Jack Dempsey: When Fists Get Real

Jack Dempsey: When Fists Get Real

By Aaron Lloyd

During Jack Dempsey’s tenure as heavyweight champion from 1919 to 1926, and for a time afterwards, the pugilist-turned actor scarcely spent more time in a ring then he did in the theater and movie set.  Never the acting equivalent of notable screen legends such as Charlie Chaplain or Douglas Fairbanks, Dempsey did star in two feature films, Daredevil Jack (1920) and Manhatten Madness (1925) and he played a recurring role on Broadway in a play entitled The Big Fight.  In The Big Fight, Dempsey’s role required that he knockout a fellow by the name of Ralph Smith, and for weeks, Dempsey’s “lightly-thrown” right hand was enough to send the seven-foot, 275-pound Smith to the canvas in the plays “climactic scene.”  One night, however, Dempsey accidentally delivered a blow with a tad bit more mustard than he had intended, and Smith went crashing to the canvas (much like he had hundreds of times before), only this time, instead of staying down and being “counted out” in the first round (per the script), the former club fighter-turned actor got up and went after Dempsey in a totally unscripted turn of events.  Dempsey, stunned but sensing the need to continue “acting,” found himself in what was beginning to resemble a real fight.  Dempsey got Smith in a clinch and said, “Hey you bum.  Go Down.  You’re ruining the show.” The bewildered cast and crew kept the play going, as the “mock” bout went to the second, third, fourth, and finally the fifth round, before Dempsey was able to land a genuine knockout blow that sent Jones to the canvas for good.  The crowd, none-the-wiser, cheered the villain’s demise, not knowing that they had just witnessed an extra four rounds of authentic heavyweight fisticuffs.

After the show, an infuriated Dempsey went storming into Jones’ dressing room ready to continue his assault, shouting, “What the hell were you trying to do out there, fight for real?”  To which the dazed actor replied, “Sorry Jack, but you hit me so hard in the first round that I didn’t even know where I was from then on.” 

Apparently the show must go on, even when “fists get real.”           

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Boxing History: Larry Middleton

Boxing History: Larry Middleton

By Jim Amato

What would you say about a fighter who met the likes of Ken Norton, Ron Lyle, Jimmy Ellis, Jerry Quarry, Oscar Bonevena and Joe Bugner? (all boxers who either held or fought for the world’s heavyweight championship). Yet this fighter never came close to a world title shot. You could call him “Hard Luck”. I would call him Larry Middleton.

Larry began his career in 1965 and didn’t exactly set the world on fire. He drew with Jimmy Haynes in his pro debut and two fights later was stopped by Jerry O’Neal. He won three fights in a row in 1966 but was inactive in 1967. He won two fights in 1968 to bring his total of bouts to eight over a four-year period. Larry began to pick up the pace in 1969 winning a decision over dangerous Roy “Tiger” Williams. He followed with three more victories. He then added four more wins in 1970. In 1971, Larry scored two quick knockouts and then traveled to England to meet highly regarded Joe Bugner. At this time Middleton owned a 16-1-1 record and had won fifteen in a row. Still no one really gave him a chance against Bugner. In a huge upset Larry won a convincing decision and gained a world rating.

In 1972, Larry solidified his ranking with wins over Tony Doyle, Dan McAlinden and Bob Stallings. Back in England Larry was matched with highly rated Jerry Quarry. Although Jerry won the ten round verdict, Larry gave him all he could handle. In Middleton’s next fight he was crushed in three rounds by an up and coming Ron Lyle. Ten months later on October 31, 1973 Larry met Lyle again. He went the distance but dropped a ten round verdict. Larry closed the year by halting Jack O’Halloran.

Middleton was still ranked in 1974 and on March 4th he drew with former World Boxing Association champion Jimmy Ellis. Two months later Larry dropped a twelve round duke to long time contender Oscar Bonevena. 1975 started Larry on his way from contender to trial horse. A five round knockout loss to Howard “Kayo” Smith did severe damage to his career. In 1976, Larry dropped decisions to Duane Bobick and Scott Ledoux. In what would be his last chance in the limelight Larry met Ken Norton on July 10th. In a game effort Norton halted Larry in the tenth round thus ending Middleton’s run as a formidable contender.  Middleton retired in 1978 with a record 23-10-2, including 14 wins by way of knockout

Jim Amato is a participating member of both the Boxing Writers Association of America and the International Boxing Research Organization. He is a longtime correspondent of sport, both inside and outside the ring, and he is currently the president and owner of Amato Sports Memorabilia. Jim’s other works and “Legends of Leather” articles can be found at http://boxinggreats.multiply.com.

