Skip to main content
Original Issue

Our wandering heavies

Faraway places and strange-sounding names threaten the prestige of our big boys

The American heavyweight, who has been without much profit or honor in his own country, lately has taken to traveling abroad to pick up loose change in undeveloped lands where television has not yet wrecked the gate. The results have been most damaging to the prestige of our fellows. Swedish Ingemar Johansson knocked Eddie Machen from second to fifth spot in National Boxing Association ratings. The other night in London Willie Pastrano, who has been ranked No. 3, was stopped in five rounds by the totally unranked Brian London. And now Zora Folley, No. 1 boy on the NBA rankings sheet, is going to risk his high position in London on Oct. 14 against another Britisher, Henry Cooper.

On paper it does not look like too great a risk. Cooper lost three of his four 1957 fights, two by knockout, and his 1958 record includes a draw with Heinz Neuhaus and a loss to German Light Heavyweight Champion Erich Schoeppner, even though Schoeppner was knocked out. After counting him out the referee decided the kayo punch was an illegal blow to the back of the neck. In his last outing Cooper stopped a Welsh heavyweight, Dick Richardson, in five rounds.

So Folley would not seem to be exposing himself to dangerous company. But look at what happened to Machen and observe what happened to Pastrano.

What happened to the agile Willie was pure misfortune. As he came out of a clinch in the third round of his fight with London, Willie was seen to be bleeding from a cut on his left eyelid. It presented no particular problem to him. But at the end of the fifth round, with Willie leading, Referee Jack Hart peered at the cut through his spectacles and stopped the fight, awarding it to London. Pastrano broke down and sobbed in his corner.

The cut almost certainly would have been ignored by an American referee. But the record books will register a knockout defeat for Pastrano for the first time.

Another foreign heavyweight, the 21-year-old George Chuvalo of Toronto, will have a chance at the once-ranked Pat McMurtry of Tacoma in a Madison Square Garden television debut for both of them Oct. 17 (Friday). McMurtry's only defeat this year was at the hands of Willi Besmanoff, conqueror of Alex Miteff, with whom Chuvalo was able to register a draw. Still Chuvalo is a slight favorite and is picked in this corner, too.

In the preceding Wednesday night TV show (Oct. 15), this one from Montreal, Ralph Dupas is a strong favorite over Gil Turner, and it seems reasonable to go along with the early 2-1 odds. Turner has been having a bad year, winning only one fight in four.


The reopening of famed little St. Nick's Arena in New York, the most distinguished of small fight clubs, was without benefit of television and attracted its biggest crowd in 11 years, 3,216 shrill customers, a fact that led Boxing Commission Chairman Julius Helfand to observe that "there is nothing wrong with boxing except television." The crowd came to see a stablemate of Heavyweight Champion Floyd Patterson in his first main event. The stablemate, Jose Torres, fights like a middleweight version of Patterson, boxing out of a tight, gloves-up defense and pouring out punches in fabulously fast combinations. It was only his sixth professional fight but he performed like a veteran. His opponent, Otis Woodard, was pronounced unfit to continue by Dr. Samuel Swetnick after the fifth round, a diagnosis that enraged Sugar Ray Robinson, who was in Woodard's corner.

"Boxing," Sugar Ray proclaimed, "is all politics. I'll never fight in New York again under a Helfand administration. And the next time Governor Harriman comes to Harlem I'll tell him a few things."

The controversy did not upset Promoter Teddy Brenner a bit. Cheerily, scenting that he might be playing a part in the rise of a future champion, he signed Torres for another fight, this time against Frankie (Kid) Anslem on Oct. 13.


AN EYE CUT, not punching like this, cost Willie Pastrano (left) victory when he faced Brian London in London and so another American heavyweight bit Europe's dust.