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Volume 2


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Awesome: Sakio Bika (above right) against Joe Calzaghe

Three amigos: Ray Wheatley (left), Grantlee Kieza and Max Schmeling

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UST what is the greatest performance by an Aussie fighter? The debate was again sparked by Danny Green’s annihilation of Roy Jones Jr in December

2009. Was that the finest achievement ever by an Australian fighter? Since boxing gloves started being used in Australia in 1884, we’ve had some cracking performances. Just as we did last year when rating the 50 best fighters in Australian history, we decided to ask award-winning journalist Grantlee Kieza to list his top 40 performances by Aussie boxers. Grantlee has covered boxing for Australia’s biggest newspaper group for 30 years, he wrote the definitive book on the history of Australian boxing, the definitive television documentary and has been involved in every major Australian boxing publication spanning the last four decades. He was in the corner for many of Australia’s greats as trainer Johnny Lewis’s right hand man and has interviewed world heavyweight champions from Max Schmeling in the 1930s to the giant Russian Nikolai Valuev. He was even once smashed into a steel dressingroom locker by a playful Mike Tyson.

Power: Skinny Hussein (right) decked Manny Pacquiao

We find it tough to argue with his selections. But just why did he rate Jimmy Carruthers’ win over Vic Toweel as the No.1 performance? “Back in the ‘50s there were only eight weight divisions in boxing and only one champion per weight division,” he said. “Jimmy flew halfway around the world, which was a big thing in itself nearly 60 years ago and he took on the undisputed, undefeated world champ in his own backyard – not only before a huge crowd of South Africans in a football stadium but also in the high altitude of Johannesburg where many visiting athletes have been undone by breathing problems. “His win was one of the most shocking and one-sided in the whole history of the sport.” Some great champs missed out on our final 40. Try as we might we couldn’t find room for Skinny Hussein dropping Manny Pacquiao, Jimmy Kelso whipping Al Foreman, Jeff Fenech winning his third world title against Victor Callejas, Kostya Tszyu pounding Miguel Angel Gonzalez or Sakio Bika winning The Contender series against Jaidon Codrington, manhandling Markus Beyer or giving Joe Calzaghe fits. But the top 40 Grantlee chose certainly would take some beating           – RAY WHEATLEY, PUBLISHER

Editor: Ray Wheatley

THE GREATEST

Photographers: Werner Kalin and Tim Barry

Writers: Ray Wheatley and Grantlee Kieza

Production: Kevin McDonald Publishing


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Jimmy Carruthers KO 1 Vic Toweel

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OU had to feel sorry for young Jimmy Carruthers, thousands of miles from home, fighting in front of a hostile crowd of 28,000 and facing an outstanding, undefeated world champion in his own backyard. Short and stocky, Vic Toweel’s greatest asset as a fighter was his ability to throw non-stop punches without tiring and the bout was being held at high altitude in Johannesburg. Surely Carruthers would not be able to handle the pace. Poor bloke. All the experts expected Toweel, regarded as the greatest South African fighter in history, to have too much for the fresh-faced blond southpaw from the then-working class Sydney suburb of Paddington. Toweel reigned supreme among the world’s bantamweights at a time when boxing had only one world champ in each of its eight weight divisions. Today there are more than 90 so called “world champs” across 17 weight divisions. “Vic lost just two amateur bouts out of 400 and won the world title when there were only eight champions,’’ said Toweel’s nephew Paul Toweel, the former world class junior-middleweight and World of Boxing columnist. “He is still in The Guinness Book of World Records to this day for the most knockdowns in a world title fight.” Toweel, of Lebanese descent, was one of the famous fighting Toweel brothers. Willie, fought for a world title, Alan was a top trainer, Maurice an outstanding boxing matchmaker and Jimmy and Fraser outstanding South African stars. Toweel’s father Michael, better known as Papa Mike, changed the course of South African boxing in a makeshift corrugated iron gym. Vic was brilliant as an amateur and