 

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What If? Liston vs. Johansson in 1961

What If?  Liston-vs.-Johansson in 1961

By Jim Amato

Champion Ingemar Johansson vs. Sonny Liston was a fight that very well could have happened. After Ingo shocked Floyd Patterson to win the title in 1959, he was the “man.” At this time Sonny was just beginning to establish himself as a heavyweight to be reckoned with. By the time Floyd and Ingo met again in June of 1960, Sonny had defeated Nino Valdez and Cleveland Williams twice. One month after Patterson – Johansson II, Sonny stopped the clever Zora Folley. Then two months later he outscored the classy Eddie Machen. There was little doubt that Sonny Liston would have to be dealt with.

Think about this: What if Ingemar would have won his 1960 bout with Patterson? There would have been no need for a 1961 rubber match with Floyd. Enter Sonny. He would have been the most logical contender. So how would a match between Johansson and Liston panned out in June of 1961?

ROUND 1: They both come out jabbing. Ingemar is pawing with his jab using it as a range finder for his “Thunder of Thor” right hand. Sonny is putting more behind his jab and they are snapping Johansson’s head back. They are finally on the inside and Ingo is holding his own. After the referee breaks them, the two again are in a jabbing contest. Finally, Johansson lets the right hand fly over Sonny’s extended jab and it connects. It actually sends Sonny back a step. Ingo moves in but he is met by a solid jab and a thudding right to the body. They wrestle around on the inside at the bell.

Liston’s jab won a close round for him but Ingemar landed the first damaging punch.

ROUND 2: Sonny is really pumping the jab and has Johansson on the defensive. Ingemar is trying to get under the jab but on the inside Sonny is landing heavy, looping body shots that hurt. Ingo is game and he is trying to launch his vaunted right hand. Sonny’s jab is keeping Ingemar of balance and unable to get the full power behind the right. Ingo’s nose is bleeding and he has several large red welts on his midsection.

Liston controlled the round and is now up two rounds to none.

ROUND 3: Sonny is sticking to his game plan and the jab is doing a lot of damage. Ingemar keeps trying but he is telegraphing the right hand and Sonny is paying attention. Finally Ingo gets one in and Sonny again stumbles back a few steps. The crowd is on their feet. As Johansson moves in, Sonny lands a monster left hook to Ingo’s jaw that sends him to his knees. The courageous Johansson is up at eight but Sonny shuffles right after him. Ingemar lets a desperate right fly and it catches Sonny on the top of head and stops Sonny’s attack for the moment. Liston shoots in a few jabs as the round comes to a close.

With the knockdown Sonny gets a 10-8 round.

ROUND 4: Ingemar comes out winging but does not land any effective shots. Sonny remains calm and starts planting that jab again. Ingo is starting to become weary and Liston starts doing more work on the inside. Johansson tries to tie Sonny up but Liston will have none of it. Sonny works Ingo to the ropes and he is just raking him with body blows. Finally a tremendous uppercut to the jaw sends Ingo sprawling to the canvas. Johansson shows true grit as he is up at nine. The referee hesitates a moment and then waves the two fighters together. Liston walks back in and is literally throwing bombs. Ingo is trying to survive but each shot lands with a telling effect. A left hook slams into Johansson’s jaw and he sags to the canvas just as the referee has grabbed Liston from behind to hold him back.

It’s over. The bout has been stopped at the 1:58 second mark of round four. The winner and new champion of the world, Sonny Liston!

Ingemar is helped up by his corner men and led back to his corner. He appears to be OK. A good sportsman, Sonny comes over to check on Ingo and they shake hands. As Sonny is being interviewed he praises Johansson’s courage. He also said that Ingemar was the hardest puncher he ever met including Cleveland Williams. Sonny even admitted that he was stunned a few times.

Johansson when interviewed seemed disappointed in losing his title. He said he could not believe Sonny absorbed his best shots and kept coming. He also said that Liston hurts you every time he lands a punch no matter where it lands. He predicted a long reign for Sonny and expressed no interest in a rematch.

