The Night the Two Greatest P4P Boxers Faced Each Other!
By: Ken Hissner
There have been many opinions on “who was the greatest P4P boxer in the history of boxing?” Going way back it was Sam “The Boston Tar Baby” Langford, 180-29-30 (128), Stanley “The Michigan Assassin” Ketchel, 51-4-4 (48), Jack “The Galveston Giant” Johnson, 56-11-8 (35), Harry “Pittsburgh Windmill” Greb, 107-8-3 (48), and Willie “Will o” the Wisp” Pep, 229-11-1 (65). In modern times we had “Sugar” Ray Leonard, 36-3-1 (25), Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker, 40-4-1 (17), Julio Cesar Chavez, 107-6-2 (86), and Floyd “Money” Mayweather, 49-0 (26).
There always seemed to be two others on everyone’s P4P list. They met at Madison Square Garden in New York on August 27, 1943 before over 15,000 fans.
In one corner being introduced was a young 22 year-old boxer out of New York City named “Sugar” Ray Robinson, posting a 44-1 record and coming in at 5’11” and 145 lbs. He was 4 fights from losing to Jake LaMotta who he previously beat and after the loss beat again prior to this fight and would win 4 out of 5 overall against LaMotta. He hadn’t won a title yet but would go onto win the welterweight (76th fight) and middleweight titles. He was well ahead in an effort to win the light heavyweight title after 13 rounds but couldn’t continue due to heat exhaustion.
In the other corner was the former NBA, NYSAC featherweight champion who won that title in 1937, won the welterweight title in 1938 and then dropped back to 135 winning the world lightweight title in 1939 while fighting to a disputed draw in 1940 for the middleweight title. In the other corner was the 33 year-old boxer out of L.A. named Henry “Homicide Hank” Armstrong, posting a 134-17-7 record and coming in at 5’5 ½ and 140 lbs. He had a 23-3 record after losing his title in back to back losses to Fritzie Zivic whom he defeated after that and prior to the fight with Robinson.
This was no grudge match. Robinson idolized Armstrong in his youth. It was scheduled for 10 rounds.
The best punches by both boxers were Armstrong rocking Robinson with a left hook to the chin in the fifth round and Robinson staggering Armstrong with a fight right bolo uppercut. Robinson opened up an old gash on Armstrong’s lip in the second round that never proved to be a problem throughout. Armstrong ran out of gas after the fifth round.
In attempting to find who the officials were and how the scoring went this writer came up with zero. Even www.youtube.com didn’t have the fight. Boxing Historian Henry Hascup sent me two newspaper articles about the fight. The only comment I saw was Robinson won every round. Robinson ended up with a 173-19-6 record with 108 knockouts. Armstrong ended up with a 151-21-9 record with 101 knockouts.
Armstrong said after the fight “I’m sorry to go out with such a bad fight and he wouldn’t stand up and mix it. I have to retire now due to scar tissue inside the pupil of my left eye. I can’t take any more chances for I get blurred vision.” The fans were not happy with Robinson moving from side to side and dancing away from Armstrong while landing jabs and occasional rights.
Two other fights that I can think of is when future heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano stopped Joe “The Brown Bomber” Louis and said he cried afterwards since he idolized Louis. Larry Holmes “claims” he felt bad after beating Muhammad Ali for the latter’s only stoppage during his career. But when you remember after the then 44-0 world champion slaughtered Marvis Frazier within 3 minutes of the fight. Afterwards he was heard saying “that’s for the whooping’s your daddy gave me in the gym.” So it makes one wonder about his sincerity.
Another report had the losing Armstrong saying “I couldn’t have licked this kid on the best day I ever saw.” Robinson would admit when he hurt Armstrong he would go into a clinch with him keeping him steady. It was well known that both boxers went broke and kept fighting to either pay the IRS or have a place to lay their heads down.
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