Wednesday, December 05, 2007

YOUNG FIRPO ; THE WILD BULL OF BURKE by John A. Bardelli and Frederick K. Bardelli

This article is printed here with the express permission of the author of this article, John A. Bardelli, the son of Guido "Young Firpo" Bardelli. It is a fine tribute to his father.



YOUNG FIRPO

THE WILD BULL OF BURKE

By John A. Bardelli and
Frederick K. Bardelli

Guido Bardelli was born in Barre, Vermont in 1907. When his father died in Vermont, his mother moved the Bardelli family to northern Idaho, ultimately settling in the mountainous mining town of Burke.

To try to capture the essence of Guido Bardelli, the man, and Young Firpo, the fighter, within the limited framework of this capsule summary, is nigh on impossible to do. However, the following will give the reader a glimpse of the greatness of Young Firpo, the fighter, who was often described by a legion of fans and many boxing writers during the 1920s and 1930s as the "uncrowned light heavyweight champion of the world."

Guido bypassed a fling at amateur fighting and engaged in his first professional fight in Mullan, Idaho as a 17 year old against Ben Grenich, a seasoned ring campaigner. The fight lasted one punch from the right hand of teenage Guido. Grenich was knocked out and he was only able to leave the ring with the assistance of his cornermen after regaining his senses.

Nicknamed "Young Firpo" by an old time fighter and trainer, who had seen similarities in Guido to Luis Firpo of Argentina, Guido Bardelli soon became recognized as a knockout sensation unlike any fighter witnessed throughout the history of Pacific Northwest boxing.
A dozen or so fights and he had the Coeur d'Alene Mining District and the Pacific Northwest in his grasp for the combination of his physique, quicksilver feet, hand speed and dynamite
punching power, captured the imagination of fight fans who realized that within their midst was the makings of a world champion.

He was called "Young Firpo" by the media and "Guido" or "Firp" by those closest to him. The media also tagged him with the sobriquet of "the Wild Bull of Burke." Young Firpo's fighting style and vicious punching was described by sport's writers of the time, including the likes of L.H. Gregory, Don McCloud, Dan Walton, Billy Stepp, and Reddy Gallagher, in terms that dramatically recognized that Young Firpo was unique in the annals of boxing history. For example, in a 1937 Portland Oregonian editorial, Gregory wrote "There's only one Young Firpo on earth. No other battler, anywhere, fights as he does. His is one of those peculiar styles a man has to be born with."

L.H. Gregory, the dean of Pacific Northwest boxing writers, in a 1971 Portland Oregonian editorial, recalled the exploits of Young Firpo when he described Firpo and wrote that he had "never seen more active fighting in the ring," in more than fifty years as a sports writer, than the "sensational," overwhelming force of Young Firpo. "Young Firpo was unforgettable,”” he wrote.

His fight career commenced in 1924 and he retired from the ring in 1937. There were many great light heavyweights during that era and Young Firpo's record reveals that he took on all who were willing to enter the ring with him. As one's mind drifts to a bygone era, the names and visages of some of the opponents he faced ... Harry Dillon, Jimmy Darcy, Del Fontaine, Pete Cerkan, Frankie Wine, Ray Pelkey, Dusty Miller, Dutch Weimer, George Dixon, Leroy Brown, Tiger Thomas, Fred Lenhart, Leo Lomski, Wesley KO Ketchell, George Manley, KO White, Tiger Jack Fox, and John Henry Lewis ... eventually emerge from the shadows of the past and into the ring spotlight, again awaiting the clang of the bell to face the lethal and sensational punching capabilities of Young Firpo. Unfortunately for boxing history, what would have been epic matches with Mickey Walker and Maxie Rosenbloom, were canceled over gate disputes.

