Greatest Athletes in CT History: Middletown: Willie Pep

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As part of a new series recognizing the greatest athletes in Connecticut history, is highlighting those legends who haven’t gotten their due. Today we take a look back at boxing legend Willie Pep, who is undoubtedly the greatest athlete ever to come out of Middletown.

MIDDLETOWN: Willie Pep, Boxing (1940-66).

Born Guglielmo Papaleo, the Middletown native was better known as Willie ‘Will o’ the Wisp’ Pep, one of the greatest boxers in history. He’s listed as the fifth-greatest of all-time by, and is commonly regarded as the best featherweight ever to step into the ring. Recently, he was ranked the No. 1 featherweight of the twentieth century by the Associated Press, and the No. 1 featherweight of all time by the International Boxing Research Organization in 2005.

Between the ropes, Pep was a defensive master, often out-willing his opponents in the ring. He was known for his speed and finesse, and was tough to square up. Pep won his first 63 professional bouts before losing to world champion Sammy Agnott, then responded by going 72-0-1 before losing again. The two-time featherweight champion of the world finished his career with a 230-11-1 record.

He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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