4. July 7, 1952, Municipal Stadium — Kid Gavilan KO 11 Gil Turner, world welterweight championship
Setting the Stage: More than 39,000 paid a then-record $269,667 to witness Gavilan’s third defense against the 21-year-old Turner, who boasted a 32-0 (23 KOs) record and was considered Philadelphia’s brightest prospect. Stoppage wins against Ike Williams, Charlie Fusari and Beau Jack dotted Turner’s ledger yet the youngster was attempting a cosmic leap in class. The 26-year-old Gavilan, already a nine-year pro, had fought in Cuba, Mexico, Canada and Venezuela as well as 14 states and the District of Columbia while 19 of Turner’s last 24 fights were in Philadelphia and only one was outside the country. Despite the vast gulf in experience, many neutral observers believed the flash-versus-force pairing promised a compelling spectacle.
What Happened: The scorching summer of 1952 that derailed Sugar Ray Robinson’s quest to win Joey Maxim’s light heavyweight title continued this night, for they competed in 95 degree heat despite the relatively late hour. Turner exhibited the fearlessness of youth as he forced the fight early and sought every opportunity to explode. Whenever Turner ignited combustible exchanges — as was the case in rounds two, five and six — Gavilan was eager to engage and more than held his own. But during those times they fought at long range Turner had no answers for Gavilan’s savvy and skill. As the fight wore on Turner’s spurts became far less frequent and Gavilan filled the void with sharp jabs, sapping body hooks and crisp counter rights.
Turner visibly weakened in the latter stages of the 10th but entering the 11th Turner was still very much in the fight mathematically as two of the cards were even while Gavilan led the third 6-4 in rounds. Turner attempted a final stand early in the 11th, but once Turner emptied his guns Gavilan produced a withering response. A right wobbled Turner and a second nearly knocked out the mouthpiece. Another flurry along the ropes had Turner nearly helpless and a whistling hook drove Turner to another set of ropes. Four final unanswered rights to the face spelled the end of Turner’s gallant but ill-fated challenge.