Former IBF lightweight champ Freddie Pendleton had some career; facing the biggest and best names of the 1980s and ’90s. “Fearless” was the Philly warrior’s nickname and fearless Pendleton really was.
Many a fighter would have given up after losing their pro debut – let alone 12 more of their next 26 fights, as was the case with Pendleton. But quit is not a word in this champion’s vocabulary. Tough, clever and naturally talented, Pendleton never ducked a fight in his life.
Here the 47-26-5(35) former champ (talk about a deceptive-looking record) talks with ESB:
Q: You actually lost your very first pro fight, and then over ten of your next 26 bouts. How come you never, ever got discouraged?
Freddie Pendleton: “Because I always knew I could really fight. I had just six amateur fights but my trainer, my first trainer, he convinced me to go pro. I never could understand why, until later, when I found out that he needed money. He threw a lot of us in early, me and his other fighters. I won’t mention his name, because I actually went to court against him – to be able to get out from under my contract with him.
“I won the hearing and I left him. He was exposed during that hearing, he really was. The second guy I went with, who became my manager, I thought he was great. He put me in there with another fighter of his and I lost a decision, but I really beat him up and I knew I’d really won the fight. He [my manager] knew then that I could fight.”
Q: You were robbed in a number of your fights, as everyone knows. What were the ones that really hurt?
F.P: “What really kills me the most is how they [the experts] never gave me credit for my defence. I fought all those hard punchers, killers (Pendleton going in with 17 world champions) and if I never had a great defence I’d have been destroyed. Instead they said I had a weak chin. The losses that hurt the most are the losses to Hilmer Kenty (L10) – I beat him up bad, every round – and Rafael Ruelas (L12, Pendleton losing his IBF title in his second defence). Four times I knocked Ruelas down and they gave him my belt. I wanted that fight as my first title defence instead of fighting Jorge Paez (W12), but the Goossens wanted to wait until he [Ruelas] was my mandatory. I was robbed of my world title.”
Q: Who, out of all the great fighters you fought, ranks as the best?
F.P: “I fought the slickest guy ever in Pernell Whitaker (L12), tough guys like Frankie Randall (a draw and a 5th round TKO loss on a cut) and Paez. But I’ll tell you who the best fighter I ever fought was. He was a guy who wasn’t even a world champion; in fact he never really did much at all. It was Darryl Martin, who I beat to win my first title: the Pennsylvania State title (TKO6). He really had everything, he could do it all: punch, box, great combinations. I really thought he’d go on to become a world champion and a great fighter, but he was never the same after our fight.”
Q: Are you still a fight fan yourself these days?
F.P: “Not so much, no. I’m looking forward to the [Guillermo] Rigondeaux-[Vasyl] Lomachenko fight, but they’re both fighters from overseas, and it shows you that, with the best not being from the US any longer, how the sport has gone down a whole lot in America. Boxing is not like it was back in my era, not in the US.”