Firpo's first venture to the Pacific Coast from his home in Burke, Idaho, gave boxing fans on the coast a foretaste of what was to come. He was matched with seasoned campaigner Ray Pelkey from Oakland, California on January 7, 1930. Billy Stepp wrote in the Portland News Telegram, "Firpo has a punch in either hand ... he swings his right but whips his lefts sharp and true ... he hit Ray on the chin with one and when they picked the veteran up he was a fistic wreck. Pelky was out at midnight and the fight ended about 9:40 p.m.... Pelky had Firpo all figured at the start of the second canto, but a right spun Ray up against the rope and a long left sent him back on his heels, and a six-inch bullet like left did the business. Pelky fell face forward into the resin....'Hardest punch I ever took" said Pelky after the fight. 'He's a murderous puncher."

Firpo's four fights with the sensational slugger Wesley KO Ketchell may, indeed, rank on a par with the great series of fights engaged in by any fighters throughout the history of boxing. One such fight held on November 18, 1930, their first encounter, was captured by the pen of Don McCloud, of the Portland Oregonian who wrote:

YOUNG FIRPO PUTS INDIAN SIGN ON WES
By DON MCLEOD

He was K.O. Ketchell, the slayer.

Now he’s K.O. Ketchell, the slain.

The blond youngster, whose dynamiting left hand has blasted more than one ring career, toppled in six rounds before the driving, sturdy arms of Young Firpo, man of every possible fighting style, at the Auditorium last night.

There have been lots of fight in Portland, and there’ll be many more, but none could possibly
have more action than that furnished by Ketchell and Firpo, particularly in the sixth and final
round.

With knockdowns even at one a-piece, the two leather-pushers tore out at the opening of the
sixth, and Firpo was the first to land, a fearful right smash to the face. Twice more his deadly
right swished out and each time connected with a jolting force to Ketchell’s face. Just when he seemed destined for a hurried trip to the canvas, Wesley, the lion-hearted, ripped in with that terrible left. The leathered mitt landed flush on Firpo’s jaw and the husky Burke miner spun back on his heels. But only for an instant. And then, like the savage of primitive days, he leaped in for the kill.

WEST TAKES BASTING

How may times he hit K.O. perhaps none will ever know.

The most accurate estimate was plenty. The southpaw, tottering helplessly around the ring, a simple target for the bounding, weaving Italian, finally fell before the vicious onslaught, limply slumping to the floor.

He stayed there for a nine count and in some miraculous manner pulled himself up, only to be greeted by another flurry of punches, each one powerful enough to make a wooden Indian smile.

Right then, Ketchell was a beaten man. But he wasn’t outgamed.

Barely able to keep his hand aloft and totally unable to offer any resistance to the excited Firpo’s rushes, Wesley staked everything on one last punch his deadly left. But it missed the target.

Crashing through the resined air, the portside flipper landed on the Idaho battlers shoulder
forceful enough to jar him but not true enough to do any material damage.

This last desperate bid gone, Ketchell had no chance. He took a dozen more rights and lefts and, catching a final straight right on his chin, groggily toppled over. Counting him out was but a formality.

Firpo, for all his eccentricities and weird boxing style is no fool in the ring. He proved this last
night when, to offset Ketchell’s lethal left, fought Ketchell from a southpaw stance for five of the six rounds.

HAS WES FOXED

This unexpected bit of strategy bewildered Ketchell, and he seldom had the opportunity to crash home with his pet hand. Firpo took an early lead, scoring a knockdown in the opening round.

Rushing Wesley against the ropes, the Italian snaked out his sharpshooting right and down went K.O. He was up at the count of two, but from then on was a much more cautious boy.
Firpo dropped his southpaw habits in the fourth, and by so doing, nearly got killed. His chin
turned in line with Wesley’s cocked left, Guido Bardelli, as his parents would have him known, rushed in with his typical weave.

It was the spot Ketchell had been awaiting all night. Deliberately taking a couple of blows,
Ketchell suddenly lashed out with his murderous left,landing squarely under Firpo’s heart. The surprised and hurt miner fell back and was crowded to the ropes. Wesley lammed a few more home and Firpo sat down, apparently to escape further punishment. He was on his feet after a short count, and from then to the thrilling finish had all the best of the argument. A rematch between the two seems a natural.

