Greek Capitalizes On ‘Break’ To Triumph

Philadelphia Inquirer – May 3, 1928
By Perry Lewis

Outwrestled for one hundred out of the hundred and ten minutes, his shoulders within a few inches of the floor time after time as a crafty and profound student of mat tactics resorted to every trick of grappling, Jim Londos raised his curly black head from the aches of defeat at the Arena last night, and in one magnificent explosion of energy scored one of the most impressive triumphs of his career by flattening John Pesek.

The fall came one hour and fifty minutes after the men had come to grips, and the hold that established Londos as the outstanding challenger of the world’s championship held by Strangler Lewis was a Japanese headlock.

About 10,000 delirious wrestling fanatics occupied every available space within the Arena to see these two archrivals of the mat settle the question of supremacy.

They did not go away disappointed, for they saw one of the most desperate battles in the history of wrestling in Philadelphia. An epic of the mat between two of the most evenly matched and formidable grapplers in the world.

Londos can attribute his victory to his uncanny ability to take advantage of every break; to his astuteness in conserving his energy until the time came to strike the decisive blow, and, lastly, to the fact that, as usual, Lady Luck smiled upon him.

Up until within five minutes of the finish Pesek looked like a winner. He had shown a greater knowledge of holds and ability to use them; he had been the aggressor much of the time, and he had held the Greek in jeopardy repeatedly.

Meanwhile, Londos bided his time, waiting for the break, and finally it came. Pesek lunged forward as Londos sidestepped, and tripping over a lower rope, fell flat, his face striking the three-foot extension outside of the ropes.

Both men had plunged through the ropes in much the same manner repeatedly, and without injuring themselves. But this time Pesek had the misfortune to strike his forehead on the edge of the extension.

He was dazed, blinded, but he did not follow the procedure of most wrestlers in such a crisis. Instead, the courageous Bohemian quickly scrambled back into the ring, shaking his head and rubbing his eyes to clear away the mist that was threatening him with oblivion.

The crowd, aroused to frenzy, expected to see Pesek flattened then and there. But to the surprise of every one, when Londos came rushing in to finish him, the dazed man nailed his attacker with a Lewis headlock, and hurled the surprised Greek down.

Londos bounded up like a rubber ball and, as the Bohemian leaped at him again, the crafty Hellenic matman attacked, bending himself almost double at the waist.

Pesek found himself groping at nothing more substantial than the air, and before he could regain his balance, Londos came up like a Jack-in-the-Box beneath his opponent and in such a way that he caused his victim to turn over in the air.

The Bohemian came down on his neck with a thud that fairly shook the building. The shock of this fall, added to the bump he had received in falling out of the ring a minute before, just about rendered Pesek unconscious.

Moving so fast that the eye could scarcely follow his movements, Londos seized his prey with a body hold and Japanese headlock before the stricken man could make an effort to slip away from his precarious position.

One brawny Greek arm encircled Pesek’s buzzing cranium, the other imprisoned his body, and upon his heaving chest, Londos bore down with every ounce of his 197 pounds.

There was still plenty of fight in Pesek for two minutes he threshed around like a stricken tiger. One shoulder was always down, but for a time his hysterical efforts kept first one, then the other shoulder off the canvas.

But with each second, his contortions grew weaker, and finally he ceased to move altogether. Referee Ken Paul’s arm swung up and down once, and the most discussed match in the history of Quaker City wrestling belonged to history.

Like all matches between evenly matched men who are fighting for a career stake, there was much pawing and sparring for position. Most of the time Londos was reluctant to do the leading, and it was evident that he intended to take no chances with his dangerous rival.

Pesek worked with more daring, and had it been necessary at any time to stop the proceedings and render a decision, he would undoubtedly have been the winner. But this was a finish match, and the crafty Londos operated accordingly, letting Pesek expend his energy as he pleased, and concentrating on the business of defense.

It was necessary, too, for the Greek to know his defensive stuff. Pesek was in there applying his favorite holds and applying them with every thing that he had.

He opened with an attack on the Greek’s arms and wrists with all the twisting “locks” that he knew. The powerful Londos broke some of them quickly, some of them brought him down, but always he escaped with a minimum of damage.

