|Real name||Joseph William Baksi|
|Born||January 14, 1922
|Died||August 6, 1977
Albany, New York
|Wins by KO||29|
Joe Baksi (January 14, 1922 – August 6, 1977) was a top heavyweight contender who defeated fighters such as Tami Mauriello, Lee Savold, Lou Nova, and Freddie Mills, while losing decisions to Jersey Joe Walcott and Ezzard Charles.
Joe Baksi was a child of the Kulpmont, Pennsylvania coal mines. He was quoted as saying that he never had any intention of being a boxer, but he saw it "as a ticket to a better way of life, out of the coal mines." He broke into professional boxing in 1940 at the age of 18. He beat nine boxers that year, including the future movie actor Jack Palance (who fought under the name of Jack Brazzo) at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, NY.
Becoming a contender
Baksi campaigned over the boxing circuit for a number of years, until he got his first big match with Tami Mauriello on February 25, 1944 at Madison Square Garden. Mauriello was the 5-11 favorite, and the bronx contender for the Heavyweight crown. Mauriello was expected to win, based on his experience. Baski hoped to win by matching punch with punch and using his 210 vs. 196 lb weight advantage to his favor. Tami was floored late in the first round with a left hook by Baksi, and was down for a nine count. Tami faced a battering and battled back to prevent his first knockout defeat. Baksi won by unanimous decision.
Baksi's upset over Tami sprang him to nation-wide prominence. He was the favorite to beat Lee Savold two weeks later at the Garden, having the weight advantage and coming off his victory over Mauriello (who had beaten Savold twice before). But Baksi was a tyro compared to Savold. Baksi got off to a slow start, and though he showed advantage in the ninth and tenth rounds Savold boxed his way with left hooks and jabs to win a split decision that night. They had a rematch on March 10, 1944. This time, Savold was the 5-7 favorite. Baksi was in better shape that night, and fought a careful fight, out "left-handing" Savold, who was thought to have the best southpaw amongst the heavyweight contenders. At the finish Savold's left eye was cut, his nose and mouth bleeding, and his left side looked like raw hamburger. Baksi's only wound was a broken nose. He won a unanimous decision. His victory advanced him to be ranked 4th in the N.B.A rankings, behind champion Joe Louis, and boxers Billy Conn and Jimmy Bivins. Baksi went on to beat Savold again on August 7, 1944.
In his next fight, Baksi defeated Finnish boxer Gunnar (GeeBee) Baerlund and then scheduled a fight with his former sparring partner Lee Oma on January 28, 1945. Oma, unknown six months previously, gained fame by putting up a spirited fight against Mauriello in September. Oma lost that fight but earned a rematch in December, which he won. Still, Baksi was a 1-3 favorite to beat Oma. He had a 25-pound advantage over Oma, and corresponding advantages in height, reach, and punching power. But he lacked mental alertness that night, having suffered a cold over the last several days before the fight. He made a late comeback in the fight, but lost the fight by a unanimous decision.
Baksi went on to win a unanimous decision against Lou Nova on March 30, flooring Nova in the fourth round with a left hook to the ribs that kept Nova down for a count of nine. Baksi was now the second ranked (wartime) heavyweight. He scored easy decisions against Lee Dixie Oliver and Larry Lane, and then fought a thirty-one-year-old Jersey Joe Walcott. Walcott had lost earlier bouts with world-class professionals, and was an underdog against Baksi. But Walcott won, scoring 6-3-1 on the single referees scorecard. Walcott's dancing and dodging allowed him to escape Baksi's reach, and he was able to get in enough hooks to make Baksi groggy. Baksi lost his next fight with Jimmy Bell (a split decision in which Baksi was penalized two rounds for a low blow), but then racked up four easy wins before traveling to Europe.
|Baksi in his prime|
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Europe and back
Baksi left for Europe on October 9, 1946 to fight the two British champions. He first defeated British light heavy weight champion Freddie Mills. Baksi was sluggish in the first round, but Mills (who had chronic eye problems) suffered a cut in his right eye in the second round, and his left eye in the third. After a bad battering, Mills gave up at the end of the sixth round. Baksi then went on to fight British heavyweight champion Bruce Woodcock. Baksi floored Woodcock three times in the first round and twice in the second. Woodcock made a comeback in the fifth, but Baksi was scoring at will when the referee stopped it in the seventh. Woodcock went to the hospital with a broken jaw.
