KGB Radio: The Dirtiest Fighters Ever

Tricks and subversion can help separate a good fighter from a great one. But who are some of the most downright dirty fighters in boxing history? Patrick Connor and Aris Pina recall some of the worst offenders from several different eras.

Don't let that snazzy bow tie fool you. Even in his early 60s, as he was here, he'd still thumb the hell out of you (Credit: Andy Starnes/Pittsburgh Press)

If asked, most boxing fans wouldn’t take long to pick out some of the dirtiest fighters of recent decades. But who are the dirtiest fighters of all time? It’s a question we attempt to answer on this week’s episode of Knuckles and Gloves Boxing Radio.

“The Croat Comet” Fritzie Zivic was said to have fought with a pair of thumbs and a forehead. Everyone from “Sugar” Ray Robinson and Henry Armstrong to Lou Ambers and Charley Burley got a bigger piece of Zivic than they realized they wanted.

Fritzie Zivic jabs at Jake LaMotta in their 1943 rematch

The 1940s and 50s were home to another fighter who often employed questionable tactics: Sandy Saddler.

Nat Fleischer, founder and then-editor of The Ring, said of Saddler’s fourth meeting with featherweight great Willie Pep that the men used “wrestling, heeling, eye gouging, tripping, thumbing–in fact every dirty trick known to old timers.”

One of the various tumbles to the canvas Sandy Saddler and Willie Pep took in their ridiculously dirty fourth bout, 1951

But what even makes a fighter dirty in the first place? Where does one draw the line between “dirty” and “crafty?” Without a doubt, skirting the rules in a boxing ring and doing so seamlessly takes serious skill and experience. And those are two things many of these fighters had by the boatload.

Join Compubox operator Aris Pina and writer/historian Patrick Connor in remembering Zivic, Saddler and a host of feisty characters who stepped through the ropes and gave their opponents hell.

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