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Thread: R.I.P. Willie Pep

  1. #31
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    Re: R.I.P. Willie Pep

    My partner Mike DeLisa told a funny story about Pep. He went up to him at the HOF ceremonies & asked Willie if he could get an autograph of Willie's real Italian name: Guglielmo Papaleo.

    Willie's response to Mike was hilarious: "Fuck you. I'm Willie Pep!"

    That's classic & it cracks me up everytime I think about it.

    R.I.P. Champ.


    GorDoom

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    Re: R.I.P. Willie Pep

    Youtube P4P profile of Willie Pep:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oA00dfx9Wmw

    They also have one of his bouts with Saddler on the same page.

    GorDoom

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    Re: R.I.P. Willie Pep

    SPOTLIGHT ON BOXING
    Late boxer Pep among best of all-time
    BY SANTOS A. PEREZ from the Miami Herald.com


    Featherweight boxer, Willie Pep
    Line after line of fights. A volume and time span so lengthy that it annihilates the bout total of multiple contemporary fighters.

    Willie Pep symbolized an era when fighters rarely took breaks. In fact, Pep made it routine to fill the yearly and sometimes monthly calendar with fights.

    And while his 243-fight career may amaze today’s fight fan, Pep’s body of work surprises few experts and will be a standard for the ages. Pep, who died last Thursday at 84, is considered one of the best fighters in boxing history.

    Pep died in a Connecticut nursing home, where he had been confined to an Alzheimer's unit since 2001.

    "I idolized Willie Pep, he
    was such a great boxer," Hall of Fame trainer Angelo Dundee said. "Whenever you had one of your fighters fight Willie Pep, you were going to get an education in boxing."

    Dundee knew first hand as several of his fighters had the often fruitless task of defeating a fighter, who won his first 53 professional fights before earning a world title shot. Pep eventually scored a unanimous decision against Chalky Wright to capture the world featherweight crown in 1942.

    Pep fought until 1966 and retired at age 43 with 230 victories, 11 losses, one draw and 65 KOs. He had two stints as featherweight champion. His victory over Sandy Sadler in 1949 avenged an earlier title loss in a bout considered the fight of the year by Ring Magazine. Boxing historians still hail the match as one of the best in the history of the sport.

    "He was so pretty to watch, so fluid the way he moved side to side," Dundee said. "You couldn’t hit the guy."

    During his an extensive fight history, Pep made 13 South Florida appearances. Pep’s first local bout was at the Orange Bowl, where he scored a 10th-round TKO of Humberto Sierra for a successful defense of his crown in 1948.

    "He was probably the greatest boxer who ever lived," said Dwaine Simpson, who fought on the undercard of one of Pep’s headlining local shows and later became Miami-Dade County’s director of amateur boxing. "Sugar Ray Robinson may have been the greatest fighter of all time because of his punching and boxing ability, but nobody could box like Willie Pep."

    Simpson said Pep’s high volume of fights was a necessity during Pep's era.

    "There were so many hungry fighters back then and they wanted to fight as much as they could," said Simpson, who had 143 bouts in a 15-year career. "Instead of spending time sparring in the gym, they preferred to accept every possible fight and get paid."

    Pep’s lengthy and successful career didn’t go unnoticed with his induction to the first class of the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.

    "Willie Pep was boxing and for all his success in the ring, he also had this glow with people that made him very charismatic," Dundee said. "He will be missed."

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    Re: R.I.P. Willie Pep

    SPOTLIGHT ON BOXING
    Late boxer Pep among best of all-time
    BY SANTOS A. PEREZ from the Miami Herald.com


    Featherweight boxer, Willie Pep
    Line after line of fights. A volume and time span so lengthy that it annihilates the bout total of multiple contemporary fighters.

    Willie Pep symbolized an era when fighters rarely took breaks. In fact, Pep made it routine to fill the yearly and sometimes monthly calendar with fights.

    And while his 243-fight career may amaze today’s fight fan, Pep’s body of work surprises few experts and will be a standard for the ages. Pep, who died last Thursday at 84, is considered one of the best fighters in boxing history.

    Pep died in a Connecticut nursing home, where he had been confined to an Alzheimer's unit since 2001.

