La Barba was the undisputed king of his division. After winning the gold medal at the 1924 Olympics, he had quickly turned professional and taken the American flyweight crown from Frankie Genaro on August 22, 1925. He captured the World Flyweight title by defeating Elky Clark in New York on January 21, 1927.
La Barba's first fight after gaining the world title was against Johnny Vacca, the "Midget Organ Grinder," in Boston on February 14, 1927. Vacca defeated La Barba, but the title was not on the line. Again, on March 22, 1927 La Barba met Vacca in Boston; again Vacca defeated La Barba; and again the title was not on the line.
David "Newsboy Brown" Montrose had also previously fought La Barba twice. On April 17, 1925, four months before La Barba took the American flyweight title, the two had fought to a draw in Hollywood. After La Barba took the American crown, they fought to another draw in Vernon, California on October 5, 1926, but that was before La Barba held the world title, and the U. S. title was not on the line either.
By the time Brown and Vacca were to meet at the Olympic, La Barba had still not defended his title despite eight non-title bouts in the interim. Brown and Vacca were clearly the leading contenders.
Vacca, in his first fight with La Barba, floored the champion four times and had him on the brink of a knockout. That fight drew $7,780, of which La Barba received a flat guarantee of $5,000 and Vacca did not get a cent from the gate receipts. In fact, Johnny Buckley, Vacca's manager, had to dig into his own pocket and gave Johnny $500 for his triumph. In the second fight, Vacca made a little money, but the champion again received the lion's share. Vacca, who emigrated with his family from Italy to Brighton, Massachusetts as a youth, had received so little for his professional boxing achievements that he continued to work the streets as an organ grinder with his trained monkey.
Brown, who emigrated from Russia with his family to Sioux City, Iowa as a youth, was the slight favorite, having won seven fights so far that year, scoring knockouts in two of them. He had whipped former flyweight champ Frankie Genaro twice. In the first of those bouts, Brown had thrashed Genaro worse than La Barba did in winning the title from Genaro shortly earlier at Ascot Park.
A crowd of 12,000 witnessed 10 dizzy rounds in the main at the Olympic Auditorium on the night of June 14. After Vacca floored the Newsboy with a right to the chin in the second round, Brown hopped back up at the count of two with his legs wobbly and his brain scrambled. He shook the cobwebs from his head, ducked, weaved and dodged the terrific bombardment that Vacca unloosed, and from the third round to the tenth put up a masterful fight. It was a "Brown house" -- especially after he recuperated from that belt on his whiskers.
It was rumored that Brown had broken a bone in his right hand in training and would be unable to use that duke. It is still unknown whether that was just gym gossip or the truth. However, the round-by-round report below shows that Brown seldom used that right hand which was his most potent weapon. It was Brown's right that had sent Young Nationalista into Dream Street and his right that gave La Barba such a stiff argument in their two meetings at catchweight. If, as reported, Brown's right hand was injured and he was allowed to go on notwithstanding, the Los Angeles end of the State Athletic Commission could have been subject to a shake-up.
Nevertheless, it did not appear that any permanent damage was done to the Newsboy's hand, and the gamboleers who won on Brown were jubilant. Below is a round-by-round description of the fight as called by the Los Angeles Examiner.
Vacca landed a light left jab and hook to the head. He snapped Brown's head back with another left jab. Brown missed tow left leads to the body. Both were missing. Brown's first punch was a light left jab to Vacca's nose. Brown ducked under a wild right hand. They were doing a lot of dancing and fainting, but not much punching. Vacca landed a light left and missed a wicked right cross to the chin. Brown hooked a left to the ribs. They wrestled in and out of tow clinches, neither landing a punch. Brown hooked a hard left to Vacca's kidneys. Vacca missed a left and sunk a right to Brown's stomach. Brown blocked a right to the head and took a left to the stomach. They were tugging and clinching frequently. A short right hook to the head was blocked by Vacca, who took the round.
Vacca landed two light lefts to the stomach and pulled Brown into a clinch. Brown hooked a hard left to the stomach and followed with another. Vacca dropped Brown with a hard right hook to the chin. He got up at the count of two, out on his feet, and staggering. Vacca rushed in, nailing him with hard rights and lefts to the stomach, but Brown hung on desperately. Brown apparently snapped out of it quickly, coming back to the attack with a left hook to the head. Vacca clipped Brown with a short left hook to the chin, crossing his right high to the cheek. Brown did some alert dodging in the next minute, ducking under and away from the terrific Vacca rushes. Brown came back strong toward the close of the round, hooking two hard lefts to Vacca's chin and missing a wild haymaker. They closed the round cautiously, with Brown apparently over the effects of the knockdown. Vacca's round.
Both missed leads and went into a clinch. Vacca started throwing his punches and Brown easily hopped out of the way. Brown snapped a left to the stomach and took a right in return. Vacca landed a left to the stomach and took one in return. Brown chased Vacca into the ropes, missing a right and left to the body. Brown was measuring his punches poorly, standing too far away when swinging. Vacca snapped a left jab to the chin. Vacca hooked a vicious right to the heart. Brown scored with two lefts to the stomach and followed with two hooks to the head. Brown missed a left lead to the head and took a snappy wallop to the body as a result. Vacca let fly his haymaking right hand again, grazing Brown's chin. Vacca blocked a left lead to the head. Vacca's round.
