Jimmy McAllister, Baltimore boxer who fought 100 pro bouts, dies at 72

November 09, 1993|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

Jimmy McAllister, a "dynamite" featherweight who battled Hall of Fame boxer Willie Pep to a surprising draw at the Baltimore Gardens in 1945, died yesterday at Sinai Hospital of pneumonia.

Fighting nearly 100 professional bouts in the '40s, the 72-year-old Baltimore native was labeled "the uncrowned champion" by area jTC writers who admired his clever boxing style and elusive defense.

The highlight of his career was the first of two fights against Mr. Pep, a Hall of Fame boxer. He had a 74-1 record, losing only to Sammy Angott, before meeting Mr. McAllister in a nontitle bout in Baltimore, Dec. 13, 1945.

"It was a terrific fight," Mr. Pep recalled yesterday from his home in Wethersfield, Conn. "McAllister was a dynamite fighter, especially how he could make you miss him. Naturally, I thought I won, but he gave me fits."

Francis X. Whittie, covering the match for The Sun, wrote, "McAllister, fighting with a skill and speed that produced the finest performance of his career, knocked Pep down for the count of six in the second round.

"He stood toe-to-toe when the champion elected to open up, and battled willingly enough to bring the house to its feet time and again."

Mr. Pep was far better prepared for their rematch three months later at Madison Square Garden in New York. Mr. McAllister was a late replacement for title contender Sal Bartolo, who became ill the week of what was to have been a championship fight.

"This time, I caught Jimmy in a corner and didn't let him get away," Mr. Pep said of his second-round knockout, March 1, 1946.

A solid body shot hurt Mr. McAllister, and, as he began to sag, Mr. Pep finished the job with a crushing hook. The Baltimore boxer rolled halfway under the ropes and was unconscious as the referee counted him out.

Mr. McAllister continued to fight, competing against former featherweight champion Phil Terranova and such nationally known boxers as Eddie Giosa, Sonny Boy West and George Hanford. A training injury led to surgery that required the implant of a plate in his arm, prompting his retirement.

"James was never the same," said his wife, Delores. "He was diabetic, and the arm just didn't heal properly. But people who saw him fight still tell me he was one of the best fighters ever developed in Baltimore. He was just born too early, before television and the big-money fights began."

After retiring from the ring, Mr. McAllister became an assembly line worker at what now is Martin Marietta. He was later employed as a sanitation worker, but kept his association with boxing as a coach for Operation Champ, a police-sponsored program created in the '60s to keep inner-city youth out of trouble.

"Jimmy was an excellent teacher," said veteran trainer-manager Mack Lewis. "But he didn't have the patience to stick with kids who weren't truly dedicated to boxing."

Mr. McAllister began fighting as a teen-ager at Carver High School in the '30s when boxing was a varsity sport. As an amateur in 1938, he captured the Diamond Belt bantamweight title.

He made his professional debut April 14, 1941, scoring a knockout over Don Weber at the Baltimore Coliseum. He was trained at different times by Wellington Matthews and "Seattle Red" at Pete Lockett's gym on Etting Street. Nate Klein, Benny Trotta and Sam Lampe were his managers.

In 1976, he was inducted into the Maryland Boxing Hall of Fame.

Mr. McAllister is survived by his wife and four children, James McAllister Jr., Tina McAllister, Michael McAllister and Penny McAllister, all of Baltimore.

A service is planned for noon Friday at John Wesley Methodist Church on North Avenue and Bloomingdale Road in Baltimore.

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