    "I idolized Willie Pep, he
    was such a great boxer," Hall of Fame trainer Angelo Dundee said. "Whenever you had one of your fighters fight Willie Pep, you were going to get an education in boxing."

    Dundee knew first hand as several of his fighters had the often fruitless task of defeating a fighter, who won his first 53 professional fights before earning a world title shot. Pep eventually scored a unanimous decision against Chalky Wright to capture the world featherweight crown in 1942.

    Pep fought until 1966 and retired at age 43 with 230 victories, 11 losses, one draw and 65 KOs. He had two stints as featherweight champion. His victory over Sandy Sadler in 1949 avenged an earlier title loss in a bout considered the fight of the year by Ring Magazine. Boxing historians still hail the match as one of the best in the history of the sport.

    "He was so pretty to watch, so fluid the way he moved side to side," Dundee said. "You couldn’t hit the guy."

    During his an extensive fight history, Pep made 13 South Florida appearances. Pep’s first local bout was at the Orange Bowl, where he scored a 10th-round TKO of Humberto Sierra for a successful defense of his crown in 1948.

    "He was probably the greatest boxer who ever lived," said Dwaine Simpson, who fought on the undercard of one of Pep’s headlining local shows and later became Miami-Dade County’s director of amateur boxing. "Sugar Ray Robinson may have been the greatest fighter of all time because of his punching and boxing ability, but nobody could box like Willie Pep."

    Simpson said Pep’s high volume of fights was a necessity during Pep's era.

    "There were so many hungry fighters back then and they wanted to fight as much as they could," said Simpson, who had 143 bouts in a 15-year career. "Instead of spending time sparring in the gym, they preferred to accept every possible fight and get paid."

    Pep’s lengthy and successful career didn’t go unnoticed with his induction to the first class of the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.

    "Willie Pep was boxing and for all his success in the ring, he also had this glow with people that made him very charismatic," Dundee said. "He will be missed."

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    Re: R.I.P. Willie Pep

    Editorial: Theday.com CT.

    Willie Pep, who died Thanksgiving Day in a Rocky Hill nursing home, deserves to be remembered as one of Connecticut's greatest athletes. Pound for pound, he was the greatest boxer to come from the state.
    Born Guglielmo Papaleo on Sept. 19, 1922 in Middletown, Mr. Pep came of age during the Great Depression. A shoeshine boy, he first learned how to fight by defending his territory on the streets of Hartford from bigger boys.

    He held the featherweight title from 1942 to 1948 and 1949-50 and compiled an amazing 230 professional wins in his career. At one point his record was a remarkable 135 wins, one loss and a draw. Mr. Pep was especially known for his footwork and ability to slip a punch. The Associated Press named him the fifth best fighter of the 20th century.

    Though he became a national figure, Mr. Pep often returned to fight in Connecticut, including in this area. Though his personal life was a mess — six marriages and a persistent gambling problem — “the artful dodger” of the boxing ring leaves behind an unparalleled featherweight record.

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    Re: R.I.P. Willie Pep

    Ah Geezzzzzzzzzz.......................Say it aint so. I pray Carmen Basilio lives forever. And Tony DeMarco. And Joey G. and Miceli and all the greats of my youth still around. Willie Pep gone. Who would believe Id see this day. I pray Saddlers waiting for Willie to welcome him to the next world of great fighters. Rest in peace Willie.

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    Willie Pep vs Sammy Angott




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    Willie Pep vs Sal Bartolo


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    Willie Pep vs Gil Cadilli


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    R.I.P. Willie Pep


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    Re: R.I.P. Willie Pep

    Record to Date
    Won 230-11 = TOTAL DOMINATION


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    Re: R.I.P. Willie Pep

    When I first saw footage of him, I ranked him 2nd all-time p4p behind Robinson. His footwork was seemless and he could punch from virtually any angle. He could duck, slide, turn and return fire. If you could create a boxer, you would probably create Pep.

    I've since knocked him down a few slots, but I still don't think anybody was a more technically sound boxer than Pep. It took a huge puncher with a wiry, long-armed frame and MASSIVE power to beat him. A true great in sports history.

    It's funny. I have him and Ali ranked neck-in-neck on my all-time p4p list (as I'm sure many do) and I didn't hear a blurb about Pep on any of the sports networks here in Canada.

