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27 July 2001 Ava Gardner vs Mitzi Gaynor

Page history last edited by Archer844 11 years, 4 months ago


Retro Bout: (CA.1956)


Posted by simguy 7-27-2001


While Cyd Charisse was generally accepted to be the golden era's sweetest scientist in the ring, Ava Gardner was undoubtedly the most feared offensive fighter under 130. Noted biographer and celebrity fight observer Winston Pen summed up the comparison in his memoirs, published posthumously in 1990.

"If Charisse could beat you without hurting you, she would. That was Cyd. Ava was a completely different animal. Where Charisse had absolute confidence in her skill and legs - Ava was constantly wracked by insecurity about her ability. Ava could never feel safe while light still shone in an opponent's eyes and her fear manifested itself as heartless cruelty and ruthless execution in the ring. Gardner was the game's most relentless finisher and many of her victories stand out in my recollection as among the most brutal and hard-hearted I ever witnessed. And yet, she never seemed to enjoy her triumphs. It was as if the desperation she fought with robbed her of the thrill of conquest."


With a reputation like that, it was only natural that Ava's most outspoken challenger and loudest critic would be Mitzi Gaynor. Gaynor saw in Gardner a woman not only ten years her senior but one with a 20 inch waistline that had never been seriously tested and legs that, although long and strong, couldn't match up with her own gorgeous gams in curvaceous power. But Gaynor had other reasons to want this fight. By the mid-fifties, the psychological torment Ava Gardner was inflicting on her husband Frank Sinatra outshone even the punishment she was dishing out in the ring and Mitzi didn't like it.

"Frank was a friend of mine, of all of ours," Mitzi said at the time. "It was killing us to see her take him apart like that."


Insisting on fighting at a neutral site, Mitzi was able to coax Ava off the West Coast to the Sinatra compound in Las Vegas. The 'Rat Pack' didn't fix fights - and Mitzi wanted nothing to stand in the way of the lesson she had in store for the haughty brunette. Gaynor in red bandeau hipster bikini, blonde coif; Gardner in evergreen hipster bikini, gold metallic binding between the cups.


Round One: Gaynor kept to the perimeter of the ring early, dancing around her foe, making Gardner chase, and Ava obliged. Rangy and raw-boned, Ava cut down the ring with a steely gaze and stalker's gait, touching Mitzi with a drilling jab and forcing the blonde to the corners. Gaynor with a quick clinch, spin and release was able to keep her back off the ropes and stay on the move, but Gardner was the clear aggressor in a tactical first.

Round Two: Ava had that hard, spearing jab, and Mitzi began to falter under it's harsh criticism of her face this round. At the midway point a pounding left seemed to have Gaynor stunned and a follow up right cross on the chin sat Mitzi down with sickening ease. Gaynor was wounded prey, failing on her first attempt to her feet and only barely beating the count. The fabled Gardner closing run would have over a minute to run, and she did not disappoint. Mitzi was hammered along the ropes - eyes wide and glassy, hands weak and pointless at her chest as Ava lashed lefts and rights to the chin, putting Gaynor on the skids. 3 spanking right hands off the side of the face put Mitzi in a corner, defenseless, and with the ref leaning in to stop the massacre, the bell sounded to end the round. Gaynor wobbled to her corner badly busted up as Ava strutted without a backward glance.

Rounds 3-4: Mitzi made a crucial adjustment in these rounds: getting outboxed, she closed and palmed up on Ava's biceps, waltzing with the brunette, punching her out of the clinch and going to that tapered waist with two fisted intensity. The body work had it's effect - Gardner went flat footed, posing and grimacing a good part of the time as Mitzi crowded her and stayed busy. Mitzi did a serviceable imitation of Marciano these rounds, pushing Gardner to the ropes, rotating her torso, dragging heavy shots into the brunette's waist and chiseled cheekbones, then constantly tying up in rough clinches. Gaynor took the rounds, as Ava grew increasingly frustrated through 4.

