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Fullmer was in his prime during the decade’s second half; he ducked nobody and fought a murders row of opponents. That list included wins over Sugar Ray Robinson, Carmen Basilio, Gil Turner, Paul Pender, Rocky Castellani, Ralph “Tiger” Jones, Del Flanagan, and Spider Webb.
Basilio was terrific the entire 1950s; he owned a win over Sugar Ray Robinson and beat the likes of Ike Williams, Billy Graham, Gil Turner, Tony Demarco, Johnny Saxton, and Art Aragon. He finished the decade off losing to Gene Fullmer in a classic battle.
Harold Johnson is one of the most underrated fighters in boxing history. Johnson was one of the greatest Light Heavyweights in Boxing history. He beat Archie Moore; he also lost a couple to Moore. He owned wins over ranked heavyweights such as Bob Satterfield and Nino Valdes; he also hit the great Ezzard Charles in a brilliant battle fought over the Light Heavyweight weight limit.
Saddler’s last significant fight was a 13th-round knockout of future junior lightweight champion Flash Elorde in 1956. At the age of 30, so for a little over half of the decade, Saddler was a force to be reckoned with. In 1950 he closed out his famous rivalry with Willie Pep by stopping Pep after the seventh round.
Brown won the undisputed lightweight championship of the world in 1956 at the age of 30 and made 11 successful defenses of his title. The night he took on Wallace “Bud” Smith for the title, his 70-18-11 record, with 29 victories inside the distance, hardly hinted as someone who had the makings of an all-timer. At 30, it seemed improbable that he would suddenly find a way to move up to his sport’s highest level and do so by leaps and bounds. History has largely forgotten Brown, and it’s a shame because he will go down as one of the most accomplished champions in the Lightweight division history.
Gavilan was a beast in the decade’s first half, and he never ducked anybody. Gavilan beat the likes of Tony Janiro, Johnny Bratton, Billy Graham, Bobby Dykes, Gil Turner, Chuck Davey, Ralph “Tiger” Jones, Carmen Basilio, and Bobo Olson. The last half of the decade saw an older version of Gavilan suffer many defeats to fighters that would have had no chance against a prime Gavilan. Make no mistake; Kid Gavilan was one of the greatest boxers ever to live.
The great Pascual Perez from Argentina was 54-1-1 in the ’50s decade. He was one of the greatest flyweight boxers of all time. He held the flyweight crown for six years and made 11 successful title defenses in the decade, despite starting late as a pro at age 26. The Terrier was the Olympic champion in ’48 in Stockholm. Perez did not lose a fight during the 1950s until 1959. Of course, as a Flyweight, the level of opposition has to be questioned, but Perez was the best in his division for almost the entire decade.
I know many people will say Rocky was overrated, and that’s not true! Sure the heavyweight division was not loaded at this time, but how many times in history was the heavyweight division loaded? Marciano owned two wins over the talented Roland LaStarza; the first fight was a close controversial decision. Still, in the second fight, Marciano dominated LaStarza stopping him in the eleventh round. Marciano beat Joe Louis; I know he was old, right? Will he was favored to beat Rocky and was the number-one contender. The truth is that Louis was on an eight-fight win streak and had beaten Jimmy Bivins right before fighting Marciano. Marciano would also win the title over Jersey Joe Walcott with a come-from-behind thirteenth-round knockout; in the rematch, Marciano destroyed Walcott in one round. He owned two wins over Ezzard Charles, one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters in boxing history. Marciano also held wins over Lee Savold, Rex Layne and Harry Matthews. Marciano finished his career with a ninth-round stoppage of Archie Moore; once again, people will scream that Moore was old, but the truth here is that Moore would go on as a top-level fighter and Light Heavyweight champion for another five years, going 28-1-1 for the rest of the decade.
Robinson’s prime ended in the early 1950s, don’t get me wrong, he was a great fighter through the 50s, but Robinson’s best was in the 1940s! In 1950 Robinson had wins over Charlie Fusari and Bobo Olson. 1951 saw him end the rivalry with Jake LaMotta with a thirteenth-round stoppage; he was then upset by Randolph Turpin before gaining revenge over Turpin in the rematch. In 1952 he beat Bobo Olson and Rocky Graziano before losing Joey Maxim. After the Maxim loss, Robinson didn’t fight again until 1955, 1955 he would lose to Ralph “Tiger” Jones before beating Bobo Olson again, and he also defeated Rocky Castellani. In 1957 he split fights with Gene Fullmer and would lose to Carmen Basilio. He gained revenge on Basilio in 1958, his only fight of that year, and he fought just once in 1959, beating Bob Young. I know many people would scream he should be number one, but when you look at the totality of the decade, Robinson should not be number one.
Moore had over 70 fights in the 1950s, and his only losses were to Rocky Marciano, Harold Johnson, and Floyd Patterson. He owned wins over Jimmy Bivins, Harold Johnson, Yvonne Durrell, Joey Maxim, Nino Valdes, Bobo Olson, and Willi Besmanoff. Not bad for a man that was old for an entire decade.
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