After defeating Woodcock, Baksi was scheduled to fight Joe Louis for the world heavyweight title. Baksi, still in Europe after the Woodcock fight, signed a contract to fight the Swedish champion, Olle Tandberg in Stockholm. Baksi was the 1-5 favorite to beat Tandberg, and 1-3 favorite to knock him out by the seventh round. Baksi was going into the ring with 6 straight victories (five by knockout), while Tandberg had been fighting only since 1943, and only against local fighters. Then, in what the New York Times reported as the greatest upset in years, Baksi lost a split decision. Even Tandberg was surprised, saying after the fight "I didn't believe I had won the fight. I thought I was too much on the defensive in the closing rounds."
After his stunning defeat, Baksi took a year off. He was still the third ranked heavyweight contender, behind Jersey Joe Walcott and Ezzard Charles, and ahead of Lee Savold, when he scheduled a fight with Ezzard Charles. The winner of that fight would have a title match with Joe Louis. Charles, the 5-14 favorite, defeated Baksi by TKO in the seventh.
After being beaten by Charles, his status as a contender faded. After beating some obscure and aging boxers, he went into semi-retirement in 1951. He then made a comeback attempt in 1954, fighting Billy Smith, who he knocked out in the first round. His second match was with a tougher opponent, Bob "The Grinder" Baker, who was the 7-5 favorite. Baksi had little to offer except courage and stamina, and lost by unanimous decision. Baksi's manager, Leo Feureisen, collapsed during the fight and died in the dressing room a short while after. Baksi went into permanent retirement after the bout. He then became a teamster and later an ironworker and joined the International Brotherhood of Ironworkers.
In the book Trainspotting, by Irvine Welsh, several of the characters use the phrase Joe Baksi to refer to a taxi (taxicab). The phrase is an example of rhyming slang and is used infrequently throughout the UK.
- Joe Baksi Dies at 55,NY Times, August 8, 1977, p26
- Boxing Records Official records for Jack Palance aka Jack Brazzo
- Lawrence Christon,"Home on the Range It's been a long, dusty journey since Panic in the Streets and Shane", The Los Angeles Times, April 30, 1995, Calendar Section. Palance recounts a "pier 6 brawl" with Baksi
- Oscar-winning thesp Palance dies, Variety, November 10, 2006
- Mauriello Choice to Vanquish Baksi NY Times, February 25, 1944, p20
- James Dawson, Baksi Outpoints Mauriello in 10-Round Upset, NY Times, February 26, 1944, p18
- Baksi 1-2 Choice to Defeat Savold, NY Times, March 10, 1944, p18
- Joseph Nichols, Savold Beats Baksi in Heavyweight Bout, NY Times, March 11, 1944, p18
- Savold 5-7 Choice to Vanquish Baksi, NY Times, May 26, 1944, p14
- Joseph Nichols, Baksi Decisively Outpoints Savold in 12-Round Heavyweight Bout, NY Times, May 27, 1944, p20
- Baksi Placed 4th in N.B.A Rankings, NY Times, July 14, 1944, p18
- James Dawson, Oma Beats Baksi in Boxing Upset, NY Times, January 27, 1945, p17
- Joseph Nichols, Baksi Beats Nova, NY Times, March 31, 1945, p25
- Walcott Outboxes Baksi, NY Times, August 3, 1945, p20
- Baksi Stops Mills, NY Times, November 6, 1946, p41
- American Batters British Champion, NY Times, April 16, 1947, p33
- Baksi 1-5 Favorite In Stockholm Bout, NY Times, July 6, 1947, p89
- Decision Awarded To Swedish Boxer, NY Times, July 7, 1947, p21
- NBA Keeps Louis at Top of Division, NY Times, September 17, 1948, p35
- James Dawson, Charles Stops Baksi in Eleventh to Become Leading Contender, NY Times, December 11, 1948, p19
- Baker Sets Back Baksi on Points, NY Times, May 25, 1954, p32
- MAURIELLO CHOICE TO VANQUISH BAKSI; Bronx Heavyweight Rated 5-7 Edge in Ten-Round Bout at the Garden Tonight
- Baksi Outpoints Mauriello in 10-Round Upset Before 16,015 Fans at Garden; BRONX BOXER LOSES HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT Baksi Floors Mauriello for 9 in First and Carries On to Unanimous Decision BODY BLOWS WEAKEN TAMI Pennsylvanian Forces Action Throughout Spirited Fight
- BAKSI 1-2 CHOICE TO DEFEAT SAVOLD; Hard-Hitting Heavyweights to Meet in Ten-Rounder at the Garden Tonight
- Savold Beats Baksi in Heavyweight Bout Before 15,947 at Garden; DES MIOS BOXER GETS SPLIT VERDICT Savold Tags Onrushing Baksi With Left Hooks and Jabs to Win 10-Round Fight BOTH LAND HARD PUNCHES But No Knockdowns Result
- SAVOLD 5-7 CHOICE TO VANQUISH BAKSI; Heavyweights to Meet Over 12-Round Route in Return Garden Bout Tonight
- Baksi Decisively Outpoints Savold in 12-Round Heavyweight Bout at Garden; UNANIMOUS VERDICT FOR PENNSYLVANIAN Baksi's Sharp Left Helps Him Reverse Result of Previous Meeting With Savold
- BAKSI PLACED 4TH IN N.B.A. RANKINGS; Conqueror of Savold Is Rated Behind Louis, Conn, Bivins
- BAKSI BEATS SAVOLD ON POINTS IN CHICAGO
- OMA BEATS BAKSI IN BOXING UPSET; THE WINNER FORCING THE FIGHTING
- BAKSI BEATS NOVA WITH LATE RALLY; CALIFORNIA HEAVYWEIGHT ON THE FLOOR
- WALCOTT OUTBOXES BAKSI; Notches Upset in Heavyweight Bout in Camden Ring
- BAKSI STOPS MILLS AT END OF SIXTH; British Boxer Fails to Answer Bell for Seventh as Both Eyes Are Injured
- AMERICAN BATTERS BRITISH CHAMPION; Baksi Drops Woodcock 5 Times in First 2 Rounds -- London Bout Stopped in Seventh VICTOR IN LINE FOR LOUIS Pennsylvanian Qualifies for World Title Fight
- BAKSI TURNS DOWN MATCH WITH LOUIS; Walcott and Bettina Possible Rivals for Heavyweight Champion June 26
- BAKSI CHANGES HIS MIND; Now Says He Wants to Fight Louis in September
- BAKSI 1-5 FAVORITE IN STOCKHOLM BOUT; U.S. Boxer to Meet Tandberg Today -- Winner to Get Match With Louis
- DECISION AWARDED TO SWEDISH BOXER; Verdict for Tandberg Over Baksi Is Called 'Disgrace' by American's Manager SURPRISE TO THE VICTOR Didn't Think He Had Fought So Well -- Result Snarls Plans for Louis Title Bout
- Charles Stops Baksi in Eleventh to Become Leading Contender for Louis' Title; 11,194 SEE REFEREE HALT GARDEN FIGHT Baksi, Blinded by Systematic Beating, Is Stopped in 2:33 of Eleventh by Charles
- A Foe for Joe
- BAKER SETS BACK BAKSI ON POINTS; Loser's Manager Dies After Ringside Collapse
- Joe Baksi Dies at 55; Was a Top Heavyweight; Fought Charles, Walcott