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    Re: R.I.P. Willie Pep

    This has probably been repeated in many of the long official reports of his passing, but I always enjoyed Willie's boast: "If Ray Robinson is the greatest boxer pound for pound, then I'm the greatest ounce for ounce."
    PeteLeo.

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    Re: R.I.P. Willie Pep

    Check out Willies build pre accident compared to the Willie that fought Saddler. I dont think anybody should judge Willie on his all time status based on his Saddler bouts. Willie was not the same fighter. By the way, Saddler would have hell with Angott too. Saddler and any other feather you might name.
    GREAT GREAT PHOTOS BY MY MAN kIKI............. He is truly the photo man.

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    Re: R.I.P. Willie Pep


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    Re: R.I.P. Willie Pep

    The Great Willie Pep Is Laid To Rest
    November 28, 2006
    By TOM PULEO, Hartford Courant Staff Writer

    WETHERSFIELD -- Willie Pep had outlived the best of his era by the time Seth English, a deacon at Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Church, started visiting him six years go at a convalescent home.

    Gone were the smoky arenas where Pep, regarded by many as the greatest featherweight ever, won his title belts in the 1940s. Gone were the days when 18,000 fans paid to witness Pep's boxing artistry and cheer his name.

    One morning over coffee, English asked Pep about Sandy Saddler, the fighter who beat Pep three times in four memorable championship fights, the one boxer to overpower the elusive light beam known as "Will o' the Wisp."

    "Tough kid, great fighter, a champion," English recalled hearing from Pep, by then in his 80s and in failing health.

    "That was the way Willie Pep was," English told about 100 mourners who attended Pep's funeral service Tuesday. "There was no criticism, no downplaying of Saddler.

    "If you needed a dollar, he gave you a dollar. If you needed 10, he gave you 10. He didn't ask."

    Pep was 20 when he won the featherweight title on Nov. 20, 1942, at Madison Square Garden. He held it until Oct. 29, 1948, when he lost to Saddler. He regained it with a 15-round decision over Saddler on Feb. 11, 1949, only to lose it to Saddler again on Sept. 8, 1950.

    Few other boxers had success against Pep, who the Associated Press ranked as the fifth best fighter of the 20th century. Boxing Illustrated called Pep "the cleverest fighter" of all-time - ahead of Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson.

    Pep died on Thanksgiving at the Haven Health Center of Rocky Hill, where English made his visits. He was 84.

    Fighters attending the funeral included Marlon Starling, the Hartford native who won the WBA and WBC welterweight titles while fighting from 1979-90; and John Scully, who won a bronze medal at the 1988 U.S. Olympic trials and lost an IBF light heavyweight title fight in 1996.

    Starling paused outside the red-brick church to marvel at Pep's 230 career wins, believed to be the most in boxing history. Pep had a career record of 230-11-1.

    "Back then they fought every week," Starling said. "He not only did something great for Connecticut, he did something great for the world."

    As mourners filed out of the funeral mass, the church organist played "The Star-Spangled Banner," evoking some of the atmosphere of Pep's long ago professional fights.

    Pep was buried at Rose Hill Memorial Park in Rocky Hill. His pall bearers were Scully; his brother, Nick, of East Hartford; his attorney, Michael A. Georgetti, of Hartford; boxing writer Kirk Lang; his grandson, Bill Papaleo of Farmington; and a man identified as "the unknown fan."

    Georgetti said the sixth pall bearer, a heavyset, bald man, attended Pep's wake Monday night and was asked to help out on Tuesday. Nobody in Pep's group got the man's name.

    "We wanted someone as a representative of the public, the fans, the people who loved Willie," Georgetti said. "Who he was is not as important as that he was one of Willie's fans."

    Born Guglielmo Papaleo in Middletown in 1922, Pep was a child of the Depression who fought his way up from Hartford's streets to the top of the boxing world. He was a hero to many in Connecticut and attracted throngs of fans to his fights. At the height of his career, the outgoing Pep mingled with celebrities such as Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth and Frank Sinatra.

    Georgetti said he was saddened that Pep's wake and funeral did not attract more representatives of the political community. About 300 attended the wake Monday night at the Rose Hill Funeral Home in Rocky Hill.

