Charley Phil Rosenberg vs. Bushy Graham

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Graham looks on as Rosenberg forfeits title on the scales

1927-02-04 : Charley Phil Rosenberg 122½ lbs beat Bushy Graham 117½ lbs by PTS in round 15 of 15

  • Location: Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, USA

NYSAC World Bantamweight Title

The overweight Rosenberg forfeits the undisputed World Title "on the scales"; the titular line of descent is thus broken.

For days preceding this title fight, Rosenberg and his manager Harry (Champ) Segal claimed he was within a couple of pounds of the 118 pound bantam weight limit. On the eve of the fight Segal assured the public that Rosenberg weighed only 118 pounds, and that he would lose the extra fat in time for the title fight. At the weigh-in, however, it turned out Rosenberg was actually 122 pounds. The fight had to go on, although the bantam world title was no longer in the offering. When the crowd learned they had paid good money for a fight that would not produce a world champion, they booed and jeered when the fighters entered the ring; but they later cheered Rosenberg as he left the ring, after he had decisively clobbered the hapless 117-pound Graham throughout the 15 rounds.

The New York State Athletic Commission, however, wasn't as forgiving. It withheld the purse and suspended both fighters, their managers, promoter Jess McMahon and Madison Square Garden for this fiasco. It also took the unusual step of issuing subpoenas to eight participants to appear at a hearing to answer questions. The boxers and managers would remain suspended until early April after it had been discovered that the two managers had come to a secret agreement well before the fight. Rosenberg was ultimately suspended for over a year; his next fight wasn't until March 1928. By February 10, some disgruntled fans formed an organization they called the "Sport Followers of Fair Play" league and filed law-suits against every one connected with the bout for $3.00 each, claiming the bout was advertised as a bantamweight championship contest when in fact no title was at stake. (The NYSAC, by rule, limited the cost of fight tickets to $7.00, but tickets to championship contests could be sold for $10.00.)(One report says, however, that if Graham had beaten Rosenberg, he could have rightly claimed the bantam crown.)

Graham on his hands and knees in the final round.

Yet Rosenberg wasn't too concerned about forfeiting his world title. He had found it too hard to get down to 118 pounds anyway. So he started to pursue the 122-pound featherweight title instead.

(Meanwhile, the bantam title would be sought and claimed by many during this "Golden Age" of bantamweight boxing. Fractured versions of the disputed crown would be worn by Bud Taylor (1927-28), Teddy Baldock (1927), Willie Smith (1927), Bushy Graham (1928-29), Panama Al Brown (1929-1935) and Pete Sanstol (1931).)

Then Tony Canzoneri challenged Bud Taylor of Terre Haute, Indiana, for the National Boxing Association's bantam crown. Brooklyn's Archie Bell wanted in on the action, too. So did Filipino Frisco Grande of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and another Brooklyn lad, Benny Tell.

Taylor and Canzoneri got their chance at the NBA crown on March 27, 1927, in Chicago. Their fight ended in an inconclusive draw, leaving promoter Jim Mullen holding the $4,000 diamond-studded bantamweight championship belt.

That same evening, on the same fight card, Archie Bell defeated Boston's Johnny Vacca. When he returned to New York, Bell deposited $2,500 in forfeit money with the NYSAC, challenging both Taylor and Canzoneri for the title. He then headed off to do battle May 5 with Britain's Teddy Baldock in London for the vacant British World Bantamweight Title. Bell's manager suggested a May 13th title shot in Madison Square Garden with Canzoneri, but Tony's manager Sam Goldman preferred a bout with Bud Taylor. The Commission returned Bell's money because of the lack of a recognized champion.

Bell lost to Baldock after 15 rounds of hard fighting, but it was described as "one of the cleanest and finest" contests ever seen at the Royal Albert Hall. All were "impressed with Bell's sportsmanship." Archie Bell would later defeat Alf Kid Pattenden June 30 in London. (Four years later he would be offered a bantam world title fight in Montreal.) After defeating Bell, Teddy Baldock was the first to be crowned the World Bantamweight Champion since Rosenberg had forfeited the title. He would lose that Title to South Africa's Willie Smith five months later.

On Saturday, June 25, 1927, Bud Taylor and Tony Canzoneri met on Wrigley Field in Chicago to determine for a second time the better man for the Bantam Title. Apparently Taylor was. He won the verdict after 10 rounds but suffered a split bone over his left optic nerve, requiring surgery in early July.

Canzoneri soon found the bantam weight limit too hard to reach so he, too, decided to pursue the vacant featherweight title instead.

By December 1927 Bud Taylor had also out-grown the bantam weight limit and gave up his claim to the NBA world crown. The field then became wide-open for all contenders.

Al Brown would unify the title from 1931 (or 1932) to 1934, but would lose the National Boxing Association's support in 1934, when Sixto Escobar would win the title from the NBA and some other boxing commissions. The Bantam World Title would not be unified again until Escobar did so on August 31, 1936.