Brown missed a left bo the head and followed with a right. Vacca was the aggressor, chasing Brown around the ring with the latter avoiding most of his punches. Brown was punching wildly and missing badly. Vacca hooked a hard right to the head. In a clinch Brown scored with two light lefts to the body. Brown drove a hard left to Vacca's stomach, crossed a right to his heart and they clinched. Vacca blocked a left for the chin. Vacca missed another looping haymaker, Brown ducking under the punch. In a clinch Vacca snapped Brown's head back with a left uppercut. Vacca drew blood from Brown's nose with a straight left. Brown hooked a hard left to the stomach and they clinched. Once more Vacca was short with a right and then almost spilled himself with a wild left that Brown dodged. Brown scored with three hard lefts to the stomach. Vacca hooked a hard left to the chin as the bell rang. Even round.
Brown sent a short left to the stomach. Brown sent Vacca into the ropes with a left and right to the stomach. The pace was notably slower than in the first three rounds. Brown landed a left, Vacca a right. Vacca snapped Brown's head back with a short right uppercut. Brown sent tow hooks to Vacca's head and followed with a snappy left to the stomach. Brown was not using his right hand which seemed to bear out the story coming from the gymnasium that he had injured it. Vacca landed a left to the body and then Brown backed him against the ropes, hooking three lefts to the stomach. With Vacca wide open for a right-hand punch, Brown started the blow and then changed his mind. Brown hooked two hard lefts to the stomach. Brown's round.
Vacca rushed Brown into the ropes, missing three left hooks. Vacca missed another wild right to the head and they both sent lefts to the stomach. Brown used his right hand in a clinch, but he delivered a weak blow with it. In a clinch Brown hooked a left to the stomach and tried again with his right. Vacca sunk a hard left to Brown's heart, but the newsboy bounded back with two vicious rights to Vacca's stomach. Brown was forcing the fighting both in the clinches and out of them. Vacca's misses were counting against him. Vacca was short with a right lead. Brown hooked him with a right and left to the stomach. Brown sent two lefts to the stomach and took a hard right in return. They slugged away at each other's body for an even exchange, with Vacca breaking ground first. Brown scored with two lefts to the head while Vacca was in full retreat. Brown's round.
Vacca missed a left to the stomach and Brown ducked under another wild right. Brown sent a stiff left to the stomach and one to the head. In a clinch Vacca scored with a left and right to the body, but they were light punches. Vacca missed a left to the body and followed with another miss to the head. Brown sent a left to the stomach and one to the head. In a clinch Brown tried to use his right hand again, landing one on Vacca's chin. Brown hooked a nice left to the head. Vacca missed two leads. The only time Brown was using his right was in the clinches. Brown missed a right to the head and crossed a left to Vacca's chin. He followed with another left hook. Vacca drove a straight left to the stomach and Brown came back with one in the same spot. Vacca sunk a left to the stomach as the bell rang. Round even.
They exchanged light body punches and then clinched. Brown jabbed lightly to the head twice, Vacca coming back with a hook to the stomach. Coming out of a clinch Brown scored with a right uppercut. Brown missed a left to the body but crossed a right to the head. Vacca missed two right leads and then jabbed with his left to the head. Brown was bobbing and weaving and getting away from a lot of Vacca's rushes. Vacca sent two straight lefts to the head and Brown hooked a left to the body. Brown was still saving his right hand very noticeably. Brown took Vacca's stiff left hook on the chin. Vacca landed a hard left hook to Brown's stomach. Brown missed a left lead and Vacca hooked a hard right to the stomach. Brown landed a terrific right hook on Vacca's chin, shaking him to his shoe tops. He followed with another that sent Vacca into the ropes. Vacca dived into a clinch and hung on. Brown missed another left lead and Vacca drove a right to the stomach. Brown's round.
Brown missed a left lead and Vacca came back with a snappy hook to the head. Brown jabbed twice with his left. They were clinching frequently and doing a lot of wrestling. Brown missed a lunging left hook to the head. Vacca's eye was bleeding as they came out of a clinch. Vacca missed a wild left and a wilder right, Brown ducking under both punches. Brown sent a hard right to the ribs. Coming out of a clinch Brown scored with a right hook to the button. As Brown came rushing into attack, Vacca missed a wild right, the blow landing on Brown's shoulder. Tho left hooks to the head forced Vacca to break ground. Brown sent two lefts to the stomach and two to the head. Vacca sent two rights to the stomach and then took a right on the chin in return. Brown drove his left to Vacca's stomach in a clinch. Brown hooked another hard left to the stomach, but Vacca came back with a stiff left to Brown's heart. Brown scored with a hard left to the stomach as the gong sounded. Brown's round.
They shook hands and then squared off with Vacca missing a right-hand lead that was low. He shook his head in apology, but no damage was done. In a clinch Vacca sent two lefts to Brown's stomach. Vacca snapped a left to the head and Brown came back with a right to the body. Vacca kept jabbing Brown's head back and dodging his return punches. Brown missed two lefts to the head. Brown snapped a right to Vacca's chin. Vacca sent a left to the head, but took two lefts to the stomach in return. Vacca landed a stinging left hook to Brown's stomach and crossed a right to the head. The slugged it out in a clinch with Brown missing a lot of punches. Vacca snapped three lefts to the head, but they were light punches. Brown came back with two lefts to the head. Brown drove a left to the stomach and Vacca missed a vicious right uppercut. Vacca was bleeding from the mouth at this period. Vacca missed two left leads. Vacca scored with a hard right to the stomach as the bell sounded. Vacca's round.
With four rounds going to each fighter and two even, while Vacca started and ended strong, Referee Ernie Clark decided that Brown's aggressiveness was the dominant factor if nothing else, and awarded Brown the decision.
Although Newsboy Brown won that night, he never got his title fight with Fidel La Barba. La Barba fought four more times, including one in which in beat Vacca in Los Angeles on August 23, 1927, but none were for the title. La Barba retired later in August of 1927 to attend Stanford University, without ever having defended his world flyweight title.