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Wrestler vs. boxer bout in 1937

Watch this quick 2 minute vintage video from the 1930s of a wrestler fighting a boxer!
Early 1930s video shows wrestler dominating boxer

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The question of which style of martial arts is better has been around for thousands of years. When the UFC was born in 1993, it brought several countless martial arts to see which style was the most effective in a no-rules fight. There was karate versus kickboxing, boxing versus jiu-jitsu, and even sumo was involved. Of course, you know that Royce Gracie came out on top, using the form of jiu-jitsu refined over generations in his native Brazil.

Some put the birth of MMA much farther back, to Muhammad Ali vs. Japanese pro wrestler Antonio Inoki, at The War of The Worlds: Battle of the Champions, on June 25, 1976, in Nippon Budokan arena, Tokyo, Japan. Others point to the origin of MMA as a boxing vs. pro wrestling match that was back further still. On December 2, 1963, "Judo" Gene LeBell faced world-ranked boxer Milo Savage. It was the the first such bout to be nationally televised.

However, on August 11, 1937, at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, a full generation before LeBell vs. Savage, a journeyman heavyweight boxer named Lupe LeMon also known as Pio Pico, had a match against a professional wrestler named Nick Lutze. An old video of the bout was unearthed and digitized; it's believed to be the earliest boxer vs. wrestler bout on film. Adding to the historic value, the referee was former world boxing champion Max Baer.

What Happened

The video starts out like something out of a movie. You have the professional wrestler in the ring wearing his robe while the boxer warms up his arms. The commentating is coming from a radio announcer. It’s all quite nostalgic.

Once the bell rings, the two men circle each other slowly as the wrestler stalks Pico. The wrestler Lutze is noticeably the bigger athlete. Within seconds he goes for a take down, but just like today’s modern professional wrestling, if the combatant has a part of his body out of the ring, the match is stood up and restarted.

On Lutze's second try he gets the takedown, and what follows is eerily familiar. He gets top turtle control, and transitions to back mount. Then there is another rope escape. There is a third takedown, and the round ends.

Round 2 opens with another takedown and escape, and some glancing punches from the outside. Finally the wrestler gets the takedown, transitions to mount, and wins via a pin that from an MMA or jiu-jitsu perspective will look like a loose Arm Triangle. Early real Catch Wrestling bouts were typically won via pin or via concession (submitting to a submission hold), so the bout ending is in keeping with the rules of the time.

The outcome was no surprise - a wrestler will usually beat a boxer in a one-on-one fight.

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There are rumors that Bellator MMA rising star Aaron Pico is related to the boxer above. As Pio Pico was a ring name, he can no more be related to the MMA fighter than pro wrestler Big Dick Johnson is to former president of the USA Lyndon Baines Johnson.

The only remaining question is, was this a shoot (real) or a work (pro wrestling, where the ending is prearranged)?

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