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Bell tolls for Vic Patrick, the greatest of all

  as seen in http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20114993-2722,00.html

August 14, 2006

Vic Patrick

One of the best left hands in the sport: A world war prevented Vic Patrick, seen here in 1943, from fighting overseas

Vic Patrick
Boxer. Born: Victor Lucca, Sydney June 2, 1920 Died: Sydney, August 11 2006. Fight record: 52 wins (45ko), 4 losses, 1 draw.

 

VIC PATRICK never won a world title, but he will be remembered as arguably the greatest boxer Australia produced.

Patrick was the sport's biggest drawcard during the golden era of the 1940s, regularly selling out Sydney Stadium, the old "tin shed", at Rushcutters Bay.

It is believed he died from pneumonia at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney last Friday night at the age of 86.

Inducted into the Australian Boxing Hall of Fame in 2003 along with Les Darcy, Jimmy Carruthers, Dave Sands, Jeff Fenech, Lionel Rose and Barry Michael, Patrick had much in common with Darcy.

Patrick and Darcy were the best Australians never to win a world title, both coming into their prime during a world war.

Many believe Patrick would have beaten world champion Ike Williams if given the opportunity.

After Patrick's epic defeat of Tommy Burns with a ninth-round knockout for the Australian welterweight title in 1946, referee Joe Wallis said Patrick was as great as Darcy.

"He was a southpaw with a punishing rip," recalls historian Ernie McQuillan, whose father Ern trained Patrick throughout his career.

"Vic should be remembered as Australia's best. His death is a huge blow to the sport.

"Vic was a great, great fighter. He had one of the best left hands in the business.

"If Vic hit an opponent on the chin, he stayed hit. His death leaves a huge void."

Patrick once said that beating American Tod Morgan, a one-time world title-holder, for the Australian lightweight title in 1941 was his greatest victory.

Patrick will also be remembered for one of the four fights he lost, to flamboyant American Freddie Dawson in 1947.

Dawson, the number one contender in the world, continually poked his tongue out at Patrick, who knocked him through the ropes in the 11th round with his trademark left hook.

The Australian maintained he would probably have won by a knockout if radio caller Reg Grundy had not pushed Dawson back into the ring after the American fell on his ringside microphone.

Patrick, who won by knockout an extraordinary 45 times in 52 wins, was surprised when Dawson got back up and then knocked him out in the 12th round.

It was Patrick's last defeat. He was taken to hospital and was never the same boxer again.

"Vic was ahead on points on my dad's card coming to the 11th round," McQuillan said. "Dad's instructions to Vic were to box him and to use the ring."

Fenech, a three-time world champion, regards Patrick as the greatest boxer Australia produced, despite him not having won a world title.

"There was no better puncher than Vic," Fenech said. "In my book I don't think there was ever a more popular fighter than Vic. He filled the old Sydney Stadium on his own.

"If a new and untried fighter came to my gym tomorrow and asked to be trained, I'd tell him to go away and read the book on Vic Patrick's life.

"He and I became great friends and his passing leaves a large void in my life."

The youngest of 11 children, Patrick was born Victor Patrick Lucca in Woolloomooloo, Sydney, in 1920.

His father Salvatore was an illiterate Italian migrant, who became a fisherman on Sydney's harbour and the Hawkesbury River where Patrick worked on his brother-in-law's oyster farm.

Everyone in Brooklyn knew when Patrick was on the river because they could hear him singing The Balalaika in a beautiful tenor voice.

His mother Maria wanted him to train as a singer, but he took up boxing when he was almost 20 after learning that a preliminary boxer could earn a pound for fighting four rounds, which was more than half a week's pay.

The story goes that Patrick fought his first three bouts under the name Alf Edwards so his mother would not know he was boxing.

He then fought under his Christian names, perhaps because of the sensitivities surrounding World War II when Australia was at war with Italy.

Patrick's first fight was against Les Shocker at Sydney's Carlton Stadium in 1940, knocking him out in the first round.

He won his first 21 fights, including 20 by knockout, before losing a controversial points decision to Morgan at Leichhardt Stadium on June 5, 1941.

Redeeming himself just 28 days later, Patrick reversed the decision against Morgan to claim the Australian lightweight title.

The pair were to meet in the ring twice more -- both decisions going Patrick's way.

Patrick won the Australian welterweight title in 1942 from Ron McLaughlin and held the Australian light and welterweight titles when those divisions attracted some of Australia's finest talent, but World War II ensured he didn't fight overseas.

Retaining the lightweight title until his retirement in 1948, and relinquishing the welterweight one in 1946, Patrick never lost a fight in defence of either.

After he retired, Patrick became a respected referee, controlling bouts featuring world champions Sandro Mazzinghi and Lionel Rose as well as Rocky Gattellari, Tony Mundine and Bobby Dunlop.

He was inducted into the Sports Australia Hall of Fame and received the OAM.

His wife Nancy -- they were childhood sweethearts -- died several years ago. He is survived by his daughters, Vicki and Ann.

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