Heavyweight: Rocky Marciano
COVER STORY: “Nino Valdes” is the cover subject, but as was often the case in this era, there is no article about him in the issue to accompany the cover illustration by C.R. Schaare. Still, the Cuban heavyweight is listed as the No. 1 heavyweight contender and pictured accepting THE RING’s 1953 Progress of the Year trophy from Nat Fleischer.
Oddly enough, Valdes began 1953 with three decision losses but bounced back with five wins, including a decision over former heavyweight champion Ezzard Charles and KO of European champion Heinz Neuhaus to garner the award.
Although he scored some big wins over the next few years, Valdes also suffered significant losses and never received a title shot. He retired after knocking out Brian London in 1959, compiling an overall record of 48-19-2 (36 KOs). Valdes eventually fell on hard times and ended up working as a bouncer in seedy Times Square strip joints. He died virtually penniless in 2001.
“Johnson First In Line” by Fleischer covers Archie Moore’s first defense of the light heavyweight title, a one-sided, 15-round decision over Joey Maxim, the man he’d beaten to capture the 175-pound title. Moore floored Maxim in the eighth and 11th rounds in front of a national TV audience and a live crowd of 16,375 at Miami’s Orange Bowl.
Fleischer urged Moore to defend against No. 1 contender Harold Johnson, which he did that August, coming from behind to TKO the Philadelphian in the 14th round.
“The Ring Magazine Set Up Hall Of Fame” by Associate Editor Dan Daniel announces the formation of a Boxing Hall of Fame, which was to be patterned after the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
“The fistic Pantheon will be operated with the assistance of the boxing writers of the world, with stress on the membership of the Boxing Writers Association of America, which Nat Fleischer, editor and publisher of this magazine, is the president,” wrote Daniel.
It was also noted that the concept was originally broached in 1925, with the support of Madison Square Garden promoter Tex Rickard. But when Rickard died, the plan was tabled.
“Showboats” by writer/illustrator Ted Carroll is a look at various fighters down through the years who had been “unable to resist adding something extra to the cut-and-dried routine.”
Among the fighters detailed was reigning welterweight champion Kid Gavilan, of whom Carroll said, “Although a thespian at heart, Gavilan never lets the fancy stuff take over completely. He usually holds it in check until the pattern of the fight has been set and he is well on the way to victory.” Carroll also wisely noted that, “This delirious display is just frosting on the cake. Underneath the colorful coating, Kid Gavilan is a solid fistfighter, smart, rugged, game, quick, and sharp hitting.”
Other famous showboats under discussion were Kid Chocolate, Max Baer, Jack Johnson, and Johnny Dundee.
“A Bit About Brooklyn” is the first installment of Jersey Jones’ two-part series about the “long, colorful boxing history of Brooklyn and the champions and near-champions developed there.” Among those discussed were Jack “The Nonpareil” Dempsey, Jack McAuliffe, Terry McGovern and Jack Skelly.
The series was prompted by the fact that Brooklyn’s Paddy DeMarco was about to challenge lightweight champion Jimmy Carter. DeMarco took the title with a 15-round decision, but Carter regained the 135-pound crown later in the year, stopping DeMarco in the 15th round.
“The Gamest Fighting Man” by Fleischer pays tribute to former lightweight champion Battling Nelson, who had recently died at the age of 72. “He possessed a remarkable ability to absorb punishment,” wrote Fleischer, “and it was this punishment that eventually brought about his downfall and, in the last stages of his long life, resulted in committal to an insane asylum …”
“TV Boxing” by Johnny Salak raves about the 50 million TV viewers that watched the Moore-Maxim bout in Miami and also mentions the first-ever card televised from Montreal, Canada. “It was far from an exciting fight,” Salak wrote, “but it proved that Canadian TV has made rapid strides and has placed itself on a par with the American brand.”
“In Sunny California” features all the action from the Left Coast as recorded by local correspondent Bill Miller. Of special interest was the main event debut of future heavyweight contender Zora Folley. In only his fifth pro fight, Folley “emerged with flying colors” by scoring a seventh-round TKO of Howard King.
“European Gossip” by Charlie Parish highlights the European campaign of American featherweight Percy Bassett, who KO’d Jacques Herbillon, Francis Bonnardel, and Mohammed Chickaoui in slightly more than a month. All three bouts were held in France.