On This Day: The First Ike Williams – Beau Jack War (and perhaps the most criminally late stoppage in boxing history)

By James Slater - 07/12/2023 - Comments

Rewind to July 12 of, 1948, and fight fans witnessed two all-time greats going at it for the world lightweight title. These same fans also saw the first fight in a brutal series. While at the same time, on this day some 75 years ago, the world of boxing perhaps saw the most criminal, the most sickeningly late stoppage call ever performed by a third man.

Ike Williams was 25 years old and, at 94-10-4(35) he was the reigning lightweight king. The man from Brunswick, Georgia, had beaten such great and fine fighters as Sammy Angott, Johnny Bratton, Tippy Larkin, Bob Montgomery, and Kid Gavilan. Known for his great right hand, Williams was a proven fighter in every sense of the word. Williams had been champion since April of 1945, and he was making his fifth defense. And, on the night of July 12, 1948, Ike was a significant favorite over former two-time lightweight champ Beau Jack. Indeed, the Shibe Park arena in Philadelphia was around half-full on the night, so convinced were the knowledgeable fans that Jack was no real match for Williams.

Jack, hailing from Waynesboro in Georgia, was only 27 years old, but he was an “old” 27. Wars with the likes of Freddie Archer, Fritzie Zivic, Henry Armstrong, Bob Montgomery, Sammy Angott, and Tony Janiro had taken their toll on Jack, and he had been beaten by some common opponents whom Williams had defeated. World lightweight champ from December of 1942 to May of 1943 and again from November of 1943 to March of the following year, Jack had not made the 135-pound limit in a number of years come the time of his challenge of Williams.

An intensely hard-earned and worked for 73-13-4, with Jack having been stopped just once (this by Janiro when Jack suffered a gruesome knee injury that forced the TKO against him; Jack later stated that the hole in his busted knee was big enough “for me to put my fist in it”) the former ruler was known to be past his best by now. But against the sharp, deadly Williams, Jack managed to make a fight of it, for a while.

Jack, a veritable hurricane in his prime, where he would regularly sling out a hellish amount of leather, his aggressive, swinging style something fans loved him for, had some success in the early rounds. Jabbing Williams and forcing the defending champ on the back foot, Jack was also getting in close and doing some damage with his hooks and uppercuts. Williams fired back, made zero mistakes about it, and the action was fierce. Today, we fight fans would be in a real lather if we saw such action. Jack hurt Williams in the second round, and the war continued in the third. But by the fourth, Jack, as expected, began to fade. Ike was now catching Beau as he came in, the champion’s shots still full of venom while the challenger’s punches had lost their sting.

Jack never gave up, his enormous heart making such a thing impossible, but he was taking a world of hurt. Jack was stunned badly at the end of the fifth, left sagging as he was as he made it back to his corner. Round six, and the “stoppage” performed by the referee, Charlie Daggert, was terrifying.

Jack, exhausted and done, was an easy target, and Williams, as ruthless as all fighters had to be back in the day, took advantage. Firing off crisp, zinging shots with both hands, Williams was landing at will on his defenseless target. The vicious salvo was capped off by two nasty left hands to the head, the shots sending Jack reeling into the ropes. Stuck there, upright God only knows how Jack was to take more. Much more. Going for the finish, Williams let loose with a torrent of blows, all of them landing, Jack’s head being violently slammed all over the place.

Jack staggered into a corner, and Williams continued working, his punches blasting into a finished fighter who was now held up by the ropes. With both of his arms hanging down uselessly, Jack took one of the worst beatings ever captured on film. Williams temporarily stopped punching, turning to the referee, pleading with him to stop the “fight.” Incredibly, disturbingly, the referee signaled Williams to go back to hitting his almost comatose opponent.

Finally, after what had now been something like 30 unanswered punches, Daggert at last dived in and “saved” Jack from taking more punishment. In all honesty, this referee would have been hauled before a court of law if he put in a performance anywhere close to as disgraceful today. Back in ’48, even seen-it-all, hardened fight fans were left feeling sick and shaking their heads at Daggert’s inability, or refusal, to stop the fight when he should have done so.

The footage is available on YouTube for those with a strong enough stomach to be able to stand viewing it.

Jack, quite astonishingly, fought on – with him not retiring for seven years. And Jack would fight Williams three more times, all in non-title bouts, with Jack managing to get a draw with Williams in fight-three. Jack retired after being stopped by Williams in fight-four, this in August of 1955. His ring earnings all gone, Jack shined shoes in his retirement years, as he had done as a young boy.

Williams also retired after the final fight with Jack. Williams finished with a record of 128-24-4(61). Ike died in September of 1994, aged 71. Jack’s final ledger reads 91-24-5(44). Beau died in February of 2000, aged 78.

YouTube video