How Good Was Three Time Olympic Gold Medalist Laszlo Papp?
By Ken Hissner: Former three-time Olympic Gold Medalist Hungary’s southpaw Laszlo Papp compiled an amateur record of 301-12-6 or 301-6-12 with 55 first-round knockouts.
He won the Olympics in London in 1948, in Helsinki in 1952, and in Melbourne in 1956. He defeated such boxers as future top contender Spider Webb and future world light heavyweight champion and Olympic Silver Medalist Jose “Chegui” Torres in those 1956 Olympics.
Upon turning professional in Communist Hungary, Papp would go onto turn professional in May of 1957, winning his first seven bouts before drawing with Germinal Ballarin, 45-11-6, breaking his hand in the third round.
It was held in his opponent’s country of France. Papp worked out of Austria since boxing was outlawed in Hungary.
Papp would win his next four fights before drawing with Giancarlo Garbelli, 67-7-8 in 1960 in his opponent’s home country of Italy. In 1961 he won back-to-back fights over Germany’s Peter Mueller, 116-14-10, in Germany and Austria.
In 1962 Papp defeated American’s Ralph “Tiger” Jones, 52-31-5, who defeated “Sugar” Ray Robinson, who at the time was 133-3-2. In Papp’s next fight, he won the European Middleweight title defeating Denmark’s Chris Christensen in 1962. In all made six defenses.
In 1963 Papp defeated Spain’s Luis Folledo, 79-2-2, by stoppage in Spain. In July of 1964, in a rematch with Christensen, he stopped him in Denmark. In what would be his next and last fight, he defeated Mick Leahy, 46-15-5 over 15 rounds in Vienna.
Papp was a top contender for a world title fight with Philadelphia’s world champion Joey Giardello. Promoter Lou Lucchese told this writer there was a knock on his door in Leesport, PA, one day, and it was two FBI agents asking why he was attempting to contact Papp.
He told them he was a boxing promoter and wanted to arrange a title fight for Giardello and Papp.
Papp was not permitted to leave Europe by the Hungarian government or fight Giardello in 1965 because boxing for financial gain was “incompatible with socialist principles. Papp was forced to retire with a 27-0-2 record with 15 knockouts at age 39.
“I was one step away from a world title shot, but it would have meant going to America, and my government didn’t approve,” Papp said.
After the fall of Communism in Hungary in 1989, he said, “I think it was just jealousy. I was earning more money than most of them. There was a lot of antagonism.” He passed away in 1977 and was inducted into the IBHOF in 2001.
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