Boxing must bid a sad farewell to one of its greatest ever champions. Sandy Saddler, the awesome featherweight puncher of the 1940s and 1950s, died on Monday (September 18). He was aged 75.
One of the few of fighters to have scored in excess of 100 knockouts (103 to be precise), he was born Joseph Saddler in Boston on June 23, 1926. His family moved to Harlem in New York where he discovered boxing at an early age. He would become one of the greatest, and some say the greatest, 126lbs fighters of all time.
Saddler had to wait until his 94th bout to fight for the world championship. Fighting champion Willie Pep in New York on October 29, 1948, Saddler entered the ring as the underdog despite his edge in punching power. “Wil’o the Wisp” perhaps possessed the most effective defence of any fighter who ever lived – he was once awarded a round without even throwing a punch – and he was thought to be a little too cute for Saddler.
However, Saddler shocked the boxing world by knocking Pep out in the fourth round. It was the start of one of the greatest rivalries in boxing history. Pep regained the world featherweight title by outpointing Saddler over 15 rounds in their rematch the following year, however, the knockout artist re-established his dominance in their next two encounters (w rtd 8, September 1950 and w rtd 9, September 1951).
He went on the indelibly etch his name in the annals of time. In February 1951 Saddler annexed the world super-featherweight title (as recognised by the New York Boxing Association) by destroying Diego Sosa in two rounds.
Saddler then took time out from the fight game in 1953, but rejoined his quest for greatness a year later. Having crammed so many bouts into so few years there were concerns that perhaps the New Yorker had burnt out. But he still had it, as he proved by outpointing interim featherweight champion Teddy Davis and halting the emerging force of Gabriel “Flash” Elorde. Unfortunately, the comeback was cut short after Saddler suffered a severe eye injury in a car crash in 1957. At age 30, the champion was forced to retire, but his love of the game was unabated and he became a successful trainer.
Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990, Saddler’s record reads: 144-16-2 (103).
SecondsOut sends its condolences to the family, friends and fans of the great fighter.