HAPPY 75TH, VIC ANDREETTI

One of our old­est for­mer Bri­tish cham­pi­ons, Vic Andreetti, had a hard road to ti­tle glory

Boxing News - - Yesterday’s Heroes - Alex Da­ley @thealex­da­ley Historian & au­thor

FOR­MER Bri­tish su­per-light­weight cham­pion Vic Andreetti turned 75 last week. The one-time Spi­tal­fields Mar­ket porter from Hox­ton had 67 bouts (51-13-3) be­tween 1961 and ’69. He was rarely in a dull fight.

As a school­boy, Vic won na­tional ABA ti­tles in 1955, ’56 and ’57, and in 1958 was 140lb Ju­nior Class A champ. He boxed for three clubs – Shored­itch, Hack­ney and Fitzroy Lodge – and turned over just af­ter his 19th birth­day, in March 1961.

As a young pro, Andreetti split his time be­tween load­ing crates of fruit at Spi­tal­fields Mar­ket and train­ing un­der Danny Hol­land at the Thomas a’ Becket gym in the Old Kent Road. He was man­aged by Jim “The Bishop” Wicks, and one of his sta­ble­mates was Henry Cooper. Un­der Wicks, Vic had 19 con­tests in his first year as a pro. He won 16, but lost two to Sammy Mc­spad­den and one to Alex Mcmil­lan (whom Vic also beat).

Andreetti’s jour­ney to a Bri­tish crown must rank among the tough­est of any fighter from the last 50 years. Vic was 41-5-3 when he fi­nally got a shot at the Bri­tish light­weight ti­tle in his 50th fight. To earn it, he’d beaten for­mer world light­weight champ Joe Brown, Em­pire ti­tlist Joe Tet­teh, world-ti­tle chal­lengers Floyd Robert­son and Rafiu King, fu­ture Bri­tish and Em­pire wel­ter king Johnny Cooke and sev­eral Area cham­pi­ons.

But the Bri­tish 135lb ti­tle-holder of the time was also Andreetti’s ‘bo­gey­man’. Shot­ton’s Mau­rice Cullen had al­ready outscored Vic twice in non-ti­tle fights, and he made it 3-0 with a 15-round de­ci­sion when they met for the light­weight crown in Novem­ber 1965. BN called it “one of the finest box­ing-fight­ing du­els seen in Wolver­hamp­ton.” Vic was adamant he had done enough to win.

Eight months later, Andreetti beat Phil Lund­gren for the Cen­tral Area crown, but he still had his sights fixed on na­tional glory. In April 1967, he got a re­turn ti­tle con­test with Cullen, which pro­mo­tional king­pin Jack Solomons staged in New­cas­tle. The skil­ful Cullen made it 4-0, though, with a clear points win af­ter a slick dis­play of box­ing.

Feel­ing dejected, Vic en­tered semire­tire­ment. But later that year the BBBOFC launched a new 140lb weight class – ju­nior-wel­ter­weight – and se­lected Andreetti and Belfast-born Liver­pudlian Des Rea as the first ti­tle con­tes­tants.

Mickey Duff staged that in­au­gu­ral cham­pi­onship bout at Beth­nal Green’s York Hall in Fe­bru­ary 1968. And al­though many felt Andreetti de­served the de­ci­sion, ref Bill Wil­liams made Rea the win­ner. But Vic got the verdict in a re­turn a year later, becoming a Bri­tish champ at the fourth at­tempt in his 62nd fight.

He de­fended against Rea in Oc­to­ber 1969, win­ning by fourth-round KO. For his sec­ond de­fence, the BBBOFC or­dered Vic to meet Cullen again. Vic said he was keen to beat Mau­rice (who by then had lost his light­weight crown to Ken Buchanan) and win a Lons­dale Belt out­right. But the mea­gre £750 purse Vic was of­fered con­vinced the 28-year-old to re­tire in­stead.

Strangely, the BBBOFC then scrapped the ju­nior-wel­ter class, but rein­tro­duced it as light-wel­ter­weight in 1973. Af­ter re­tir­ing, Andreetti man­aged Bri­tish and EBU 140lb king Colin Pow­ers and, in the early 1990s, briefly trained Nigel Benn.

Photo: LARRY BRAYSHER

MONEY’S WORTH: Andreetti is re­mem­bered as a fighter who en­ter­tained fans

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