Ketchell came back from that knockout to decision Firpo over 10 rounds on June 22, 1931, in a thrilling and vicious rematch filled with slugging exchange after exchange throughout the ten rounds. Clearly, Ketchell now had Firpo’s attention .... and lifelong respect.

On November 29, 1932, southpaw Wesley KO Ketchell delivered a terrible beating to the
Nebraska Wildcat, Ace Hudkins, flooring Hudkins, breaking his ribs, and nearly knocking
Hudkins out to win the Pacific Coast Light-Heavyweight title.

Now, a superbly confident Wesley KO Ketchell's many fights removed from being knocked out by Young Firpo, clamored to make his first defense of the Pacific Coast Title and accepted the challenge of the Wild Bull of Burke and the encased leather fists of Young Firpo. What was delivered by each fighter was a epic war that has gone down in the annals of boxing history as a premiere slugfest. With wins even at one each, this third tour de force between Firpo and Ketchell took place on January 24, 1933, also in Portland, Oregon. L.H. Gregory, the sport's editor of the Portland Oregonian covered the fight and left us with this classic piece of journalism:

FIRPO POUNDS OUT WIN OVER KETCHELL
IDAHO MAULER TAKES DECISION IN FURIOUS FIGHT

Both Battlers Score Knockdowns in Red-Hot Main Event at Auditorium

By L. H. GREGORY

When they talk in years to come about great fights and fighters they have seen, tell them how Guido Bardelli, otherwise, Young Firpo, the bull from Burke, won the light heavyweight
championship of the Pacific coast from Wesley (Kayo) Ketchell at the Portland auditorium last night in ten gory, terrific rounds.

Tell them how the sawed-off thick-set Idaho miner bobbed, bounced and slugged his way to the title and how 3105 fans who were almost beside themselves with excitement, stood up and roared when Referee Louttit lifted his hand at the end of a wildly sensational tenth.

Tell em how less than 20 seconds to go Firpo had stopped one of Ketchell’s terrific left-hand
smashes on his chin, had dropped for eight, and then picked himself up to get the decision.

But tell them at the same the same time that this was only one of five knockdowns, and how
Wesley Ketchell, dropped four times by Firpo’s swings, courageously fought through to the
finish, with enough left at the end to drop Firpo and almost turn the tables with that one punch.

Tell them also how the lion-hearted Ketchell hit the floor three times in a long-to-be remembered seventh round, each time for the full count of nine.

How impossible it looked for him to rise even after the first one, a smashing right to the chin that dropped him flat on his face, whence he rolled on his back.

Yet how he got up at nine and forge in, only to stop another, again for nine, and still a third time hit the floor, dead to the world in everything but lion-hearted courage, and once against
staggered to his feet.

And then tell them how, in the very next round, the eighth, this same battered, hammered,
swollen and bleeding, Ketchell, giving away the handicap of more than 12 pounds in weight,
strode from his corner, began talking to Firpo, daring him to come in and slug, then stood toe to toe with him and traded wallop, as first one, then the other, not once, merely, but several times, hammered each other to the ropes.

It was the great fight of this year, and one of the greatest ever battled in a Portland ring.
Young Firpo deserved the decision. No question at all about that. He out-boxed Ketchell, out-
knocked him down. It stood one no-count knock-down in the second, three nine- counters in the seventh for Firpo, to the one eight-count knockdown of the tenth in Ketchell’s favor.

And also Firpo out-foxed Ketchell, out-maneuvered him, as well as out-punching him, by fighting the entire ten rounds from a baffling southpaw stance, although normally a right-hander.

It was that southpaw stance, as well as Firpo’s unconventional way of punching that really beat Ketchell. He never could solve Firpo’s left-handed style to get home his own deadly southpaw left.

But you never can take away from Wesley Ketchell the great, courageous, though losing, fight he made of it, and the bare breath by which he missed sending Firpo to the long count with that tenth-round smash.

