1947-02-28 Gus Lesnevich w rsc 10 (15) Billy Fox, Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA - WORLD

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1947-02-28 Gus Lesnevich w rsc 10 (15) Billy Fox, Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA - WORLD. Referee: Johnny Burns. This was a contest in which an inexperienced challenger, despite being unbeaten and carrying a kayo punch, was unable to finish Lesnevich (174½) off following two powerful rights in the third that had the latter all at sea. Although boxing well to take the fourth, from there onwards Fox (172) was continuously being punished as Lesnevich sent in heavy blows from both hands and denied him any space. At 2.19 of the tenth the contest was over after Fox had got to his feet at ‘eight’, having been floored by a long right to the jaw that followed punch after punch. Failing to realise that the fight was over Lesnevich raced in, and despite not hitting Fox both men went to the floor for the last action of the fight.

With Lesnevich lining himself up to meet Joe Louis for the heavyweight crown, there were moves to get him to make a defence against his number-one challenger, Ezzard Charles, but he too seemed more intent on meeting Louis and nothing was signed.

Since removing Fox from his path Lesnevich had beaten Melio Bettina and Tami Mauriello (twice), but after Louis made a successful defence of the heavyweight crown against Jersey Joe Walcott on 5 December and was signed up for a return the following summer Lesnevich again came under pressure from the NBA to defend his title.

Although Charles had earlier stalled when a match between him and Lesnevich was first mooted, when the latter signed in December to defend against Fox again he was stunned. Since being beaten by Lesnevich, Fox had run up seven more inside the distance wins, but he had looked suspect on a number of occasions and had been floored several times. His last contest, which had been a four-round kayo defeat of Jake LaMotta at Madison Square Garden on 14 November, had also ended in suspicious circumstances. Years later, LaMotta admitted that he had taken a dive in order to obtain himself a crack at the middleweight title.

At the end of 1947 Charles was the outstanding challenger, having twice beaten Archie Moore the number-two rated contender, Lloyd Marshall, Oakland Billy Smith, Jimmy Bivins, and Fitzie Fitzpatrick since returning to action after the war. After failing to obtain better support from the national bodies, a leading Cleveland promoter, Larry Atkins, branded Charles’ treatment as ‘skulduggery’, stating that Lesnevich had already turned down $50,000 to meet him and was running scared.

Bearing that in mind, and presumed to have been supported by the Cleveland Boxing Commission, Atkins billed a contest between Charles and Moore at The Arena, Cleveland, Ohio on 13 January 1948 as being for the 'world title'. Contested over 15 rounds, Charles knocked out Moore inside eight rounds, but on getting nowhere with Lesnevich he would concentrate on the heavyweight division from there on in.