    "I'm not saying that everyone should be there," Georgetti said, "but Willie is as close to a legend as this state has ever had."

    Among those attending the wake were Superior Court Judges E. Curtissa R. Cofield and Christina G. Dunnell; and John J. Woodcock III, a lawyer and former state legislator. Michael Kostrzewa of the Department of Public Safety - which now oversees amateur and professional boxing in Connecticut - attended the funeral.

    On the sidewalk before the 10 a.m. service, Rocco J. Mangiafico, 70, of Southington, displayed a small photo of himself and Pep at the Haven Health Center taken around 1990. Mangiafico said he visited Pep and reminded the fighter, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease, of their days growing up in Hartford.

    "I told him, I said, `Willie, don't you remember me from the gym,'" Mangiafico said. "He remembered me real good. We shook hands."

    Deacon English said he had never met Pep until 2000, when he saw a woman with flowing red hair drive by in a white convertible with the vanity plate "LDYBUG." When told that the woman was Pep's wife, Barbara, English explained that he had been a lifelong fan. A six-year relationship was born.

    Once a week, on either Tuesday or Wednesday, Barbara Pep would take English to see Willie in Rocky Hill. They would sit and sip coffee, talk about sports, news, the perils of aging and other topics.

    English said he would always ask Pep, "How are you doing?" Pep would look him in the eyes and answer "OK, I guess." He said Pep then would always ask about him.

    English said it wasn't until recently that Pep could no longer stick to the routine.

    "If a man dies, what he can truly take with him is what he gives away," English said in his eulogy. "Willie Pep was a giver. Willie Pep was a gentleman. Willie Pep was a gentle man. Willie Pep was a champion."

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    Re: R.I.P. Willie Pep

    bump

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    Re: R.I.P. Willie Pep

    I saw Pep fight in 1965 when I was in college. boxed a six-rounder in philly against a club fighter named jackie lennon. it was a pleasure to see him.

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    Willie Pep vs Phil Terranova....1945


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    Re: R.I.P. Willie Pep

    Willie Pep in my opinion was # 3 all time PFP behind Robinson and Armstrong.

    RIP Willie.

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    Re: R.I.P. Willie Pep

    The artistry of Willie Pep
    By Robert Cassidy Jr. from Sweet Science

    There is an old boxing cliché that says, "Savagery sells tickets, artistry sells hot dogs."

    Whoever said that never saw Willie Pep fight.

    Willie Pep, the master boxer, died on Thanksgiving at the age of 84. He was a featherweight champion and a Hall-of-Famer with over 200 wins in a career that stretched over two decades. The obits have all been written and the career retrospectives have been rehashed. This piece is not about four fights with Sandy Saddler, the Lulu Perez controversy, plane crashes or gambling. This is an appreciation of a man who defined the art of boxing. This is a testimonial from those who witnessed him and studied him.


    "At the absolute pinnacle, you can find some fault with even the greatest of the greats and Pep didn't have great punching power and he wasn't as strong as a lot of other featherweights," said boxing historian Mike Silver. "But he more than made up for that with taking boxing to a level that has not been seen since. It was a very sophisticated way of boxing. The greatest compliment, I think, any boxer could ever get was having Sugar Ray Robinson, say, and I remember him saying this, that he admired Pep's boxing ability more than any other fighter he'd ever seen."

    Pep turned pro in 1940 and won the New York version of the featherweight title by decisioning Chalky Wright in 1942. He was champ until 1948 and made title defenses against Sal Bartolo, Phil Terranova, Jock Leslie and Humberto Sierra before running into another hall-of-famer, Sandy Saddler. Saddler stopped Pep in the fourth round of their first bout, but the Will o' the Wisp" regained the title four months later with a performance for the ages.

    "His shining moment was the return bout with Sandy Saddler," said Silver. "Pep was never quite the same after suffering that injury in the plane crash. He was slightly diminished. He broke his back in a plane crash, most people don't know that. But Pep came back to defeat Saddler in a 15-round decision in what was one of the greatest boxing performances of all time. It was two great fighters against each other. But Pep had to be at his absolute best to do that. Without question it was one of the greatest pure boxing exhibitions that any boxer has staged since fighter's put on gloves."

    Pep would make three more defenses after the Saddler rematch but would then lose two subsequent fights to Sandy and never challenged for the title again.

