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Fritzie Zivic

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  • Fritzie Zivic

    One of the best welterweights of his era and probably ever, Fritzie Zivic's claim to fame was beating Henry Armstrong twice and stopping him the second time even. Zivic won the world title by beating Armstrong the first time, before losing it to a far lesser name, Freddie Cochrane, after 9 months. The 5'10 Zivic was a very tough guy who liked to fight dirty and once took on the much taller and naturally bigger Billy Conn, at middleweight. He also holds a win over Charlie Burley and has also beaten Jake LaMotta and Sammy Angott. He had a long career and fought a lot and his record is an amazing 158 wins with 82 ko's, 65 losses, 4 by ko, and 9 draws. He was inducted into the IBHOF in 1993.

    A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he was born Ferdinand Henry John Zivcic (zheev-cheech) 8 May 1913, to a Croatian father and a Slovenian mother, both immigrants. He had 3 brothers that also boxed professionally: Eddie, Pete and Jack. He turned pro at 18, 5 October 1931. At first he fought as a featherweight. His last name was shortened to "Zivic", in order to be easier to pronounce. He won his first fight by TKO1, but lost the second on points to Steve Senich. Senich also gave him his second loss, also on points. Between December 1932 and February 1935, Fritzie went unbeaten, winning 21 and drawing 3. He also fought at lightweight and welterweight during that time and avenged the losses to Senich by KO2. On 1 July '35 he fought against Lou Ambers, the famous world lightweight champion, and broke his jaw in the 9th round, which almost led to stoppage, but since there was one more round to go, Ambers went on to win on points. Fritzie then ran into a bad streak, losing 7 straight fights between August '35 and February '36, all on points. On 28 December '36, he fought against the 19-yearold Billy Conn in a middleweight bout and at first did well, winning the first five rounds. But Conn changed his tactic after that and had success circling Zivic and firing combinations, in the end winning by SD10. 21 March '38, Fritzie beat Charley Burley by SD10 in a hard fight in Pittsburgh. In the rematch 13 June, Burley won by UD10. Zivic again went undefeated for a long time after that, winning 20 and drawing 1. He lost to Kenny LaSalle on points, but then beat LaSalle in the rematch by SD10, in May and June '39. He faced Burley for the third time on 17 July and once again, Burley proved too slick for him and won by UD10. At the end of that year, he was involved in a terrific brawl against Milt Aron in Aron's hometown of Chicago, 27 December. Zivic put Aron down three times in the second round before Aron rallied back and put him down in the seventh. Fritzie got up and gave him a beating for the rest of the round. In the eight, Zivic looked like he was on the verge of stopping Aron, when he got nailed with a big right and put down and out.

    29 August next year, he scored a great victory over Sammy Angott, winning 8 out of 10 rounds according to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and getting a UD10 over the future world lightweight champ. This victory gave him a crack at Henry Armstrong's world title, which he had been chasing since the last Burley fight. The fight happened 4 October 1940 at MSG. The underdog from Pittsburgh surprised everyone when he started coming on in round 8 after an even fight and cut up Armstrong over both of his eyes and knocked his mouthpiece off several times during the fight. In round 15, he had complete control as he battered Armstrong to the canvas, landing a "corking" right just a second before the bell and Armstrong went down at the bell ending. He was the unanimous winner, but two judges gave it to him by a point while the third had him up 3 points. After the fight, Zivic said:"Armstrong hits surprisingly hard, but those bolo punches hurt him more than any of his punches hurt me. Every time I landed one of them I noticed that right away his punches lost steam. He's the gamest guy I ever saw." He was now the unlikely world champion and the first boxer of Croatian and Slovenian heritage to win a world title. He had a non-title fight on 20 December against lightweight champion Lew Jenkins and it ended in a draw after 10 rounds. On 17 January next year, he made his first defense in a rematch with Armstrong. It was a great battle but Armstrong got the worst of it again and even though he staged a comeback rally in the 11th, Zivic came back and gave him a beating later in the round, before stopping him early in round 12 by TKO. It was only the second time Armstrong was stopped, first time was in his first ever fight, and the last time he would be also. He announced his retirement following the fight, but came back later. Zivic surprisingly lost his title in his second defense against the 63-32-8 Freddie Cochrane of New Jersey, with the score of 4-7 from the referee who was the sole judge. The fight was in Cochrane's home turf in Newark, 29 July '41, and the decision might have been controversial. Zivic wasn't exactly a popular world champion, due to his habit of fighting dirty and ending the popular "Hammering Hank's" career. Right after that, he avenged the earlier loss to Milt Aron by KO5 after hitting him with a left and a right. On Haloween '41, Zivic fought against Sugar Ray Robinson, who was 25-0. Zivic had a bad start but came back in rounds 6 and 7, before Robinson closed strong to win by UD10. In the rematch, he was stopped by Robinson by TKO10, after winning 3 rounds.

    He avenged the loss of his title against Freddie Cochrane on 10 September 1942 and won by UD10. He then had a rubbermatch against Armstrong who had come back from his early retirement, 26 October. He lost their last fight by UD10, after tiring in the middle rounds but was never in danger of getting stopped. In 1943, he had three fights against Jake LaMotta, at middleweight, losing the first one by SD10 and winning the second by SD15 and finally losing the third by SD10. Fritzie kept on figthing for 6 years, but lost all his other important bouts and retired after winning an easy fight on points on 17 January '49, same date when he stopped Armstrong. He had fought for 17 years in 232 fights! He joined the US Army in 1944 and served in the second world war. He tried himself as a promoter and manager after retirement, but eventually settled in his profession of steel-fabricator or boilermaker. He died 17 May 1984, having just turned 71, after a long battle with Alzheimer's. Fritzie was known as a dirty fighter who used his elbows, knees and head, but he always appologized afterwards. He was nonetheless a skilled infighter who was a natural brawler and entertaining to watch. He hit pretty hard as well, scoring 85 ko's. His most famous quote about boxing was:"You are boxing, not playing piano."
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