HAPPY 75TH, VIC ANDREETTI
One of our oldest former British champions, Vic Andreetti, had a hard road to title glory
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.
MONEY’S WORTH: Andreetti is remembered as a fighter who entertained fans