"The fight was a real exciting fight. It was a good fight. Flowers was a good fighter. It went the limit and my hand was raised after the fight," he said in an interview in 1970. A rematch appeared likely, but Flowers died during minor urgery the following November.
Many thought Tiger had been robbed; 17 of 22 ringside sportswriters believed he'd done enough to win, but Griffith went home with the belt, becoming the fourth former welterweight champion in history to win the middleweight title.
Who was the first to do it? None other than "The Toy Bulldog," Mickey Walker. Walker, one of the era's most popular sporting stars, had won the welterweight title with a 15-round decision over Jack Britton in New York. After defenses against Pete Latzo, Jimmy Jones, Lew Tendler, and Bobby Barrett, Walker unsuccessfully challenged Mike McTigue for the light heavyweight title. Losses to Harry Greb (for the middleweight title) and Latzo (for Walker's welterweight belt) followed before Walker got another shot at the middleweight crown, which by this time was held by Tiger Flowers.
Tigers was a quiet, unassuming southpaw from Camille, Georgia. "The Georgia Deacon" had beaten Greb for the middleweight crown in February '26 to become the first black middleweight champion. He outpointed him again six months later. He and Walker met on December 3 in front of 11,000 fans at the Coliseum in Chicago and it started out well for Walker, who scored a knockdown in the first round. Flowers recovered, though, and seemed to get the best of it until the ninth when Walker floored him again. The referee, Benny Yanger, had the only vote and called Walker the winner at the end.
The decision raised a stink and was investigated by the Illinois Boxing Commission. Walker couldn't see what all the fuss was about. "The fight was a real exciting fight. It was a good fight. Flowers was a good fighter. It went the limit and my hand was raised after the fight," he said in an interview in 1970. A rematch appeared likely, but Flowers died during minor surgery the following November.
A quarter century passed before another former welterweight champion won the middleweight crown and who did it? Who else but Robinson, who remains, today, 41 years after his last fight, the standard against which all other great prizefighters are measured. Most of Robinson's most memorable struggles -- against Jake LaMotta, Fullmer, Carmen Basilio, Rocky Graziano, and others -- came at middleweight, but before he ever weighed 160 pounds he was the best welterweight ever. He was virtually untouchable at 147, winning his first 40 fights, dropping a 10-rounder to LaMotta, then going on another monstrous unbeaten streak that encompassed some 80 fights over the next six years.
Along the way Robinson captured the welterweight title against Tommy Bell and defended it five times, most notably against fellow future Hall of Famer Kid Gavilan. By '50 he was a middleweight and in '51 he got a shot at the title against LaMotta, who he'd outpointed in four of their prior five meetings. On Valentine's Day, LaMotta got off to a strong start and bulled Robinson around the ring. After eight rounds he led on two of the judges' scorecards. But making the middleweight limit had drained him. Robinson took over in the ninth on the way to scoring a dramatic 13-round stoppage.