Villa in the gym
· Pancho Villa dies from blood poisoning
On 4th July 1925, reigning flyweight champion Pancho Villa lost a non-title fight to Jimmy McLarnin in Emeryville, California. Several days beforehand, he had undergone some dental treatment and during the fight he had taken some punishment around the mouth. Shortly afterwards, he had further dental treatment which included the removal of some teeth. Sadly, this resulted in blood poisoning, which caused his death. With the world championship becoming vacant, a number of claimants, including Frankie Genaro of the USA, sprang forth. However, a stronger claim emanated from Fidel LaBarba of the USA, who had beaten Genaro as well as top contenders Clever Sencio (twice) and Georgie Rivers. Also on the scene was Elky Clarke of the UK, who was the Empire (the earlier version of the Commonwealth title) and European champion.LaBarba and Clarke squared off on 21st January 1927, with LaBarba winning a wide decision. Clarke did not box again.
LaBarba (left) with tap dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson (centre) and heavyweight legend Joe Louis
· Fidel LaBarba announces his retirement
Without making a defence, LaBarba quit the sport with the intention of enrolling at Stanford College in California; his ultimate aim was to become a stock broker (though he eventually ended up back in the ring). As expected, a swarm of claimants soon cropped up, among them Frenchy Belanger from Canada, Newsboy Brown (real name David Montrose) from the USA and Johnny Hill from Great Britain. However, emerging from the muddle with a strong standing was Frankie Genaro, who had defeated Belanger twice (after initially losing to him on points). Regarded as one of the best in the world, Genaro came up against France’s Emile “Spider” Pladner on 2nd March 1929. Pladner had beaten the aforementioned Hill and the highly-touted Izzy Schwartz, and when he surprisingly stopped Genaro in the 1st round he could claim to be the new genuine world champion.
· Benny Lynch forfeits the world championship
On 29th June 1938, Scotland’s Lynch was scheduled to defend the world title against Jackie Jurich from the USA but he failed to make the 112 lb weight limit, therefore forfeiting the crown automatically. Jurich did make the weight limit and the bout went ahead, with Lynch winning by 12th round stoppage. If Jurich had won, he would have been declared the new champion, but he didn’t so the world title became vacant. The contestants most appropriate to fight for the vacant world title were Jurich and Peter Kane.
Kane had topped talented opposition such as Valentin Angelmann and Jimmy Warnock (who had beaten Lynch on 2nd March 1936), and had battled Lynch twice. The first bout, on 13th October 1937 for the world title, had been won by Lynch via 13th round KO, and the rematch, a non-title fight held at bantamweight on 24th March 1938, had ended in a draw.
Jurich had beaten Small Montana and was arguably the best in the USA at the time. Jurich met Kane on 29th June 1938 in Liverpool and Kane won on points to be accepted as the new legitimate champ.
Monaghan strikes a fighting pose
· Rinty Monaghan announces his retirement
Having made two successful defences, Monaghan stepped down in 1950. The prime candidate to fill the vacancy was Terry Allen from Great Britain. Allen had actually faced Monaghan on three previous occasions; Monaghan had stopped Allen in the 1st round on 11th March 1947 before he became world champion, Allen had gained revenge on 7th February 1949 with an 8-round points win in a non-title bout, and their rubber match, which had Monaghan’s world title at stake, took place on 30th September 1949 and was a draw. Having come oh-so-close to winning the world title, Allen could have considered himself the heir apparent. However, on 3rd May 1949, Allen’s status was spoilt when he had dropped a 10-round decision to Honore Pratesi of France. A return match was arranged for 25th April 1950 in London and Allen was awarded the verdict, upon which he was universally recognized as the new world champ.
· Venice Borkorsor moves up to bantamweight
In 1973, Thailand’s Borkorsor headed up to the 118 lb class without making a defence of the world flyweight title. He had mixed success and eventually retired in 1980.
Waiting in the wings was the talented Miguel Canto, who held the Mexican flyweight title. He had lost a decision to top contender Betulio Gonzalez of Venezuela on 4th August 1973, and Gonzalez had gone on to outpoint another top contender, Shoji Oguma of Japan, on 19th May 1974. However, in a rematch Oguma outpointed Gonzalez on 1st October the same year. Oguma was almost certainly the best flyweight in the world at the time but on 8th January 1975 he lost on points to Canto, and with this victory Canto gained universal recognition as the true world champ (it is listed in The Ring record books).