1951-09-26 Sandy Saddler w rtd 9 (15) Willie Pep, Polo Grounds, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA - WORLD

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1951-09-26 Sandy Saddler w rtd 9 (15) Willie Pep, Polo Grounds, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA - WORLD. Referee: Ray Miller. In what was one of the dirtiest brawls ever seen in a championship contest, Saddler (125½) kept his hold on the title when Pep (125) retired at the end of the ninth round after being warned by the referee that if the holding and wrestling did not stop he would call the fight off. Right from the start the signs had been ominous and in the second round Pep was dropped by a wicked left to the body for a count of ‘eight’ and had his right eye damaged. But Pep came back to box beautifully at times before the fight degenerated into a free-for-all with Saddler twice wrestled to the floor, in the fifth and eighth, and both men and the referee finding themselves on the canvas in the sixth. The general feeling was that Saddler’s body work, especially in round nine, was just too much for Pep and that the fight would possibly have been all over in the tenth if Pep had continued.

Following the sordid affair, the NYSAC acted quickly by suspending both boxers for violating the rules, but by the end of October they lifted the suspension that had placed on the champion on the grounds that he was more sinned against than sinner.

Prior to Saddler being called up for the Army in May 1952, the NBA and EBU agreed on an eliminator between Ghana’s Roy Ankrah and Ray Famechon to find his next championship opponent. Ankrah had forced his way into the reckoning after successfully defending his British Empire title against the British champion, Ronnie Clayton (w rsc 13 at the Ice Rink, Nottingham, England on 25 February 1952). Having beaten Ankrah on points over 15 rounds at the same venue on 9 June 1952, due to the champion’s enforced absence Famechon was then selected to meet the winner of a selection of fights that were deemed by the NBA and the NYSAC to be a tournament after it was decided to appoint an ‘interim’ champion. The men selected were Tommy Collins, Glen Flanagan, Gene Smith, Percy Bassett, Federico Plummer and Pep.

Despite some of the matches being above the weight, Collins (who stopped Pep in the sixth on 30 June at The Garden, Boston, Massachusetts) and Flanagan (who outpointed Smith over ten rounds at Griffith Stadium, Washington DC on 2 July) moved on to the next stage along with Bassett and Plummer, who had drawn byes. The semi-final stage, if you could call it that, saw Collins (124¾) outpoint Flanagan (125¾) over 15 rounds at The Garden, Boston on 25 August, while Bassett (129) and Plummer (132) drew over ten rounds at the Colon Arena, Panama City, Panama a day earlier.

Bassett then went forward as the American representative after Plummer sustained a broken jaw in their contest and was unavailable, and Collins declined to meet him on the grounds that it was no longer sensible for him to fight at 126lbs. He was duly crowned as the ‘interim’ champion on 9 February 1953 at the Sports Palace, Paris, France when he stopped Famechon in the third. At that point, Bassett had lost just four times in 57 contests, beating men such as Charley Cabey Lewis, Bobby Bell, Lew Jenkins, Danny Webb, Eddie Giosa, Orlando Zulueta, Terry Young, Miguel Acevedo, Sonny Boy West, Teddy Davis, Harold Dade, Jimmy Carter and Charley Riley, but after forcing Lulu Perez to retire in the 11th on 25 June 1954 he lost the ‘title’ to Davis on 26 November 1954, when going down on points over 12 rounds. The last two fights which took place at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, confirmed that Davis was first in line for Saddler.

Having a record of 63 wins in 118 fights was hardly mind-blowing, but Davis had fought the best, often at short notice, and had defeated the likes of Harry LaSane, Spider Armstrong, Jimmy McAllister, Elis Ask, Julie Kogon, George Dunn, Paddy DeMarco, Corky Gonzales, Plummer (twice), Riley (twice), Bassett, Fabela Chavez, George Araujo (twice) and Armand Savoie, and deserved his day in the sun.