2. Willie Pep

The ring artistry and defensive skills of Pep earned him the nickname Will o the Wisp and spawned sporting myths.

It’s taken as gospel that Pep – born Guglielmo Papaleo – remains the only man to win a round without throwing a punch, securing the feat during his 1946 clash with Jackie Graves.

It never happened, but Willie was certainly blessed with sublime skills and uncanny reflexes, even though he continued long after those razor-sharp reflexes dulled and Father Time had scattered sand in his shoes.

Pep, who turned pro in 1940, didn’t hang up his gloves until 1966 and by that time he’d taken part in 241 contests.

He took the title from Chalky Wright and peeled off 62 straight wins before savouring defeat.

Even severe injuries sustained in a 1947 plane crash couldn’t derail the Connecticut legend. It took Saddler, in four rounds, to do that in 1948, Sandy’s broadsword proving mightier than Pep’s rapier skills.

Pep, who retired in 1959, made an ill-advised comeback six years later – a shadow of the truly remarkable athlete that dominated 1940s boxing. He was 43 when he finally quit for good.

Suffering from Alzheimer’s, Pep spent his last year’s in a convalescent home unaware of his immense achievements. He died in 2006 aged 84.

willie pep

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