By Don Donatello
Whenever I hear Henry Armstrong’s name mentioned in the American Sports Media, I hear the following in one form or another. He held the Featherweight, Lightweight, Welterweight, and fought for the Middleweight Title all at the same time. And then you get the impression that he was going up and down from weight to weight defending all three titles at the same time. And you also hear that he was robbed when he got a draw when he fought Filipino fighter Ceferino Garcia for the Middleweight Title.
Below I provide evidence that Armstrong’s accomplishments were overly inflated by the American media.
Teddy Atlas just loves bringing up Henry Armstrong’s name and his record whenever Manny Pacquiao’s greatness is being discussed. And of course like a broken record he loves to interject in the conversation the huge number and how often the old fighters fought. In the video below he blatantly inflates Armstrong’s record to slight Pacquiao’s stature. He said the following about Armstrong’s record when comparing him to Pacquiao:
“He defended all three titles.” “He had 300 fights.” “He had 135 knockouts.” In reality he only defended the Lightweight title once with a loss while holding both the Lightweight and Welterweight Title. Atlas added 120 fights to Armstrong’s record, added 10 more knockouts, and made it look like Armstrong was holding and defending all three titles at the same time.
Here is Henry Armstrong’s record:
Pass this onto Atlas because he does not know what he is talking about:
Henry Armstrong 149-21-10 = 180
101 wins by KO
Lost twice by KO
As you can see below, Armstrong relinquished the Featherweight title to concentrate on Lightweight and Welterweight. But he only defended the Lightweight title once. In his last 75 fights, 73 were at Welterweight, Armstrong only fought at Lightweight twice, both were against Lou Ambers. Once when he won the Lightweight title from Lou Ambers and the second when he loss the Lightweight title to the same man, Lou Ambers, almost exactly one year later.
Teddy Atlas also likes to mock and slight Pacquiao’s 8-Weight Division Titles by saying that there are all kinds of governing bodies today that were not around when Armstrong was fighting. Armstrong fought for titles from 126 pounds to 160 pounds, he won the Featherweight, Lightweight, and Welterweight. But he only defended the Lightweight Title once while holding the Lightweight and Welterweight Title at the same time. He failed to win the 160 pound title against Filipino fighter Ceferino Garcia in a draw. Pacquiao won titles from 112 pounds to 154 pounds, a span of 42 pounds, double that of Henry’s. Armstrong’s titles are from 126 pounds to 147 pounds, a stretch of 21 pounds. Even if Pacquiao discounted the the Light Middleweight title and stopped at the Welterweight division of 147 pounds, that is a stretch of 35 pounds.
The most misleading is Atlas’ attempt to insinuate that Armstrong defended the Featherweight, Lightweight, and Welterweight title at the same time. Some American sportscasters even give the impression that Armstrong held all three titles at the same time when he fought for the Middleweight title. Atlas and other sportscasters gave the impression that Armstrong was going up in down defending all three titles at the same time.
There were many non-title fights that Armstrong fought between title fights. I excluded the non-title fights and only charted the title fights.
01/01 – 1935 Armstrong’s attempts to win the California-Mexico World Featherweight Title against Baby Arizmendi. He loses on points in 12 rounds.
09/13 – 1935 Armstrong wins the Western Featherweight Title by an 8th round TKO over Alton Black.
12/06 – 1935 His first defense of the Western Featherweight Title. Once again he beat Alton Black in another 8th round TKO.
05/19 – 1936 Armstrong wins the California State Featherweight Title by a 4rth round TKO over Bobby Leyvas.
10/27 – 1936 Armstrong defends the California-Mexico World Featherweight Title and beat Mike Belloise by points in 10 rounds.
01/01 – 1937 Armstrong defends California-Mexico World Featherweight Title and beat Rodolfo Casanova in a 3rd round KO.
10/29 – 1937 Armstrong wins the National Boxing Association World Featherweight Title and NYSAC World Featherweight Title over Petey Sarron by a 6th round KO. This was his last fight as a Featherweight. He never defended or fought as a Featherweight while holding the Lightweight and Welterweight Title. From this point on until he retired, he fought 75 times. Of the 75 fights only two were at Lightweight, once when he won the Lightweight Title and again when he defended it. Both fights were against the same opponent, Lou Ambers. Both fights were 1 year apart.
05/31 – 1938 He wins the World Welterweight Title by beating Barney Ross by 15 rounds UD. Armstrong weighs 133 ½ and Ross weighs 142. This was the very last fight for Barney Ross, he never fought again. This fact is never mentioned when today’s sports broadcasters talks about Armstrong winning the Welterweight Title.
08/17 – 1938 Three months later Armstrong fights at Lightweight and beats Lou Ambers for the World Lightweight Title by a 15 round split decision. Armstrong weighs 134 pounds, Lou Ambers at 134 ½ pounds. Armstrong’s next 7 fights were defending the Welterweight Title from 11/25/1938 to 5/25/1939.