DOWN AND OUT: Carruthers drops Vic Toweel

TALE OF THE TAPE World Bantamweight Title Rand Stadium, Johannesburg November 15, 1952 JIMMY Carruthers

VIC Toweel

5ft 6in

Height

5ft 4in

116¾b

Weight

117lb

23 14-0

Age Record

24 26-0-1

fought in the 1948 Olympic Games in London, but lost his opening bout against Arnoldo Pares from Argentina. Critics slammed the decision. In his fourth fight as a professional, he won the South African bantamweight

title. In his ninth fight, he became the South African featherweight champion and took the British Empire bantamweight title in his 11th fight. In 1950, in his 14th fight, at the age of 21, he won the world bantamweight (53.5kg) championship by outpointing - over 15 rounds - the great Mexican Manuel Ortiz, who was a veteran of 117 bouts and had won more than 20 world title bouts since 1942. Toweel’s first defence was against Englishman Danny O’Sullivan, who was stopped in the 10th round after Toweel decked him a world-record 14 times. He then outpointed Spain’s Luis Romero and Scotland’s Peter Keenan. But then came the defence against


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Carruthers, the tall southpaw from Sydney. Toweel did miles of roadwork dressed in a special tracksuit made from thick blankets and with layers of tyre tubing wrapped tightly around his hips and torso to help take off excess weight. Carruthers, unbeaten in 14 pro bouts, was coming off a points win over American Johnny O’Brien and had wins over Aussie stars such as Ray Coleman, Taffy Hancock, Elley Bennett, Bluey Wilkins, Bobby Scrivano and Keith Francis. But none of them had approached Toweel’s achievements. What was Carruthers to do? For starters he left nothing to chance. Trained by Silent Bill McConnell and managed by Dr John McGirr, he spent five months in Johannesburg getting used to the rarefied air of the city that sits about the same height as Mt Kosciusko above sea level. “My motivation was to have what Vic Toweel had,’’ Carruthers said. “When we met for the first time he was dressed in a beautiful suit looking like a millionaire. I had rolled-up sleeves and felt a bit shoddy by comparison.’’ Toweel spent the night before the bout praying with his family in their private chapel but Carruthers was determined Toweel wouldn’t have a prayer. He aimed to get in the first big punch and he did – in one of the most explosive performances ever by a world title challenger. At the opening bell Carruthers charged from his corner with a shock, shuddering straight left that rocked the world champ to his boot heels. Toweel never recovered. Over the next 2min 19sec, Carruthers smothered Toweel under 147 punches. The dazed Toweel threw one punch that missed. The champion was knocked out of the ring and counted out by referee Willie Smith. The win made Carruthers Australia’s first official world champion after disputed claims by earlier Aussie stars Young Griffo, Mick King and Les Darcy. On his arrival back at Sydney airport

STILL MATES: Carruthers (above left) and Toweel 30 years after their first fight. At left Carruthers prepares for the big battle

he told the assembled media including young radio reporter Reg Grundy: “I’ve been away from home for a very long time and I’m very pleased and proud to be Australia’s first world champion. I aim to keep the title in Australia for many more years to come.’’ Toweel claimed he had been severely dehydrated making the 118lb weight limit and a rematch was arranged for March, 1953. An even bigger crowd – this time

35,000 – turned up at Rand Stadium hoping Toweel would gain his revenge. The little South African held his own until the sixth round but then began to fade. Referee Willie Smith counted him out again, this time as an exhausted Toweel slumped to the canvas on all fours in the 10th. Despite the two crushing defeats Toweel, who migrated to Australia in the late 1980s, only had fond memories of Carruthers, who succumbed to cancer, aged just 61 in 1990. “He was a really nice chappie,’’ Toweel told Grantlee Kieza, “a real gentleman. He didn’t swank or brag or show-off. “Some boxers think they are Samson or Tarzan but he was a very modest, good man. “And a great boxer.’’


