Sunday, March 26, 2023  |


The best of all time A to Z: Saddler


This is the 19th in a 26-part series in which endeavors to name the best boxers of all time based on last name – A to Z. We’ll post one letter each day for 26 days. Our criteria in making the selections were fairly simple: Accomplishments in the ring, with heavy emphasis on strength of opposition, as well as impact on the sport. This wasn’t easy, as our first installment — the letter “A” (Armstrong vs. Ali) — demonstrates. However, we’re confident that our choices are arguably the best. We also are including five more fighters for each letter to indicate others that were considered. Also, noted author and boxing historian Bert Sugar — who provided input — tells us where he ranks our choices among the greatest fighters pound-for-pound and gives us a thought on each selection. And, finally, we’d love to get your thoughts on the project. Here goes ÔǪ today’s letter: “S.”

Lifespan: 1926 – 2001
Hometown: Boston
Record: 144-16-2 (103 KOs)
Active: 1944-56
Weight class: Bantamweight through lightweight
Titles: Featherweight (twice)
Sugar’s ranking: No. 39
The thought process: This was one of the most-difficult decisions in the series. Michael Spinks was one of the best light heavyweight titleholders ever and won the heavyweight belt, beating Larry Holmes no less. Salvador Sanchez had a great – but short – career. And John L. Sullivan, who lost only once, was an enormous icon in his day and could be called the father of modern boxing. However, Saddler claims the top spot because of his ability to beat perhaps the best boxer ever – Willie Pep – in three of four meetings and his overall body of work. Saddler was the proverbial physical freak for a featherweight, a lean 5-foot-8¾ (174cm) with a 70-inch (178cm) reach and crushing punching power. He ranked No. 5 on THE RING’s list of all-time greatest punchers. He had excellent boxing skills but also never ruled out rough-house or even dirty tactics if that’s what it took to win a fight. And he had a great chin; he was stopped only once in 162 fights, in his second fight. Saddler fought and defeated a number of world champions, including Joe Brown, Lauro Salas, Paddy DeMarco, Jimmy Carter and Flash Elorde, and twice held the world featherweight title. That in itself would have earned him consideration from the International Boxing Hall of Fame. However, his four-fight series with Pep between 1948 and 1951 lifted him to legendary status and a place among the best ever. Saddler was able to do what very few were capable of – he cut off the ring against the quick-footed Pep, forcing the great boxer into what some have called street fights. And that was Saddler’s domain. He became the first to stop Pep in their first meeting, putting the then-titleholder down four times and scoring a fourth-round knockout. Pep rebounded with one of the greatest performances in history in the rematch, winning by a unanimous decision. Pep was ahead on points in the third fight when he had to retire after seven rounds with a separated shoulder. And Saddler won the fourth fight, one of the dirtiest ever, when Pep quit after eight rounds because of a bad cut over his right eye. When the dust settled, some focused more on Saddler’s tactics than the monumental accomplishment of beating Pep three times. The most-astute observers ultimately knew, though: Saddler had proved his greatness.
Five more (alphabetical order): Salvador Sanchez, Max Schmeling, Michael Spinks, Freddie Steele and John L. Sullivan.
Sugar quote: “(Saddler’s) name will forever more be linked irrevocably to that of Pep as two magnificent fighters whose greatness intersected for four years back in the late ’40s and early ’50s when they held annual affairs that could have doubled as get-togethers of two warring Irish clans.”

A: Armstrong:

B: Burley:

C: Charles:

D: Duran:

E: Elorde:

F: Foreman:

G: Greb:

H: Hagler:

I: Ibeabuchi:

J: Johnson:

K: Ketchel:

L: Louis:

M: Moore:

N: Napoles:

O: Olivares:

P: Pep:

Q: Qawi:

R: Robinson: