A Street Fighter
In Ring Yet A Mild Man On The Street
By Lew Eskin
I never saw Abe Attell, Johnny Kilbane, Terry McGovern, Jem Driscoll, Johnny Dundee or any of the greats
of the featherweight class in the early years but having watched Sandy Saddler in over 40 of his 162 fights,
plus another dozen or so on television, it is difficult for me to see how any featherweight could have defeated
him, just as it is difficult to see how these early 126 pounders could have fared much better against Sandy's
arch rival, Willie Pep.
Sandy whom I knew as a writer and fan casually for many years, then as a roommate and traveling
companion during our U.S.O. tour of Viet Nam in 1968, a person who can only be described as a "sweet"
man. Gentle, soft spoken, considerate, a complete opposite of the brutal fighter he was inside a boxing ring.
A tall, 5 ft. 7 3/4, with skinny arms and legs, Saddler certainly didn't look the part of a fighter when he turned
pro at 118 pounds in Hartford, Conn. on March 7, 1944 with an eight round decision over Earl Roys.
Sandy looked even less a fighter two weeks later when he was halted in the same ring in three rounds by
Jock Leslie. Whow-ould guess that would be the only time in his career that Saddler would be a knockout
Boxing was a peak period and Saddler got plenty -of work, fighting steadily. He had a record of 19 wins, two
losses and a draw by the end of the year with 10 of those wins coming via the KO route. The decision loss
and draw were in bouts with Lou Alter
Saddler kept up his hectic pace in 1945, winning all of his 24 fights and scoring 17 kayos, and from March
19 to August 27 he ran off 14 straight kayos.
By now Sandy had filled out into a featherweight but already was having difficulty in obtaining fights and after
kayoing Sam Zelman in his first fight of 1946, he dropped a 10 round decision to Boddy McQuillan in Detroit,
snapping a win streak of 38 straight.
Saddler set off on another win skein that carried over into 1947 reaching 20, including a draw with future
lightweight champion Jimmy Carter on June 3rd in Washington D.C. before Humberto Sierra edged him out
he again visited Caracas, plus Minneapolis on October 3rd.
The streak included 14 kayos one of those beign a third round stoppage of another future 135 pound
champion, Joe Brown. Sandy also began his globe trotting career with a pair of fights in Mexcio City and one
in Caracas, Venezuela.
Following the Sierra fight, Sandy put together another streak, of 14, with seven kayos at stopoffs in Havana
Lightweights Orlando Zueleta, Young Tanner, Archie Wilmer were among those victims. On June 29th local
idol Chico Rosa spoiled Sandy's first visit to Honolulu by winning a questionable decision.
Sandy then headed for Panama where he recorded a pair of two rounds kayos, then returned home to
flatten Wilile Roache in New Haven on October 11th. Eighteen days later he stunned the boxing worlld. by
kayoing Willie Pep in the fourth round to win the featherweight title for the first time at the age of 23. Sandy
had four non-title bouts to close out the year, all against lightweights, scoring three kayos, including toughies
Iddie Giosa and Terry Young; only crafty Dennis Pat Brady lasted the limit. The brawl with Young was a
fore-runner of those to come against Paddy DeMarco and Pep.
After a return trip to Panama when he kayoed Young Finnegan, he defended against Pep in Madison
Square Garden on February 11, 1949.
In what was one of the most classic performances of all-time, Pep took terrific punishment from Saddler, yet
employing his hit and run tactics to the fullest, Pep won the decision and gained back his title. When it was
over, it was difficult to picture, the badly battered Pep as the winner. But he was and Sandy went back to
steady diet putting together a string of 23, carrying into Sept., 1950.
During that streak he recorded 18 kayos, included were former bantamweight champion Harold Dade, and
future lightweight champions Paddy DeMarco and Lauro Salas.
The streak reached 24 when Saddler re-won the title with an eight round stoppage of Pep in a rough-house
brawl that saw Pep retire after eight rounds, claiming an injured shoulder but after the first few rounds, he
had absorbed a solid beating from Sandy.
That win streak came town end after 26 as junior welter Del Flannagan edged out Sandy and where else but
Saddler put together another streak, this time it reached 10, with 8 kayos, before Saddler ran into the only
low streak of his career.
He dropped a decision to DeMarco in Milwaukee on Aug. 27, 1951 but 30 days later closed out his series
with Pep by scoring a nine round kayo to retain the title, once again Willie faded after an early start under
the pressure of Sandy's relentless attack.
Saddler returned to action on Jan.15 1954 against tough little Bill Bossio whom he stopped in nine rounds.
On May 17, lightweight Hoacine Khalfi upset Sandy in St. Nick's with a decision win and sent Saddler off on
another trip, scoring kayos in Caracas and stopping Ray Famechon in Paris.
Sandy's first title defense, against anyone but Pep, saw him outscore veteran cutie Teddy "Red Top" Davis
on Feb. 25, l^g55. Sandy headed west after that, dropping a duke to Joe Lopes in Sacramento, kayoing
Shigeru Kaneko in Tokyo, and dropping a decision to Flash Elorde in Manila.
In February 1956, he disposed of George Munroe in 3 rounds and on April 14th, he lost a decision to Larry
Boardman in Boston. A few weeks later while a passenger in a taxi in New York city, the cab was involved in
an accident adn Saddler suffered an injury to his eye that caused him to lose the sight in that left optic
ultimately ended his fistic career.