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Tiberio Mitri-Trieste Tiger


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One of the best Italian boxers in the 50's, Tiberio Mitri was the European middleweight champion from 1949 to 1950 and again in 1954. He also fought for the world title against Jake LaMotta in 1950, losing on points in an admirable effort. Mitri only scored 22 ko's in 88 wins, but holds the distinction of being the only man to knock out Randy Turpin (in his prime) in only one round! He fought between 1946 and 1957 and defeated people like the aforementioned Turpin, his brother Dick, Cyrille Delannoit, Jean Stock and Laurent Dauthuille. 

Born 12 July 1926 in Trieste, he grew up in the city at the far northeast end of the Italian Adriatic Coast, right on the border with Slovenia (back then a part of Kingdom of Yugoslavia). He stood 177 cm (5'9 and half) and had a reach of 182 cm (71 and half) and was a well conditioned athlete. As a boy, Mitri had an unstable childhood, growing up in the shadow of Mussolini's Italy. His father died when he was 10, forcing his mother to make him beg in the streets for a living. He soon turned to a life of delinquency and was eventually put in a home for young troubled men, but soon escaped from it. He then joined the boxing gym in Via Rigutti, a part of Trieste, and made an impression on the trainer there, Bruno Fabris. However, second world war soon interferes with his training and he joins the Italian Navy. He returned to boxing before the end of the war, thanks to a head of the militia who was also the president of the boxing federation and freed him from service in the war.

He made his pro debut in 1946 and won his first fight by a KO 5. He went 16-0-2 before losing for the first time by a disqualification in 4 rounds against Mario Casadei, 13 September 1947.  He continued winning and on 14 March next year he won the Italian title on points against Michele Marini. He defended it once before vacating it. His first notable victory came on 22 October that same year, when he defeated the future world title challenger Laurent Dauthuille of France on points. Already on 29 November that year, he squared off against Dick Turpin in an eliminator for the European title, at Royal Albert Hall. Turpin jabbed while Mitri was the aggressor and had a strong rally in the final round-but it was only enough for a draw. They had to fight again and did so on 12 March 1949, but this time in Trieste. The fight was similar to the first one, but Mitri had a big eleventh round which eventually gave him the victory on points after 12 rounds. 

He then went to Schaerbeek in Belgium to fight the Euro champion Cyrille Delannoit on 7 May and the underdog from Trieste emerged victorious after flooring Delannoit four times and decisively beating him to win on points after 15 rounds. "Trieste Tiger" was now the Euro champion, after 3 years as a pro. He then had no less than 7 non-title fights before defending for the first time against Jean Stock of France, who held wins over both Delannoit and Randy Turpin. Mitri had fought him once already, in April 1948, and beaten him on points. This time would be no different, despite the fight being held in Paris, 12 December '49. Mitri won decisively after 15 rounds. He then landed a fight for the New Yorrk State Athletic Commission version of the world title, against Jake LaMotta. He naturally had to go over to New York and fight "Raging Bull" in Madison Square Garden on 12 July 1950.  Mitri was hit on the left eye in round 6 but gave as good as he took, however he faded in the late rounds and lost the championship rounds, and with them also the fight. One judge however only had LaMotta winning by one point and another by three. Only the scoring referee had it clearly for LaMotta by 12-3.

Having failed at world stage, Mitri went back to fighting in Europe. 1951 was not a good year for him because he lost to Claude Ritter and Charles Humez, both on points, but still he managed to win enough fights to again get to fight for the European title. Randy Turpin was now the reigning champion and the two faced off on 2 May 1954 in Rome. In an amazing upset, Mitri caught the Englishman with a strange punch under the right ear and down went Turpin! Despite getting up, he then stumbled across the ring and into the ropes and the fight was waved off, after only 1 minute and 5 seconds! There couldn't be a better way to reclaim your title. In his next fight however, a non-title one, he lost on points to Gordon Hazell in London, but then avenged the loss by TKO 6 in Rome. And then, on 13 November same year, he experienced his worst loss and the only one by knockout when he took on Charles Humez again and was dropped three times in round 3 and stopped by TKO. He thus lost his European title, in front of Italian crowd in MIlan. 

That was pretty much it for Tiberio Mitri as a successful or relevant fighter and he continued fighting but against lesser fighters and lost once more on points to Jimmy Elliott in Harare, Zimbabwe, of all places. After winning 6 more fights, the last one on 21 September 1957, he retired, at the age of 31. He won 88 fights, 22 by ko as mentioned, lost 7 and drew 6. He became a film actor already in 1951 and continued to do that for a while after retiring. However, he developed a Cocaine addiction and was arrested for it in 1970 and 1980 and also lost his eldest son to drugs in 1981 and a daughter to AIDS. He later developed Alzheimer's and died of it aged 74, on 12 February 2001. His final movie appearance had been in 1995's "Boxers". In 2011, a miniseries was shown about his life on Italian television. 

Tiberio Mitri was a true tiger in the ring, no doubt, but it seems his love of the glitz and glamour and his movie career interfered with his ring career. He was also married to Miss Italy and being in the spotlight constantly obviously wasn't easy and living as a top boxer should at the same time. Whatever the truth, he was a world class fighter for most of his career, who went in there to slug it out and was tough and game. He was also obviously hardened by his difficult life as a child and adolescent. Here's to you, Tiberio Mitri.



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