Boxing: Action Replay - Bravery of Farr goes unrewarded
Lennox Lewis was not the first British boxer to suffer disappointment after a controversial verdict in a world heavyweight title fight in New York. Sixty-two years ago Tommy Farr of Wales came close to beating the legendary Joe Louis in a contest which went the full 15 rounds. This was Trevor Wignall's report, which led the front page of The Daily Express
Monday 22 March 1999
The contest proved once again that expert and public opinion is practically valueless in predicting the result of a modern, big heavyweight fight. The utter gameness of Farr's display caused a scene at the end without counterpart. When Louis went to his dressing room, hoots were still ringing in his ears, but Farr marched away surrounded by howling and delighted admirers, much in the manner of a conquering hero.
All the scorecards I have examined vary in the most remarkable fashion. Quite a number made out Farr to be the victor, and even those that favoured Louis gave him the conquest by only the narrowest margin.
The three cards of most importance, which therefore discounted all others, were those of the referee and judges. Arthur Donovan, the referee, awarded 13 rounds to Louis, one to Farr, and called the other even. Charles Lynch, a judge, gave eight to Louis, five to Farr, and made two even. William McPartland, the other judge, voted nine rounds to Louis and six to Farr.
My own personal view was that Louis did just about enough to deserve the verdict. My card gave him seven rounds, with five for Farr and three even. I felt that Louis won through the superiority of his left hand. It was entirely responsible for the mashed and gory state of Farr's face in every round after the fourth, while I also remembered that at the end of the seventh round Farr appeared to be nearly out on his feet, and that in the 13th he was very badly staggered by a left.
The seventh round was Farr's poorest. As the end of the third minute was approaching, he was caught on the ropes with two left hooks and a following right, and the impression of myself and others in a favoured position to judge was that the ringing of the bell probably saved him from a knock-out.
Farr was unquestionably in a bad way as he waddled to his corner, but he made such a swift recovery that he actually carried the fight to his highly apprehensive coloured opponent in the eighth. His stamina was amazing. His cheeks just below the eyes were cut in the third round, and from then on he bled continuously. His battered face was made to look much worse than it really was, but final proof of his astonishing endurance was supplied in the last round.
Tremendously eager to get back into action, Farr swept out of his corner 10 seconds before he need have done, and in this 15th session he produced a grandstand finish that brought most of the spectators to their feet with delirious yells of delight.
Farr was stronger and better in this last round than he was in the first, and a thrill such as I have rarely experienced arrived when, in his excitement, he grabbed the arm of the referee and raised it in the air. This gesture was hailed as evidence that Donovan had done the grabbing and that he was signalling the birth of a new champion.
There were groans when Donovan pulled himself away from Farr, but I rarely heard louder booing than that which greeted the delayed voting of the three officials. This, however, should not be misconstrued.
Racial prejudices had much to do with the unruly demonstration. Two-thirds of the gathering were against the coloured champion, and their great anxiety was to witness the triumph of one of their own white race. In addition to this, the natural attachment to the underdog that characterises all sports crowds completely took possession of the spectators.
Louis was strangely languid and slow and disappointing. His display was the worst I have seen from him, but the failure to use his right hand, which has brought him so many victories, was partly explained later in the night when he stated that he had badly damaged it in the fourth round.
Louis displayed no ring intelligence whatsoever. From beginning to end, he plodded the same orthodox and tame course, but what particularly alarmed those who are anxious about his future was that he was more apprehensive and nervous than any champion should be.
I did not realise quite how cool and confident Farr can be until he came and sat within a yard of my place in the press box 20 minutes before he was due in the ring. It seemed to me he was no more ruffled than if he had been setting out on a quiet walk.
Farr did great credit to his country, but I strongly hold the opinion that he would now be the world's champion if he could only punch with genuine force. He will long be remembered as one of the gamest losers this or any other country has ever seen.
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