Jim Amato is a participating member of both the Boxing Writers Association of America and the International Boxing Research Organization. He is a longtime correspondent of sport, both inside and outside the ring, and he is currently the president and owner of Amato Sports Memorabilia. Jim’s other works and “Legends of Leather” articles can be found at http://boxinggreats.multiply.com.

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Ad Wolgast and the Hard Knock Life

Ad Wolgast and the Hard Knock Life

By Aaron Lloyd

World Lightweight Champion Adolphus “Ad” Wolgast was one of the most courageous, interesting, and tragic figures in the history of boxing.   Born on February 8, 1888 in Cadillac, Michigan, Wolgast, the oldest in a family of seven, took to boxing at an early age and showed an affinity for the sport during a brief but successful amateur campaign.  In June of 1906, he attended his first professional prizefight, both as a spectator and as a participant, when he somehow managed to talk his way onto the fight card, after being short the funds for a ticket! Wolgast won a six-round decision over Kid Moore that day, thus beginning an epic 14-year career that would culminate with him as the lightweight champion of the world, and end with him as a destitute and forgotten man living out the remainder of his life in an institution.

From 1906 to 1909 Wolgast lost only one time officially (5 times counting “newspaper decisions”) in a period of 64 fights.  His aggressive, all-action style earned him the nickname “The Michigan Wildcat,” and by the end of the decade he had moved from smaller venues and lower paying fights around Michigan and Wisconsin to more lucrative engagements along the West Coast.  In 1909, Wolgast met his eventual nemesis (and then champion) Battling Nelson in a scheduled 10-round, non-title bout in Los Angeles, and after ten brutal and bloody rounds, he was declared the winner by way of a newspaper decision.  With the win, Wolgast established himself as one of the best fighters in the division and one of the biggest threats to the lightweight crown; and just seven short months later he would get another opportunity to prove himself, this time with the title on the line.

The rematch with Nelson was set for February 22, 1910 in a city just north of San Francisco called Point Richmond.  More than 18,000 fans showed up that day in anticipation of another epic battle, and with forty-five rounds allotted to determining a winner the second time around, there was no question that the fans would get their money’s worth.  Bitter rivals to the end, the two sounded off before the fight, both confident of victory.  Nelson baited his challenger by saying, “Put a horseshoe in each of his gloves, and bet him he can’t knock me out;” while Wolgast, sans-horseshoes, gleefully obliged. 

For forty rounds the two men tore at each other as advertised, landing maliciously with fists, elbows, incisors, and just about anything else they could get away with.  Nelson controlled the action through the first twenty-five rounds, getting off first and fighting at an exceedingly spirited pace, but as the fight wore on, the Michigan Wildcat began to hit his stride, eventually winning the marathon battle of attrition.  Finally, battered, bruised, bleeding from the nose and ears, and squinting through two slits for eyes, Nelson was declared unfit to continue after the referee determined he could no longer see well enough to continue (at one point he actually tried squaring up with the ring post instead of Wolgast); and after forty grueling rounds, Ad Wolgast was crowned the new lightweight champion of the world.   To this day, the Wolgast-Nelson fight is considered one of the most thrilling and fierce battles in boxing history, earning the 19th spot on Ring Magazine’s “100 Greatest Fights of all Time” list (circa 1996), and prompting ringside observer W.O. McGeehan of the New York Herald Tribune to remark, “For concentrated viciousness, it was the most savage bout I have ever seen.”                

Wolgast would successfully defend his title five times over the course of the next two years, with the most memorable bout occurring in his fourth defense, the infamous “double knockdown” brawl with Mexican Joe Rivers on July 7, 1912.  Trailing in the fight through twelve rounds, Wolgast had virtually exhausted all legal avenues towards victory, and were it not for the actions of a bottle brandishing cornerman (who chased him off the stool between rounds), he might well have conceded defeat.  As it turned out, however, Wolgast came out for the thirteenth round intent on giving old Mexican Joe a little “south of the border” action, and at the first available opportunity, he connected with a left hand below the belt just as Rivers connected with a left-right combination to Wolgast’s jaw.  The two fighters fell in unison, and the referee, unaware that a foul had been committed, began counting both men out.  Wolgast, arguably the more coherent of the two, slowly attempted to rise while Rivers continued writhing in pain on the canvas, and the referee, having finished the ten count, declared Wolgast the winner based on his more “concentrated” effort to get to his feet. Upon hearing the verdict, the crowd (particularly the pro-Rivers contingent) began to voice their displeasure over the unfair ruling, and the referee, a man by the name of Jack Welch, had to beat a hasty retreat back to the dressing rooms in order to avoid the ire of the unruly mob.  Nevertheless, Welch’s decision (a TKO for Wolgast) remained the official verdict, and the champion held onto his title under the most contentious of circumstances. 

