Sugar Ray Robinson versus Bobo Olson Undisputed World Middleweight Championship 09.12.1955
The fight took place at the Chicago Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, USA, in front of 12,441 spectators.
According to BoxRec:
“The gross gate was $128,462 and the net gate was $107,051.
Olson received 35% of the gate and a share of the $75,000 in TV and radio money. His total came to $61,718.
Robinson got 25% of the gate and a share of the TV and radio money. His total was $45,513. However, shortly before the fight, he was tagged with an $87,000 federal tax lien.”
This was Olson’s fourth defence of the title after winning it in a match with Randy Turpin that we previously covered. Sugar Ray Robinson had vacated to pursue an unsuccessful career in dancing and singing. After Olson lost to Archie Moore, in an attempt to add the light heavyweight title to accomplishments, he fought two unanimous decisions against Jimmy Martinez and Joey Giambra. It is worth mentioning that Giambra would be known as “the uncrowned king” due to his controversial losses and the fact that he beat most of the top contenders of his time. He was never given an opportunity to fight for the world title despite beating future titleholder, Joey Giardello, twice and losing once on a controversial decision. Furthermore, Rocky Castellani got a title shot over Giambra despite Giambra having defeated him twice. His match with Olson was no exception to the controversies. Although the press and judges called it for Olson, many have said Giambra was the stronger of the two and landed the most body shots. He would retire with a record of 65-10-2 with 31 knockouts having never been knocked out in his career.
Olson, despite weighing in a 1 lb. lighter than Robinson at 159 lbs., often reported that he struggled to make the weight and was the reason why he had tried for the light heavyweight title. In their first fight, back in 1950, Robinson stopped Olson in the twelfth round. This was when Robinson had vacated his welterweight title and just moved into the middleweight division. The competition had been for the vacant Pennsylvania middleweight title in 1950. The second time the fight went the full 15 rounds as Robinson retained the World Middleweight championship in 1952 by unanimous decision. Even though Olson had lost to Robinson on the previous occasions they had met, the scene had changed dramatically in three years. Robinson’s journey back had been rocky and many of his critics believed he was now too far over the hill and had too much mileage on his career clock. The two and a half years he had been deemed detrimental to his boxing. Despite Olson’s loss to Moore in the light heavyweights, this was against a man who was ranked the number one contender for the heavyweight crown at the end of 1955. Olson had won 13 of his 14 fights since winning the title, including the three title defences. Bobo Olson entered the fight as the bookies’ 3-1 favourite.
Round 1 – The first was an even round that saw Robinson take the outside with Olson in pursuit. Robinson worked off the back foot but looked very confident, even scoring a straight right to the body from long range. Nevertheless, Olson looked tight and organised in his approach handling his opponent throughout the round.
Round 2 – Olson went even more on the offensive as the two fought a tight circle. Robinson scored with a few jabs but went to tying up Olson on his rushes. Olson doggedly came forward and went to the body. As the round progressed, Robinson began to make some of his signature movements and let fly with his left hook after circling with his jabs. Robinson eventually stood his ground and attempted a bolo punch, which missed its target and Olson clinched. They separated and traded punches. Robinson’s left hook hit Olson in the body. The champion dropped his hands and was hit by another left hook and a right uppercut that sent him down for the count. Olson struggled at the count of three but at nine he gave up.
Robinson spoke openly to his critics: “I took about as much abuse as a man can from some people who did not have confidence in my comeback. It became a ghost with me, but it’s all over now. It’s wonderful to be champion again.”
Olson stated that he wanted to make good on the rematch clause but didn’t know when the fight would take place, as he had to “get straightened out”. Sadly, he was facing a divorce and this was what his manager believed to be at the heart of the problem that night. Others thought it was the devastating loss he had suffered at the hands of Archie Moore.
Robinson’s opponents were speculated on at the time. Would it be Eduardo Lausse? No, as we know from what happened to him, history would be denied this hard-hitting match-up. Charles Humez was a hot favourite too. He was ranked two after Olson. However, this fight would not happen either. Robinson’s next fight would be in defence of his title and his opponent would be the former holder, Bobo Olson, in May 1956.
For now, however, Sugar Ray Robinson was the undisputed world middleweight champion for the third time in his career.
Sandy Saddler versus Flash Elorde Undisputed World Featherweight Championship 18.01.1956
From 1952 until 1954 Sandy Saddler entered the US army and did not fight any official bouts. The last time we watched him fight was in his previous defence of the world featherweight title. He had won a unanimous decision over Teddy “Red Top” Davis in 1955. Due to his time out and the decision not to vacate the title, this was only his second defence of the undisputed title since winning it from Willie Pep in September 1950 but the third defence of the NBA title. In February 1951 only the NBA had recognised his successful defence of their title against Diego Sosa. This was due to the fight only being for 10 rounds for some reason. Regardless of this fact, the win had come via a second round knockout. Since winning back the title, taking into account his almost two year time out and in addition to his three title defences, Saddler had fought 33 non-title bouts, winning most by way of stoppage and losing eight. Of these eight had been with a new rising star that he would face in a rematch with all his titles now on the line.
His opponent was Gabriel “Flash” Elorde. Born on 25th March 1935 in the City of Bogo in the Filipino province of Cebu. The youngest of 15 children, Elorde grew up in extreme poverty and was forced to finish school in the third grade where he found work as a bowler ball bearer before moving into carpentry.