    Although few films of Pep exist, Silver has studied several of his fights including the third and fourth Saddler fights and wins over Ralph Walton and Ray Famechon.

    "His sense of timing was impeccable," said Silver. "If you watch his fights, he never moves too far out of position or too close where he can't land his punches properly. He was always in the right position. He did a lot of things you just don't see a lot of fighters do any more. His footwork was of a type that is also not seen today. You just watched his feet and it was a show itself. He was the Fred Astaire of boxing."

    More succinctly put, Fabela Chavez said after his 1952 bout against Pep: "Fighting Pep is like trying to stamp out a fire."

    Over the years, this writer has spoken to a pair of men with intimate knowledge of Pep. One shared the ring with him, the other viewed his mastery from the opposing corner.

    The late and great trainer, Vic Zimet, trained Curley Nichols for a fight against Pep on May 4, 1942. Pep came way with an eight-round decision. "The fight was in New Haven and it was during the war years," recalled Zimet before he died. "We had to be back in New York the same night. I was in the Coast Guard and Curley was on my ship, a 110-foot cutter. Curley was doing well, holding his own. He was a good boxer, but not in the class of Willie Pep.

    "Pep was a very clever boxer. He made extremely quick moves. I appreciate a fighter who can think. You could see his mind working and then he'd execute immediately. He was fun to watch because he was clever. Every move meant something. He was a throwback to the great thinking fighters like Benny Leonard. When I got back to New York I told everyone I just saw the next featherweight champion of the world. Six months later he beat Chalky Wright."

    Pat Marcune fought Pep at Madison Square Garden on June 5, 1953 and was stopped in the 10th round. Marcune was tough and talented and beat the likes of Bill Bossio, Eddie Compo and Lauro Salas in his career. It was the 185th fight of Pep's 242-fight career and the former champion still had enough to win.

    "Pep didn't hurt me," said Marcune. "I hit him. He's in front of you, in back of you. He's all over the damn place. But he never stood toe-to-toe with you. I still don't know why they stopped the fight. I wasn't hurt. I wasn't cut. I got knocked down, I got up. Petey Scalzo was the referee and he stopped the fight. I was a young kid and Pep was on his way out. But Pep was a great boxer. I don't think I could ever duplicate him. I don't think anyone could ever duplicate him. I don't feel bad that I lost to him. He wasn't a bum."

    Indeed, he was not a bum. In fact, for years legend had it that Pep actually won a round without throwing a single punch. That myth was debunked when a member of the International Boxing Research Organization (IBRO) researched Pep's fight against Jackie Graves in 1946.

    "Even if that didn't happen, it was still believable, and that says even more about Pep than if it really happened" said Silver. "There is no other fighter you could even say that about and have it somewhat believable."

    Pep retired in 1959, fighting long past his prime. He made a comeback in 1965 and won nine straight before being stopped in his final fight. After a 26-year-career, he retired with a record of 230-11-1 and 65 knockouts.

    "If you couldn't write a complete obituary," mused Silver, "if all you could write was Willie Pep, former feather champ passes away and here is his record, 230-11-1, that would be enough. Just that record says enough. Think about those numbers. It's an amazing record."

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    R.I.P. Willie Pep


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    R.I.P. Willie Pep


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    Re: R.I.P. Willie Pep

    Willie Pep, that all you have to say. No need to go into detail. Willie Pep, the name means greatness,class,master boxer. To those of us who love boxing we are in awe of his greatness. Willie Pep, that's all you have to say. R.I.P.

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    Re: R.I.P. Willie Pep

    Willie Pep: A Personal Perspective
    By Lee Groves from Max Boxing

    I’ll never forget the first time I met Willie Pep. It was during my first visit to the International Boxing Hall of Fame’s induction weekend in 1993. Back then, I only attended the Saturday and Sunday events and the highlight of Saturday’s schedule was a series of three-round exhibitions by several Hall of Famers at a local high school gym.

    A few hours before the event, I was inside the gym looking to fill my program with autographs when I recognized Pep standing a few feet away from me. Being a neophyte of the festivities, I had no idea Pep was going to be there so it was a thrill to be in the vicinity of someone of that stature. After he finished signing another person’s program I approached him and said, in my most polite tone, "may I have your autograph please?"