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Lionel Rose W 15 Fighting Harada

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HE only reason Lionel Rose was in Tokyo to challenge Fighting Harada, one of the all-time greats, was because the little Aussie came cheap. An Australian Aborigine, he was also a novel opponent for the two-time world champion, who would surely gain some revenge after the Japanese were trounced by the Aussies in World War II. Harada, a 24-year-old veteran of 53 pro fights (for 50 wins) was some boxer. Before stepping up a division he’d been world flyweight champion, beating the legendary Thai Pone Kingpetch, and included among his victims were Englishman Alan Rudkin and the mighty Brazilian Eder Jofre. The Brazilian’s two losses to Harada were the only ones he suffered in 78 fights spread over 20 years and including world title wins at bantamweight and featherweight. Early in 1968, negotiations for Harada to defend his title against Mexican Jesus Pimentel had collapsed, so his management cast their eyes down the list of contenders and came up with Lionel Rose, a kid from Melbourne, who had just stopped former world flyweight challenger Rocky Gattellari in Sydney. Rose was just 19 and had lost twice in his 29 pro fights to Singtong Por Tor and Ray Perez. Harada had beaten Kingpetch, Jofre, Rudkin and the Mexican Jose Medel and was probably the most popular Japanese fighter of all time. Surely this would be a mismatch. “Harada was meant to fight Pimentel but the deal fell through and they rang me to offer Lionel a fight,” Rose’s trainer Jack Rennie recalled. “Lionel was in the background yelling out ‘take it, take it’ but I asked for 24 hours to think about it. “So the next night, at exactly the

same time, which is the Japanese way, they rang back and we said ‘yes’.” Rennie had reservations about the fight, but Lionel had none. He would be paid just $7500 – compared to the champ’s $70,000 – but it was a chance to conquer the world. In fact despite being a 4/1 underdog, Rose surprised onlookers with his calmness and the methodical way he went about his preparation, both at Rennie’s backyard gym in Essendon and in Tokyo. The Japanese took an instant liking to the pipe-smoking Aussie teenager, but Harada’s team remained certain Rose lacked the experience to go with their man. They were in for a surprise. “We sent out spies to watch Harada train and we knew he was a charger,” Rose said. “We knew he was going to charge me.” And that’s what Harada did, racing from his corner at the first bell like he was taking off in the Olympic 100m sprint. But Rose blocked and countered brilliantly, staying remarkably calm under

the Japanese kamikaze attack. He used his height and reach advantage to the full and fearlessly went toe to toe with the champ at every opportunity. In round nine a counter right hand from Rose sent Harada briefly to the canvas and local referee Ko Toyama applied an eight-count despite the champ’s protests that it was a slip. In the 15th round, a desperate Harada, knowing that Rose was shading him, threw everything he had at Rose in one last gasp but the youngster, who was born in a forest clearing in Gippsland, matched him punch for punch until the bell. In the end referee Toyama scored a draw 72-72, using the five-point must scoring system while judge Hiroyuki Tezaki had it 72-69 for the Australian. Rose took the title when the third judge, Ken Morita, who had been outpointed by Harada in 1960, scored 72-70 for the Aussie. Jack Rennie said he had been worried about the scoring. “We had four Japanese officials, not like today when you get neutral referees and judges,” he said. “So we had to trust in their honesty and I was just hoping they didn’t read the Australian newspapers because it wasn’t all that long after the war and all the papers back home were saying the Japs would rob us. “But in the end the officials were fair and accurate giving it to Lionel. “I thought he won the fight clearly, mainly through his left jab which was in Harada’s face all night. “After the fight Harada seemed to storm out of the ring in disgust but he sent us a very sporting message saying Lionel was the best of the 60 blokes he’d fought professionally.” In 2004, Harada flew in from Tokyo


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The Greatest Volume 2 sample  

We name the 40 greatest performances by Australian boxers

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