Sunday, May 1, 2016

TBG Book Review: Debatable Decisions by Gilbert E. Odd

The Boxing Glove Sunday Night Book Review

By Peter Silkov

“Debatable Decisions By Gilbert Odd” Written by Gilbert E. Odd

The book that I am reviewing this week is another ‘classic’ by boxing historian, and editor of Boxing News, Gilbert E. Odd.  In his first book “Ring Battles of the Century” published in 1948, Odd had reminisced about some of the outstanding fights, which he had witnessed during his career as a boxing reporter, stretching back to the early 1920s. With ’Debatable Decisions,’ Gilbert Odd once more returned to the subject of memorable contests of the past, but with a new twist.

Debatable Decisions looks at 13 outstanding matches, where the action and excitement has been mixed with controversy. In these matches, the referee, in some way, being either a victim of circumstance, or a main contributing factor to a debatable event that directly affects the outcome of the clash.  The writer gives us a brief bio of both boxers taking part in each bout, then describes the build up to the fights themselves, before detailing the action that occurs in the ring.  He then pinpoints the particular event that turned each fight from a normal event, to something out of the ordinary, and asks for the reader’s opinion about whether the referee got it wrong or right.

The referee is always treated with a degree of sympathy and respect, even if at times, he has plainly got things wrong.  Having worked as a referee himself, Odd states how he knows, only too well, what a hard job the task of refereeing is, whether the fight is for a title or just a preliminary bout.

First published in 1953, Debatable Decisions recalls matches that occurred between the years 1909 and 1951.  The fights covered vary from ones that are still fairly well known today and others that have been, more or less, forgotten by today’s generation of boxing fans. 

Two of the better known fights revisited here are Jack Dempsey vs. Jess Williard for Williard’s World heavyweight title in 1919, and Randolph Turpin vs. Sugar Ray Robinson’s second fight, for the World middleweight championship in 1951. 

When Dempsey fought Willard for the world title in 1919, he came close to getting himself disqualified in the first round, despite knocking Willard down 7 times.  When the bell rang for the end of the first round, Dempsey left the ring, believing that he had already won the fight.  His action could have easily got him disqualified.

In the Turpin vs. Robinson rematch, Robinson was on the edge of a second defeat to Turpin due to a badly cut left eye, when he suddenly pulled out a blistering attack. First he floored Turpin with a huge right-hand punch, then, after Turpin had groggily beat the count, Robinson drove him onto the ropes, where he threw punch after punch as Turpin tried to duck, bob and weave, and block some of the leather coming his way. But, many of punches were landing and Turpin was not throwing anything back.  The fight then came to a sudden conclusion when the referee, Ruby Goldstein, stepped in between both fighters and called a halt, only for it to be discovered that just 8 seconds remained of the round.  Even if Turpin had gone down again, he could not have been counted out, due to the rule stating that each fighter, if knocked down, would be saved from a knockout if the bell sounded to end the round.  Odd analyses this fights debatable conclusion and asks the reader if he or she believes that if Goldstein had not stopped the action when he did, whether Turpin could have survived the remaining 8 seconds. Would Turpin have used the minutes interval between rounds to recover enough so that he would be able to get back into the fight?  The conclusion of this fight was one of the most debated ring controversies of its time.

Some of the other contests in here include Jack Doyle vs. Jack Pettifer, a showdown between two rising heavyweight prospects from 1932, Jack Britton vs. Ted kid Lewis, for the World welterweight title, from 1919, and Freddie Welsh vs. Ad Wolgast from 1916, for the World lightweight title.

The fights in this book range from world title fights, to just normal domestic contests, but they all share in common the quality of having something ‘out of the ordinary’ happen within them.

This is an excellent book for anyone who really wants to delve into some of boxing’s rich history and read about some of boxing‘s more controversial matches.  These bouts took place when boxing was indeed a much harder game than it is today, and the action in the fights described bears this out.  Gilbert Odd certainly knew his boxing and this book is a great source of ring lore for any aspiring boxing historians.  It is also a fascinating glimpse back to a time when boxing held a far more important place in every day life than it does today.

*The book contains many photographs, the photos on this page are not from the book. 

*Book available at Abe Books and Amazon:

Copyright © 2016 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to

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