Lee Groves

10: Best St. Patrick’s Day fights


9. 1950 – Willie Pep W 15 Ray Famechon, Madison Square Garden, New York – World featherweight championship

For Pep this was the third defense of his second 126-pound title reign, a tenure that began 13 months earlier with the singular performance of his career, a revenge 15-round master class over previous conqueror Sandy Saddler. Since then Pep had run off nine straight wins, including a pair of rare inside-the-distance title-fight wins over the 57-1-3 Eddie Compo (KO 7) and Charlie Riley (KO 5). His record entering the match was a phenomenal 146-2-1 (47 KO). Just 23 days earlier he had scored a lopsided 10-round nod in Miami over 80-fight veteran Jimmy Warren.

His French challenger was fighting for the first time in America and was a considerable underdog, but he wasn’t without credentials. First, he’d won 29 of his last 30 and was a respectable 59-5. Second, he had been European champion since 1948 and had notched a pair of defenses while stuffing in plenty of non-title victories. Working against this featherweight, besides Pep’s incredible skills, was his feather fists; his last eight wins went the 10-round route and only 24 fights had ended early.

Famechon gave chase from first bell to last behind a slight crouch while Pep did what he always did – circled, swiveled and feinted from long range, fired spearing jabs and dove in with counters only when it was safe to do so. A sixth round hook nearly floored Famechon but otherwise Pep was in cruise control. Pep deftly handled every Famechon charge en route to a 9-3, 10-3 and 12-3 rounds decision.

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