When Don Jordan took the welterweight title from Virgil Akins last December it was an easy cynicism to assume that the crown had been put in pawn for a betting coup to be redeemed when next they met. Last week in St. Louis it appeared that Akins had lost the pawn ticket.
In the first encounter Akins had looked needlessly sloppy and all but unconcerned. In their second meeting he looked desperately concerned but, after the first third of this dull fight, the desperation was obviously hopeless. Jordan, a hawk-nosed lad of 24 with the copper of Indian blood gleaming through his tawny skin, took the best punches of one of the division's better punchers and punched back with such effect that he was able to coast through the closing rounds while Akins brawled and butted like a man who has lost all other resources.
There can be no question that Akins was trying this time. One had only to look at the pallor deepening on Blinky Palermo's normally ruddy cheeks to realize that a considerable sum had been wagered on the Honeybear to regain his title. Blinky enjoys the warmest friendship with the Akins management and occupied a seat of honor directly behind Akins' corner, to which he offered encouragement from time to time. The corner was the most populous ever assembled for a title fight. Whereas Jordan got along quite comfortably with two men to minister to him, Akins had the services of no less than six corner men, including Dr. Falls Hershey who stood by in a sterile condition, his hands encased in rubber gloves for the purpose of sanitarily stitching up any cuts that might hamper Akins. His services were never needed, though Akins bled freely from his nose and his right eye was half closed. Had Akins known what had happened to Jordan's right hand in the second round he might have done better. The hand was badly injured, though not broken, by a blow that landed on top of Akins' tough head, and thereafter every punch that Jordan threw with it cost him agonizing pain. He used the hand just enough to keep Akins from suspecting.
Akins concentrated on Jordan's body, tearing into it with punches that would have taken all the fervor out of a less beautifully conditioned fighter. But Jordan, who weighed 154 pounds for his first professional fight, was trained down to 146¾ for this one and was as lithely tough as an oak sapling.
Jordan began to take charge of the fight in the seventh round, by which time it was apparent that Akins' biggest bombs, the crashing blows that had knocked out Vince Martinez in the finals of a welterweight elimination tournament a year ago, were duds when they penetrated Jordan's slick defense. He was staggered a couple of times, to be sure, but he recovered quickly. Throwing only a couple of light rights in that round, Jordan hooked and jabbed almost at will while Akins, clearly tiring, did little in response.
The welterweight title, which has changed hands 26 times in 33 years, now has a champion who, at 24, looks as if he could hold it for a few years. Don Jordan is a vastly improved fighter.
As for Honeybear Akins, whose management made loud complaints that Jordan had used a caustic ointment on his gloves, burning the challenger's skin, there was not even monetary salve for his defeat. An internal revenue agent tied up his $28,423 purse, claims he owed $22,599 in back taxes.