For forty-five minutes, Pesek continued this style of attack, but convinced that it would get him nowhere, switched to figure-four head scissors combined with half nelsons and arm locks.

Time after time his lightning speed enabled him to secure these holds and repeatedly he had Londos within inches of defeat. The Greek was worried, but he was always working well within his strength and always managed to escape – sometimes by twisting himself under the ropes, on other occasions by more sportsmanlike methods, but he always got away.

Occasionally, Jim snapped into it with headlocks or toe holds, but didn’t pursue his spasmodic attacks when he sensed that he was not able to hold the ornery Tigerman. Back he went into a shell to await the “break” that finally came.

The bout was rough, but not as rough as many believed it would be. There was considerable elbow work and slapping of each other behind the ears with the heel of the hand, or the palms.

Of course, Londos was the chief offender and he was repeatedly warned by the referee to cut out the fisticuffs. But in the main Jim behaved himself pretty well, and appeared to fear disqualification more than he usually does.

It was an earnestly waged, desperate battle and the most resourceful of fights. For the first time in his life, Londos worked in his bare feet, thinking that pedaling in nature’s dress would increase his speed.

Londos was elated in his dressing room following his triumph.

“When I pinned Pesek’s shoulders to the mat I realized the first of two ambitions I have in life,” said the victor. “One was to smash Pesek to the canvas and the second is to pin Lewis to the floor.

“The day that dream is accomplished I am ready to die. But for all time I am finished with Pesek. I never want to meet him again.

“For twelve years he has hounded me, calling me coward, saying I was afraid of him. And tonight I have proved to the wrestling world that I am his master.

“He may be faster than I am – have a knowledge of more holds – but I am his master. He knows it, the world knows, and I am supremely happy.”

The beaten man was disconsolate and still somewhat dizzy when visited in his dressing room. Said he:

“I would like to meet Londos again. Up to the time that I struck my head falling out of the ring I had all the better of it; never was I in danger. And I was fresh; not one bit tired.

“But when I struck my forehead on the boards I lost my senses. All I could seem to remember was the commission’s warning before the bout; that if I stayed outside the ropes over a few seconds I would be disqualified.

“I was still bewildered and in a daze when I returned to the mat. I don’t remember one action after stepping through the ropes.

“A sane man would have sparred for time until the cobwebs cleared from his brain. But I am told I rushed right to Londos.

“It is a shame, for I know I could have beaten him had I not hit my head.”

The semi-windup brought back Dick Daviscourt, of California, who wrestled Joe Stecher twice in Philadelphia last year, but who has been out of action all this winter due to an operation. His opponent was Pat Maguire, the Irish favorite.

Daviscourt weighed 220, while Maguire was ten pounds heavier.

Daviscourt and Maguire appeared to catch the spirit of the occasion from the start and their meeting was no part of a pink tea. Referee Wolff found it necessary to warn Daviscourt for too free use of the heel of his hand, while Maguire drew a warning for attempting to take advantage of the Californian, while the latter was off his guard as he was lectured to by the referee.

In the end Daviscourt’s superior knowledge of wrestling and proficiency with the headlock enabled him to flatten the aggressive lad from the Emerald Isle in 30 minutes and 43 seconds.

A number of times Maguire made the Californian like it with toe holds, but when he was good and ready Daviscourt hurled the Irishman around a while with headlocks and finally so stunned him that it was a simple matter for him to pin the Irishman’s shoulders to the mat.

The entertainment opened with a thirty-minute bout, bringing into competition Dick Shikat, German champion and challenger for the world’s heavyweight championship, with Alec Zarlich, a recent arrival from Russia. The Teuton weighed 220 pounds, while the Russian went 226. The referee was Herman Wolff, former amateur middleweight champion of the world.

For ten minutes Zarlich gave the German a hard battle, but after that period rapidly went into eclipse, falling a victim to a wrist lock in 14 minutes and 35 seconds.

The Russian fresh from a sea voyage was much overweight. There was a roll of fat around his waist and this superfluous weight slowed him down as the bout progressed. Three minutes before the finish Shikat stunned Zarlich by flinging him to the mat with a crotch and half Nelson. Alec rallied momentarily, but he was still groggy when Shikat twisted him over with a wrist lock and then, lying on his chest, pressed the Russian’s shoulders to the mat.

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