Wicked Pissahh’s list of New England’s top 10 fighters of all time, and why. Some of these names will sound familiar while others may be new to you, especially you young whipper snappers.
Our personal favorite is Rocky Marciano, but there are plenty of amazing talent from this list to choose from.
As the only boxah from Lobstah Country to capture a world title, “Maine’s Best” Joey Gamache thrilled New England fight fans throughout the late 80’s and 90’s, becoming one of the most beloved fighters the region has ever produced.
In 1991 at the age of 25, Gamache defeated South Africa’s Jerry Ngobeni, of of the best fighters South Africa has evah produced, to win the WBA’s supah featherweight championship in what was his greatest victory.
Certainly one of the most popular boxers to ever fight out of New England (as evidenced by The Fighter, 2010’s major motion picture based on his life) “Irish” Micky Ward will be most remembered for his epic trilogy with the late Arturo Gatti.
Their first bout in 2002, a battle that Ward won via a 10-round decision, was named Fight of the Year by both Ring Magazine and The Boxing Writer’s Association of America. Other career highlights include victories over Reggie Green (TKO10), Shea Neary (TKO 8), and Emanuel Augustus (W10).
Vinnie Paz or better known as“The Pazmanian Devil,” had a career like few others. He won the IBF’s lightweight championship on June 7, 1987 when he defeated Greg Haugen in a 15 roundah. 15 roundah! You don’t see fights like that every day and boy was it a bloodbath.
In 1991, he became a two division champ when he knocked out Gilbert Dele to become the WBA’s jr. middleweight champion.
Unfortunately, shortly after the fight Vinny was involved in a near-fatal car accident, severely breaking his neck. He had to give up his belt, and medical experts told him he’d never fight again. Against all odds (and the advice of doctors) he did.
Less than a year after the crash, Vinny Paz returned, beating Luis Santana in a 10-round decision. We believe Paz has the real eye of the tiger, heart of a lion, and balls of an elephant. His recovery and comeback goes down as one of the most legendary in boxing history..
Pender could easily be mistaken for a grizzled hockey player, but definitely not a runway model.
Being put through the meat grinder as a fighter and most of the time coming up as the winnah, even though he considered himself first a firefighter, Paul Pender will always be remembered for the victories he scored over Sugar Ray Robinson that came while he worked his “second job.”
The pride of Brookline, Pender retired with a career record of 40-6-2.
“The Boston Bomber,” Tony DeMarco is best remembered for his classic mid-50’s show downs or outright battles with Carmen Basilio. In the first contest, Basilio shocked the champ with a TKO victory in the 12th round; in the rematch DeMarco again was beaten, again in the 12, again by TKO.
Regardless, DeMarco still goes down as one of the best, and toughest fighters this city has evah seen. He makes Rocky Balboa look like a kindergarten student. During Tony’s successful career he was able to defeat the likes of Kid Gavilan, Johnny Saxton, and Teddy Davis among many others.
“Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, like Chad Dawson, wasn’t born in New England. He first lived in Newark, New Jersey before moving to Brockton, MA when he was about 13 years old, but we don’t hold that against him cause he was a die-hard Red Sox fan and absolutely hated the NYY (at least that is what we have heard).
In Brockton Hagler joined the famed Petronelli brothers’ gym, that is when his career dominance started, and the rest was history.
Remembered as part of the “four kings” alongside Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, and Tommy Hearns, Hagler held the middleweight crown from 1980 to 1987. He was The Ring’s Fighter of the Year in 1983 and 1987, named the 3rd Greatest Middleweight of the 20th Century by the Associated Press, and inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993.
Now let’s take a trip down Boxing history lane to a time before wussy “Gloves”, when men fought using their fists, and their face.
“The Boston Strong Boy,” Roxbury’s Sullivan is generally recognized as “gloved” boxing’s first heavyweight champ. According to Boxrec “from an early age, Sullivan showed great proficiency with his fists. As a teenager, he would fight in Boston bar rooms, issuing a challenge that he ‘could lick any man in the house.’” And it was true, he was probably the God father of Boston’s reputation for being a street fighters city.
He finished his gloved boxing career with a record of 38-1-1 in without a doubt, the hardest erah to ever have done it.
He lost his final bout, knocked out in the 21st round by James J. Corbett on September 7, 1892. Can you imagine going 21 rounds with anyone, let alone one of Boxing’s greatest savages? These were the days of blood and glory, reminds us of the fucking coliseum.
Look at this beautiful mug. Hahd to believe this guy was a professional boxer and not a professional ladies man.
Sandy was known to have a smile that could “Break a thousand mirrors, and a fist that could break a thousand jaws.”
One of the most vicious one-punch knock-out boxahs of all time, the two-time featherweight champion will go down in history for being the best punching “little” man ever; 103 of his 144 wins coming before the final bell. We don’t care who you are, that is impressive.
He fought the great Willie Pep four times, going 2-2 against “Will o’ the Wisp.”
If not for an early retirement at age 30 due to an eye injury, he very well could have been atop this list.
The Brockton Blockbuster!
This guy was the original “Italian Stallion”, Sylvester Stallone using his boxing story as inspiration for Hollywood’s famous Rocky film series.
Rocky Marciano once said “in the ring, I never really knew fear.”
He never knew defeat either.
Marciano holds the rare distinction of being the only heavyweight champion to have ever retired undefeated. He won that championship hardware on September 23, 1952, defeating Jersey Joe Walcott with a triumphant 13th round knockout. Rocky would go on to batter the likes of Roland LaStarza, Ezzard Charles, Don Cocknell, and Archie Moore before retiring from boxing at the age of 31.
An Italian folk hero, and beloved local man. You cannot find anyone that knew Rocky to say one word bad about him, while he was alive or after his early death.
The violent and untimely death of Rocky Marciano in a plane crash on the eve of his 46th birthday was an event that stunned the world - and a tragedy that should never have happened.
1. Willie Pep Middletown, CT
Born Guglielmo Papaleo in Middletown, CT in September of 1922, Willie Pep goes down as the greatest New England fighter of all-time. This dude had it all. Toughness, speed, power, and dare we say looks. Women of New England were known to swoon ovah this guy during his career, and his career was looong.
Boxing 1,956 rounds over the course of a staggering 241 fights (229 of those wins), Pep displayed unmatched skill, craft, and ability well beyond any other. His footwork, his speed, his ring acumen…it was all there.
Kid Capeche once said that “fighting Willie Pep is like trying to stamp out a grass fire.”
Yep, he was waaay fast too.
Most writers and observers have Willie Pep rated as the 3rd greatest fighter to have ever lived, usually right behind Sugar Ray Robinson and Henry Armstrong.
In a list restricted to New England’s best, Willie Pep is numbah 1.
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