The Greatest Boxing Myths Exposed Part One: Pep, Tyson, Pryor, Jack Johnson

Boxing Myths part 1!

Willie Pep once won a round without throwing a punch

You still hear people recite this like it’s a fact. The great Willie Pep once won a round without throwing a punch. The fight in question is Pep’s 1946 bout with Jackie Graves. The story first appeared in a Minnesota newspaper, St. Paul’s Pioneer. In the same article, the writer says Pep won a round without throwing a punch. He then contradicts himself by saying in the third round, in which Pep supposedly didn’t throw a punch, was the most action-packed of the whole night. Sounds a little fishy doesn’t it. Unfortunately, no film exists of the fight.

Mike Tyson is the youngest heavyweight champion of all time

I will concede that Tyson was the youngest heavyweight to win an alphabet portion of the heavyweight crown. At the time Tyson beat Trevor Berbick, Michael Spinks was the heavyweight champion of the world. Spinks had upset Larry Holmes to win the title and held on to the belt with a controversial decision in the rematch. Spinks was later stripped for refusing to fight Tony Tucker in Don King and HBO’s heavyweight tournament to determine a true champion. Was Spinks afraid of Tyson? Only Spinks knows that. After Spinks was stripped of the IBF heavyweight title, Don King won the right to promote a Spinks-Tucker title fight with a purse bid of $711,000. In the case of a purse bid, the money is divided 75 percent to 25 percent in favor of the champion. Spinks would have collected $533,250. Instead, Spinks fought Gerry Cooney for a guaranteed purse of $4 million. So if you were Spinks what would you have done? 

As stated, Tyson was the youngest alphabet champion, but a lot of people still considered Spinks the champion. I know perception can be a reality for people. Don King and HBO were beating the drum for Tyson, but remember when Patterson beat Moore to claim the title left vacant by Marciano, Patterson was THE Heavyweight champion.

Jack Johnson took a dive against Jess Willard

There is simply no basis in truth for this claim. Johnson made it years after the fight. My guess is he said it because losing to Jess Willard was beyond humiliating for the former great. He also needed the money. When you watch the film and read newspaper reports, Johnson was beaten by fatigue. Willard was an enormous man, standing 6’6″ and weighing 245 pounds. The fight was scheduled for 45 rounds under the hot sun of Havana, Cuba. The first 20 rounds were easily controlled by the more skilled Johnson, who taunted and laughed at his opponent. The problems started in the next stanza as the younger challenger didn’t tire and Johnson started to show his age.

Before the start of the 26th round, Johnson told his corner, “Take my wife away … Tell her I’m awful weak and I want her to leave.” The 26th round would be the death knell for Johnson’s long reign. A long right hand from Willard knocked him out. Johnson was congratulatory in the ring to Willard after the fight. But later he made excuses until finally, he claimed that he had lost on purpose in exchange for a pledge that he could return to the U.S. and avoid criminal charges. No evidence existed on this claim, and in the end, very few boxing people ever bought it. Johnson was an old proud champion that ran into a well-conditioned, tough, younger man and lost. The sad part is that Willard’s win has always been tainted by this and in truth, he should be celebrated for pulling off one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.

Sugar Ray Leonard never ducked Aaron Pryor

This one is insane. Why would a man who fought, Wilfred Benitez, Roberto Duran, a couple of times, and Tommy Hearns, duck Aaron Pryor? Pryor’s big win came at the end of 1982 over Alexis Arguello. In 1979, Leonard beat Benitez. He fought Duran twice in 1980 and fought Tommy Hearns at the end of 1981. Early in 1982, Leonard beat Bruce Finch and shortly after, found out about his detached retina and retired. Plus if Leonard ducked him how is it that Pryor said Leonard offered him 500K for a fight and Pryor turned it down? Case closed. 



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