On November 28, 1912, Wolgast’s reign as champion would finally come to an end, when, in an ironic twist of fate, he was disqualified against San Francisco native Willie Ritchie for another flagrant infraction (one that was correctly labeled as such this time).  With the loss, only his second “official” loss in more than 84 contests (Wolgast did lose seven newspaper decisions during that span) the Michigan Wildcat, still just 24-years of age, set out to regain his lightweight championship by whatever means necessary.  Unfortunately, the years of punishment were beginning to take their toll on Wolgast, and despite finding sporadic success in the ensuing years (he did beat Battling Nelson by way of a newspaper decision in 1913), the former champion would never again challenge for the world title, and he finished the last 8 years of his career with a record of 19-25-10.  On September 6, 1920, at the age of 32, Wolgast finally retired with an overall record of 59-13-17 (40 KO’s) and a record of 21-21-7 in newspaper decisions.  For the brave champion, his ring career had come to an end, but little did he know, his most difficult battles were just getting started. 

Over the course of his 14-year ring career, Adolphus Wolgast fought 429 rounds in 140 fights and suffered countless injuries, including broken arms, ribs, and damage to his eyes, ears and nose (Wolgast had the latter injected with paraffin wax to remedy its somewhat gnarled appearance).  Unfortunately, the most extensive injury suffered by Wolgast was the trauma to his brain, and by 1918 (still 2 years before his last official bout) he suffered a nervous breakdown, was declared incapable of tending to his affairs, and was institutionalized in a sanitarium.  In 1918, Wolgast escaped from the hospital where he was being held and lived for a time in the mountains of North Carolina, where he was eventually “discovered” and given over to the care of Jack Doyle, a boxing promoter from Vernon, California.  Doyle offered to let Wolgast live and train with him, with the stipulation that Wolgast would never again be allowed to enter a prizefighting ring, and as a result, Wolgast spent the next seven years (from 1920 to 1927) diligently training every day, skipping rope, running, and shadow boxing for a fight that never came.  Wolgast trained from sun up to sun down, and would retire exhausted each evening with the belief that his title shot was always a day away.  For close to seven years, this ritual went on, with Doyle offering encouragement and keeping Wolgast preoccupied and singularly focused, in a sad re-embodiment of his former self.

In 1927, Wolgast’s condition deteriorated to the point that he was once again institutionalized, and it was here, at the Stockton State Hospital in California, where he would spend the remainder of his life.  At the age of 61, Wolgast, never one to back down from a fight, suffered a severe beating at the hands of two hospital orderlies, who in an attempt to “test the toughness” of the former ring great, left him with him with broken ribs and permanently disabled.  Just a few short years later in 1955, Wolgast, at the age of 67, died of heart failure, thus completing the tale of one of boxing’s most tragic and fearless individuals.

