 days later on 16 January. Massachusetts also banned Wilson from fighting in their State until July 1922.

With the championship now in total disarray, Downey (159¾) drew over 15 rounds against the 159¼lbs Young Fisher at The Arena, Syracuse, New York on 10 February 1922, with both men inside 160lbs, but while there was some risk attached to his title claim it was outside the jurisdiction of both the Cleveland and Ohio Boxing Commissions.