Boxing and history are inseparable, one often serving as the other’s muse, and we’re simply left to figure out which held more sway. Speak but three boxing names — Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis and Jack Dempsey — and on flows an incredible torrent of happenings and pop culture, influencing life on the local level, and straight up to the thoroughly international .
This specific list explores the pugilism taking place on pivotal historical days from the last 100 or so years — or about how long boxing has been widely covered in great detail. In these cases the boxing had little to do with the history, if anything, though they also demonstrate how the sport has carried on while clocks appeared to stop in other facets of life.
Aug. 1, 1981: MTV makes its debut, Eusebio Pedroza defends his belt… again
In 1981, The Buggles offered MTV an assist in lyrically and literally killing the radio star when the music video for their song “Video Killed the Radio Star” became the first clip broadcast by the brand new channel. A few short hours later, Panamanian featherweight Eusebio Pedroza sentenced Venezuelan contender Carlos Piñango to a torturous demise.
Piñango became Pedroza’s 12th defense of the WBA featherweight title by way of slow bleed, ending in round 7 with a flurry punctuated by a left hook downstairs. Thousands of miles from MTV airwaves that scattered musical magnetism here and there, Pedroza was later elected to Panama’s Legislative Assembly as a hero in his country. Of course Pedroza didn’t quite have MTV-level influence. That was later reserved for fellow Panamanian Roberto Duran.
July 16, 1945: U.S. Army conducts Trinity nuclear test, Bill McDowell gives Zivic’s career a shove off a cliff
At roughly 5:30 a.m. local time, the United States Army detonated the world’s first ever nuclear weapon at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The test would ultimately prevent the U.S. from continuing to fight a longer, potentially costly World War II, while simultaneously staining the environment and expanding the power of humankind well past what was ever thought possible.
Fritzie Zivic’s career was caught in the fallout hours later, as he dropped a points decision to Bill McDowell in New Orleans. The loss itself wasn’t particularly significant, and not that unlike most of his other 64 losses over an 18-year career. But from the third McDowell bout forward, Zivic would sport a 9-17-3 record. The 200+ fight veteran was all but finished, and as evidenced by Zivic’s quote above, perhaps McDowell showed him the door.
April 7, 2001: Mars Odyssey launched, Marco Antonio Barrera’s second career also launched
Through more than a century of science fiction, a particular fascination with Mars has shone through in countless narratives. In the scientific sense, recent speculation centers around whether or not Mars, named for the Roman god of war, has or recently held water on its surface. That was precisely what the Mars Odyssey spacecraft set to find out, via its own instrumentation, or by relaying information collected by older twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
In Las Vegas later that day, 3-to-1 odds spelled doubt as to whether or not weathered veteran Marco Antonio Barrera’s career held water — at least in terms of believing he could defeat “Prince” Naseem Hamed. Ever the flamboyant host, Hamed made Barrera wait almost 15 minutes while he paraded into the joint, only to be bamboozled by the crafty Mexican over 12 rounds. A face-slam into the corner by Barrera added insult to injury in the final round. While Barrera’s career was, for all intents and purposes, halted in the late 2000s following this rejuvenation, Odyssey continues to transmit.
Feb. 11, 1990: Nelson Mandela freed, black fighters headline in Johannesburg
South African revolutionary and politician Nelson Mandela had already spent over 20 years in prison before being moved to Victor Verster Prison in 1988. He was and has remained a symbol of South African apartheid and the fight for civil rights for decades now.
Interestingly, in the South African capital of Johannesburg the same day Mandela was released from prison, a white South African heavyweight named Francois Botha, who would later challenge for the heavyweight title, made his professional debut. Even more intriguing is that Botha’s pro debut came as an opener on a card headlined by two popular black South Africans: Nika Khumalo and Samson Mahlangu.
Oct. 13, 1903 – Boston Americans win first World Series, Joe Walcott triumphs across town
Baseball endured a few separate attempts at staging a championship series prior to the first “modern” World Series taking place in 1903. Ultimately the Boston Americans upset the Pittsburgh Pirates in eight games to become the first official World Series winners at Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds in Boston, Mass.
Literally across town, in the Criterion Athletic Club, the “Barbados Demon” Joe Walcott avenged two prior defeats by earning a lively 15 round points verdict over Kid Carter. Said the Boston Herald, “Carter stood outside and smashed punches into Walcott’s stomach all through the contest that no other fighter of the weight could have stood up under, and intermixed a few to the head, which made even the redoubtable Joe wince. …Walcott did, however, put Carter down for the count twice in the first round, and it was this, with his showing in the next few, that won for him the battle.”
