Lee Groves

10: Most notable St. Louis title fights

January 16, 1950, Kiel Auditorium – Willie Pep KO 5 Charley Riley

“Chillin’ Charley” Riley, born and bred in St. Louis, got the nickname because of his string of early knockouts at the start of his career – 14 in his 16-0 record, 13 of which came in four rounds or less. He was best known for his explosive three-fight series with New York’s Phil Terranova, a former NBA featherweight champion by the time they first met in February 1946. The first fight was a war that saw Terranova stop Riley in six while Riley gained vengeance – and more – by stopping Terranova in seven two months later and in one due to cuts in April 1947.

By the time he met Pep, Riley had fallen on tougher times, for he had gone 9-7-1 (2 KO) in his last 17 after considerably raising the level of competition.  He went 0-2-1 against Harold Dade, split two fights with 100-plus fight veteran Maxie Shapiro and lost a decision to Glen Flanagan but leading into the fight with Pep he had won two straight, including a revenge 10-round decision over 24-1-1 prospect Elias Ask.

When it came to increasing the degree of difficulty, Riley couldn’t have asked for a more challenging task than fighting the “Will O’ The Wisp,” who entered the fight with an eye-popping 143-2-1 record and possessing arguably the greatest defensive skills in the sport’s history. For all his talent Pep was a light hitter as he entered the Riley match with 46 knockouts, which translated to a .315 percentage. Pep was making the second defense of his second reign that began with a scintillating 15-round boxing master class against Sandy Saddler, avenging an earlier fourth-round TKO loss. Just 35 days earlier, Pep outpointed Harold Dade over 10 – the same Dade that won two of three fights against Riley.

Boxing’s “triangle” theory doesn’t always work but it did here. Pep took advantage of a weakness Terranova exposed in Riley during their first match – a vulnerability to body-shot knockouts. Pep used his skills to out-score Riley then whipped in a powerful body shot that caved Riley in at the 1:05 mark of round five.

Around the web