The most memorable welterweight fights
From Sugar Ray Robinson to Sugar Ray Leonard, the welterweight division has been home to some of the most exciting fighters -- and fights -- that boxing has ever witnessed.
Originally Published: November 8, 2007By Graham Houston | Special to ESPN.com
Focus on Sport/ Getty ImagesPuncher-turned-boxer Thomas Hearns, right, gave Ray Leonard all he could handle for 14 rounds.The welterweight class, with its blend of speed and power, has long been one of the fans' favorites. Speed and power will be on display this Saturday when Miguel Cotto defends his welterweight belt against former champ Sugar Shane Mosley. In a weight category rich in tradition, here is a look at five fights, in chronological order, that capture the essence of the 147-pound division.
Nov. 1, 1922: Mickey Walker W15 Jack Britton, Madison Square Garden
Britton, one of the old-time masters, was 37 years old when he defended his title against 22-year-old "Toy Bulldog" Mickey Walker. The challenger proved to be too young and too strong but the aging champion gave a moving display of gallantry. Walker, fiercely aggressive from the start, knocked down Britton three times. The champion was saved by the bell in the 10th round, while on one knee and seemingly dazed and the referee's count at seven. Britton must have realized very early that he could not win but he was determined not to surrender. The New York Times reported: "Britton went down with colors flying. He fought desperately to the last ditch." After Walker had been announced as the winner, fight MC Joe Humphreys called for "three cheers for the greatest champion who ever lost a title."
Getty ImagesMickey Walked, nicknamed the "Toy Bulldog," was a destructive, all-action welterweight who scored over 50 knockouts during the 1920s.
May 31, 1938: Henry Armstrong W15 Barney Ross, Madison Square Garden Bowl, Long Island, NYThis was another fight in which a veteran champion went out with a demonstration of courage that earned great admiration. Although the bigger man, Ross simply couldn't hold off the swarming, relentless, perpetual motion of Henry Armstrong, but like Jack Britton years earlier, he at least had the satisfaction of going the distance. Armstrong, the featherweight champion who weighed only 133-and-a-half pounds (to the champion's 142), dominated the fight. James P. Dawson reported in The New York Times: "Like a human tornado, Armstrong cut down Ross. There was no resisting force. Henry just pounded the gallant Ross tirelessly, pitilessly through every one of the 15 rounds." Ross, right eye closed, mouth bloody, announced his retirement after the fight. His co-managers, Sam Pian and Art Winch, said that they had wanted to stop the fight after the 13th round but Ross wanted to continue to the bitter end. "He is mighty game," Armstrong was quoted as saying.
Dec. 20, 1946: Ray Robinson W15 Tommy Bell, Madison Square GardenThere are boxing historians who consider Robinson as greater at welterweight than when he was a five-time middleweight champion. The original Sugar Ray was avoided by the welterweight champions of the time but finally got his chance, capturing the vacant title with a unanimous decision over Tommy Bell, a fine boxer from Youngstown, Ohio.
The previous year Bell had given away 13 pounds to middleweight Jake LaMotta yet went the distance. Historians tend to forget that Robinson was perilously close to losing this fight. Bell knocked him down with a left hook in the second round, and Robinson had to survive a furious follow-up attack. It seemed that Robinson was hurt in the fourth and fifth rounds, but his great boxing skill, heart and will got him through the stormy passages. He came on to dominate the fight, knocking down Bell in the 11th round. Robinson went on to make five successful title defenses -- but Bell gave him his toughest title fight at 147 pounds.
Al Fenn/Pix Inc./Time Life Pictures/Getty ImagesRay Robinson, right, engaged in several of the most memorable bouts in welterweight history.