“RECORDS are there to be broken” – it’s a trite but valid expression which suggests that eventually all records can and probably will be surpassed. But in boxing, a sport whose structure and workings have radically changed in the past 80-odd years, some records may just be unbeatable.
At the time of writing, Sheffield welterweight Qasim “Kas” Hussain is on the cusp of achieving a landmark century of pro fights at the age of 26. Hussain is due to enter his 99th bout on September 28 and will probably be looking to fight number 100 by the time you read this piece. It’s been suggested Kas might become the youngest fighter to reach 100 paid bouts – and certainly few boxers from recent decades have come close to that milestone at such a young age (Ernie Smith got to that mark aged 27 in 2005).
Any boxer who takes part in 100 paid contests today is almost certainly a journeyman. As I write, Hussein’s record, comprised of four and six-round bouts, stands at 4-92-0; the late Ernie Smith was 12-84-4 on reaching his century. Frankly, modern journeymen are paid to receive a beating. But with so much experience they provide an invaluable litmus test for young prospects. Fighters like Kas know their way around the ring (in 92 defeats he has suffered just two stoppages) and they deserve immense respect.
Back in the pre-World War 2 era, however, boxers regularly reached the 100-fight mark in their early 20s; some whilst in their teens. Unlike today’s journeymen with their loss-lined records, some of these men were prospects or champions and had fought many 15-rounders. Due to a scarcity of DOB data and a profusion of active fighters before World War 2, it’s impossible to categorically identify the youngest pro boxers to reach a century of fights. But I’ve picked out three who I believe were among the youngest, having hit the 100 mark while still in their teens.
Johnny King (age 19): Part of the famous Collyhurst stable that produced fellow-champions Jock McAvoy and Jackie Brown, King was aged 19 and 10 months when he had his 100th bout in November 1931. In fight 101, he lost over 15 rounds to Dick Corbett for the vacant British bantamweight title. But King took Corbett’s crown in a return 10 months later and went the distance with Panama Al Brown for world honours in 1933. Johnny’s record on reaching 100 fights was 77-14-8, with one no contest.
Ted Kid Lewis (age 18): An IBHOF inductee who rose from London’s Whitechapel slums to become the most famous English boxer of his generation, surprisingly Lewis lost his pro debut in 1909. But he soon found his form and boasted an 82-10-8 record after his 100th paid outing in April 1912, aged 18 years and five months. A dominant world champion in an eight-weight era and a three-weight British and European titlist, some consider Lewis (pictured below) the greatest British fighter ever.
Nipper Pat Daly (age 16): Arguably boxing’s greatest prodigy, by age 15 Daly was considered number-one contender for the British flyweight crown. But his dreams of becoming champion at a record age were dashed when the BBBofC set an age limit of 21 for title contestants. Though no longer eligible to box for a title, Daly defeated three British champions, a European titlist and numerous continental champs in a short but sensational career that saw him ranked in the world top 10 by America’s The Ring at age 16. Nipper shot to 85-8-6, with one no contest, after his 100th fight in January 1930, at age 16 years and 11 months. Tragically, he was burned out and retired within a year, having achieved just a fraction of his potential.