Only three times in earlier rounds did Ketchell succeed in getting past the point of Firpo’s left
shoulder and smacking in the left so that it noticeably hurt. And never once did he land it really solid until the tenth.

In the third, after being knocked down himself in the second, he really shook Firpo to his
whiskers with a sudden short, explosive left. Firpo staggered, almost wen down, then came in more tigerishly than ever.

And in the eighth, the round in which dared him, challenged him to fight, twice he knocked Firpo half through the ropes. But Firpo always came back. The bull from Burke was a real bull last night.

Firpo weighed 175 to Ketchell’s 162 3/4, a weight differential of 12 1/4 pounds.

After capturing the Pacific Coast Light Heavyweight Title by dethroning Ketchell, and engaging in multiple defenses, the consensus was that it might be easier to win the Light Heavyweight Championship of the World than it was to dethrone the Pacific Coast Light Heavyweight Champion, at least while the title was being held by Young Firpo. Included among those who sought to dethrone Young Firpo, but who failed in the process, were George Manley, the railroader from Denver who perennially contended for the light heavyweight throne; Wesley KO Ketchell, the sensational southpaw knockout slugger who ruined many an aspirant's career; Tiger Jack Fox, a product of Indianapolis and one of boxing's all-time leading knockout artists; and John Henry Lewis, generally recognized as one of the top ten light heavyweights of all time.

Early in 1934, Young Firpo and Maxie Rosenbloom signed to fight for the light heavyweight
championship, the match to take place in Portland during the Summer. As reported in a Butte, Montana, newspaper, the following captured the high regard Firpo was held by a legion of boxing writers:

“Young Firpo, light heavyweight champion of the Pacific Coast, rated in the February issue of the boxing magazine as being the seventh greatest 170 pounder in the world, arrived in Butte from his home in Idaho yesterday to visit with his trainer, Mel Epstein. Firpo is signed to fight Maxie Rosenbloom for the title this summer at Multnomah Stadium in Portland, Ore. The bout is scheduled to go 15 rounds and will be the first title bout ever held in the coast city.

Many sports writers of the Pacific Coast who have seen the Idaho miner in action give him an
even chance to take Rosenbloom's crown. A terrific puncher with an unorthodox style of milling, Firpo has become the most sought-after fighter in the West.

The Wild Bull of Idaho holds two wins over Leo Lomski, stopped Wesley Ketchell, Roy Williams, and George Manley while he also defeated Tom Patrick, and George Dixon, besides a score of other first class fighters.

Firpo will remain in Butte for several weeks and will start light training here in a few days for
pending bouts in Minneapolis, St. Louis and Chicago. Plans are afoot to have Firpo fight one of the world's best light heavies here this month.

Tragically, a disagreement over Firpo's percentage of the gate receipts lead to the cancellation of what would have been a classic match between the "terrific puncher" and a stylist --- the relentless slugging and blinding speed of Young Firpo against the defensive wizardry of title holder "Slapsy" Maxie Rosenbloom. Later in the year, in the spring of 1934, while enroute to Butte, Montana, to fight Gorilla Jones, Young Firpo was involved in a life threatening car wreck where he suffered serious injuries. At the time, the injuries, which hampered him for the balance of his career, were thought to signify the end of his ring career. He was hospitalized and following his release from the hospital, he sought to recuperate within the beloved and rugged mountains enveloping his home in Burke, Idaho. As he started to get his strength back by the late summer of 1934, the Portland Boxing establishment sought again to match Rosenbloom and Young Firpo.

The fight was to be a non-title affair although, Firpo's Pacific Coast title was to be on the line.
Again, inexplicably, the fight fell through. Instead, the Portland establishment offered Firpo a
"tune-up" fight with none other than Tiger Jack Fox, who had made a name for himself in the
boxing world. Firpo ducked none and accepted the challenge and put his coast Light Heavyweight championship on the line against Fox who entered the fight as a heavy favorite due to Firpo's injuries and inactivity as well as the sensational punching display made on the coast by the Tiger, John Linwood Fox.

