Biggie Munn, a man who has been around sports for a few years, said it was one of the greatest sports shows he had ever seen. Michigan State's athletic director and physical education head had just sat on the edge of his chair through 16 tumultuous semifinal bouts of the NCAA boxing tournament at the University of Nevada. Even the next night's finals, exciting though they were, could not match the memorable action of the semifinals.
Next day six out of seven coaches, assembled from some 20 colleges which recognize boxing as a sport, agreed that one semifinal bout, which pitted Washington State's Jesse Klinkenberg and the vaunted Jim Flood of Sacramento State in the 165-pound class, was the greatest fight in NCAA championship history. Through the three two-minute rounds it was toe-to-toe, each boy hammering with devastating skill and accuracy, each gaining in determination as the fight progressed and blood spattered from his heavily padded gloves. It was a magic six minutes, one of those rare occasions when athletes transcend their normal abilities.
Klinkenberg, who is an Alaska Indian, won and then, next night in the finals, lost a contrastingly routine bout to Charles Mohr of Wisconsin. But Klinkenberg was rewarded with the tournament's trophy for sportsmanship as Mohr took the title and the "outstanding boxer" trophy.
The crowd—mostly Nevada partisans, naturally—had other wild moments on the three nights of the tournament but none wilder than when it shook the gym, filled to its 4,500 capacity, with hysterical roars as another Indian lad, this time a Paiute, brought Nevada its first NCAA championship in history. Joe Bliss, a 139-pounder, outpressed and outslugged clever Darrel Whitmore of Washington State and so became immortal in the annals of his college.
San Jose State, coached by Julie Menendez, retained its team title, winning in two divisions and piling up 24 points. It suffered an upset loss of the heavyweight championship to Hal Epsy of Idaho State, which placed second.
"It was tremendous," said Biggie Munn. "I can think of 10 of those fights which would be 10 times better than anything you see on TV."
Some representatives of TV's Wednesday Night Fights were impressed, too. They offered $12,000 to televise next year's finals and the coaches, totting up a mere $1,600 in their lean treasury, decided to seek NCAA approval.