1941-07-29 Freddie Cochrane w pts 15 Fritzie Zivic, Ruppert Stadium, Newark, New Jersey, USA - NY/NBA

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1941-07-29 Freddie Cochrane w pts 15 Fritzie Zivic, Ruppert Stadium, Newark, New Jersey, USA - NY/NBA. Referee: Joe Mangold. Scorecard: 7-4. Confounding all of his critics, Cochrane (142½) at times outclassed Zivic (145), especially at close quarters where he could make the latter miss and get in hard lefts to the jaw before tying his man up, Although he was penalised in the fourth for using his head he continued to take the fight to the champion. Cochrane even outroughed Zivic and only in the 15th when he was dropped by a right to the jaw while off balance and the latter was fighting for his life did he look flustered. Following the referee’s verdict in Cochrane’s favour, Nat Fleischer of The Ring magazine stated that he had given seven rounds to the new champion and six to Zivic, with two even, thus making it much closer.

The following day, with the war raging in Europe, Cochrane was passed fit in Class 1A in his bid to join the American Navy and expected to be called up for active duty within a few months.

In yet another ten-round non-title handicap match made between Lew Jenkins, the lightweight champion, and a welterweight champion, with both men inside 147lbs, Cochrane (141½) outpointed Jenkins (135) on 6 October at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York. Three fights later, in a non-title affair, Cochrane (146½) was outpointed over ten rounds by Zivic (147¼) at the same venue on 10 September 1942.

Cochrane, who had already enlisted in the US Navy, was then called away on active service and the title was frozen.

Meanwhile, after rising through the ranks to become the leading lightweight challenger, the unbeaten Sugar Ray Robinson, having put on extra weight, became the number-one welterweight contender after beating Zivic twice. By the end of 1942, Robinson had also beaten Maxie Berger, Norman Rubio, Izzy Jannazzo (twice), Marty Servo, Sammy Angott, the NBA lightweight champion, and Jake LaMotta to cement his position as the 147lbs champion in waiting.

With Cochrane likely to be out of circulation until the war was over, Robinson suffered his first defeat in 41 contests when outpointed by LaMotta in another overweight match on 5 February 1943. However, from thereon to Cochrane’s return to the ring it was success all the way for Robinson as he defeated California Jackie Wilson, LaMotta (twice), Ralph Zannelli, Henry Armstrong, Jannazzo, Tommy Bell and George Costner before being held to a draw by middleweight, Jose Basora.

After having a number of warm-up bouts in June 1945, at the end of that month Cochrane was knocked out inside ten rounds by the hard-hitting future middleweight champion, Rocky Graziano at Madison Square Garden. With Cochrane ahead on the cards going into the tenth a rematch at the Garden was called for 24 August. Yet again Cochrane surprised the pundits when taking Graziano into the tenth round before being stopped, but he was now being asked to defend his title and was matched against the sixth-rated Servo, who had to guarantee him $50,000 to get the opportunity. Clearly Cochrane wanted no part of Robinson and there was a great deal of anger when the match with Servo was made, despite whoever won having to agree to defend against the number-one challenger within 90 days. Nat Fleisher, writing in The Ring, summed up the general feeling when he stated: “The fact that Robinson has been guaranteed a shot at the title does not alter the situation any. It is the duty of the Commission at all times to see that outstanding talent is not sidetracked or given the run-around in the planning of championship fights in favour of inferior fighters”.