Firpo, however, rose to the challenge and in an epic August 28,1934, slugfest, which saw both fighters on the canvas in the 5th round, Firpo successfully defended his title against Fox who also has gone on to be generally recognized as one of the all time great Light Heavyweights in the history of boxing.

The Portland Oregonian described the fifth round, "Firpo was the first to be knocked down. Firp has just crashed an awful left to Fox's face. The colored man suddenly retaliated with a savage rush in which his long arms swung like pistons, throwing fearful punches to Firpo's face and stomach. A right to the chin sent Firpo to his haunches near the ropes. Almost instantly, and before the referee could count, Firpo had bobbed up again - - - and the Bull came up fighting. As he rose his arms were flailing. A left and right smashed Tiger Jack on the chin, and in turn he sank to the floor. Fox also was up almost instantly but not until Referee Louttit had tolled a count of one over him. Fox at once rushed Firpo to the ropes. In a wild clinch there he bent the Burke miner's body backwards until it looked as though he would break him in two. Referee Louttit dashed in and pried them apart, then gave Fox a vigorous warning for rough battling. The sensational round was not yet over. Firpo charged Fox and belted him an awful left to the chin.

He bobbed to the floor in his famous crouch, shut up again swinging, and a right half knocked
and half pushed Fox through the ropes and to his haunches. Referee Louttit evidently considered it a shove rather than a punch for he helped Fox to his feet and did not count. Just at the bell, Firpo uncorked a fierce right to Fox's belly.... On the score by rounds, Firpo took five, Fox three and two were even including the tenth."

The Portland, Oregon, boxing establishment was excited in believing, seemingly, that Firpo had lost little of the greatness that he exhibited prior to his being injured in the car accident while traveling to Butte.

Another challenger to Firpo's Pacific Coast title emerged out of Phoenix, Arizona by way of San Francisco. This was the sensational teenage conqueror of the then Light Heavyweight Champion of the World, Maxie Rosenbloom, none other than John Henry Lewis. Lewis on his march to the World Light Heavyweight title and ultimate recognition as one of the greatest light heavyweights of all time, as was Fox, challenged Firpo and the Wild Bull heartily accepted Lewis's challenge for a shot at Firpo's Pacific Coast title.

On September 20, 1934, a youthful and vibrant John Henry Lewis stepped into the ring to swap leather with the great Italian slugger. The Portland Multonomah Stadium crowd witnessed a sensational fight that saw Lewis monopolize the early rounds only to witness Firpo turn the slugging match completely around with a barrage of sensational slugging which had Lewis virtually out on his feet in both the sixth and seventh rounds. A portion of the sixth round was captured by Billy e who wrote: "Firpo's lefts and rights connected. One right almost tore Lewis' head off, and if ever a fighter folded, John Henry did, and like an old-fashioned canvas bag."

Here is more fight coverage of the Firpo-Lewis encounter as captured by Billy Stepp in Portland News-Telegram:

FIRPO STAGES GREAT BATTLE AGAINST LEWIS

by Billy Stepp, Sports Editor News-Telegram

With defeat staring him in the face, Young Firpo, the lion-hearted miner from the sagebrush of Burke, Ida., staged a sensational rally to fight himself to a draw in 10 torrid rounds with John Henry Lewis, the colored boxing master from Phoenix, Ariz., in the headline brawl at the stadium last night before more than 6000 fans who almost went into hysterics as the two light-heavyweights fought round by round.

Referee Tom Louttit's decision was met with a terrific roar of music that put the Bronx on the
Rand-McNally. Nine out of ten looked upon the Bull as the winner after his zero-hour attack on the colored boy.

The writer's scorebook showed the first, third, fourth and fifth in favor of Lewis who autographed the miner with everything in his category of pet socks, but none made the wild man quit walking in.

The sixth, seventh, eight and ninth were given Firpo, while the second and tenth were even-steven.

John Henry started off to make it a one-side affair by plastering Firpo with straight lefts and
rights in the first round, while Firp didn't land a punch.

