Biggest Boxing Mismatch
The Boston Massacre, 1953
In 1953, Jimmy Carter was the Lightweight Champion of the World and one of the most exciting fighters in boxing. Then came Tommy Collins, a young, up-and-coming fighter from Medford, Massachusetts. Fresh off wins over top lightweight contenders Willie Pep and Lauro Salas, Collins was ready to challenge Carter for the lightweight championship belt.
The match took place on April 24, 1953, at Boston Garden. In front of his hometown crowd, Collins was confident coming into the fight. However, from the clang of the opening bell it was evident that Collins was highly overmatched by the champion Jimmy Carter. Carter was stronger and faster, and overwhelmed Collins with devastating flurries. Collins was dropped six times in the third round, while referee Tommy Rawson ignored shouts from the crowd telling him to stop the fight. Unexpectedly, Collins' corner allowed him to go back into the ring, despite continuing pleas from the crowd. Collins was dropped three more times in the fourth—with his left eye closed and his nose profusely bleeding—and the fight was finally stopped by Rawson.
The hometown kid Tommy Collins was floored a total of 9 times in the bout, earning it the nickname, The Boston Massacre. Referee Tommy Rawson was publicly criticized for not stopping the fight promptly, allowing Collins to take unnecessary punishment. Rawson explained to the media that he believed that Collins was "ok" and could have potentially won the fight, even after suffering 8 knockdowns. Rawson defended why he didn't stop the fight in the April 26, 1953 Boston Globe:
"Because Collins' record proves that he recuperates amazingly fast. Jake LaMotta, for instance, can take terrific punishment and win a fight. Some boxers do, some don't. But Collins does. He was practically out on his feet the night he made the sudden comeback and knocked out Willie Pep." Rawson was asked if Collins had given any indication of diminished mental capacity, and he stated, "No he didn't. In fact he stood up and was pushing me away as I wiped his gloves. He was clear-eyed and he kept looking over Carter and pushing me. I could feel the tension in his arms and I knew he was all right."
Rawson didn't believe it to be a "massacre" and said, "The most concern I felt was on Saturday morning [the next day] when my phone started to ring. The calls I was getting got me worried and I jumped into my car and drove directly to Collins' home. I expected to find him in a stretcher." Rawson said he was like a "Spring robin" and asked the boxer if he should have stopped the fight sooner. Collins replied "I'd have hit you with a baseball bat if you had. I'd never spoken to you again. This was for the championship of the world and I had a chance as long as I could throw a punch."
Jimmy Carter went on to have a long career and retired as a 3-time Lightweight Champion. Tommy Collins had only 5 more professional fights after The Boston Massacre match before calling it a career. He never fought for the Lightweight title again. For many years Collins was a hometown hero, having faced four world champions in a 13 month period, and retiring with a 60-12 record with 43 knockouts.