Willie Pep: The Sweetest Scientist
Boxing: noun; box·ing \ˈbäk-siŋ\
The art of attack and defense with the fists practiced as a sport.
The Sweet Science.
Words can be defined. Concepts can be explained.
A true master in a Martial Art such as boxing transcends all these constructs.
The essence of boxing is the art of hitting your opponent and not being hit yourself.
If we work from that definition, then Willie “Will o’ the wisp” Pep is the gold standard.
Gugliermo Papaleo was born on September 19th 1922 in Middletown, Connecticut, USA.
Made his professional debut in July of 1940 at 18.
He won his first 62 professional fights before losing a 10-round decision to Sammy Agnott. A former champion.
Ultimately Pep fought 241 times.
Won 229 of those.
Still the most victories by a boxer in history.
Pep had better years then modern fighters today have careers. Consider this:
Muhammed Ali, 56-5-0. “Sugar” Ray Leonard, 36-3-1. Floyd Mayweather Jr., 49-0.
Combined those three men, the undisputed best of their generation, have only 141 wins.
He fought Sandy Saddler in three all-time classic bouts.
Ring Magazine named their clash in February 1949 Fight of the Year.
Beyond the accolades and records, there is fighter of supreme craft and sublime ability.
He lulled opponents to sleep with his somnambulistic plodding…
Only to dart in with jabs and crosses, never exiting at the same angle.
He played with rhythm and tempo to disturb his opponents.
His masterful footwork constantly turned his opponents, never allowing them to set, limiting their attack and it was the cornerstone of his defense.
One Cannot Be Hit if Your Opponent Has No Opportunity.
When Pep clinched, he was more like a wrestler, framing against his opponent’s neck and face off balancing them.
He used an arm drag, clutching his opponents hand and elbow jerking them past, he’d often grab them around the waist and dance them to the ropes.
A Violent Waltz…
You play baseball, you play tag, you play most sports.
You don’t play boxing.
Willie Pep played with his opponents.
His adversaries shared the ring with an apparition.
A spirit of smoke, turning them and whirling around them, missing blow after blow only to be met with punches in return.
One commenter Burt Beinstock remarked “Willie Pep was the Harry Houdini of boxing. At his peak, it was said ‘you couldn’t hit him in the ass with a handful of rice.”
Willie Pep elevated the sport of boxing from a mere vulgar display of power to an art.
He embodied the Sweet Science…He was a genius of the ring.
He was the Sweetest Scientist.