Firp landed his first punch of the fight in the second heat, a wild right crashed against Lewis' jaw, and he staggered back, but quickly fought off the Bull's attack.

In the third Lewis again opened up with his long left that blew Firpo's schnozz a burning red and the claret dripped.

Firpo let one fly from nowhere in the fourth and John's nose got in the way and the red ink
dripped. Lewis quickly punched Firpo around the ring with both hands.

In the fifth, Lewis' long range guns kept booming on Firpo's face and a right dropped into the
bread basket to say, Morning, Samuel, while Firpo went around aimlessly trying to connect on the huge brown-skinned battler.

The sixth Firpo clipped over a few teasers but Lewis held his ground and evened the round.
Firpo bounced up and down, and a wild swing found a resting spot on Lewis' jaw, and his knees buckled. That was like a streak from a blue sky to Firp and he opened with a savage attack of haymakers that bewildered the Arizona boy. It was the miner's big inning.

And again in the seventh Firp kept his relentless wild-swinging barrage that had Lewis looking for shelter. The boy whom the N.B.A. picked as a probable world's light-heavyweight successor to Rosenbloom was losing his early lead.

Firpo kept swinging like a bar room door on a busy day. His left and rights missed and some
connected. One right almost tore Lewis' head off, and if ever a fighter folded, John Henry did,
and like an old-fashioned canvas bag.

Firpo , with victory looming on his face after four rounds of terrific battling, was weak and in fact so was Lewis. The two tore into the final three minutes with nothing barred. John H. dropped three far below the belt, while Firpo almost untied Lewis' shoes with an uppercut. It looked for a second that the miner was going to blow the duke as he hung on, but with 10 seconds left on the ticker came Firp and he almost tore Lewis' dome off with two haymakers that were thrown from the 50 yard line.

The bell ended the 30 minute party and, of course, Referee Louttit's decision caused a near riot. It was O.K., but if a winner was to be picked yours truly would have to give the silverware to the Bull of Burke, who certainly turned what looked like a defeat into a moral victory.

Two other ringside writers wrote:

The large crowd of 7,000 booed Referee Tom Louttit's decision for five minutes after arms of both gladiators were raised.

Although officially declared a draw, every sports writer and the majority of the spectators thought Firpo the winner. The once wild-swinging unorthodox Firpo, nee Guido Bardelli, is now a shifting, sharpshooting demon who had the Negro on the verge of a K.O. several times in the bout.

The fans booed the referee’s decision by varying newspaper accounts between 5 and 10 minutes. However, as the evening drew to a close, Lewis knew he was fortunate to leave Portland for San Francisco still a viable contender for the world light heavyweight championship rather than having been carted or assisted to his dressing room as so many other of Firpo's opponents had including the likes of Ben Grenich, Mike Brotherton, Buck Ladeaux, KO White, Ray Pelkey, Wesley Ketchell, George Manley, Leroy Brown, Nash Garrison, and a host of others.

Firpo challenged and sought for years to engage world light heavyweight champion Maxie
Rosenbloom into a title fight but his efforts were in vain. Similarly, after Bob Olin won the
championship Firpo challenged Olin to defend his title but this challenge, too, fell on deaf ears. After Olin had taken the title from Rosenbloom, Firpo wired a Spokane promoter: "Will fight Fox, Lewis, Rosenbloom or Olin. I fear no man."

Ironically, after John Henry Lewis defeated Bob Olin in 1935 to take the light heavyweight crown, Firpo challenged Lewis who refused to risk losing his title to Young Firpo, perhaps having in mind their prior encounter when Lewis was given a shot at Firpo's own Pacific Coast light heavyweight title on September 20, 1934. The words written by Billy Stepp, following their Portland slugfest, had become prophetic: "Try and get 'em down for a rematch ... yes, just try and get Lewis to go into that ring again. Firpo would but try the other chap." Lewis' management wanted no part of risking the title and lucrative paydays in defending it against lesser lights.