His father was “Tatang” Elorde, the Cebu eskrima champion and trained his son in the system that would become known as Balintawak Eskrima or Balintawak Arnis. This style of eskrima would be created by Venancio “Anciong” Bacon in Cebu and was a breakaway from the Doce Paras club. Bacon believed the techniques of eskrima had become watered down to influences from other Filipino martial arts and sought to go back to basics in preserving the art’s combative pragmatism. He led several other students away from where they focused more on single stick work and looked towards using the stick to enhance unarmed combat. The resulting rivalry between the two clubs climaxed with Bacon being sent to prison for killing a Doce Paras student who ambushed him one night.
Gabriel Elorde befriended a former professional boxer called Lucio Laborte who taught him the art when Elorde was a teenager. With no way to support an amateur career and less scrutiny over the ages of fighters, Elorde began his professional career aged just 16 on 16th June 1951. He stopped Kid Gonzaga in round four. This was followed eight straight victories, all but two occurring inside the distance. He then lost his first match after being knocked out in the 10th round on 16th October 1951 to Kid Independence. For context, this was only his second 10-round match, he was still only 16 and he had been fighting twice, sometimes three times a month.
Just over a year later on 18th October, the now 17 year-old Elorde won the vacant Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation (OPBF) bantamweight title and would defend it on 1st July in 1953 to Akiyoshi Akanuma in Japan. Just prior to his first title defence he also attempted the OPBF featherweight title but lost to the reigning champion, Larry Bataan, on points in a 12-round contest in the Philippines. After retaining his bantamweight title, he fought seven more contests in Japan all over a year period from August 1953 to August 1954. He lost three of these contests all to decisions and all against larger opponents. Two of these loses were attempts at heavier division titles, the Japanese lightweight championship against Masashi Akiyama and a second attempt at the OPBF bantamweight title, this time against new champion Shigeji Kaneko. He won his next five fights and this time was successful to get a title from a higher division: The Philippines Games and Amusement Board’s lightweight championship. He won his next three contests, which included another fight in Japan. He then lost a non-title contest against Masashi Akiyama before fighting two more matches before his first fight with Sandy Saddler. These were a point victory over Severino Fuentes and a defeat that cost him the PGMB lightweight title to Leo Alonzo.
Fighting on his home turf on 20th July 1955 at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila, Flash Elorde won the hearts of his country and shocked the world when he solidly outpointed the great Saddler over 10 rounds. It was a non-title fight and Elorde’s management believed it had earned their bantamweight a shot at the world featherweight title. Saddler was happy to oblige and the date was set for January 1956 at the Cow Palace, Daly City, California, U.S.
Flash Elorde was a southpaw who was known for his speed, hence his nickname, and his vicious continuous body shots. He also used innovative footwork taken from his father’s eskrima teaching.
He stood at 5’5 1/2″ with a reach of 68″. He weighed in at 125 lbs to Saddler’s 126 lbs.
Prior to the bout, the master of ceremonies introduced multi-professional sportsman, Charlie Powell, who after short careers in first professional baseball then professional football he embarked on a lengthier career in boxing and would go on to fight Nino Valdes, Floyd Patterson and Muhammad Ali. Also introduced into the ring as a spectator was the former heavyweight champion, Max Baer, and the current light-heavyweight champion, Archie Moore.
The fight would be decided using a new 11-point system. The winner of a close round to get 6 to the loser’s 5 and an even round would mean both fighters would get 5.5 points a piece.
Round 5 – Elorde’s cut began to show where Saddler would now continue to grind his head. Blood flowed from his mouth.
Round 7 – A cut appeared above Elorde’s left eye and now it was all about keeping Saddler’s head away.
Round 9 – Elorde bloodied Saddler’s nose with a set of combinations.
Round 12 – Saddler was now showing a cut above his right eye.
Round 13 – At the 59th second of this round referee Ray Flores and commission physician Dr. Robert Laddon called a stop to the match.
Up to this point both the United Press and Associated Press scored the fight 68-64 in favour of Saddler and San Rafael Independent had it even.
Elorde’s fans were extremely vocal about the decision to stop the bout and there were many long distance phone complaints jamming the switchboard regarding Saddler’s blatant dirty tactics. However, the decision stood and after two non-title bouts that year, one of which he won on a third round TKO and one of which he lost on a unanimous decision, Saddler would be involved in car accident. This occurred year after his last title defence in January 1957. The accident left him with an eye injury that ended his boxing career. His final record stood at a 163 fights with 145 wins (104 by knockout), 16 losses and 2 draws. He was only stopped once in his entire career and that occurred in his second match when he took on two-year veteran, golden gloves bantamweight champion and future world featherweight contender, Flint Michigan’s Leslie “Jock Leslie” Jock. Leslie would suffer one his eight knockout defeats during a career high when he lost to Willie Pep in their championship match in 1947. Saddler would beat the great Pep three times out of their four matches, including winning back the world title he lost to the Wilo the Wisp and defending it, both of which were matches we covered in these lessons.
Saddler was only 30 when he was forced into retirement. He became a reputable trainer. In 1990 he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Sandy Saddler died in 2001. In 2003 Ring rated him at number 3 in their 100 greatest punchers of all time. Ring also rates him as the 39th greatest pound for pound boxer of all time, The Bleacher Report put him at 32, Yardbaker have him at 25, as do Give Me Sport. The Boxing Scene consider him to be the fourth greatest featherweight of all time, Fight City rate him at number 3, Pro Boxing fans give him the number 2 spot after Willie Pep and Boxing News put him at number one.
Sandy Saddler was the uncle to a hip hop cutting and mixing pioneer that shared the same nickname to The Stick’s last truly great opponent: Grandmaster Flash. However, perhaps the greatest part of his boxing legacy will be in the form of his most famous student: “Big” George Foreman.