“A Look Back”: Willie Pep

“Will O’ Wisp”


The term ‘Will O’ Wisp’ means ‘an atmospheric ghost light seen by travelers at night. It resembles a flickering lamp and is said to recede if approached…’; How fitting a nickname for the majestic pugilist by the name of Guglielmo Papeleo. Papaleo, best known as Willie Pep,passed away11 years ago today onNovember 23, 2006 at the age of 84. He is widely considered to be amongthe greatest P4P fighters of all time.

Pep was ranked 6th on Ring Magazine’s list of the 80 Best Fighters of the Last 80 Years in 2002. He was also named the 3rd greatest fighter of all time by Bert Sugar and ranked 5th on ESPN’s50 Greatest Boxers Of All time listin 2007. Pep was voted as the Greatest Featherweight Ever by the Houston Boxing Hall Of Fame in 2014. The HBHOF is a voting body composed totally of current and former fighters

As an amateur he won 62 of 65, one of those losses coming against Ray Roberts (later Sugar Ray Robinson).Pep was world champion at age 20, fought professionally 26 years and had 241 fights.Of those, Pep lost only 11, six by knockout or stoppage and fought to only one draw.
He went undefeated in his first 62 fights until facing Sammy Angott – a former undefeated world lightweight champ who would go on to regain his crown – beat him in a non-title affair on points in 1943.Pep then went another 73 fights unbeaten until Sandy Saddler knocked him out in four in 1948.
Moreover, in January the previous year he had survived a plane crash, being carried from the wreckage with a broken leg and back and told he would never fight again. Several passengers died.For five months Pep was in a cast, but two months after having it removed he made a miraculous return, winning a 10-rounder against Victor Flores and then retaining his world title two months later.

Pep is often credited with being oneof the first pure “boxers” in the sport. He never was much of a puncher so he had to outbox and out think his opponents with his defensive wizardry and movement. Defensively he is still today considered among the best of all time. He’s often mentioned alongsidenames like Mayweather, Whitaker and others.

There has long been a rumor that he evenonce won a round without throwing a punch.The said incident reportedly occurred in the third round against Jackie Graves in 1946.

“I guess I made him miss so badly they [the judges] gave me the round,” Pep once said

By: Chris Henderson


  1. The myth that Pep won a round without throwing a punch is pure bull. I read a quote from Pep that said, ” I just threw a few jabs at Jackie Graves & made him look silly.” True, he won the bout easily with 9 knock-downs, but no round without throwing a punch. That’s ridiculous, even for the Wisp.

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