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Zivic was born to immigrant parents; his father was Croatian, his mother Mary Kepele was Slovenian. As a young man, he followed the example of his elder brothers. These five brothers were known as the "Fighting Zivics". Referring to his youth in the Ninth Ward of Lawrenceville, Zivic later said, "You either had to fight or stay in the house. We went out." He started with fighting professionally in October 1931 as a featherweight (at the age of 18). By 1936 he was ranked among the top ten welterweights. In 1940 Zivic beat Sammy Angott to earn a shot at the welterweight title. He upset the great Henry Armstrong on October 4, 1940 in a 15-round decision at Madison Square Garden to take the welterweight title.

According to Zivic's own account, the first bout with Armstrong was very dirty. Armstrong started out fighting that way: "Henry's givin' me the elbows and the shoulders and the top of the head, and I can give that stuff back pretty good, but I don't dare to or maybe they'll throw me out of the ring." By the seventh round, Zivic had had enough, and began responding in kind. The referee (still according to Zivic), then told the fighters, If you want to fight that way, it's okay with me. Armstrong had built up a good lead, but Zivic went to work, cutting both of Armstrong's eyes and opening a gash on his mouth. Zivic said "pardon me" several times while fouling his opponent. In the fifteenth and final round, Zivic hit Armstrong with a left hook-right cross combination. Armstrong went down as the bell ended the fight. Zivic won a unanimous decision.

He won the rematch with Armstrong in January 1941, but lost in his next defense, to Freddie Cochrane in 15 on July 29, 1941. His last fight was in January 1949 (at the age of 36).

Although his fighting tactics were very dirty (thumbing the opponents in the eye or punching in banned areas), he was also known for always apologizing for that to his opponent. "He had a body like a wire, a mind like a chess player, a quick wit and a splendid smile.".

Standing 5'10" with a 71" reach, Zivic was an able boxer-puncher, who could pressure the boxers and take the worst from the punchers.Yet it was his rough and tumble style that came to define him. Ever the gentleman, "The Croat Comet" would mumble apologies even as he butted heads, thumbed eyes, hit behind the head and below the belt, and slashed with elbow follow-throughs. Being in the ring with Zivic was like being tossed into a mincer. Mastering the art of dirty prizefighting means throwing your ugliest blows when the referee is out-of-position and can't see what you are doing, but Zivic was also helped greatly by the generally rougher attitude towards boxing at the time. A foul was a foul, but the kind of stunt that would get a fighter disqualified today might earn a mere warning in the 1930s and 1940s. Zivic's style was geared around getting away with as much as possible, and he was never disqualified during his long career.

Up Through the Ranks Zivic turned pro in October 1931 in a bout at the Motor Square Garden in Pittsburgh. Like many fighters of the era, Zivic did not have a spotless record on his way to the top, dropping his share of learning experiences and hometown decisions. By 1933, Zivic was on the road and fighting in California, and by 1935 he was fighting the likes of Lou Ambers, a future World Lightweight Champion. Ambers beat Zivic, but not before the Croat Comet broke Amber's jaw in the 9th. In 1936, he dropped a razor-thin decision to Billy Conn, the future light heavyweight kingpin who would come within a hair of defeating Joe Louis.

Yet along the way, Zivic was also beating real contenders, men like Chuck Woods, Charley Burley, Eddie Booker and Bobby Pacheco, and the Croat Comet was a ranked contender from 1936 on. His rough-and-tumble style made him a major fan-favorite. By the late 1930s, Zivic was in his stride. By August 1940, he was 99-24-4, 27 years old, and in the ring with the reigning lightweight champion, Sammy "The Clutch" Angott. Angott was an Italian-American and no stranger to rough-house tactics, and Zivic only out-weighed him by six pounds. Nonetheless, Zivic routed Angott eight rounds out of ten, and earned a shot at the World Welterweight Title in the process.

Champion Zivic started his championship in with a farce that suited his brutal style - he thumbed hard-hitting contender Al "Bummy" Davis in the eye, which caused Davis to blow his top. "Bummy" retaliated by pitching ten successive blows at Zivic's family jewels, was disqualified, and then kicked at the referee as he was taken from the ring.

In December 1940, Zivic had a more substantial bout in the form of a challenge from the other reigning lightweight champ, Lew Jenkins. Ringside observers felt Jenkins out-boxed Zivic by a small margin, but the fight was declared a Draw and that was probably fair. That was followed by a defense of the title and a rematch with Armstrong, who was brutally stopped in the 12th Round.