    Then, suddenly, he turned and walked away. This was hardly the reaction I expected, and after my initial shock turned to disappointment and a touch of embarrassment, I began to depart. A few seconds later, I heard a voice over my shoulder.

    "Hey! Don’t you want my autograph?"

    It was Willie and he had a marker in his right hand. He saw that I had a ballpoint pen so he went to the effort of finding an indelible marker to ensure that his signature would last longer. Pep went the extra mile to satisfy a fan he had never met before and because of that the memory he created was as indelible as the autograph he gave me that day.

    Over the next 13 years I would acquire more than 200 signatures, and for the last 11 years my copy of "The Great Book of Boxing" by Harry Mullan has served as the warehouse for those autographs. I managed to get Pep’s signature underneath a photo of his title-winning effort against Chalky Wright during Pep’s final visit to the IBHOF before falling ill with Alzheimer’s. It was Alzheimer’s that prompted Pep to move into the West Hill Convalescent Home in Rocky Hill, Conn., where he died last Thursday at age 84.

    The exhibitions that took place on that summer day in 1993 featured plenty of horseplay and very little serious fighting. Carmen Basilio and Gene Fullmer, who fought two savage wars for the middleweight title more than three decades earlier, were now the best of friends and they had a great time messing around with each other and especially with the referee, who they double-teamed at one point.

    Pep would have been right at home in this fun-loving atmosphere and over the years he proved he was just as quick with a quip as he was with a combination. Forty years after the peak of his career, an old opponent met Pep on the street. "Do you recognize me?" he asked. Willie looked hard and considered before finally replying, "lie down so I can recognize you."

    Other quotes attributed to Pep include:

    * "I've got it made. I have a refrigerator, a car and a wife – and they’re all working."

    * "Spaghetti and meatballs killed more Italians than all the wars."

    * "I lived through 241 professional fights and 65 amateur fights. That’s an awful lot of fights, and I’m all right now until I hear a bell. Then don’t get anywhere near me."

    * "My whole career, I’ve had bad hands and I couldn’t understand it. But then I realized that the referee kept stepping on them."

    * "My wives were good housekeepers. After the divorces, they kept the houses."

    * "I followed one motto in my boxing career: He who hits and runs away lives to fight another day."

    During one speech, Pep made a confession to the audience: "You’ve got to put one more loss down (on my record). I lost one more fight." Then, pointing into the audience, he said "to my wife, Barbara."

    Willie’s son Billy Papaleo told this story: "One time in the corner, the guy’s saying ‘I want to fight Willie Pep. Damn it, I want to fight Willie Pep.’ And the trainer says, ‘how many times do I have to tell you, YOU are Willie Pep.’"

    Pep, who was born Guglielmo Papaleo, remains the standard by which all defensive fighters are judged. Pep was the complete defensive package as he used his tremendous speed to slip, duck, dodge, parry and block his opponents’ blows. Then, just as quickly, he would maneuver himself into perfect position to strike his baffled opponent with a dizzying array of quick-fisted combinations. Pep was a whirlwind of motion as he instantaneously and instinctively shifted back and forth from offense to defense. Trained by Bill Gore, Pep masterfully executed one of boxing’s most complex and difficult styles night after night in town after town for year after year.

    About five years ago, the moderator of my Internet boxing chat room group asked the members to put together top 10 lists for the major divisions and a top five list for the junior divisions. Just for fun, I decided to also assemble an all-time top 10 pound-for-pound list. Like most other historians, I rated Sugar Ray Robinson as boxing’s greatest pound-for-pound fighter but up until that point I had never done any research to justify my opinion. I just accepted the word of everyone else and I had watched enough film of Robinson over the years to feel secure about my opinion.

    But once I began digging into the numbers I experienced an epiphany. Epiphanies don’t happen often to 36-year-olds, but this one was particularly powerful. Both Robinson and Pep enjoyed a pair of long unbeaten strings and had very similar records after 130-plus pro fights. At one point, Robinson was 129-1-2 while Pep was 136-1-1. Robinson had a 40-fight win streak to begin his career (a string broken by Jake LaMotta in their second fight) while Pep won his first 63 fights before dropping a decision to future lightweight champion Sammy Angott. Then, Robinson went unbeaten in his next 91 fights (with two draws) while Pep was unbeaten in his next 73 (with one draw). So I discovered that Pep was the only champion who ever put together two unbeaten streaks of more than 60 fights. That planted the first seed in my mind.