Over the next few years, Walcott would begin to more clearly decline, and the Boston Herald would call this win his “crowning glory.”
Sept. 1, 1939 – Germany invades Poland, Archie Moore wins 40th bout
While various events preceded the full-blown global involvement that became World War II, the German invasion of Poland following the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is considered the match in the tinder box, as it drove the U.K. and France to declare war on Germany.
Blood had not yet been spilled across the Atlantic, and Archie Moore was clearing his good name and taking his ledger to 34-3-2 (26 KO) and 1 no contest with a 10 round points win over Jack Coggins, who accounted for his prior no contest.
In the first bout, the referee declared matters a no contest while charging the fighters with staging an unofficial exhibition and asked that both fighters’ purses be withheld. This rematch, which along with the first fight was held at the Coliseum Athletic Club in San Diego, the San Diego Union reporting, “Moore managed to damage Coggins’ left eye and damage him about the body. In the sixth he cut the ex-sailor’s lip so badly that a doctor was called into the ring to examine it before the fight continued.”
Oct. 29, 1929: Wall Street Crash earns moniker “Black Tuesday,” “Toy Bulldog” keeps his prize
The U.S. flirted with a complete market crash in March of 1929, and after the London Stock Exchange took a hit in September, the inherent weakness and instability of American markets in the late 1920s came to a head on what is now known as “Black Tuesday” — the day $14 billion all but disappeared.
Across the county, at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, Mickey Walker defended his middleweight title against Nebraskan contender Ace Hudkins for a second time. Their first bout featured a close split decision verdict, but Walker left no doubt as to who deserved it this time, reportedly leaving the ring without a mark after having battered Hudkins about.
Meanwhile, just miles from where lack of regulation cost the U.S. a heap of money — but not for the first or last time — fighters like Herman Bernstein and Frankie Anselm were fighting for peanuts at armories around New York City.
May 25, 1977 – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope premiers, “Sugar” Ray Seales does Anchorage
Few could have predicted a hokey science fiction/fantasy flick like Star Wars would grow to become a cultural juggernaut. From truly beloved and wretchedly-hated characters to endless merchandising, Star Wars is everywhere.
But in a galaxy far, far away — Anchorage, Alaska — Ray Seales scored a KO win in four rounds over Tony Gardner. Whereas Luke Skywalker had his teenage angst on Tatooine, Seales, a 1972 Olympic gold medalist, fought his first of two bouts at the Anchorage Sports Arena, a Quonset hut structure that occasionally hosted events requiring more seats than your average high school gym.
Seales was supposed to have been a “next big thing,” but after a handful of losses to fighters a level or two above him, perhaps Anchorage seemed as good a place to do business as any other. Better than Alderaan, anyway.
Dec. 14, 1967 – DNA created in a laboratory, first title bout between two Japanese fighters contested
At Stanford University, researchers Dr. Arthur Kornberg, Mehran Goulian and Dr. Robert L. Sinsheimer brought decades of knowledge regarding molecular biology to an important milestone when announcing that they had manufactured a bacterial virus by manipulating DNA.
An ocean away, Hiroshi Kobayashi won the junior lightweight title by 12th round KO over Yoshiaki Numata — the first time two Japanese combatants would fight for a world title. It had only been 15 years since Yoshio Shirai became the first Japanese champion, but the bout spurred on more serious interest in Japanese boxing, and that interest is still very much alive.
Bringing things full circle, DNA research led to interest in nanotechnology, of which Japan remains at the forefront.
March 12, 1957 – Dr. Seuss publishes “The Cat in the Hat,” Harold Johnson takes the Satterfield trilogy
Theodor Seuss Geisel is probably the most famous and mother-approved former political cartoonist with a weird past in the history of children’s books. Countless children have read Dr. Seuss books, in over 20 languages, with “The Cat in the Hat” being one of the more famous of his works.
On the same day one of Dr. Seuss’ best-known stories was published, the relatively inactive light heavyweight great Harold Johnson took on puncher Bob Satterfield for the third time, earning a points decision in 10 rounds at the Miami Beach Auditorium.
In round number four, something went BUMP! Johnson’s right paw put Bob down with a thump. He sat and he sat until count number nine, and a few rounds past that, he was doing just fine.
Both Harold Johnson and Bob Satterfield delivered their share of thrills and more, but unlike Seuss, neither fighter’s legacy was enduring as the author’s.
On many the most important historical days the globe can offer, the world stops. There wasn’t much boxing to speak of on Sept. 11, 2001, or the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. But few days could completely stop boxing from carrying on in one way or another. Boxing refuses to vocalize any sort of death knell, even as it’s surrounded by death.
Originally featured at Queensberry-Rules.com