Ali invades Japan and helps invent MMA.
When Muhammad Ali died last week we remembered we had some rarities laying around, but it took a few days to find them. These are the items we were searching for—posters from Ali's June 1976 match at Tokyo's Nippon Budokan arena with Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki. In what would now be called a mixed martial arts bout, Ali and Inoki fought to a draw, however this was not a freeform battle, but rather a tightly regulated exhibition match. Nevertheless, Ali's leg was so damaged from Inoki's repeated kicks that an infection set in and for a brief time the medical discussion turned to amputation. Today the Budokan match is considered by Ali fans an embarrassment in the boxer's storied career, but it was also an important precursor to MMA, a case study in how boxing and MMA are incompatible sports, and yet another example of Ali's trailblazing nature. He was the king and he will be missed.
He gave every last drop of his blood—to the IRS.
This National Police Gazette cover from this month in 1951 shows a bloodied Joe Louis in the midst of a title bout loss to Ezzard Charles in September 1950. Louis had retired, but when the U.S. government's Internal Revenue Service came after him for $500,000 in back taxes, he fought again—at age thirty-six—with the agreement that the proceeds would clear his debt. Thus Gazette's sub-head: “Why Joe Louis Can't Quit.” He'd hoped to pay off the entire bill with one fight, but the crowd was small and the purse far less than expected. With debt still outstanding, he did the only thing he could—take more fights.
And in the center of the magazine Gazette offers up Hazel Nilsen as its Date of the Month. Gazette featured established personalities on its calendar pages only occasionally, which means the magazine's promo shots today serve as an encyclopedia of aspiring starlets who almost—but never quite—made it. Nilsen was aiming for Broadway because of the excitement of acting before a live audience, but never appeared in a play. Instead she scored small roles in three Hollywood westerns between 1949 and 1952, including as an Indian maiden named White Fawn in Apache Chief, before fading from the scene. Showbiz is a cruel mistress.
They didn't call him the Bronx Bull for nothing.
How much beating can a fighter take? National Police Gazette asks that burning question on the front of this issue that hit newsstands this month in 1950. The cover star is Jake LaMotta, the Bronx Bull, who was famous for being able to take a punch—or fifty—and his unseen opponent is French fighter Robert Villemain. The photo was made during their December 1949 bout, a match LaMotta lost by unanimous decision. But his reputation as someone who could take a punch grew even when he lost, and eventually reached legendary proportions. His most serious beating occurred in February 1951 during a bout with Sugar Ray Robinson that was dubbed the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre. By the end the fight had become an epic of human destruction, and almost certainly caused permanent damage to La Motta. But in ninety-five professional matches to that point he had never been knocked to the canvas and he didn't fall that night either, even during a vicious final-round barrage that had LaMotta staggering around the ring. So the answer to Gazette's question—How much beating can a fighter take?—is simple. If you're LaMotta, you can take plenty.
It’s time to say goodnight.
The National Police Gazette loved fighters in general and Rocky Marciano in particular. He appeared on the magazine’s cover at least a dozen times, and above you see another colorful photo-illustration put together from a shot made during his first bout with heavyweight champion Jersey Joe Walcott, which the much younger Marciano won by TKO. The fight was today in 1952, and the photo appeared on the Gazette a year later in September 1953.
Saddlered, whipped, and sent back to the barn.
The cover of this National Police Gazette published today in 1950 shows boxer Willie Pep being assessed by Dr. Vincent Nardiello after a February 1949 bout with archnemesis Sandy Saddler. Below the cover is another image from the same sequence. Saddler really put a hurting on Pep, as you can see from the severity of his injuries, but that was normal for the two fighters. They met four times, trading the lightweight championship three times in those battles, with the last fight considered even today one of the dirtiest of all time. You can see more from Police Gazette by clicking its keywords below.
Let me get one last hug in, so I can remember you without a smashed in face and broken body.
W.R. Burnett followed up his 1929 gangster novel Little Caesar with 1930’s Iron Man, the story of a boxer named Kid Mason who is laid low not by his ring opponents but by the machinations of unsavory hangers on and a femme fatale—who’s unfortuntately also his wife. We showed you the hardback dust jacket to this a while back. This paperback from Avon goes full pulp with the teaser, promising a “toboggan-slide of passion, a headlong express that rips through the heavens and plunges to the bottom of hell.” That sounds fun, and indeed it was well reviewed, and was adapted into a film in 1931 with Lew Ayres as Mason and Jean Harlow as his wife. The cover art is uncredited.
She may not be a champion of the ring, but she’s a winner just the same.
