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Newsboy Brown vs. Fidel La Barba

Newsboy Brown's California boxing debut was against Fidel LaBarba at the Hollywood American Legion Stadium on April 17, 1925. La Barba had won a gold medal in the 1924 Olympics and after turning professional later that year had put up some sensational bouts in the local ring against Jimmy McLarnin, Georgie Rivers and Young Nationalista. Brown, also undefeated, had himself chalked up some impressive victories on the east coast and was managed by one of the most successful managers in the country. La Barba was the local favorite, but the Newsboy was also well backed by a crowd of fans who had recently watched him upset Kid Kaplan and Ace Hudkins in workouts at the local "Newsboys' gymnasium."

That night the two bantamweights put up one of the most interesting bouts ever seen between fighters of their class in a local ring. Although there was some razzing on the part of the fans early in the bout, the regulars around ringside enjoyed every minute.

The first three rounds of that fight were relatively devoid of action but, when the Newsboy got moving, Fidel started to fight. La Barba used his right effectively in the fifth round and started out in the same manner in the sixth. In the seventh, Fidel tried hard to get an edge on the speedy newsboy, and was a little ahead when Brown again rallied and did enough inside work to win the round. The eighth was the best of the bunch. LaBarba socked Brown on the chin with a left. The latter's legs were tangled and he sat sown, but was up again before the referee even got started to count. La Barba then put rights and lefts to Brown's head and body and was going good, until he walked into one of the Newsboy's lefts to the body, and had to slow a little. The ninth was even, filled with much mixing and pummeling. Both men scored repeatedly with both hands.

Brown was simply too good a boxer to get far behind. He was clever at covering and was always ready to lash out with a snaky left when Fidel got a bit incautious. Although none of the rounds were won or lost by a big margin, La Barba was credited with rounds 2, 5, 8, and10; Brown got rounds 4 and 7; and rounds 1, 3, 6, and 9 were even. Referee Larry McGrath, however, called the fight even.

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Later that year, on August 22, 1925, La Barba won the American Flyweight title from Frankie Genaro. Ever since his earlier draw with La Barba, Newsboy Brown had been clamoring for a rematch. Indeed, a few weeks after La Barba won the championship from Genaro, in an action packed bout in Los Angeles, Brown had beat Genaro almost as cleanly as La Barba had. So the rematch was a natural. Several months later, on October 5, 1926, he got the chance. But the title was not on the line because La Barba had decided to weigh in above the 112 lb limit, and La Barba's manager insisted that the Newsboy take the fight at catchweights or go without it. Looking for a chance to prove that he was entitled to a shot at La Barba with the title at stake, Brown agreed to the terms and planned to weigh as much as his opponent. By fight time, La Barba weighed 116 and Brown weighed 115 .

La Barba had just returned form a barnstorming tour of the East, but Brown had a long siege of idleness due to a sick spell since winning a decision over Teddy Silva in Hollywood several weeks prior. But both boxers entered the ring in splendid condition, and neither could claim any excuses. La Barba was favored by odds at anywhere between 10 to 7 and 2 to 1, but more fans wanted to bet on Brown and he was the sentimental favorite.

Here is a round by round description of that fight.

  1. Right at the opening gong La Barba came rushing from his corner and missed a wild right to the head. He carried the fight to Brown and stung him with a left to the chin, forcing Brown into a clinch. Midway in the round La Barba landed another sharp left hook to Brown's chin, then missed a right cross. Brown stung the champion with a left hook as they came out of a clinch, but Fidel showed no disposition to back up. Both boys were putting all they had into every punch. They went the balance at top speed with L Barba having a very slight edge. It was noticeable to those who watched La Barba closely that he threw more right hands in the first round than he usually throws in seven.

  2. La Barba fought a ferocious second round. He swarmed all over Brown from the start, pounding teriffic lefts to the body and crossed several rights to the head. He forced Brown to give ground on every exchange. Those who had been critical of the champion's counterpunching saw him in a new aspect. La Barba had a shade on the round.

  3. Brown managed to make a better showing in the third round, but La Barba beat him to most of the punches, hooking those short lefts to Brown's mid-section and out-punching him in the clinches. Brown smacked Fidel with a right hand over the left eye and caused a big swelling. The newsboy also landed some good body punches.

  4. You had to give Brown the fourth round. He decided to take the fight to La Barba, and the champion was content to counter punch which made it considerably slower than the preceeding rounds. Brown took the round by his superior work in the clinches. La Barba missed several wild swings.

  5. La Barba brought a right hand from the floor in the fifth that caught Brown rushing in and landed on his mouth. He staggered but did not go down and rushed into a clinch. Fidel hooked tow hard lefts to his stomach, and in shoving Brown off, Newsboy spun La Barba almost completely around with a left hook to the chin. Fidel closed in on him and at close range peppered Brown's body with rights and lefts, taking the round easily.

  6. The newsboy was out in front in the sixth until he stuck his chin out too far and La Barba nailed him with a stiff left hook. Brown bounced into the ropes, and on the rebound La Barba hooked him with another left to the stomach that shook him to his shoetops. Fidel pressed his advantage for the balance of the round, which he took easily.

  7. The seventh round was even.

  8. The eighth was best of all, Brown, starting at top speed and beating La Barba to the punches at the outset until Fidel hooked a right and left to his stomach midway in the round that slowed him up. The champion drove him into the ropes, drove two rights to the body and two to the head. Each punch had a sting to it. Then he missed a left to the body and brown hooked a left to the head that hurt. They were slugging it out at the bell. It was an even round.

  9. Brown had the ninth round, which was a solid three minutes of slugging, the newsboy getting the shade because of his aggressiveness.

  10. The house was in an uproar when the final round got under way. Brown came in with two swinging lefts to the head. La Barba smacked him with a nice left to the head and a right to the body. In a clinch both used lefts to the body. They were throwing punch for punch with neither boy showing a disposition to back up. Most of the work was done in the clinches. They fought it out desperately. Brown took the tenth round.
La Barba had thrown more right hands in the first three rounds than in previous fights, and had punched Brown's body red and black in the last four rounds. While Brown's winning rounds were not so pronounced as those of the champ, this was forgotten in the public fervor. Twice La Barba had scored punches that had the newsboy on the verge of going down, but the rugged little scrapper showed plenty of heart, plenty of recuperative powers and much willingness to slug it out at either long or short range. The referee called the fight a draw. Many said the decision was more popular than correct, but to many others the fight demonstrated that Newsboy Brown was the logical contender for La Barba's crown.

Front Page / Biography / Photo / Opponents / Fidel La Barba / Corporal Izzy Schwartz / Frankie Genaro / Midget Wolgast / Panama Al Brown / Small Montana / Opening of the Olympic Auditorium / Memorable Fights / Brown vs. La Barba / Brown vs. Schwartz / Brown vs. McCoy / Newsboy Brown vs. Al Brown / Flyweight Champions

Copyright William B. Shubb, 1998. All rights reserved.