    Then I found that from the time Robinson first won the middleweight title from LaMotta in 1951 to his final 160-pound title shot against Fullmer in 1961, Robinson was a mere 23-8-1. Most people remember Robinson for his exploits as a middleweight and more than a few historians believed Robinson cemented his greatness during his 10 years in the championship picture. But Robinson’s surprisingly modest record during that time forced me to rethink my previous position. After all, I thought, shouldn’t the best fighter who ever lived have done better during the time of his career when he was crafting his greatest legacy? Pep’s exploits were beginning to look better and better to me.

    What finally changed my mind was the fact that Pep crafted a better overall record (230-11-1 with 65 knockouts vs. 174-19-6 with 109 knockouts and two no-contests) over a similar time frame (26 years to 25 years) without the benefit of one-punch knockout power.

    Robinson was at a career crossroads in his second fight with Randy Turpin, the man who snapped Robinson’s 91-fight string two months previously. Turpin opened a nasty gash over Robinson’s eye and the fight was close to being stopped. A desperate Robinson turned on the jets, flooring Turpin with a mighty right to the jaw and finishing him with a furious assault along the ropes. Along with his amazing overall skills, the original "Sugar Ray" was blessed with magnificent punching power, and on this day it saved him from a potentially legacy-destroying defeat.

    Pep, on the other hand, had no such safety net. He had to quickly establish a lead on the scorecards because he couldn’t depend on a big punch to bail himself out. Pep was forced to be on his game every second of every round to secure decisions, decisions that were rendered in his opponents’ hometowns from time to time. This, to me, required far more skill – and more greatness – to pull off.

    In the end, I rated Pep first and Robinson third on my all-time list. Henry Armstrong was placed second because of his feat of holding three titles simultaneously along with his 20-defense reign as welterweight champion. It didn’t matter that Robinson held victories over both Pep (as an amateur) and Armstrong (when "Hammerin’ Hank" was far past his prime) because my criteria involved examining the entirety of their respective careers.

    I went public with my pound-for-pound list shortly after I joined MaxBoxing as a full-time columnist in October 2005. Since then I’ve become a champion of sorts for Pep’s elevated standing in my own personal pantheon because it went so far against the grain of conventional wisdom. Most historians still contend that Robinson is the man atop boxing’s Mount Olympus, and I agree that the man born Walker Smith possessed the finest blend of speed, power, skill and intelligence the ring has ever known. But for me, Pep is the greatest of them all because he succeeded without the one equalizer that can right all wrongs.

    Pep was always a man who wanted to do his best at whatever he did, so it shouldn’t have been any surprise when he walked away from me to retrieve a superior writing instrument. He wanted his imprint on my program to last forever, much like his imprint on his chosen sport.

    Pep’s passing last Thursday means that the title of world’s greatest living fighter will be passed to Roberto Duran, whose Hall of Fame enshrinement is widely expected to be announced on December 7. Thousands of fans are expected to attend the induction weekend next June to honor a man whose fistic deeds inspire such passion and devotion. For those who plan to go, enjoy Duran’s elevation to the fullest but also take a moment to remember Pep, one of the weekend’s most popular celebrities for many years.

    Willie Pep, "The Will O’ the Wisp," will forever be hailed for his skill, his grace in the ring and his sense of humor. But for me he will always be, and will always remain, the champion of champions.

  26. #56
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    Re: R.I.P. Willie Pep

    I am truly saddened by his passing.

    He was a legend to me and it was an honor to have him present with Iceman Scully in Mass when I honored Willie in a speech at the Ken Norton man of the year awards, for the Rocky Marciano Foundation.

    I got to spend some time with him twice in this life.
    Once when I was with Emile Griffith at the old garden' s basement when Willie came there in 1965 with Barney Ross and Rocky Graziano. It was great day for me to talk with them and workout together.

    How many people did actually show up for the funeral if anyone knows.

    I think it a wonderful thing that John Scully was one of the pall bearers.

    R.I.P. great warrior.

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