ALTHOUGH Fritzie Zivic is considered one of the dirtiest fighters in the history of boxing, he is also considered one of the best.
One of five boxing brothers from Pittsburgh, Pa., Zivic turned pro as a featherweight in 1931. By 1936, he was ranked in the top 10 in the welterweight division. He staged intra-city rivalries with other Pittsburgh fighters such as Billy Conn and Charley Burley. Zivic was notorious for using his head, elbows and thumbs as effectively as his fists. And while he was often admonished for those tactics, few could argue that Zivic also displayed tremendous determination and courage inside the ring.
In 1940, Zivic beat Sammy Angott to earn a shot at the welterweight crown. He made the most of his opportunity, upsetting the great Henry Armstrong via 15-round decision at Madison Square Garden to become the welterweight champion.
In 1941, Zivic won a rematch with Armstrong, stopping him in the 12th round. But he would lose the crown in his next defense, dropping a 15-round decision to Freddie "Red" Cochrane. Although Zivic fought for another eight years, he never challenged for a world title again.
Still, the brawling Zivic met the best fighters in the world -- ranging from lightweight to light heavyweight -- for the remainder of his ring tenure. From 1941 to 1946, he met Sugar Ray Robinson, Lew Jenkins, Jake LaMotta, Beau Jack, Bob Montgomery, Tommy Bell, Billy Arnold and Freddie Archer. Zivic continued fighting until 1949, winning his last two fights. In fact, in his second to last fight, he beat the respectable Al Reid. In all, Zivic met seven future Hall of Famers and nine world champions.
Born: May 8, 1913
Died: May 16, 1984