5. 1919 – Jack Britton KO 9 Ted “Kid” Lewis, Canton Auditorium, Canton, Ohio – World welterweight championship
These days we celebrate title-fight trilogies for the rarities they are. But just imagine if two elite fighters – say Rafael Marquez and Israel Vazquez – had engaged in a 20-fight series that encompassed six years, 224 rounds and eight world title encounters? That’s what the classy stylist Britton and the swarming London East End Kid Lewis achieved between March 1915, when the two fought to a 10-round no-decision, and February 1921, when Lewis lost a 15-round nod for Britton’s title. Fittingly, their first and last battles took place in New York, but the respective sites signified the series’ added prestige over time – the initial fight was staged at the 135th Street Athletic Club while Madison Square Garden hosted the finale.
In all the title changed hands four times. Lewis seized the title in August 1915 only for Britton to snatch it back one year later after one failed try to regain it. A 20-round decision win in June 1917 won the belt back for Lewis but the conclusion of their next championship meeting produced the most unique result of this celebrated series.
The final scoreboard read four victories for Britton, three for Lewis and 12 no-decisions but the only knockout took place in this fight, the fourth and final title swap and their 18th overall meeting. Because this was a no-decision bout, all Lewis had to do was last the distance and the belt was still his. The odds looked good for Lewis because (1) his last stoppage defeat, his third, was 136 fights and seven years earlier and (2) Britton had scored only 16 knockouts in 218 career fights. But Britton produced a most improbable power surge and in the end “The Aldgate Sphinx” was counted out by referee Matt Hinkel in round nine.
After the fight, a jubilant Britton engaged in the 1919 equivalent of “in your face.” The Irish-American Britton promptly fired off a telegram lauding his victory over England’s hero. The intended destination: Buckingham Palace.