The Top Ten Apocryphal Stories in Boxing Folklore

1/ Jack Johnson took a dive vs Jess Williard –

Johnson sold his confession to former Ring editor, Nat Fleischer when said to be down on his luck many years later and cited this picture of him shielding his eyes from the sun as supporting evidence.

But as Mike Tyson said to Harry Carpenter in a 1987 documentary, it seems more likely that a 37 year old, poorly conditioned Johnson simply got hit , in the 26th roundof a fight he had been winning for 19 stanzas.

2/ Harry Greb beat up Jack Dempsey in a 1921 sparring session –

It is often said that this fabled ‘reversal’ in training camp caused Dempsey to forever avoid giving Greb a shot at the world heavyweight title.

It may well have happened as stated and there are a catalogueof gym tales in which the ‘The Champ’ is said to have been dominated or embarrassed by a smaller or less regarded sparring partner.

3/ Willie Pep won a round without throwing a punch. –

It has often been recited as gospel that that the incomparable Pep won the third round of his 1946 fight with Jackie Graves without throwing a single shot.

As brilliant as Pep undoubtedly was, the fact that a reporter for the Minnesota based newspaper, The St. Paul’s Pioneeer, described the third round as the most action packed of the entire fight would seem to put the lie to this attractive myth.

4/ Rocky Marciano lost his first pro fight –

This one appears to be a durable misunderstanding down the ages.

The truth of the matter is almost certainly that ‘The Rock’ briefly went back to the amateurs and incurred a loss in 1948, AFTER his winning pro debut in 1947, before continuing his march toward greatness in the paid ranks.

5/ Cassius Clay threw his Olympic Gold Medal in the Ohio River –

While this story perfectly perfectly encapsulates the symbolism of Ali’s legendary renegade stance against the oppressive white power structure and it’s subjugation of the American black man, it seems more likely that he simply lost the medal and the story was concocted a number of years later for his autobiography.

6/ Cassius Clay benefited from a hugely extended interval between rounds 4 and 5 of his 1963 non title fight with Henry Cooper –

If you still believe this flagrant load of bollocks then be sure to leave a glass of sherry out for Santa every Christmas Eve.

7/ Roberto Duran knocked out a horse –

This vaguely disturbing anecdoteis impossible to verify one way or another but the young Duran seemed sufficiently feral and unpredictable that at the very least it MIGHT be true.

8/ Muhammad Ali was about to quit at the very moment that Eddie Futch pulled Joe Frazier out of their savage rubber fight in Manila-

Although this one is supported by a credible source in legendary PhiladelphiaBoxing figure, Bobby ‘Boogaloo’ Watts, who claims to have witnessed the intended ‘surrender’ as he stood near Ali’s corner, the very notion that Ali would voluntarily quit while there was blood in his body is something that I can’t take seriously.

9/ A 14 year old Tony Ayala Jr.staggered WBA welterweight champion, Pipino Cuevas, in sparring –

This alleged 1977 gym session appears to have been fictitious, with Tony Ayala Snr later admitting that his son never actually sparred Cuevas.

10/ Antonio Margarito’s hand wraps were ‘loaded’ in his first fight with Miguel Cotto –

Having been busted by the keen eyes of Nazim Richardson ahead of his loss to Shane Mosley, suspicion was automatically cast over any of Margarito’s notable victories.

The case can never be proven but the radically different course of the rematch lends credence to the belief that the first fight wasn’t on the level…..