Sunday, July 18, 2010

Paolino Uzcudun vs Harry Wills 1927

Official Films, circa 1940, 16mm silent 100’

The Fight
One of the last of the great African-American heavyweights of the early 20th century was Harry Wills. Wills was scheduled to fight Jack Dempsey for the heavyweight championship as early as 1922, but though Dempsey and his manager were willing (I have a film of the signing ceremony), the boxing promoters of the day prevented the fight from being held out of bigotry. Whatever the outcome would have been, Wills remained a serious contender until 1926 when he lost to Jack Sharkey in 13 rounds. In his next fight, Wills was matched with Spain’s Paolino Uzcudun, and Harry suffered a ferocious knockout.

The Film
The Uzcudun-Wills film has been circulating for years, most commonly issued as part of the Official Films Monarchs of The Ring Series on 8mm and 16mm dating back to the 1940s. I also have a slightly longer version of the film released on a boxing series called The GI Weekly for the U.S. Military.

The Video
Recently I acquired a more complete version of the film which I’m showing here. Also released by Official Films, but issued as a solo short subject which may predate the later MOTR versions. Little more of the actual fight is shown, but the post fight celebration is great footage. Uzcudun throws hats to the crowd and does gymnastic moves. Wills is also seen sitting, dejected and recovering is his corner. The print is in excellent condition with no scratches or wear. I did further restoration slowing the film speed to more accurate real time. Since the film was shot at 16fps or less, it still plays slightly jerky. A film of Wills vs Luis Firpo in 1924 would no doubt be a revelation.