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Armstrong Fights for Fourth World Title

In 1987, Mike Tyson visited Los Angeles, trying to pump media interest into an upcoming bout.

Tyson, for all his troubles, remains one of his sport’s best historians, taught well by his first mentor, Cus D’Amato, who used film of old champions to school his pupil.

At the 1987 news conference, Tyson saw an old man in a wheelchair. He was very ill, unable to speak above a whisper.

Tyson recognized him immediately. It was “Hammerin’ ” Henry Armstrong.

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Tyson sat by him for several minutes, speaking quietly into his ear. Younger reporters wondered who the old man was.

In his 1984 book, “The 100 Greatest Fighters of All Time,” Bert Sugar ranked Sugar Ray Robinson No. 1. Armstrong was No. 2.

A Los Angeles fighter, Armstrong had 86 fights before winning his first title, the featherweight championship, in 1937. Six months later he took Barney Ross’ welterweight title. Then he dropped down to lightweight and beat Lou Ambers for the title.

Fifty-nine years ago today, Armstrong went for his fourth world title by challenging middleweight champion Ceferino Garcia. Armstrong at one time held three world titles simultaneously. On March 1, 1940, he was still the welterweight and lightweight champion.

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Watching Armstrong fight was like watching a hurricane. He never stopped throwing punches. Garcia, a small middleweight, weighed 153 that night. Armstrong was 141. The two fought to a draw, on a night when only Garcia’s title was at stake.

Armstrong died in 1988, at 75. He was buried in Los Angeles’ Rosedale Cemetery.

Also on this date: In 1988, Wayne Gretzky of Edmonton became the NHL’s all-time assist leader with his 1,050th in his 681st game. . . . In 1983, skier Tamara McKinney became the first American woman to win the overall World Cup championship. . . . In 1973, Robyn Smith rode North Star to a win in the Paumanok Handicap at Aqueduct to become the first woman jockey to win a stakes race.

In 1984, the Chicago White Sox made Cy Young Award winner LaMarr Hoyt the American League’s first million-dollar pitcher. . . In 1965, Australian swimmer Dawn Fraser was suspended for 10 years by the the Amateur Swimming Union of Australia for defying an order not to march in the opening ceremonies at the Tokyo Olympics. . . In 1958, Round Table, a 1-7 favorite, won the Santa Anita Handicap by two-and-a-half lengths.

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