Lee Groves

10: Most notable St. Louis title fights

April 24, 1959, Kiel Auditorium – Don Jordan W 15 Virgil Akins II

When Jordan lifted Akins’ welterweight title five-and-a-half months earlier, a cloud of suspicion hung over the event.

Akins —  St. Louis’ first world champion and whose contract was controlled by Frank “Blinky” Palermo — fought with unusual sloppiness while Jordan, linked with rival mobster Frankie Carbo, was the beneficiary. For all the pining for

a revival of boxing’s “Golden Age” of the 1930s through 1950s, the gangster influence was a scourge that exerted untold influence on fight results. The fighters either had to obey orders in terms of producing the desired result for their bosses or suffer the consequences.

If the first fight was stained by scandal, the rematch appeared to be on the level. A Sports Illustrated reporter noticed Palermo’s worried expression from his seat directly behind Akins’ corner, meaning (1) he had bet big money on Akins to regain the belt and (2) the result was not pre-determined.

This time Akins tried his best but the 31-year-old veteran quickly realized his seven-years-younger challenger was too good for him. The tough-minded Jordan absorbed Akins’ wicked body attack over the first five rounds and concealed the pain of an injured right hand suffered in round two from striking the top of Akins’ skull. Jordan assumed command in the seventh, jabbing and hooking confidently and using the right just enough to keep Akins from suspecting something was amiss. Jordan’s sharp punches bloodied Akins’ nose, swelled his right eye and piled up points on the judges’ scorecards. In the closing rounds, a tired and desperate Akins mauled and fouled at every turn but Jordan shrugged it off and breezed to a closer-than-reality (70-68 twice, 70-66) decision.

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