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KEN NORTON

KEN NORTON

By Jim Amato

When there is any talk of the greatest era of heavyweight boxing, the name Ken Norton has to be mentioned. Ken was a mainstay in the ratings throughout the 1970′s, he briefly held the World Boxing Council version of the heavyweight title, and he, of course, is remembered most for his famous trilogy with Muhammad Ali.  
Norton was born on August 9, 1943 in Jacksonville, Illinois. He was always an exceptional athlete but didn’t turn to boxing until he joined the Marine Corps. He won the All Marine heavyweight championship three times and compiled a 24-2 amateur record. After being passed over to represent the United States in the Pan American Games, Ken opted to turn professional. He made his debut on November 14, 1967 by halting Grady Brazell in the fifth round in San Diego. It would be the first of sixteen straight victories for Ken. During the streak Norton would gain experience beating veterans like Bill McMurray and Aaron Eastling.
It would all come crashing down on July 2, 1970 at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. Norton would meet a lanky heavyweight from Venezuela named Jose Luis Garcia. Based on appearance it looked like the muscular Norton would steamroll his opponent. Garcia though, possessed fast hands and he could bang. In a major upset Garcia took out Ken in the eighth round. It was back to the drawing board for Norton.
Ken would begin to see a hypnotist and this seemed to work as he rallied to win thirteen straight contests. Norton moved up the heavyweight rankings with two wins over the capable James J.Woody. He defeated rugged Jack O’Halloran in a thriller and stopped the talented Henry Clark. On March 31, 1973 Ken would meet former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali in San Diego. Ali had failed to regain the heavyweight title on March 8, 1971 against Joe Frazier in the “Fight Of The Century,” and he was now taking on all comers to establish himself as the “People’s Champion” and entice Frazier into a rematch. Norton was viewed as just another opponent and Ali was listed as a 5 to 1 favorite. Ken hadn’t read the script though and he came out and forced the fight. Ali suffered a broken jaw in one of the early rounds but he gamely fought on. This day Ken was too much for Muhammad and Norton was awarded a well deserve decision. Along with it came the North American Boxing Federation heavyweight title.
Ali and Norton would meet again on September 10, 1973 at the Inglewood Forum. Ali vowed to be in better shape and he was. Muhammad swept the early rounds but as the bout progressed Norton came on strong. At the end of twelve rounds Ali’s early lead held up and he won the verdict. After giving “The Greatest” twelve rounds of pure hell Ken was given a shot at the heavyweight title.  The man in the other corner would be undefeated George Foreman. The power punching Foreman had destroyed Joe Frazier in two rounds to capture the title. At this point in his career George looked unbeatable. The fight would take place March 26, 1974 in Caracas, Venezuela. After a quiet first round George would lower the boom in round two. Again it was back to the drawing board for Ken.
The two fights with Ali still left Norton as a very marketable heavyweight. Ken came back with a vengeance. He took apart Boone Kirkman and then in 1975 he scored knock out wins over Jerry Quarry and former conqueror Garcia. In 1976 he had inside the distance wins over Pedro Lovell, Ron Stander and Larry Middleton. In 1974, Ali upset Foreman in the famous “Rumble In The Jungle” to regain the championship. Now Ken was considered the #1 threat to his title. Their rubber match took place on September 28, 1976 at Yankee Stadium. After fifteen see-saw rounds Ali was given a highly controversial decision to retain his crown. Norton was heartbroken but he vowed to get Ali one more time.
In 1977, Ken reinforced his status as the number one contender by demolishing unbeaten Duane Bobick in one round. Later in the year he met the crafty Jimmy Young in a World Boxing Council heavyweight eliminator. The fight with Young took place on November 5, 1977 in Las Vegas. In an extremely close affair Norton edged Young and Ken was now Ali’s mandatory challenger. In 1978, a fading Ali would lose his title to unbeaten but untested Leon Spinks in a huge upset. Spinks was now obligated to defend the title against Norton. Leon though would opt for a much more lucrative rematch with Ali. The WBC then stripped Spinks of the title and awarded it to Norton based on his win over Young. Finally Norton was a champion.
Ken’s tenure as champion was short lived. On June 9, 1978 in Las Vegas Norton would lose a razor close verdict to unbeaten Larry Holmes in a truly classic battle. Ken would fight on hoping for another crack at the title. He stopped classy Randy Stephens in three rounds. Then disaster struck in the form of Earnie Shaver’s powerful fists. Shavers blasted Norton out in one round derailing any hopes of a Holmes rematch. Next Ken took on rough and tumble Scott LeDoux. Norton was winning handily but faded after taking a thumb to the eye. Norton was knocked down twice in the tenth and final round but hung on until the bell. The fight ended in a draw. Ken would retire but then come back a year later to face undefeated Randall “Tex” Cobb. Norton was able to out box the plodding Cobb and win the decision. Next for Norton would be the unbeaten punching sensation Gerry Cooney. There was already a great demand for Cooney to meet champion Larry Holmes. Norton would supply Gerry with his toughest test to date. The test ended in the first round as Cooney scored a brutal knockout. That ended the career of Ken Norton.
In all, Norton had fifty professional fights, and his record was a very respectable 42-7-1. Ken scored thirty three knockouts and was stopped only four times. He met three champions in Ali, Foreman and Holmes, he faced eight boxers who challenged for the title, and he was among the elite heavyweights for nearly a decade.

