“There was a knock at my door here in Leesport (outside of Reading, PA) and the man said “I’m with the FBI. Why have you been trying to get in touch with Laszlo Papp?” Lou Lucchese said “I’m a boxing promoter and I would like for him to come to the US and fight for Joey Giardello’s middleweight title.” He was advised never to attempt to get in touch with Papp again.
Papp was a three time Olympic Gold Medalist for his country of Hungary. He got permission to turn professional but since boxing was outlawed in Hungary he fought out of Vienna, Austria and not allowed to leave Europe per the Communist Party.
Papp’s amateur record was 301-12-6 scoring 55 first round kayo’s. In 1948 in London, England he defeated Valfrid Resko of Finland by KO2. In the next round he defeated Jean Welter of Luxembourg by KO1. Next came Auguste of Belgium whom he defeated by KO1. In the medal round in the semi’s he defeated Ivano Fontana of Italy by a 3-0 score. Fontana would turn professional and become Italy’s middleweight champion. In the championship round he defeated Johnny Wright of England 3-0 for the Gold Medal.
In 1952 Papp was in Helsinki, Finland for the Olympics and in the first round he faced tough American Spider Webb and won by KO2. Webb was the NCAA 2-time champion from Idaho State University. As a professional in 1958 he defeated Giardello right after losing to another champion Gene Fullmer. He had defeated Dick Tiger earlier in 1958 and in a rematch in 1961 got knocked out and retired.
In the next round Papp defeated Charlie Chase of Canada by KO2. Then he defeated Petar Stankoff Spassoff of Bulgaria by a 3-0 score. In the semi he defeated Eladio Oscar Herrera of Argentina 3-0. In the Gold Medal round he defeated Theunis Jacobus van Schalkwyk of South Africa 3-0 to win the Gold Medal.
In 1956 Papp competed in the Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. In the first round he defeated Alberto Saenz by KO3. In the semi round he defeated Zbigniew Pietrzykowski of Poland by 3-0. Pietrzykowski would lose to Cassius Clay in the finals of the 1960 Olympics. In the Gold Medal round Papp defeated Jose Torres of the US by 2-1 to win his third Gold Medal. Torres under the wing of Cus D’Amato would win the world Light Heavyweight title in 1965 stopping Willie Pastrano for the WBA & WBC title. He would lose to Dick Tiger twice losing his title in the first match. He had stopped Giardello in 1958. He ended up with a 41-3 record.
Papp was allowed to turn professional in May of 1957 winning his first three fights in Germany. In 1958 he won in Vienna and Paris, France. In 1959 he defeated the former French middleweight champion Andre Drill, 51-5-6, in Paris knocking him down five times and going onto win a ten round decision. His two previous fights were ten rounds. He was 7-0 with two knockouts.
In April of 1959 Papp drew with Germaninal Ballarin, 45-11-6, in Paris. Papp broke his hand in the third round but went the full ten rounds. It would be five months before he fought again when he fought his first US boxer Bill Tate, 10-6, scoring a KO in 3 in Paris. The EBU ranked Papp No. 1 after this in the middleweight rankings.
In 1960 Papp would go 5-0 defeating another US boxer Lou Perry, 5-19-3, over ten rounds in Vienna. Then defeat German Erich Walter, 21-8-5, by KO 9 in Vienna. He then won by KO9 over debuting Mohammed Boudib in Croatia. In December he took on Giancarlo Garbelli, 67-7, a former southpaw Italian welterweight champion ending in a ten round draw in Milan, Italy.
In 1961 Papp would again go 5-0. He defeated a boxer from Venezuela fighting out of France being a former French welterweight champion called Sauveur Chiocca, 64-31-7, over ten rounds in Vienna who two years later would win the EBU middleweight title. The Papp took on Peter Mueller, 116-20-14, in back to back wins stopping him in eight rounds in Germany and in four rounds in Vienna.
Papp would end up the year in Germany stopping France’s Michel Francois, 51-24-2, in two rounds. In 1962 Papp faced the durable US boxer Ralph “Tiger” Jones, 52-31-5, knocking Jones down three times winning by decision in Vienna before 16,000 fans. He ended the career of Jones who had only been stopped once and had a win over “Sugar” Ray Robinson.
In May of 1962 Papp would get a chance to fight for the EBU title and would defeat Chris Christensen, 49-14-3, in Vienna stopping him in 7. He made six successful title defenses. The following year Christensen would get a world title fight losing to Emile Griffith for the Light Middleweight title. In Papp’s first defense he scored a KO 9 over French champion Hippolyte Annex, 28-0-5.
In 1963 Papp would again go 5-0 defeating UK Middleweight champion George Aldridge, 35-11-2, in the fifteenth round in Vienna. Then he had a win by KO 4 over Mueller in Germany. After defeating a pair of Americans Papp travelled to Spain defeating Luis Folledo, 78-2-1, stopping him in the eighth round with a pair of knockdowns.
In Papp’s final year of boxing in 1964 he went 3-0. In July in a rematch with Christensen he scored a KO 4 in Denmark. In July in another title defense he defeated Mick Leahy, 46-15-5, by decision in 15 in Vienna.
In 1965 the Hungarian government refused to allow him to fight for the world title because boxing for financial gain was “incompatible with socialist principles.” Rumors were in 1964 he refused to coach the Russian Olympic team which could have brought about this forced retirement.
Papp ended up with a 27-0-2 record with fifteen by stoppage. He was 38 at the time after boxing professionally for seven years. “I was one step away from a world title shot (with Giardello in 1965) but it would have meant going to America and my government didn’t approve,” said Papp. He didn’t say this until the fall of Communism in Hungary in 1989. “I think it was just jealously. I was making more money than most of them. There was a lot of antagonism,” said Papp. Instead Giardello fought Nigerian Dick Tiger and lost his title in Madison Square Garden, in New York.
A poll in November 1988 in a Boxing Illustrated issue named Papp the second greatest Olympic boxer of all-time. The World Boxing Council named Papp an honorary world champion in 1989 and designated him the world’s best amateur and professional fighter of all-time in 1991. (WBC President Jose Sulaiman’s handwritten words)
Papp was inducted into the International Hall of Fame in 2001. He passed away in in October of 2003 at the age of 77.