Willie Pep

A Biography of the 20th Century’s Greatest Featherweight


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About the Book

Among the best pound-for-pound fighters of all time, Willie Pep (1922–2006) was a virtuoso of the squared circle. A two-time World Featherweight Champion, his International Boxing Hall of Fame professional record stands at 230 wins, 11 losses and one draw, with 65 knockouts and two winning streaks of more than 62 victories—each longer than most modern fighters’ careers. During his 26 years in the ring, he appeared on cards with everyone from Fritzie Zivic to Joe Frazier. A scientific boxer with balletic defensive skills and a stiff jab, Pep—known as “Will o’ the Wisp”—so masterfully evaded his opponents, one remarked it was like battling a man in a room full of mirrors. This book covers his remarkable career, with highlights of each bout.

About the Author(s)

Mark Allen Baker, business executive and author of hundreds of articles and more than 25 books, is the only person to serve the International Boxing Hall of Fame as an author, historian, chairperson, sponsor, volunteer and biographer. He was accorded a Lifetime Award of Merit by the State University of New York in 2022, and inducted into the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame in 2023.

Bibliographic Details

Mark Allen Baker
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 260
Bibliographic Info: 55 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8552-6
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4710-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Preface 1
Introduction 3
One. A Machinist’s Son 7
Two. Establishing Proficiency, 1940–1941 23
Three. The War Years, Part 1, 1942–1943 33
Four. The War Years, Part 2, 1944–1945 57
Five. Postwar Pugilism, 1946–1947 72
Six. Ring Rivalry, 1948–1949 89
Seven. The Pinnacle, 1950–1951 108
Eight. Moving Forward, 1952–1954 125
Nine. One Last Shot, 1955–1958 143
Ten. Last Rounds, 1959–1969 161
Eleven. The Seventies, 1970–1979 177
Twelve. Retirement, 1980–2006 184
Appendix A: A Canastota Scrapbook 195
Appendix B: Guglielmo Papaleo—Boxing Record 201
Appendix C: Skills Overview 219
Appendix D: Official Records of Associated Members of the International Boxing Hall of Fame 223
Chapter Notes 225
Bibliography 241
Index 245

Book Reviews & Awards

• “In glorious detail, Mr. Baker takes the readers back to Yesteryear…The author gives such vivid accounts of Pep’s battles, so much so, that the reader can literally hear the thump of the punches landed in those contests….Mr. Baker still repeatedly educates us with information that we never knew before. We cannot think of one author out there who researches a subject as diligently as the author does. Not only is his narrative absorbing, but his footnotes alone make for additional compelling reading. Willie Pep has been the subject of many books over the past 70-plus years, but never has his ring accomplishments been burned into the pages better than Mr. Baker’s work. If one had not been impressed with Pep’s amazing career before reading this text, then after reading, there will be further acclaim of Willie “Will o’ the Wisp” Pep….Mr. Baker is always one to bring up details that are unexpected….Willie Pep’s gutsy fortitude and immense talent shines brightly through the pages….We did not think it could be possible, but Mr. Baker outshines himself with this marvelous book on the incomparable Willie Pep. This book is highly recommended for super reading!!”—The USA Boxing News

• “Meticulously researched, superbly written…And those photos! Magnificent!”—IBRO Journal