Round Five: Mitzi executed a dangerous tactic this round, but pulled it off to perfection. Timing Gardner's lethal right, Mitzi would slip to the left and simultaneously bury her right fist in Ava's midriff. Gardner gave ground, missing and taking, and growing increasingly erratic as Gaynor's insolent attack took effect. Midway through, a slight shimmy trembled through Ava's legs as Gaynor's right crammed into her sternum, and Mitzi quickly turned over the coiled left hook she had been waiting on all round long. Ava Gardner stumbled away in some difficulty as Gaynor bounced after her, chasing the ice-queen to the ropes with crisp lefts and rights. The final minute was war - tough, uncompromising trade that Gardner hadn't seen since her early years in the business. Gaynor would not be intimidated, and at the bell, she refused to let up as Ava covered her face, sank into the ropes and waited to be rescued by the ref.

Round Six: There was no doubt about it: Mitzi Gaynor had taken Ava's heart out of the fight. It was Gaynor coming forward now, jabbing her way inside, muscling Ava in the clinches, and constantly bulling Gardner to the ropes for messy beat downs and roughhousing grapples. Jamming body work had Gardner in a bad way, and as she broke down, Mitzi cashed in with clanging hooks on that cleft chin, spinning Gardner's beautiful face repeatedly to the side as blonde kept the pressure on brunette. Another furious exchange in the final minute saw the women brawl shoulder to shoulder - Mitzi refusing to let Gardner off the ropes, despite eating Ava's lashing hooks and clubbing rights hands in close. After 6, both women wore shiny badges of battle on leather-beaten faces, but Gardner's body was clearly the worse for wear. Gaynor smiled and nodded her head hungrily as she took instruction during the break - Gardner's corner was nearly silent, afraid to incur Ava's wrath with any criticism.

Round Seven: Mitzi once again crowded Ava to the ropes and appeared to be having her way, but Gardner had had enough of the bullying. Slugging in close, Ava's elbows did horrific work along Mitzi's jaw line and ribcage as the two pushed and struggled inside - Gaynor was pushed back, and the fight drifted to center ring were Ava regained command. Now the Gardner jab began to ravage Mitzi's perky features, batting the blonde's head back, and the right cross, long dormant on Ava's shoulder, began to lick out with spiteful accuracy this round. Wobbled on several occasions, Mitzi stopped punching over the latter half of the round, and the hard, green ice had returned to Ava's steadfast gaze.

Round Eight: Mitzi again tried to force her way inside, but again, Gardner banged with her, stood her ground, and eventually was able to keep her distance as Gaynor started to break down. Target practice for Ava now as she circled, leisurely looping and measuring with her left hand, suddenly pouncing with licking rights to the face that shook Mitzi's legs and had her crumbling forward to clinch.

Round Nine: Gardner took a round off, perhaps underestimating Mitzi's stamina, and the hard working blonde managed to get back on top. A grinding, methodical stanza - Ava covering up and stepping along the ropes, Mitzi stepping with her, pressing her guard against Gardner's left shoulder and snapping punches into the brunette's sides and trunk line. Grim work in tight - Gaynor usually getting her tight defense together in time to block the quick Gardner uppercut.

Round Ten: Ava's jab proved the difference as she punished Mitzi at will in a one sided opening, minute - Gaynor rejected time and again from getting inside, was forced to step out, regroup, and try again. As the round wore on, it became a slugging match with Gardner content to stand flat footed, allowing Mitzi to body up in hopes of tagging the blonde with a fight winning uppercut. Gaynor with her right hand under her chin read the attempts, and for the most part held her own in stop and go, punch and clutch to the bell. After a long delay, the women stood with heaving chests, staring at one another with angry eyes as the decision came back UD10 Ava Gardner by slender margin.

Although she was the winner, Ava left the poolside ring in a huff as the plucky Mitzi Gaynor stayed to accept well-deserved congratulations for giving her an unexpectedly tough tussle. Styles make fights and Mitzi's strength, ring savvy, and determination proved thorny obstacles for the heavily favored Gardner who had badly underestimated her foe. The overtly hostile crowd hadn't helped Ava either. Once admired and even worshipped by the 'Rat Pack' entourage, former friends had cheered for Gaynor all night long. It was shortly after this fight that Ava Gardner moved to Europe where she lived as an expatriate for most of the remainder of her life.

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