I began my second lesson of the evening – my fight history teaching – with a step back to 1940. This was the last footage I have been able to currently find of a full Henry Armstrong fight.
Henry Armstrong vs Ceferino Garcia 01.03.1940
Ring Magazine declared this to be their Fight of the Year. This fight was billed as the World Middleweight Championship but was only recognised by the California State Athletic Commission. When last we left Ceferino Garcia he had lost to Armstrong but, after nine straight victories from January to December 1939, gone on to be the first (and to date only) Filipino to win the world middleweight championship when he knocked out Alfredo Apostoli in round seven. Apostoli was a future boxing hall of fame and ranked by BoxRec as the eighth greatest middleweight of all time. After this match, Garcia defended the title once with a technical knockout over Glen Lee before facing Henry Armstrong in their re-match at Gilmore Stadium, Los Angeles, California, USA. Garcia came into the fight with a record of 114–25–13.
Meanwhile, the last time we saw Armstrong fight was in his war with Lou Ambers. It had been a rematch that had lost him his world lightweight title. He turned his attention to defending his welterweight title, which he eight of the fights between Ambers and Garcia. He came into the fight with a record of 106–13–8. According to Boxing: The 20th Century, Armstrong was offered $75,000 to fall in round four.
Round 1 – Garcia remained strong throughout the opening round, happy to exchange with the aggressive Armstrong. He regularly threw hooks and uppercuts, working to get to mid-range where he would do the most damage. The uppercut tended to be the classic kind and not Garcia’s trademark bolo punch. However, Armstrong just about edged it in my opinion making sure that 90 per cent of this round was fought on his terms and at his preferred range. We saw regular use of most of his swarming weapons, including his shoulder checking, head-posting and elbow whilst throwing regular angled punches.
Round 2 – This round saw a very aggressive to and fro to the body with Garcia now beginning to create more opportunities at mid-range. Armstrong came in hard towards the end pinning Garcia against the ropes. I would score the round even perhaps weighted ever slightly to Garcia.
Round 3 – Armstrong took the lead and dominated throughout this round, although Garcia fought back hard. His bolo punch now began coming into play as did Armstrong’s blindside overhands. By the end of the round a regular routine saw Armstrong busily pummelling away in the clinch before breaking with a powerful left hook. This was also when Garcia’s bolo punches appeared to have been finding their mark but too little too late for this round.
- Armstrong spent the majority of the round pinning Garcia against the ropes and totally dominating the fight.
- A similar performance, but this time Garcia returned fire with more confidence.
- Garcia’s inability to control Armstrong was probably best demonstrated on the bell when he threw a wide bolo punch in apparent frustration. Otherwise, the match went all Armstrong’s way as he smothered and continued to work away inside.
- Armstrong came out strong again, closing the clinch early and rhythmically manoeuvring around Garcia. His use of the shoulder and the elbow was very much in play. His was practically moving Garcia with his head. Garcia took what every slim opportunity he could muster to throw a bolo punch at mid-range with either hand.
- This was a more exciting round with Armstrong dropping several punches not just to the body but also to the head. Meanwhile Garcia landed a few good hooks of his own off the back foot.
- Garcia got busier on the inside and completely missed some outside boxing opportunities. Armstrong easily closed the gap and began landing more overhands to Garcia’s jaw.
- Both men brought the fight. Ultimately it was Armstrong who pressed forward, but Garcia was throwing everything at him. Both men were
This was the final match refereed by George Blake. He was the sole judge of the fight and declared it a draw. It was a controversial decision as most at ringside gave it to Armstrong.
After winning a non-title fight, Ceferino Garcia would lose his title belt to Ken Overlin in a points- decision. Of his next nine fights, he would win five, lose four and draw once. Two of his wins would by via TKO. He finished his career of 164 fights with 120 wins, 76 by knockout, 30 losses and 14 draws. He would then move into minor acting roles and also became Mae West’s chauffeur and bodyguard for a while. He lived the rest of his life in California, dying 1981 aged 74.
