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Cyrille Delannoit-The Belgian Tarzan


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Known mostly for his upset of Marcel Cerdan in 1948, when he won the European middle title, Delannoit was a strong and athletic fighter, not really a big puncher but an aggressive and capable fighter who could stop you down the stretch. He stood just under 5'8 (172 cm) and had a reach of 68 inches or 173 cm. He was known under the nickname of "Tarzan". He was significant as the first Belgian boxer to achieve success outside of national level.


Born 13 March 1926 in Geraardsbergen, a city located in the Ardennes (highest hills in Belgium), he was born into a working class family of 12 children and of 7 sons, 3 were boxers. Edgard, younger than him by 3 years, also became somewhat famous in his country but was far less successful than Cyrille. He turned pro in January 1945 and won by RTD 2 against Marcel de Blieck. After also winning his 3 next fights, he then lost on points in 6 rounds to Frank Duffy from Liverpool. He then put together a streak of 15 wins before losing again in October that same year, getting stopped by corner retirement in 9 against Willy Wimms, his national rival. They had a rematch 2 months later and it ended as a draw. In August next year, they fought for the third time, this time with the Belgian Boxing Federation welter title at stake and Wimms won by knockout in 11. Delannoit avenged his first loss to Frank Duffy on points in November and remained unbeaten till March 1948. He also defeated the famed French contender Laurent Dauthuille (who had challenged Jake LaMotta for the world middle title) in two back-to-back fights in January and February 1948, before losing on points to Luc van Dam of Netherlands. And then came that famous Marcel Cerdan fight; on 23 May that year, Delannoit was the challenger to the reigning European champion Cerdan and the fight took place at Heysel Stadium in Brussels. In the first 6 rounds, Cerdan put on a passive display and was dominated by the fresher and faster challenger. In the 7th, Cerdan landed a left uppercut that put Delannoit down, but he got up at the count of 6 and proceeded to dominate until the end of the 15-round fight. Rightfully, he was proclaimed the winner. They had a rematch on 10 July, this time in Palais des Sports in Schaerbeek, Belgium. This time, Cerdan came well prepared and he put the Belgian Tarzan down four times, but each time Delannoit leapt up and went back at it. It was a true slugfest, but the knockdowns went against Cyrille and he lost his title by UD in the end.


On 6 November that year, he avenged the loss to Luc van Dam and reclaimed the European title which Cerdan had vacated, by winning on points. However, he again lost the title in his first defense, on 7 May 1949, against Tiberio Mitri of Italy, a quality fighter. It was a debacle and Delannoit was again down four times and decisively beaten in front of Belgian audience in Schaerbeek. In his very next fight on 20 June, only a month and half later, he faced Randolph Turpin in his first fight abroad. It was in Birmingham, at the football ground of Birmingham City FC, that they faced off and unfortunately, Delannoit suffered a badly cut left eye and had to give it up after 8 rounds. In his next fight, he beat Jean Stock on points, but then lost to him only a month later, also on points. On 13 May 1950, he managed to inflict a bad cut over the eye of Turpin's brother Dick and thus won by a RTD 7, which is his second-best victory. On 17 October that year, he also stopped the contender Lucien Krawczyk by TKO 4, a tough Polish-born Frenchman who also fought Cerdan and went the distance against him. He fought his most famous opponent, Sugar Ray Robinson, on 1 July 1951 and was easily stopped by TKO 3 in Torino/Turin, Italy. It was one of the few times that Delannoit was stopped, but it would mark the beginning of a downward slope. After also losing to Kid Marcel on points, he took the 1952 off before returning in 1953 and winning two fights. He was again absent for over a year before having his last fight on 27 December 1955 against Harry Mino and losing on points. He was 29, close to 30, when he retired with a record of 65 wins, 27 by ko, 15 losses and 5 draws. He has only been stopped 4 times, once due to a cut eye.


Cyrille Delannoit was very deserving of his nickname because he was a very strong, tough, athletic and brave fighter. Unfortunately, he died in poverty on 9 February 1998, a month before his 72nd birthday. He left his hometown of Geraardsbergen to live in Brussels and things didn't work out so well in the end. In 1951, at the height of his popularity, he appeared in a Belgian film. His story has been an inspiration for a documentary and a television series. The boxer-turned-artist Jean Pierre Coopman was commissioned to sculpt a statue to celebrate his famous victory over Marcel Cerdan.



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