1929-10-29 Mickey Walker w pts 10 Ace Hudkins, Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California, USA - CALIFORNIA/NY

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1929-10-29 Mickey Walker w pts 10 Ace Hudkins, Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California, USA - CALIFORNIA/NY. Referee: Jack Kennedy. Another ten rounder, it was not a patch on their previous contest with Hudkins (156), cut around the eyes and carrying damage to the mouth, unable to produce the debilitating bodywork that many thought would gain him a win over Walker (159½). One report stated that ‘The Wildcat’ fought like a tired old bulldog, while Walker, who took the referee’s decision, failed to live up to his billing, boxing a wily fight as he blocked a high percentage of Hudkins’ body shots on his arms, which must have been sore at the finish.

There would be no more fights for Walker at the middleweight limit and regardless of what was being reported it is certain that he saw his future at a higher weight. Suspended in New York since November 1927, it was even reported on 20 January 1930 that Walker was trying to make up with the NYSAC and looking at the possibilities of a defence against the top-ranked Rene De Vos on 14 March, but as in previous attempts to patch up differences that also came to nothing.

Meantime, De Vos was beaten in a huge upset by Doc Conrad, who then went on to defeat Harry Ebbets. These two victories saw Conrad recognised as the number-two contender by The Ring magazine, but just when it looked as though he would be part of any title plans he was knocked out of the ratings, quite literally, by Vincent Forgione. Needless to say, Forgione failed to take advantage of his shock victory when failing to win any of his next 15 contests.

Although the NBA continued not to recognise Walker as the champion it was not until 14 February 1931 they announced that due to his failure to defend within the every six-month ruling they would be setting up an elimination tournament to find a successor. This after he had gone 15 months without defending his title and was by now fighting in the heavyweight division. Prior to the NBA tournament getting off the ground, Walker officially vacated what was left of his title on 19 June 1931.

Obviously looking for the best way to find a new champion, the NBA eventually set up a tournament with contests of ten-round duration, which would kick off at Borchert Field, Milwaukee, Wisconsin on 25 August 1931 and, after much debate, named Gorilla Jones, Tiger Thomas, Clyde Chastain, George Nichols, Frankie O'Brien, Rudy Marshall, Tait Littman, Ham Jenkins, Angel Clivilles, Frank Battaglia, Jack McVey, Tiger Roy Williams, Oliver Wright, Gary Leach, Young Johnny Burns and Henry Firpo as taking part. Following the announcement, the NBA were slated by The Ring magazine for not making sure that Dave Shade, Vince Dundee, Young Terry, Ben Jeby, Harry Smith, their top-rated fighter at that moment in time, and the Europeans, Marcel Thil, Len Harvey and Jack Hood were involved.

Smith had won the unofficial ‘black’ title when beating McVey (w pts 15 on 19 November 1929 at the Olympia BC, Manhattan, NYC, New York), before making a successful defence against Joe Tinsley (w co 7 on 13 August 1930 at Woodcliff Park, Poughkeepsie, New York). Despite being thrown out of the ring in a no-contest affair against Gorilla Jones (nc 9 at Queensboro Stadium, Queens, NYC on 4 September 1930), Smith redeemed himself when beating Jones (w pts 10 at the Olympia BC, Manhattan, NYC on 23 October 1930) in another defence of the ‘black’ title. That appears to be the last time Smith defends the unofficial title.

The first round of the NBA tournament got underway with Chastain (w pts Marshall), Jones (w pts Thomas), Littman (w pts Jenkins) and Clivilles (w co 1 Battaglia on 3 September) joining the others, who received byes, into the next round. The last contest was held at the Auditorium, Milwaukee and all the remaining contests would be held at that venue. Interestingly, Jones v Thomas has often been reported to have involved the world title, something that came about because Jones (who had claimed the unofficial ‘black’ title when outpointing McVey on 25 June 1929 at Braves Field, Boston, Massachusetts) was meeting another black man in Thomas at 160lbs.

The second round saw O’Brien (w pts McVey on 3 September), Firpo (w pts Williams on 3 September), Clivilles (w co 5 Littman on 17 September), Jones (w co 6 Chastain on 17 September), Nichols (w pts Wright on 25 September) and Leach (outpointing Burns on 25 September). Prior to quarter-finals beginning, the Italian, Oddone Piazza, who had been back home when the tournament started, was allowed in and would meet another newcomer in Cuba’s Raul Rojas.

The quarter-finals were concluded after O’Brien (w co 9 Clivilles on 12 October), Firpo (w co 2 Leach on 12 October), Jones (w pts Nichols on 3 November) and Piazza (w pts Rojas on 3 November), while the semis, held on 19 November, saw Firpo and Piazza draw and Jones outpoint O’Brien. With three men still left at the final stage, it was decided on a draw which would see the first two men out of the hat meeting in a box-off, while the third man out of the hat would go straight into the final. Thus, Jones outpointed Firpo on 11 December and would meet Piazza in the final leg on 25 January 1932.