Young Firpo, on the downside of his career at the time, was still recognized as too dangerous to the Lewis entourage.

Throughout his entire ring career, with the exception of a brief interlude as a teenager while his career was starting and he was in the managerial hands of Chuck Snyder, Young Firpo never had a fight manager. He trusted no one who called himself a manager. Irrespective, Mel Epstein became his trainer for a great many of his fights during the 1930s and it was Epstein who was in the ring with Young Firpo during many stirring epic battles including those he had with Leo Lomski, Tiger Jack Fox, Wesley KO Ketchell, and John Henry Lewis.

In a late November, 1971, gathering of boxing notables in Los Angeles, a Mel Epstein trained and managed fighter, Rick Farris, was invited by Suey Welsh to attend a luncheon where
approximately 18 boxing notables had gathered. Welsh knew that Farris had a natural affinity for the history of boxing.

Mel Epstein had touted the seemingly unbelievable exploits and punching power of Young Firpo to an impressionable Rick Farris in striving to point out to Farris what Epstein had seen and been exposed to during his association with Young Firpo in terms of Firpo's strength, punching power, and endurance to the point that Farris began to challenge Epstein's credibility. Undoubtedly, Epstein, as a fight manager, was motivating and Farris was not buying into all of what was being offered to him.

Included at the Los Angeles luncheon were Jimmy McLarnin, Gorilla Jones, George Parnassus, Suey Welch, Mel Epstein, Henry Armstrong, Ike Williams, Enrique Bolanos, Lou Nova, Mike Mazurki and others. Fighter-historian Rick Farris was absorbed and awe stricken as he listened boxing story after boxing story emanate from the mouths and hearts of those in whose company he had been invited. Farris' ears were heightened when he heard the name "Young Firpo" mentioned by George Parnassus in a conversation with McLarnin and others.

At this point, seeking more than anything a desire to test the credibility of his own fight manager, Mel Epstein, Farris entered into the discussion by asking George Parnassus, "How good was this Young Firpo?" Before Parnassus could answer the question, Jimmy McLarnin responded to Farris' inquiry by stating, "Oh, ... let me just tell you that Young Firpo was the greatest fighter I ever saw!"

Then, without a break in the conversation, both McLarnin and Parnassus offered their respective opinions that "Young Firpo was the hardest hitting light heavyweight I have ever seen." To drive the point home further, Parnassus stated to Rick Farris, "You think that Bob Foster can hit hard? Young Firpo could hit harder than any of them, including Archie Moore and Bob Foster," a point which was affirmed by Jimmy McLarnin whose career, incidentally, paralleled that of Young Firpo during the 1920s and 1930s. McLarnin, hailing from Vancouver, British Columbia, had seen Firpo fight on the Pacific Coast many times during Firpo's reign of terror.

Up until the date of his death, fighter trainer and manager Mel Epstein lamented to all who would listen, the fact that, in Young Firpo, he had a world's champion in his grasp and, like water slipping through one's fingers, that championship eluded him as it had eluded Young Firpo.

Epstein stated in a 1970s interview that "Before that damn car wreck, Firpo was unbeatable, he was practically unbeatable! Whose gonna beat him?"

Although Young Firpo never won the light heavyweight championship of the world, perhaps Billy Stepp summed up his fight career in a single sentence. Stepp wrote near the sunset of Firpo's career: "A world's champion was Young Firpo if ever there was one." But then, again, as his family and friends so well understood, there was much more to Guido Bardelli than the world of boxing or any world championship.

3 comments:

brian said...

(I'm finally a contributor to a cool group,thanks man)...and that was some story.Like Mel Epstein-I don't know why Rosenbloom wouldn't fight him;Rosenbloom fought tons of non-title fights-if he didn't want to risk his title-and also fought in Idaho.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to know.

Anonymous said...

NOW I UNDERSTAND THAT I HAVE BLOOD AS A FIGHTER BARDELLI

Leandro Bardelli

leandro.bardelli@hotmail.com

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