Henry Armstrong won his next five fights, four of which were his welterweight title defences. He then lost the title to Fritzie Zivic by points and then lost by TKO in their rematch. This would be the last time he got a shot at any world title again. He would fight 48 more times, winning the majority. One of his seven losses was a points-decision in 1943 to the future World Welterweight Champion and regularly considered to be best pound-for-pound boxer of all time, Sugar Ray Robinson. Another two notable losses went to Beau Jack in a non-title bout. Jack was then the World Lightweight Champion. Jack would lose the title and win back again. He was one of the most popular boxers of the war years and Cus D’Amato’s choice for best lightweight of all time. Armstrong retired after losing to Chester Slider in February 1945 with a record of 183 fights, 152 wins, 100 by knockout, 22 losses and nine draws. After boxing he opened a Harlem club named the Melody Room after his first nickname. He then returned to Missouri and became an ordained Baptist Minister. Armstrong was a noted youth advocate where he not only taught young boxers but also helped run the Herbet Hoover Boys Club. In 1966 he made a rare public appearance on “I’ve Got a Secret”. A lot of time had passed and he had long been out of the spotlight. Armstrong appeared as a reverend and his secret was that he had been simultaneous triple world champion.
Joe Louis versus Abe Simon II World Heavyweight Championship 27.03.1942
Born to Jewish parents in Richmond Hill, Queesn, New York, in 1913, Abraham “Abe” “The Ape” Simon was known for his tremendous strength. Standing at 6’4” and weighing 255lbs he was one of the monsters of his division. Already a star lineman in his high school football team and interscholastic shot-put champion, he was talent scouted to become a boxer. He was trained by Freddie Brown, a well-known cut man, who would also train Rocky Graziano and later on, Rocky Marciano, Larry Holmes and Roberto Duran. Simon won his 14 first fights, most by knockout. However, he would lose a sixth round points-decision to Lou Nova in 1936 and would be knocked out by Buddy Baer in round three in 1937. He had also beaten other notable heavyweights, such as Roscoe Toles and Gunnar Barlund. One of Simon’s knockout victims was Jersey Joe Walcott who had been ahead on points for the first five rounds. Simon floored him in the sixth. Walcott would become the oldest man to win the World Heavyweight Championship in 1951.
Abe Simon first challenged for the title in 1941. At this time Abe Simon was trained by Jimmy Bronson who had previous trained the great Gene Tunney. That year Simon was ranked number 5 heavyweight in the world by Ring Magazine. According to the consensus of agreement Simon won the second, fourth, sixth, tenth, and eleventh rounds of this fight against reigning champion Joe Louis. Louis knocked him down for the first time in Simon’s career in round 1. In round seven Simon had been able to stagger Louis. Simon lost the fight in round 13 by technical knockout.
Joe Louis came into the fight with 53 wins and one loss. Having knocked out Buddy Baer in one round, he had enlisted in the army the next day and donated his purse to the war effort. Just prior to starting basic training he scheduled in one more title defence. A large percentage of the proceeds from the match went to the Army Emergency Relief Fund, including all of Joe’s purse, and about $3,000 from Simon’s.
This would be the first time Louis fought without Jack “Chappie” Blackburn who had been hospitalised with the pneumonia that would kill him. Nevertheless, Louis’s reputation in rematches preceded him and he was the 15-1 odds on favourite.
Round 1 – Louis dominated with Simon showing signs of nerves. Louis’s superior hand speed and footwork secured him the round whilst Simon’s best moments were in the clinch. Despite a slip, Louis was completely composed and on form.
Round 2 – Despite Simon’s early attempt to take the fight to Louis, the champion just appeared to be landing punches at will. After breaking from a clinch late in the round, Louis unleashed a triple jab and his powerful right cross. Simon tried to circle off but was then hit with a right-left-right followed by two more chopping rights. Simon hit the canvas but was saved by the bell.
Round 3 – Simon was in survival mode and generally hung on the best he could.
Round 4- This was a close repeat of the previous round with Simon doing his best work in the clinch and holding on.
Round 5 – This round saw Simon come back stronger than before. However, his brief flurry was eventually counted by Louis who kept landing his trademark crosses and left hooks. Towards the end of the round he was once again saved by the bell as Louis sent him down for the second time in the match.
Round 6 – Within seconds of the bell sounding, Louis finished off Simon. A right cross and a left hook sent the challenger down for the full 10 count.
Like Buddy Baer just before him, Abe Simon would retire from boxing after this match with Joe Louis. Joe Louis would start basic training but only fight exhibitions whilst touring with the Special Services Division of the US Army for the next four years.