Joseph “Sandy” Saddler was one of the most devastating punchers in boxing history. He was a two-time world featherweight champion and also held the super featherweight title. He is best known for his epic rivalry with Willie Pep, whom he faced four times and knocked out three times. In this blog post, I will tell you more about Saddler’s life and career, and why he deserves to be remembered as one of the greatest featherweights of all time.
Saddler was born on June 23, 1926, in Boston, Massachusetts. He started boxing professionally in 1944, at the age of 18. He fought mostly at bantamweight and featherweight, and quickly established himself as a knockout artist. He won his first 37 fights, 28 by knockout, before suffering his first loss to Jock Leslie in 1946. He avenged that defeat by knocking out Leslie in the rematch later that year. Saddler’s first shot at the world featherweight title came on October 29, 1948, when he challenged Willie Pep, who was widely regarded as one of the best boxers of all time. Pep had a record of 134-1-1, and had only lost once in his career, to Sammy Angott in 1943. Saddler shocked the boxing world by knocking down Pep four times and stopping him in the fourth round, becoming the new champion.
Pep exercised his rematch clause and faced Saddler again on February 11, 1949. This time, Pep used his superior speed and skill to outbox Saddler and win a 15-round unanimous decision, regaining his title. Saddler then moved up to super featherweight and won the vacant title by defeating Orlando Zulueta by a 10-round decision on December 6, 1949. Saddler and Pep met for the third time on September 8, 1950, for the featherweight title. The fight was a brutal and foul-filled affair, with both fighters hitting low, holding, and butting. Pep suffered a dislocated shoulder in the seventh round, and could not continue after the eighth round. Saddler won by technical knockout and reclaimed the title.
The fourth and final fight between Saddler and Pep took place on September 26, 1951. It was another dirty and violent contest, with both fighters being warned and penalized by the referee. Saddler dominated Pep with his power and aggression, and opened a deep cut over Pep’s left eye in the ninth round. The fight was stopped after the round, giving Saddler another technical knockout victory. Saddler defended his featherweight title six more times, including a 13th-round knockout of future hall of famer Flash Elorde in 1956. He also fought some notable non-title bouts, such as a win over future lightweight champion Joe Brown and a loss to Flash Elorde in a rematch in Manila.
Saddler’s career came to an abrupt end in January 1957, when he suffered an eye injury in a car accident. He decided to retire rather than risk losing his sight. He had a record of 144 wins (103 by knockout), 16 losses, and 2 draws. He was ranked number five on The Ring magazine’s list of “100 Greatest Punchers of All Time” in 2003. He was also inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.
Saddler died on September 18, 2001, at the age of 75. He left behind a legacy of being one of the most feared and respected fighters of his era. He was a master of using his height, reach, and power to overwhelm his opponents. He was also a fierce competitor who never backed down from a challenge. He was Joseph “Sandy” Saddler, one of the greatest featherweights in boxing history.