Cyd Charisse vs. Esther Williams by Simguy 04-Jun-00

before: Cyd Charisse is often credited with being the first modern celebrity boxer, utilizing a high guard, incorporating angles and footwork that would not seem out of place in today's ring. If not the best fighter the Golden Era had to offer, she was surely at the top of most lists combining physical ability with drive, fortitude and a haughty disdain for her more rudimentary counterparts. The fight with Esther Williams would bring not only two very different women together, but two worlds of boxing - Williams being perhaps the best exponent of the traditional style. Cyd in red hipster bikini, Esther in white one piece.

R1: Cyd was surprised by the sheer strength of Esther early as Williams got into Charisse's hips and bulled her back to the ropes. Cyd could only lean back and forth, try to make Williams miss as Esther busied herself with Charisse's long torso. Williams with her legs wide pinned the balletic brunette against the ropes and heaved clubbing rights and lefts in between the hips, often crumpling Charisse forward and threatening to push the brunette through the ropes from sheer pressure. Williams making a statement, caught an overconfident Charisse on her heels this round.

R2: Cyd was much sharper in the second. Back handing the jab against Esther's face, Cyd measured her foe, and calmly backpedaled out of range whenever Williams made a rush. Early in the round, Charisse sidestepped and left a short calling card right on Williams cheek which wobbled the blonde's legs, sending her careening past the brunette to the ropes. Charisse was thorough on follow up: with Esther crossing her arms and bending over her legs, Charisse issued catspaw lefts and sling right hands, catching Esther on the face despite the latters constant head movement. Moving in and out, and playing her fists in savage arcs across Esther's face, Cyd opened a cut over William's left eye at the end of the round, leaving the swimmer woozy at the bell.

R3: Cyd with another shutout, circled and slashed, punching with a broken rhythm that Esther simply couldn't anticipate. The spiking jab found William's eyes over and over, and the right cross, left hook that followed would jar William's head as she stomped forward, trying in vain to cut off the ring on the much more mobile dancer.

R4: Charisse went to the ropes this round and played possum, letting Esther square up and spend some energy. Williams gladly obliged, leaning her weight forward, drubbing her fists into Charisse, but Cyd with effortless grace managed to block most of Esther's clubbing blows, giving the swimmer shoulders and elbows to hit at but not much else. Cyd caught her breath, while Esther needed a blow after a sound and fury round.

R5: Cyd went for the knockout with cold precision this round, landing the rising hook off the jab from the hip and leaning into flush right hands on the teeth that proved too much for William's early. Stumbling back from combinations, Esther caught a spearing right hand on her chin and dropped to her backside, and Charisse would get her first taste of the old school toughness. Williams somehow beat the count and came after Charisse, much to the brunette's surprise. Working with wide lefts and rights to the body, Charisse stepped back as Esther tried to reach for a clinch, then turned Williams to the ropes for a vicious final minute. Getting off with double hooks and jolting right hands, Charisse battered Williams along the ropes - finally depositing the swimmer in the corner for a beating that saw Esther prop herself on the turnbuckle and take punches for the last few seconds. Williams got out of the round despite being out on her feet, and Charisse begged the ref to stop the contest before Esther was seriously hurt.

R6: Knowing that the ref was looking, a battle-scarred Esther Williams came out in her crossed arm stance and wailed into Cyd for all she was worth. Charisse stepping back was able to minimize the force of these blows, but Esther's pressure was immense - often all Charisse could do was fade to the ropes, bob up and down, and spin out, rather than trade with the still dangerous swimmer. Round to Esther, a crucial point which convinced the ref that despite the carnage of her face, that Esther Williams could still compete.

R7: Charisse worked her jab over time this round, melting away from Esther behind a swatting, stabbing screen of lefts as Williams plodded forward, head snapping back all the way. Still, Williams had won Charisse' respect - 7 rounds and the blonde was still coming forward.

R8: Esther's best round would also be her undoing. Charisse had an unspoken agreement with her dance partners that had given her a bit of a reputation as a carrier, and Williams broke that agreement by piling on late hurt to the brunette's ribcage this round. Vintage Williams as she bundled Charisse to the corners, dug her head in, and plowed lefts and rights home to the gut until Charisse could clinch. By the final minute, Charisse was visibly pained and getting bowled over, fading to a seat on the ropes, right at her cheek, left at her gut, and cringing to soak up William's offerings. A banging left to the gut, left to the cheek turned Charisse's head and buckled her legs, and Cyd clinched to avoid going down. As the bell rang, it was a hurting, and angry Cyd Charisse slumping in her corner for the ninth.

R9: Cyd paid Esther back in kind, stepping around the blonde, pumping out the jab to get Esther to commit defensively, then lashing in the right hand to the gut or face as Williams began to shred. By the middle minute, Cyd was bathing Esther in punches, fluid lefts and rights that licked across the blonde's back or bit into her head as the swimmer desperately tried to bob. A rising double left hook, set up the chopping right and down went Esther once again, rolling onto her back as Charisse stepped away. Cyd would complete a cruel shutout round, finishing up on a battered and exhausted Esther Williams at the ropes with slashing combinations.

R10: Another shutout for Cyd Charisse as she continued to circle left, harass Esther with jabs and bang away with slick combinations at will. Williams had no thought of winning the fight, crossing her arms, getting nailed, swaying drunkenly from one foot to the other, but taking all Cyd could give her to prove a brutal point. At the final bell, a wrecked Esther Williams taunted through broken lips "you couldn't make me quit Cyd!" Unanimous decision Cyd Charisse nonetheless.

After: Once it became apparent that Williams was outclassed, Esther turned in one of her grittiest performances in going the distance with a prime Cyd Charisse. Cyd would have grudging respect for William's heart as a result of this effort, but would always dismiss the blonde as 'crude' when reminiscing about her career and opponents. For Williams, the writing was on the wall when the best she could do was lose well. 1