Sipping on my espresso which may I add was most welcomed following my three-hour flight from Heathrow to Rome, got me thinking about the greats that Italy has produced for the pugilist arts.
Against the awe-inspiring backdrop of watching the sun disappear behind the historically rich coliseum, got me envisioning the fight to the death battles between Gladiator and the sacrificial lamb of the time, reminded me that the small boot-shaped country was once at the top of the pecking order when it comes to the history of combat.
In the years that followed since, Italy gifted us such names as Young Corbett III, Duilio Loi, Primo Carnera, Sumbu Kalambay, Bruno Arcari, Nino Benuvetti, Massimiliano Duran all of which are entwined in the rich tapestry of the Queensbury rules, further enhancing its reputation as a country that has previously birthed champions.
I thought while I had some downtime it would be interesting, well for myself anyways, If I started a new series in which I would give a brief description of the country I travelled to with the emphasis on its footprint left in the boxing world.
Italy I concede is known more widely for its food, beautiful historic locations and its true love of Football but on occasion, it has also thrown up great fighters, some of which I have already mentioned.
It is with this in mind that I decided to give a brief overview of one of its best from yesteryear whilst also providing names of those that are currently applying their craft in the boxing landscape currently.
An Italian Great
Raffaele Giordano or better known to you all as Young Corbett III was a two-divisional world champion, winning the Welterweight crown in 1933 and the Middleweight title in 1938.
A quick southpaw with great timing, Corbett made his name in American where he moved to as a young child. Like many who would rather use his hands to make a living, he sought out boxing events where at times he would make up to $10.00 for a contest which in those days was well paid.
It was at one of these events that the ring announcer refused to call him by his Birth name, instead giving him the name of Young Corbett III because he resembled the fighting style of William J. Rothwell, as long as it enabled him to step through the ropes, the now dubbed Young Corbett took on the moniker which to this day is synonymous with one of the Welterweight divisions greats.
Corbett fought an assortment of great fighters throughout his career, winning bouts over Young Jack Thompson, Jack Zivic, Sgt. Sammy Baker, Jackie Fields, Ceferino Garcia. Billy Conn and Mickey Walker.
It was against Jackie Fields that he won the Welterweight title, beating him via decision over ten rounds with a broken hand that was further made worse with an injury to his thumb after the fifth. Still, unlike the fighters of this era who would have waved the white flag of surrender, Corbett continued, never missing a beat as referee Jack Kennedy later reflected that Corbett was “vicious in those first five rounds. He ripped him like a tiger. Fields could not protect himself”
A loss to Jimmy McLarnin a fight later prompted his move to Middleweight where after a winning streak sat him at the doorstep of a title challenge, the man standing in the doorway was Fred Apostoli who he beat on points at the venue of his welterweight win, Seals Stadium in San Francisco. The defence of his crown wouldn’t last long as Apostoli returned the favour via stoppage in the eighth in the very next fight.
Corbett rattled off four wins before his eventual retirement in 1940, earning his rest with his legacy intact as one of the sports very best.
The Current Generation
Today the pizza and pasta loving country houses the likes of lightweight Emiliano Marsili who Uk fight fans will know from his stoppage win of Derry Matthews in 2012, Still unbeaten but in the twilight of his career at the tender age of 42 it’s probably a case of now or never you would think for him to capture a title, an uphill task considering the company he keeps at the 132lbs limit.
Cruiserweight Fabio Turchi is a former Italian champion who in the past year as also took the opportunity to seize the WBC International crown. Turchi looks like he could be one to watch in the future with time on his side the 25-Year-Old is progressing rapidly.
Welterweight Alessandro Riguccini is another name that could nudge his way to a title challenge in the years to come, he is unbeaten in twenty-one with seventeen of those wins coming inside the distance, showing he has power to not be overlooked, it has to be noted that all his fights have been within the confines of his home country.
As I come to my conclusion, In writing this I am by no means getting carried away in believing Italy are world beaters, long gone are the days were their fighters would stain the sands of the Colosseum but there is little doubt that the same fighting spirit remains like the heartbeat of the great Flamma (Gladiator)
My next destination is a visit to Austria which will be another article for numerous hours of research, wish me luck.