Were Walker Smith, Jr., Henry Jackson & Gugliermo Papaleo the 3 Greatest Boxers of all-time?
By Ken Hissner: Were Walker Smith, Jr., aka “Sugar” Ray Robinson, Henry Jackson aka Henry Armstrong, and Gugliermo Papaleo aka Willie Pep the three greatest pound for pound boxers of all time?
Let’s start with Pep, who was the world featherweight champion when there was one organization and only ten contenders. He finished with a 229-11-1 record with 65 stoppages from Rocky Hill, CT. Known as “Will o’ the Wisp,” he was 18-2-2 as an amateur when at 13-0-1 losing to Robinson 1-1. He was 62-0 when he lost his first fight. He was inducted in the first year of the IBHOF in 1990.
Pep won the NYSAC world featherweight title in November of 1942, defeating future IBHOF boxer Chalky Wright, 143-33-17, over 15 rounds. Pep would hold the world title until October of 1948, losing to future IBHOF boxer Sandy Saddler, 86-6-2. In February of 1949, he regained the title defeating Saddler.
In one of his title defenses that year, he stopped Eddie Compo, 57-1-3, in 7 rounds. He would lose the title in a third match with Saddler in September of 1950 and again a year later, in a fourth match. He would go onto fight until 1966. I met him after he retired in Philadelphia at a fight.
Armstrong was 3-4 as an amateur and 1-3-1 at the start of his professional career. Known as “Homicide Hank,” he won world titles at featherweight, welterweight, and lightweight in that order. His record was 151-21-10 with 100 knockouts. He was from L.A., CA, inducted into the IBHOF in 1990.
In October of 1937, Armstrong would win the world featherweight title, stopping Petey Sarron, 108-22-13, by KO. He would vacate the title going up to welterweight, winning the world title from Barney Ross, 74-3-3, in May of 1938.
He made title defenses defeating Ceferino “Predo” Garcia, 103-24-12, Baby Arizmendi, 84-16-14, Bobby Pacho, 90-47-15, in Cuba, Lew Feldman, 104-35-16, Davey “The Human Stringbean” Day, 56-5-4, and Ernie Roderick, 78-12-3, in the UK.
He would drop down to lightweight for the world title losing to Lou “Herkimer Hurricane” Ambers, 84-6-7, in August of 1939. Two months later, he was back defending his welterweight title stopping Al Manfredo, 74-22-8.
He had seven more title defenses before losing to Fritzi Zivic, 100-24-5, in October of 1940 and back again in January of 1941. He would go onto fight until February of 1945, never again fighting for a world title.
Robinson “Sugar” Ray, as an amateur, was 30-1, and from Harlem, NY. He was the New York Golden Gloves champion in 1939 and 1940. As a professional, he was 174-19-6 with 109 knockouts. He was a 6-time world welterweight champion.
Robinson was 40-0 when he lost to Jake “Bronx Bull” LaMotta, 30-5-2, in their second fight, then went onto beat LaMotta three more times after that. He had a pair of draws with Jose Basora, 54-9-4, in 1945 and Henry Brimm, 23-9-2, in 1949. When he lost for the second time to Randy Turpin, 40-2-1, in 1951, in the UK, he was 129-1-2. He defeated Turpin in a rematch. He defeated Armstrong near the end of Armstrong’s career. He was inducted into the IBHOF in 1990.
Robinson had noted wins in 1941 over future IBHOF boxer Sammy Angott, 60-15-5. In his next fight, he defeated Carl ”Red” Guggino, 114-42-25, Maxie Shapiro, 50-6-2, next Marty Servo, 42-0-2, and future IBHOF boxer Fritzie “The Croat Comet,” 111-26-6, and again in January of 1942, with Maxie Berger, 744-13-8 next. In a rematch that year with Servo before 15,000, he won a split decision. He followed that up with a rematch win with Angott. Near the end of 1942, he got his revenge rematch defeating LaMotta, twice that year. In 1943 he defeated former champion Henry “Homicide Hank” Armstrong, 134-17-8.
In 1945 Robinson defeated George “Sugar” Costner, 36-6-3, by KO1. Next fight, he again defeated LaMotta in February and September before 14,755 and called it “the toughest fight I ever had with LaMotta”! Once again, in 1946, he defeated Angott. In November, he stopped Artie Levine, 46-9-5, in the tenth round. Robinson had been on the deck in the fourth and almost out. In Robinson’s next fight, he finally, after five years, got a shot at the N.B.A. World title in December defeating Tommy Bell, 39-10-3, over 15 rounds, before 15, 670 fans. In 1947 in a non-title bout, he defeated Georgie Abrams, 48-6-3, by split decision. In his next fight in his first world title defense, he stopped Jimmy Doyle, 42-6-3.
In 1948 Robinson, in a title defense, he defeated Bernard “Big Duke” Docusen, 49-2-4. Next up was this writer’s second all-time favorite, the welterweight champion and IBHOF boxer “Kid” Gavilan, 46-5-2, in a non-title bout. In a rematch in 1949 before 27,905 fans, with the title on the line, Robinson defeated Gavilan.
Next, in a fight billed as an “eliminator for the middleweight title,” he defeated Steve Belloise, 90-10-3, by KO in 7. Billed as the vacant PA world title, he defeated France’s Robert Villemain, 42-3-1. They would rematch in France, with Robinson scoring a KO the following year.
While waiting for that world title fight, he defended his welterweight title he defeated Charley Fusari, 63-7-1. In his next fight just 16 days later, in August of 1951, in a rematch with Jose Basora, whom he had drawn with, he scored a KO1.
In October of 1950, Robinson knocked out future IBHOF boxer Carl “Bobo” Olson, 41-3, in 12 rounds. Next, he stopped Bobby Dykes, 71-8-6. In the next month, he scored a fourth round KO4 over Luc van Dam, 89-12-3, of the Netherlands in Europe, before 15,000 fans.
In February of 1951, again, he fought LaMotta, who was then Middleweight champion, stopping him in 13 rounds in Chicago. In July, while touring Europe, he lost in a title fight to Randy Turpin, 41-2-1, for only his second career loss. Two months later, in a rematch in New York, Robinson regained the title while receiving a cut in the tenth round he scored a pair of knockdowns, stopping Turpin during that round.
In April of 1942, Robinson defended his title, knocking out future IBHOF boxer Rocky Graziano, 67-8-6, in 3 rounds.
In his following fight, he tried winning the Light Heavyweight title from Joey Maxim, 78-18-4, in Yankee Stadium, though ahead going into the thirteenth round 10-3, 9-3-1 and 7-3-3, the heat got to him being stopped.
He would retire at the end of the year only to come back in 1955 and fight for another ten years.
Most boxing people consider Robinson as the greatest pound for pound boxer in the history of boxing.
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