Born: November 6, 1928
Died: December 26, 2003
Del Flanagan, perhaps the pound-for-pound greatest boxer to come out of Minnesota since Mike Gibbons, Del was a boxing marvel and a master of ring generalship. When Del entered the prize ring, he most often owned it. Known as a master tactician, Del’s style was one of smooth boxing and nimble footwork, combined with blinding counter-punching combinations. As smart as he was fast, Del Flanagan was Minnesota’s main representative on the world scene during the decade of the 1950′s. After collecting Upper Midwest Golden Gloves titles at Featherweight in 1945 and 1946, including a split decision loss for the 1946 National Championship to Jackie Dicker, Del turned pro under the training and management of Earl and Bill Kaehn in 1947 and ran up an undefeated record of 51-0-1, including big wins over local sensation, Jackie Graves, as well as former world champion, Beau Jack, and another over Featherweight champ, Sandy Saddler in a non-title fight, before suffering his first loss at the hands of Tommy Campbell in June of 1951 in Minneapolis before 6,000 screaming fans. At the time, Flanagan was then under the management of the legendary Lou Viscusi, and the split-decision loss didn’t hurt him a bit, as he climbed back in the ring with Campbell the following month and scored a Draw before facing World Lightweight Champion, Jimmy Carter in a non-title fight in August that same year. Flanagan was well ahead on the scorecards against the champion, before sustaining a shoulder injury late in the 5th, which prompted him to quit on his stool. Rumors ran rampant that Flanagan was ordered to lose by “outside influences”, charges he denied.
As time went on, Del outgrew the Lightweight class and quickly became one of the top-rated Welterweights in the country, earning a #2 world ranking and touring with stablemate and fellow Viscusi fighter, Featherweight champion, Willie Pep. Flanagan’s style was similar to Pep’s in that both were fast of hand and foot, and defensive gurus to boot, and Del’s boxing skills only increased while working with Pep and trainer Bill Gore. Flanagan went on to beat many big name fighters such as: Johnny DeFazio, Lester Felton, Willie Pastrano, Alan Moody, Steve Marcello, Johnny Saxton, and Johnny Bratton before turning his sights on the Middleweight class.
By now it was 1955, and Del started off by beating long-time contender, Al Andrews, for the vacant Minnesota Middleweight title. Flanagan took every round from Andrews in a one-sided affair that proved Del could bring his speed and skills up to the Middleweight ranks. He later lost a controversial decision to Gene Fullmer in Fullmer’s backyard, before dropping back-to-back decisions to Clarence Cook in 1956. Del then re-solidified himself to the Minnesota boxing community by whipping the up-and-coming local Middleweight threat, Jimmy Hegerle over 10 lopsided rounds in Saint Paul. He then stopped Hegerle’s arch-rival, Joe Schmolze, the following month with a 1st round TKO, before facing former champion, Kid Gavilan in Saint Paul and taking a 10 round unanimous decision and setting a state record at the time with a gate of $43,796 (about $340,000 adjusted for inflation per 2010).
Del later posted significant victories over Gil Turner, Tiger Jones, and big one over Welterweight champion, Virgil Akins in another non-title fight. No one would give Del a crack at a title, be it in the Welterweight division or the Middleweight ranks. When they did, they were “non-title” fights in which the champ agreed to come in a few pounds overweight and without his title on the line. Sandy Saddler did it to Del at Featherweight, Jimmy Carter did it to him at Lightweight, and now Virgil Akins did it to him at Welterweight. Flanagan was simply too good for his own good, to ever merit champions giving him a fair shot at their titles. Del later beat local rival Lee Ballard in two thrilling affairs before losing his state title via knockout to the young and powerful Duane Horsman in 1964. Flanagan retired later that same year at age 35, with a record of 105 wins, 22 losses, and 2 Draws for a total of 130 fights. He had held the state Middleweight title for 8 ½ years. Del was later inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 2003.