Zivic gave "Bummy" Davis a rematch in July 1941 and knocked him out in the 10th, but then he met Freddie Cochrane later that same month. Even by the standards of the 1940s, fighting two top contenders in the space of three weeks was probably too much, and Cochrane outpointed Zivic by a wide margin. The Croat Comet's reign as the welterweight king was over, and he would never receive another shot at the title. However, his career as a much-feared contender was only at its mid-point.

The Contender In October 1941, the Croat Comet met the Sugarman, Sugar Ray Robinson. The sweet one was already 25-0 and had three solid fighters, including Angott. Zivic was no match for Robinson's masterful application of the sweet science and dropped a points loss. He met Robinson again in January 1942, and was knocked out for his trouble.

Zivic soldiered on, and while he dropped a few fights here and there, when the Croat Comet was at his holding-and-hitting best, he was formidable. In April 1942 he outpointed Maxie Berger, and then beat Lew Jenkins to a bloody pulp in a rematch. In September of that same year, Zivic scored revenge on Freddie Cochrane, albeit only in a non-title bout.

Zivic fought two bouts with reigning lightweight champion Beau Jack in 1943 and lost both. Jack was an exciting, accurate puncher and while both bouts were see-saw, furiously close affairs, Jack edged Zivic each time.

That led Zivic to a fourpeat series with none other than the Raging Bull, Jake LaMotta. The Italian-American middleweight puncher outweighed Zivic by five or six pounds on each occasion, and the Bull narrowly edged the Comet in June 1943. Then in the July rematch, Zivic used his jab and his skills to disrupt LaMotta's assault and carry a narrow Split Decision of his own. The two gladiators met again in November, with LaMotta winning what many at ringside considered a stinky decision. Meeting again in January 1944, the two engaged in a see-saw slug fest that saw LaMotta win on points. Along the way Zivic also fought and lost to Bob Montgomery, a lightweight who had beaten Beau Jack.

In April 1944, Fritzie Zivic was inducted into the Army, but this did not put a hold on his career. Like many athletes of the day, he continued to perform on Uncle Sam's time. His "Army days" say close wins over the Mexican contender Kid Azteca, a close and controversial win over undefeated contender Billy Arnold. These were to be Zivic's last hurrah.

The years 1938 and 1939 found Zivic headlining all over the East. He was in his prime, fighting and beating the best in the world and stamping himself as the number one contender. The valuable lessons he had learned in the tank towns were now paying dividends. Zivic became a master craftsman, adding a few tricks of his own, including the infamous thumb to the eye.

Zivic and Armstrong met for the title on January 17, 1941 and Fritzie Zivic won a hard-fought 15-round decision. The following year he knocked out Hammerin’ Henry in twelve rounds, one of two KO’s inflicted upon the ring great in his Hall of Fame career. The pug-nosed craftsman was now sitting on top of the boxing world.

However, Zivic’s tenure as champion was short-lived. On July 29, 1941 he lost a close 15-round decision to Freddie “Red” Cochrane. Fritzie couldn’t get Cochrane back in the ring for a title fight even though he did defeat the Redhead in a ten-round non-title go. Cochrane enlisted in the Navy in 1942 and the title was frozen for the duration.

Fritzie Zivic then entered the next phase of his career, a ranking contender who fought the best in both divisions. He lost a pair of bouts to the great Ray Robinson and matched gloves with Tommy Bell, Beau Jack, Bob Montgomery and even the granite-chinned Jake LaMotta.

He had four wars with Jake. Both had similar styles even though LaMotta outweighed him by ten pounds. Both had durable chins, were rough and tough and neither had a great KO punch. LaMotta won three out of four, but all were close, hard-fought battles.

After a brief stint in the U.S. Army, Zivic had 18 fights in 1945. He scored an impressive upset victory over 19 year-old knockout specialist Billy Arnold on January 15, 1945. Arnold had come out of Philadelphia with a long list of knockouts. Zivic was supposed to be just another big name on Arnold’s way to the title. Fritzie surprised the youngster and the bettors with an eight-round decision.

Starting with a loss to Harold Green on June 22, 1945, Zivic entered the final phase of his boxing career. He became a trial horse and journeyman who traveled all over America displaying his skills. He traveled to tank towns tackling local favorites and met fighters he had previously fought on the way to the title.

The year 1949 marked Zivic’s last fights. He went out a winner, taking decisions over Al Reid and Eddie Steele in Macon, Ga. In all, Zivic had 230 career bouts, winning 154. He was stopped only four times. he fought a total of ten world champions.


Fritzie Zivic – A Real Pro | (2014). Retrieved on April 27, 2014, from

Fritzie Zivic. (2014). Retrieved on April 27, 2014, from

Friztie Zivic: Boxing's Dirtiest Champion. (2014). Retrieved on April 27, 2014, from


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