TACOMA WA – The year was 1999 and the heavyweight boxing world was filled with rising stars, many of whom are well known and revered today. There were five recognized boxing entities at that time — the IBF, WBC, WBA, WBF and the WBO.
Names like Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko and Mike Tyson, to single out just a few, were making history. But there was another hard-hitting heavyweight making his own history whose name most people may not know.
Joe “The Boss” Hipp, a Blackfeet from Browning Montana, won his name in history on July 25, 1999 by winning the WBF heavyweight title to become the first Native American to win a World Heavyweight title when he defeated journeyman boxer Everett “Big Foot” Martin.
Martin, the huge favourite going into the ring, was stymied by Hipp’s methodical move-forward style and The Boss caught Martin with a crushing upper cut that put him on the canvas early in the fight.
To put that in perspective, George Forman, Larry Holmes or Michael Moorer had not knocked down Martin before facing Hipp who went on to win the decision, and the Championship belt.
Along the way, Hipp also won the WBF Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship in 1991, the North American Boxing Federation (NABF) title in 1994, and the Western U.S. Heavyweight Championship in 1996.
In 1995 he became the first Native American to fight for a world title when he took on Bruce Seldon for the WBA Heavyweight Championship at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. The fight was stopped in the tenth round with Hipp’s face a bleeding mess, but he was still inflicting damage on Seldon.
Later, Hipp took on the late Tommy Morrison as a 10-1 under dog in the scheduled 10 round fight and lost, but was even on the score cards when Morrison landed a surprise right hand to put Hipp down for the count in the ninth round. Until that punch, Morrison looked like he was losing the round with Hipp the obvious aggressor. That fight, which was broadcast on ABC Wild World of Sports, is available on YouTube and stands as one of the most exciting nine rounds of boxing you will ever see.
Hipp’s career ended after an in-ring knee injury with a professional record of 43 wins, 29 by knockout, and seven losses.
Although he left the ring in 2008, Hipp didn’t stop fighting. But this time it’s for native youth through the All Nations Foundation that he founded in 2008, based in Tacoma, Washington — not to be confused with the now defunct All Nations Foundation, which was based in California in the 1990s.
The ANF is a non-profit charitable organization that encourages excellence in sports, academics, health and fitness; preserves Native sports heritage and builds pride and positive lifestyles in the spirit of Native American culture.
The Boss is now busy speaking to Native youth gatherings with his message of endurance, education and a clean and sober lifestyle.