French boxer Marcellin “Marcel” Cerdan was born on July 22, 1916 in Algeria when it was a French colony. His professional career began in Morocco with a victory that started a streak of 47 consecutive wins that lasted for over four years. He was the French welterweight champion in 1938.
Now, I had no idea what “welterweight” was, so I looked it up, in the best interest of my readers. I learned that it’s heavier than lightweight and lighter than middleweight. This was rather unenlightening. A little more digging turned up more specifics – between 147 and 159 pounds. Factual but dull. The BBC sports site said, “Light enough to keep their silky skills and heavy enough to do serious damage, welterweight has long been a glamorous division.” That sounds quite a bit more interesting.
After winning the French title, Cerdan then won the European welterweight crown. Another winning streak ended at 23 bouts and his next streak stretched to 37 wins. During World War II, he joined the American forces since France was largely out of the action and won the championship organized among the Allies.
Like many of us, Cerdan put on a little weight with age and moved up to the middleweight division (160 – 175 pounds). With weight came more power and he started chalking up knockouts. He picked up the European title and retained it for a few years. He earned a shot at the world title and won it by a knockout right here in New Jersey where I live.
The world title brought Cerdan social notoriety and the married father of three began a passionate affair with Édith Piaf. He was on his way to see her in New York when the plane he was on crashed, killing all 48 people aboard. Devastated, Piaf wrote “L’Hymne à l’amour,” one of her most famous and moving songs, as a tribute to their great love. In a biopic about Piaf and Cerdan, his son played the role of his father. Cerdan’s professional record was 113 wins, 66 by knockout, and only 4 losses. He was a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Today’s expression, une victoire par K-O (oon veektwar par kay oh) means “a win by knockout.” Cerdan certainly had lots of experience with that type of win. One of the greatest French boxers ever inspired one of the greatest love songs ever. I think that’s the greater victory.
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