This photo of Elsie Connor looked to us as if it had been Photoshopped in a very interesting way but it wasn’t—we found a version on Getty Images and it was identical to what you see above. The image and the fact that she’s identified as an Irish boxing champion on various websites made us curious about her career, but after a bit of digging we discovered that she was actually a dancer and chorus girl, and appeared in the 1930 musical Earl Carroll's Sketch Book, the 1929 shows Fioretta and Earl Carroll’s Vanities, and the 1928 production Here’s Howe. That’s a pretty short career, and one that lacked any starring roles, but thanks to the internet she’s famous again, looking like a real world beater. The only thing is, we doubt she was ever a boxer. We can’t be 100% sure, but with no evidence that she ever stepped into a ring, as well as a very clear understanding of how often the world wide web is world wide wrong, we suspect this is just a very, er, striking publicity photo. It dates from 1931.
Cutting the head off the snake.
Above and below, a July 1956 issue of Real Adventure magazine with uncredited art on the cover and throughout the issue. Inside you get model Peggy Ray, and a self-written feature by boxer Sandy Saddler in which he denies being a dirty fighter. The article includes a photo, which you see in panels three and four below, of Saddler mugging Willie Pep. That’s not the first appearance on Pulp Intl. for that image. Police Gazette featured it on one of its covers in February 1951 with a little photo-illustrative tweak. It’s worth glancing at and you can see it here.
So was Saddler a dirty fighter? Consensus seems to be that if he felt victimized himself, he tended to cross the line. According to theboxingmagazine.com, this happened during Saddler’s fourth fight with Pep, which featured, “elbows, butting, heeling with the glove and lacing, they were everything-gos foul-fests from start to finish. While Pep and Saddler wrestled on the inside, Saddler thought nothing of putting Willie in a headlock before throwing him to the floor. Even the referee was knocked to the floor several times in an attempt to separate the two fighters. Needless to say, the boos and jeers shook the joint to the rafters. Saddler said afterward that he felt insulted by those who insisted he was a dirty fighter.”
Saddler won 144 bouts against only 16 losses, which would seem to indicate a considerable amount of talent. He retired in 1956, at the earlyish age of thirty, after he hurt his eye in a traffic accident. Afterward her became a trainer and counted among his clients a young George Foreman. He died in 2001 but was honored by The Ring magazine a couple of years later when editors ranked him as the fifth greatest puncher of all time. We have about twenty scans of Saddler, Pep, and others below.
No Moore mister nice guy.
This cover of The National Police Gazette from April 1955 shows light-heavyweight champion Archie Moore putting a hurting on Joey Maxim. Gazette was hyping an upcoming title bout between Moore and Rocky Marciano, then and now considered one of the top three boxers to ever lace up a pair of gloves. We doubt that Marciano was afraid, as Moore claims on the cover, but maybe he should have been. The night of the bout Moore amazed/dismayed the crowd by landing a right counter and knocking Marciano to his knees. It was only the second time in Marciano's storied career that he had hit the canvas. He received a count from the ref. Under boxing rules the count should have stopped when Marciano rose—which he did after two seconds—and Moore should have been free to pummel his presumably dazed opponent. But referee Harry Kessler interposed himself between the two fighters.
Moore tells it this way: “The referee saw me stepping toward Marciano, and [put] his butt in my stomach and kept me off Marciano. He grabbed Marciano’s hands and wiped off his gloves while my corner yelled, ‘Hit him! Hit him!’ All of a sudden, Kessler jerked [Marciano’s] hands, and Marciano’s head jerked and [that] brought him to.”
Moore eventually lost the fight. But you have to give him credit—rather than thinking Kessler acted maliciously, he believes the ref was so amazed to see the champ down that he simply forgot his duties under the rules. Still, Moore makes no bones about it—in his view, Kessler cost him the fight. In the end though, Moore had to be proud. He had jumped up a weight class for the bout, and, at forty-one, was a decade older than Marciano. For those reasons and others a Moore victory would have been the greatest upset in boxing history, but it was not to be.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1936—First Helicopter Flight
In Berlin, Germany, in a sports stadium, Ewald Rohlfs takes the Focke-Wulf Fw 61 on its first flight. It is the first fully-controllable helicopter, featuring two counter rotating rotors mounted on the chassis of a training aircraft. Only two are ever produced, and neither survive today.
1963—John F. Kennedy Visits Berlin
22 months after East Germany erects the Berlin Wall as a barrier to prevent movement between East and West Berlin, John F. Kennedy visits West Berlin and speaks the famous words "Ich bin ein Berliner." Suggestions that Kennedy misspoke and in reality called himself a jelly donut are untrue.
2009—Farrah Fawcett Dies
American actress Farrah Fawcett, who started as a model but became famous after one season playing detective Jill Munroe on the television show Charlie's Angels
after a long battle with cancer.
1938—Chicora Meteor Lands
In the U.S., above Chicora, Pennsylvania, a meteor estimated to have weighed 450 metric tons explodes in the upper atmosphere and scatters fragments across the sky. Only four small pieces are ever discovered, but scientists estimate that the meteor, with an explosive power of about three kilotons of TNT, would have killed everyone for miles around if it had detonated in the city.
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