Friday, November 24, 2006

Willie Pep, Champion

This Day in History (November 20, 1942)

By Aaron Tallent November 20th, 2006

Today in Boxing History: Willie Pep Decisions Chalky Wright

On this day in 1942, Willie Pep won the New York State Athletic Commission World Featherweight Title with a 15-round decision over Chalky Wright at Madison Square Garden.

The crafty Pep began his career with one of the most successful starts in boxing history, winning his first 63 fights. When he faced Wright, his record was 54-0. Wright had won the title in September of 1941 with an 11th-round knockout of Joey Archibald. He had successfully defended it twice, knocking out Harry Jeffra and decisioning Lulu Constantino.

Wright’s third defense did not go as well since he was facing one of the greatest fighters of all time. Pep used his unbelievable speed and ring prowess to win at least ten rounds on each scorecard and came away with a lopsided decision.

The two fighters met for a rematch almost two years later, with Pep winning another decision.


Willie Pep, 84, Champion
Nov. 24, 2006 story

ROCKY HILL, Conn. (AP) - Willie Pep, a hall-of-fame boxer and one of the best fighters of the 20th century, has died at the age of 84.

His grandson, William P. Papaleo, confirmed Friday morning that Pep died Thursday at the West Hill nursing home, where he had been confined to an Alzheimer's unit since 2001.The embodiment of finesse and speed in his prime, the 5-foot, 6-inch Pep was 229-11 during a career that spanned 26 years.

In 1999, Pep was listed fifth among the best fighters of the 20th century as chosen by a five-member panel for The Associated Press. He was inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.

Born Sept. 9, 1922 in Middletown, Pep dropped out of high school at age 16 to fight. He earned the nickname "Will o' the Wisp," because he was quick in the ring and hard to pin down, according to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame's Web site.

Pep won 53 consecutive fights before trumping Chalky Wright in 1942 for the world featherweight title. With the 15-round decision, Pep was the youngest boxer to earn the title in four decades.

The following year brought 63 undefeated bouts for Pep before he lost a non-title fight to Sammy Angott. Undeterred, Pep went on to win another 73 straight.

During World War II, Pep served in the Army and the Navy and was honorably discharged in 1944.

Four years later, he went up against Sandy Saddler for the first of four memorable bouts. Pep was knocked out in the fourth round but regained his title the following year.

Pep retired in 1959, although he was back in the ring six years later. His nine-fight winning streak came to an end when he was stopped by Calvin Woodward in 1966, and Pep hung up his gloves for good.

Over the course of his illustrious career, Pep won 229 matches - 65 of them by knockout. He lost only 11 and fought only one match that resulted in a draw.

When he retired, Pep worked in boxing as a referee and inspector as well as a sports columnist. He was elected to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1977.

No comments: