'Hank blew rivals away in three divisions in an era when boxers fought injured'


Henry ‘Hurricane Hank’ Armstrong is the only boxer to simultaneously hold world titles at three weights – feather, lightweight and welterweight.

His 19 defences of the ­welterweight crown is still unsurpassed. His record shows 22 defeats in 183 fights, with four of them coming in his first five bouts.

If you think those losses were a function of ability you could not be more wrong.

Armstrong, the son of a Mississippi sharecropper, was arguably the greatest fighter to lace a glove after Sugar Ray Robinson.

He won his first world title at featherweight against Petey Sarron in the middle of an astonishing sequence that saw him rack up 49 ­consecutive wins in 29 months from New Year’s Day 1937, including 27 on the spin by knockout.

Armstrong was arguably the greatest fighter to lace a glove after Sugar Ray Robinson

He jumped from feather to welterweight to claim his second title, giving away nine pounds to beat the great Barney Ross. In his very next bout Armstrong dropped down to lightweight to beat Lou Ambers, another Hall of Famer.

He would have held a world title at a fourth weight had he been given the nod he deserved against Ceferino Garcia for the world middleweight crown in 1940.

Armstrong was just perpetual motion, a devastating combination puncher with long, scything hooks. He stood 5ft 5.5ins and never weighed more than 142 pounds.

I often wonder what it must have been like to have been active in those days.

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Nowadays, words like ­‘sensational’, ‘fantastic’ and ‘extraordinary’ get thrown about like confetti. But they all applied to this fella. The losses didn’t have the same significance they have today. Not all results were reliable.

Boxers in that era fought tired and injured, and ­Armstrong was frequently giving away weight.

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There were no 12-week camps for these boys. And no flights either. It was straight from one show to another, criss-crossing a continent by train and bus. They were long, arduous journeys. There was no moaning or carping if you had a niggle or sickness – you turned up and you fought no matter what ­condition you were in.

What Armstrong achieved and the way he did it is ­unimaginable from the ­perspective of the modern fighter, with all the preparation and support on offer.

These guys could not ­afford to be out of shape or overweight. And Armstrong was not fighting road ­sweepers.

His welterweight run ­finally came to an end in ­October 1940 against Fritzie Zivic, another incredible warrior who was making the 130th appearance of his ­career.

Three years later ­Armstrong lost on points to his great friend Robinson, before calling it a day in 1945. Incredible fighter. ­Incredible times.





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