Jim Amato is a participating member of both the Boxing Writers Association of America and the International Boxing Research Organization. He is a longtime correspondent of sport, both inside and outside the ring, and he is currently the president and owner of Amato Sports Memorabilia. Jim’s other works and “Legends of Leather” articles can be found at http://boxinggreats.multiply.com.

 

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Karl Mildenberger

Karl Mildenberger

By Jim Amato

Outside of former heavyweight champion Max Schmeling, Karl Mildenberger is the most popular heavyweight Germany has ever produced. Karl was born on November 23, 1937 and began his foray into professional boxing in 1958. He won his first eleven bouts, but in 1959 he suffered his first setback to Helmut Ball. Karl then went on to win his next nineteen bouts. Among his victims were Jimmy Slade, Franco Cavicchi, Harold Carter, Young Jack Johnson. Wayne Bethea, Howard King and Pete Rademacher.
 
On February 24, 1962, Mildenberger challenged Dick Richardson for the European Boxing Union title. Richardson shocked Karl stopping him in the very first round. Karl would bounce back to go unbeaten in his next twenty two contests. He fought draws with Archie McBride, Zora Folley and Amos Johnson. Mildenberger would defeat Joe Bygraves, Von Clay, Bethea again and McBride in a rematch. He also defeated Joe Erskine and Billy Daniels. On October 17, 1964 Karl would knock out Santo Amonti in one round to capture the European crown. Mildenberber made three successful defenses against Piero Tomasoni, Gerhard Zech and Ivan Prebeg, before decisioning Eddie Machen.
 
Finally, Karl received a shot at the world’s heavyweight championship. On September 10, 1966, Mildenberger took a lofty 49-2-3 record into the ring to face Muhammad Ali. It turned out to be a tough fight for the champion. Early on it seemed like Ali was a bit confused by Karl’s southpaw style. As the fight progressed though, Ali’s size, speed and superior skills took over. Muhammad finally halted his stubborn challenger in round twelve. Karl has the distinction of being the first southpaw to fight for the heavyweight title.
 
Mildenberger returned to action defending his European title twice against Tomasoni and Billy Walker. He also stopped Amos “Big Train” Lincoln. Ali had been stripped of the heavyweight championship for refusing induction in to the United States Army. The World Boxing Association held a tournament to determine a new title holder. Eight boxers were chosen and Mildenberger was one of them. His first opponent would be strong but crude Oscar Bonavena of Argentina. After Karl’s performance against Ali many felt he had a good chance to defeat Bonavena. Oscar though turned in a career best performance. He floored Karl in four different rounds, but the game Mildenberger made it to the final bell. Bonavena won a clear cut twelve round decision.
 
Karl would again defend his European title successfully against Gerhard Zech. Then came a seventh round knockout loss to Leotis Martin. On September 18, 1968 Mildenberger met Henry Cooper in London for the European crown. Karl lost the title to Cooper via a controversial disqualification for illegal use of the head. It would be Karl’s last fight.
 
Mildenberger would retire with a fine 53-6-3 record. He recorded 19 knockouts while he was stopped on four occasions. He met five men who also challenged for the world title. Karl also held the European title nearly four years defending it six times.

Jim Amato is a participating member of both the Boxing Writers Association of America and the International Boxing Research Organization. He is a longtime correspondent of sport, both inside and outside the ring, and he is currently the president and owner of Amato Sports Memorabilia. Jim’s other works and “Legends of Leather” articles can be found at http://boxinggreats.multiply.com.

 

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Masahiko “Fighting Harada”

Masahiko “Fighting Harada”

By Jim Amato

He just may be the most popular Japanese fighter of all time. In a career that lasted a little over a decade he squeezed in 63 pro contests, winning of 55 of them. He won world championships in two weight divisions and he came very close to becoming a three-weight class titleholder. Please remember this was back in the day when there were only eight weight classes and one champion per division. He is the only man to beat the legendary Eder Jofre and he turned the trick twice. His name was Masahiko but in boxing circles his nickname was “Fighting.” That should tell you something about his aggressive whirlwind style. He was “Fighting” Harada.  
 
