1923-07-23 Benny Leonard w pts 15 Lew Tendler, Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA - WORLD

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1923-07-23 Benny Leonard w pts 15 Lew Tendler, Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA - WORLD. Referee: Andy Griffin. Although both men were announced as being inside 135lbs, the weigh-in was a private affair with newspapermen excluded and it was several years later before it transpired that the two men had weighed 137½lbs and 138, respectively. However, with both fighters accepting the situation it was regarded as a title fight, merely proving that Leonard (134) and Tendler (133), a southpaw, were both having difficulty making the weight in what was to be the champion’s final defence. The fight itself saw Leonard eliminate his greatest rival when he received the unanimous verdict at the end of what had been a thrilling bout despite no knockdowns and no blood. It was only Tendler’s experience and ability to ship punishment that enabled him to get through the last three rounds when he was at the champion’s mercy, especially from the right uppercut, and when the final bell came he was almost out on his feet.

On 7 September Leonard took on Johnny Mendelsohn at Shibe Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in an eight-round no-decision fight, which the press saw the champion winning on points. At the 2pm weigh-in, some reports gave Mendelsohn as being 135lbs to Leonard’s 138½, while others reported him weighing 138lbs. Without having access to contracts it is nigh impossible to know the weight the fight was made at and whether there was an associated risk involved.

Before taking on Pal Moran (nd-w pts 10 on 11 August 1924 at the Olympic Arena, Cleveland, Ohio) in a catchweight contest in which the latter made 135lbs while he did not, Leonard was looking forward to meeting Mickey Walker on 11 August for the welterweight title. Although an easy winner over Moran, a cracked thumb forced the Walker fight to be cancelled and after sitting out the next few months reflecting on his future, on 15 January 1925 Leonard relinquished his title when announcing his retirement.

With the division thrown into disarray, the NYSAC decided to sponsor an elimination tournament to determine his successor and asked those who wanted to be considered to apply for entry. Interestingly, the two leading men in The Ring Magazine ratings, Sid Terris and Sammy Mandell, were already matched to fight on 6 February at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC and, after winning on points over 12 rounds, the latter claimed the title only to be told that his win would qualify him for the tournament and that alone. Taking that on board, Mandell eventually accepted the NYSAC’s offer on 4 March.

Having made their decision, the NYSAC announced that there would be two rounds prior to the quarter-final stage, which would include Mandell along with any foreign acceptances, and named Jimmy Goodrich, Eddie Wagner, Tommy O’Brien, George KO Chaney, Joe Dundee, Joe Benjamin, Jack Silver, Clyde Jeakle, Rocky Kansas, Charlie O’Connell, Benny Valgar, Solly Seeman, Archie Walker, Basil Galiano, Alex Hart and Jack Bernstein to take part in the first-round draw. Unfortunately, Kansas suffered damage to his hands following a win over Red Cap Wilson (w pts 6 on 16 February 1925 at the Broadway Auditorium, Buffalo, New York) and was forced to withdraw along with Walker and Bernstein. The three named replacements were announced as being Frankie LaFay, Cuddy DeMarco and George Kid Lee.

The first-round winners were Goodrich (w pts 12 Wagner at Madison Square Garden on 23 February); O’Brien beat Chaney (w co 6 on 23 February at Madison Square Garden); Benjamin beat Silvers (w pts 10 on 23 February at the Recreation Park, San Francisco, California); Jeakle beat Lee (w pts 12 on 24 February at the Pioneer AC, Manhattan); O’Connell beat Dundee (w pts 10 on 25 February at The Casino, Manhattan); Valgar beat Hart (w pts 10 on 27 February at the Rink AC, Manhattan); Seeman beat LaFay (w pts 10 on 27 February at the Rink SC) and Galiano beat DeMarco (w pts 10 on 28 February at the Commonwealth SC, Manhattan). All the contests took place in New York apart from Benjamin v Silvers, which was given special dispensation to be contested in California. Some of the committee members wanted the NYSAC to re-consider Wagner, who appeared to be the victim of a poor decision, but were eventually overruled.

The second-round results were Goodrich (w pts 12 Jeakle); Seaman (w pts 15 O’Connell) and Valgar (w pts 12 Galiano), all taking place at Madison Square Garden on 9 March, while both O’Brien (who injured his hands when beating Chaney) and Benjamin (who was outpointed over ten rounds by Ace Hudkins on 8 April at the Vernon Arena, Los Angeles, California) were forced to withdraw. After beating Benjamin, Hudkins, who was not in the competition, put in a title claim, but while the Californian Boxing Commission were still in the process of making a decision on whether to support him or not he was beaten by O’ Brien (l disq 5 on 6 June at Ascot Park, Los Angeles) next time out.

Having given all foreign fighters until 30 April to place their entry qualifications on the table, Stanislaus Loayza (who replaced Luis Vicentini, the original South American Federation entry), Tommy White, Clonie Tait and Cirilin Olano were selected to enter the next round, along with Mandell. Back in Europe, England’s Harry Mason and Ernie Izzard and France’s Lucien Vinez had been asked if they wished to enter the tournament, but declined over a lack of expenses.

Held on 18 May, the quarter-finals (at Queensboro Stadium, Queens, NYC) saw Goodrich (w disq 6 Mandell), Loayza (w co 7 White), Olano (w rsc 5 Tait) and Valgar (w pts 10 Seeman) qualify. The favourite to win the tournament had been Mandell, but he was unfortunate to be disqualified for landing a blow that strayed low after being way ahead on points. On 15 June at the same venue, the semi-finals saw Goodrich (w pts 12 Valgar) and Loayza (w co 3 Olano) make the final.

Although there had been entrants from far and wide, highly-ranked fighters such as Terris, Mike Ballerino, Sid Barbarian, Johnny Dundee, Kansas, Vicentini and Walker were absent for whatever reason. Also, Europe had not been involved and Mason (after stopping Izzard in the ninth round of a British title fight at the Ice Rink, Holland Park, London on 22 June) put in a claim for the world title on 1 July, but failed to gain the necessary support required in Britain to force the issue.

There was also talk of Leonard returning to reclaim his title, but the former champion stayed put and the final leg went ahead as planned. On 5 July, the IBU announced that because the leading European fighters had not been involved in the championship tournament they would not be recognising the new champion.