Fidel La Barba
Unquestionably, Fidel La Barba was one of the most unique, unpredictable champions in the history of boxing – no small feat for this spry flyweight.
La Barba was the first and only boxing champion to renounce his title to attend college. La Barba had won the 1924 Olympic Games flyweight gold in Paris, coming back to the U.S. to eventually become the world flyweight champion, defeating Elky Clark in 1927.
But seven months later, he renounced the belt and announced his retirement to concentrate on studies at Stanford. La Barba, born in New York and raised in Los Angeles, eventually returned to boxing. But he outgrew the flyweight ranks and never regained a championship. Although he beat the great Cuban Kid Chocolate in 1930, he was outpointed for the featherweight title by Battling Battalino in 1931.
La Barba retired from ring action for good in 1933, after compiling a fine record of 73-15-7, one of the few champs to never suffer a knockout. His future was equally intriguing. He lost a fortune in the Wall Street crash, lost the sight in one eye from a training injury, and worked as both a newspaperman and movie scriptwriter in Hollywood.
He died on October 3, 1981 and was elected to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame the same year.