The rough and tumble Harada started his career in 1960 and in less than three years he reeled off 25 straight wins. Ten of those were by knockout. He had established himself as a top ranking flyweight contender. Edmundo Esparza upset Harada by decision in June of 1962 to end his win streak, but two fights later on October 10th, he was in a Tokyo ring facing world flyweight champion Pone Kingpetch. The champion was unable to keep the swarming Harada off of him and he finally lost his title in the eleventh round. Kingpetch lured Harada to his home country of Thailand for a rematch and on January12th, 1963 in Bangkok, however, and Pone regained his title by decision. Harada bounced back to win three straight and then he was surprisingly stopped by the talented Mexican Jose Medel in Tokyo. Undaunted, Harada went on a six fight win streak that carried him to the end of 1964.
 
In 1965, Harada entered the bantamweight class and on May 17th he met the unbeaten and highly respected champion Eder Jofre. In a classic between two great boxers, Harada out slugged Jofre to capture his second world title. By the year’s end he would add a successful defense against Britain’s highly touted Alan Rudkin. Harada and Jofre would hook up again on June 1st, 1966 and the verdict again went to the busier Harada. On January 3rd, 1967 Harada avenged his knockout loss to Medel while retaining his title via the decision route. On July 4th Harada turned back the challenge of tough Bernardo Caraballo and it looked like he would reign for quite some time. On February 27th, 1968 Australian Lionel Rose came to Tokyo to challenge Harada. In an impressive display of ring generalship the classy Rose out-boxed Harada to lift the crown.
 
Harada would come right back in June to decision a fine fighter in Dwight Hawkins. On April 2nd, 1969 Alton Colter upset Harada on points. Nevertheless he was invited to Sydney, Australia on July 28th to challenge Johnny Famechon for the world featherweight championship. It was a rock-em-sock-em affair that in the end was called a draw by guest referee Willie Pep. After re-checking Pep’s scorecard a mistake was found and Famechon was awarded the decision. Many felt that Harada had done more than enough to earn the verdict and the title. There was a high demand for a rematch. Famechon and Harada would meet again on January 6th, 1970 in Tokyo. This time there would be no controversial decision. Famechon saw to that. Harada seemed to age overnight. Famechon blasted Harada out in the fourteenth round to end any doubt about who the better man was. Harada realized he was no longer the fighting machine he had been and the next day he announced his retirement. The end of the line had come for one of the most exciting fighters of his era.

Jim Amato is a participating member of both the Boxing Writers Association of America and the International Boxing Research Organization. He is a longtime correspondent of sport, both inside and outside the ring, and he is currently the president and owner of Amato Sports Memorabilia. Jim’s other works and “Legends of Leather” articles can be found at http://boxinggreats.multiply.com.

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Roy Jones Jr. Versus the 70’s and 80’s

Roy Jones Jr. Versus the 70’s and 80’s

By Jim Amato

Where would Roy Jones Jr. have fit in during the talent rich 70′s and early 80′s? I have picked who, in my opinion, were the ten best light heavyweights of that time period (eight were champions and two were long time contenders). I then matched each against Roy in scheduled fifteen round bouts as they were back then. Based on my recollections of these boxers’ talents, I have formed the following scenarios.

PIERRE FOURIE – Pierre was a gifted boxer, but a light hitter. What saw him through two wars a piece against Bob Foster and Victor Galindez was his craftiness and his durability. Those same attributes would probably carry him fifteen rounds against Jones. Fourie would steal a few rounds, but drop a rather one sided decision.

YAQUI LOPEZ – Yaqui fought them all; Galindez, Conteh, Saad Muhammad, Spinks, and Rossman. He was a strong, durable fighter with a decent punch. His draw backs were slow hands and feet and the fact that he cut easily. Roy eats up slow fighters. This one would have resembled Jones’ bout with Del Valle. Jones by shutout decision or late round stoppage.

MARVIN JOHNSON – This one could be interesting. Marvin’s southpaw style and aggression may have surprised Roy. In the early going, Roy would have his hands full. Marvin was like a wind-up toy though, and as he started to slow down Roy would begin to take over and punish him. Jones by knockout between rounds 7 and 10, but it would be exciting while it lasted.

VICTOR GALINDEZ – Styles make fights and Victor was made to order for Roy. Victor’s style of leaning against the ropes and covering up while waiting to throw counter shots would be suicidal against Jones. Galindez was a tough guy and I don’t know if Jones could have knocked him down, but Roy would have cut him to ribbons. The fight would be stopped within ten rounds.