After over a year of defending the Welterweight title, his first and only defense of the Lightweight Title came against the same man he won it from, Lou Ambers.
10/09 – 1939 Armstrong defended his Lightweight Title against Lou Ambers. He loss to the man he won the title from, Lou Ambers, by UD. Armstrong was penalized 5 rounds (2nd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th,) for low blows.
Teddy Atlas talks mockingly about Manny’s catchweight fights for the Welterweight and Light Middleweight titles. What he fails to mention is Armstrong’s attempt to win the Middleweight title against Ceferino Garcia was set up as a 10 round championship fight. Only California recognized it as a World Middleweight Title fight.
It was a common practice for Champions to use tomato cans to stay in shape between big fights in the olden days. These so called fights were nothing more than a sparring session that absurdly padded their win record. That is why the old fighters were fighting even twice a week. These sparring sessions were being sold to the public.
Sugar Ray Robinson fought long stretches against tomato cans like I outlined in my previous article. Henry Armstrong did the same.
From September 9nth of 1939 to January 4rth of 1940, a span of about 4 months, Armstrong defended the World Welterweight Title 7 times.
10/09 – 1939 Al Manfredo 66-20-8 TKO 4
10/13 – 1939 Howard Scott 55-38-8 KO 2
10/20 – 1939 Ritchie Fontaine 35-21-9 TKO 3
10/24 – 1939 Jimmy Garrison 28-10-4 Win 10
10/30 – 1939 Bobby Pacho 81-54-15 TKO 4
12/11 – 1939 Jimmy Garrison 28-11-4 KO 7
01/04 – 1940 Joe Ghnouly 60-22-7 KO 5
Does Teddy Atlas mention this part of Armstrong’s career of 7 consecutive tomato cans defending the Welterweight Title?
As you can see Armstrong fought Jimmy Garrison twice in less than two months. No need for a training camp there, Atlas. In the first fight with Garrison, there was only one scoring official, referee George Blake. Garrison was knocked down in the 8th round. How were these 7 tomato cans able to get a title fight?
These were the great old days of boxing and Henry Armstrong that Teddy Atlas likes to talk about.
Here is a longer stretch of Armstrong’s fights that starts in a fight in July 17th of 1940 to March 2 of 1943:
7/17 – 1940 Lew Jenkins 45-15-4 W TKO 6
9/23 – 1940 Phil Furr 41-33-7 W K0 4 World Welterweight Title
10/04 – 1940 Fritzie Zivic 100-24-4 L UD 15 World Welterweight Title
01/17 – 1941 Fritzie Zivic 100-24-5 L TKO 12 World Welterweight Title
06/01 – 1942 Johnny Taylor 20-15-7 W TKO 4
06/24 – 1942 Sheik Rangel 42-6-14 W PTS 10
07/03 – 1942 Reuben Shank 18-3-3 L 10 UD
07/20 – 1942 Joe Ybarra 23-28-16 W TKO 3
08/03 – 1942 Aldo Spoldi 95-22-7 W TKO 7
08/13 – 1942 Jackie Burke 112-33-22 W PTS 10
08/26 – 1942 Rodolfo Ramirez 26-7-3 W KO 8
09/07 – 1942 Johnny Taylor 20-17-7 W TKO 3
09/14 – 1942 Leo Rodak 73-20-9 W TKO 8
09/30 – 1942 Earl Turner 16-5-4 W KO 4
10/13 – 1942 Juan Zurita 111-20-1 W KO 2
10/26 – 1942 Fritzie Zivic 125-31-6 W UD 10
12/04 – 1942 Lew Jenkins 51-26-5 W TKO 8
12/14 – 1942 Saverio Turiello 87-55-32 W TKO 4
01/05 – 1943 Jim McDaniels 27-14-8 W UD 10
03/02 – 1943 Willie Joyce 46-6-7 L MD 10
Sure Henry Armstrong easily defeated and KO’d the tomato cans, but loss or only decisioned against the opponents who had somewhat of a decent record.
In this span, against Fritzie Zivic who had a record of 100 wins and 24 losses, in three of their fights, Zivic won 2 and one by a 12th round TKO.
Against Reuben Shank who had an 18-3-3 record, Armstrong loss by a 10 round UD.
And against Willie Joyce who had a record of 46-6-7, Armstrong loss by a majority decision in 10 rounds.
Now we know how olden days fighters like Sugar Ray Robinson and Henry Armstrong had over 100 fights. They recorded sparring sessions against tomato cans as wins. We also know that Henry Armstrong did not hold the Featherweight, Lightweight, and Welterweight titles while fighting for the Middleweight title. His attempt to win the Middleweight title against Ceferino Garcia was only sanctioned by California and it was only a 10 round fight.
Teddy Atlas needs to brush up on his knowledge of the olden days. He acts like he was actually there when Armstrong was fighting. His fellow American broadcasters also need to brush up on their boxing history and knowledge so they can correct the BS and ignorance that Atlas regularly regurgitates on ESPN.
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