1938-05-31 Henry Armstrong w pts 15 Barney Ross, MSG Bowl, Queens, NYC, New York, USA - WORLD

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1938-05-31 Henry Armstrong w pts 15 Barney Ross, MSG Bowl, Queens, NYC, New York, USA - WORLD. Referee: Arthur Donovan. Scorecards: 12-2, 11-2, 10-4. Already the holder of the featherweight title, Armstrong (133½) jumped one division to capture the welterweight crown also when being awarded the unanimous decision over the game Ross (142). The fight itself was one-sided with Ross, who after winning the opening two rounds, finding himself up against a whirlwind of a fighter who just walked through his defences. Subsequently, it was gameness alone that kept him on his feet as Armstrong relentlessly marched forward throwing punches from both hands to head and body. Even when Ross came on with big punches of his own, Armstrong, spotting a fair amount of weight, appeared to be impervious to them and at the final bell the champion looked like he had been through a threshing machine, his right eye closed, his face distorted and mouth and nose badly puffed up. It was no surprise when Ross decided that enough was enough and announced his retirement from the ring immediately after the fight.

On 17 August at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, Armstrong outpointed Lou Ambers over 15 rounds to annex the world lightweight title and, at the same time, became a three-time champion, while simultaneously holding the feather (which he relinquished in November), light and welterweight crowns. Although billed for the lightweight title, and with both men naturally inside 135lbs, the NBA stated that it recognised the fight as involving the welter championship also. However, Nat Fleischer, writing in the The Ring magazine debunked that statement when he suggested that when Armstrong was forced to come to the ring inside 135lbs how could the welterweight title have been at stake when he was prevented by the terms of the contract from defending his crown at the weight prescribed for that weight class.

A few days later, on 22 August at Hickey Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Cocoa Kid (144) lost his coloured welterweight title to Charley Burley (145½) on points over 15 rounds, but with Armstrong firmly in place as the number one fighter in the world at 147lbs the synthetic title meant very little.

At the beginning of September, Ceferino Garcia and Michele Palermo, known as Kid Frattini in American rings, were the two top-rated men in the division as far as The Ring magazine was concerned. With Garcia being lined up to become Armstrong’s first challenger, Palermo, who had beaten Holman Williams, Bobby Pacho and Andre Jessurun in his last three contests, was next in line. Unfortunately for him he was stopped inside six rounds by Sonny Jones on 24 September, and one fight later he was back in his native Italy, eventually winning the EBU welter title at the age of 38.