MATTHEW SAAD MUHAMMAD- Try as he might, I don’t think Saad would be able to catch Roy with his hammer like right hand. I think Roy would box cautiously respecting Saad’s power. Jones would be in and out punching in flurries and piling up points. Saad’s tendency to cut could play a role here. Jones by decision or late round stoppage.

DWIGHT MUHAMMAD QAWI- They didn’t call Dwight the “Camden Buzzsaw” for nothing. This man was a blend of aggression and style. It took a prime Michael Spinks and Evander Holyfield all they had to edge past him. Styles make fights and this is one style that could trouble Roy. Jones would have to box Qawi just like Holyfield did in their first fight. It would be all action and I wouldn’t be surprised if Roy didn’t hit the canvas in this one. Qawi might too. Roy has a lot of good qualities but he has yet to prove he has Holyfield’s heart. I’ll go out on a limb and take Qawi by decision.

MICHAEL SPINKS - How can a fighter do so much wrong and yet never lose a fight at 175 pounds? The “Spinks Jinx” is how. Roy would respect Michael’s power but Spinks looks so easy to hit that Roy would try to go after him. Jones would land his share of shots, but Mike’s twisting, turning style would keep him from putting too many together. When there is a lull in the action Spinks would trade jabs with Jones on a fairly even basis. As the bout wears on past the tenth round Roy is becoming frustrated by Mike’s style. Although ahead on points Jones in his frustration gets careless and the “Spinks Jinx” takes him out. Spinks by a late round come from behind knockout.

BOB FOSTER – The most intimidating light heavyweight of our time. I honestly think Bob would come into this bout with a strong dislike for Jones. You don’t trash talk Bob Foster; and we know how Bob gets when he’s angry. Remember Vincente Rondon? That’s not saying that Roy is anything like Rondon, but Jones would be facing a man who was jabbing on even terms with Muhammad Ali !!! Roy’s speed would give Foster trouble early on but Roy would have trouble getting past Bob’s jab. I think once Roy tasted Foster’s power he’d be on his bicycle for the rest of the evening. This could be like Foster’s bout with Ray Anderson. Foster by easy decision or by kayo, anytime.

EDDIE MUSTAPHA MUHAMMAD – This may have been more competitive at 160 pounds. At this weight Eddie, although a dangerous puncher, was slow. He would try to counter punch Roy with little success. Jones would out speed and out box Eddie and win an easy, boring decision.

JOHN CONTEH – Conteh may have been one of the best boxers to come out of England in the last thirty years. In his prime, he was a masterful boxer and a hard puncher. This could have turned into a chess match and there would be some exciting exchanges. The difference here would be Roy’s slightly quicker hands and Conteh’s weak chin. Jones by a hard earned decision or a late round stoppage.

Well I’m sure I’ve rubbed a lot of Roy Jones fans the wrong way. The three boxers I picked to beat Roy are all in the Hall Of Fame so there is no shame there. Roy dominated a weak division for a very long time. Although not his fault, it is very difficult to determine how good Roy really was. By the time some tough competition appeared, Roy’s skills had started to erode. Antonio Tarver and Glencoffe Johnson are very good fighters and worthy champions. Still I’ll always feel that a prime Roy Jones Jr. would have handled them.
 
Jim Amato is a participating member of both the Boxing Writers Association of America and the International Boxing Research Organization. He is a longtime correspondent of sport, both inside and outside the ring, and he is currently the president and owner of Amato Sports Memorabilia. Jim’s other works and “Legends of Leather” articles can be found at http://boxinggreats.multiply.com.

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Boxing Heroes

Boxing Heroes

By Jim Amato

It is usually a given that all boxers should be respected just for their mere courage to step into a boxing ring and to do battle on presumably equal terms with another human being. Yet, just as some doctors and lawyers are more respected for their knowledge than others, the same holds true for boxers. Admiration for the talents of say Muhammad Ali or Sugar Ray Robinson comes easily. These men were blessed with the extraordinary ability to humble other men in the ring. So too is it easy to have a less then healthy respect for the lower echelon fighters. The one’s who serve as mere opponents to inflate another boxer’s record. “Tomato cans” is the term used in the business to describe these less then fortunate of fisticuffs.
 
Each one of us has the indisputable right to determine the critique of our own heroes. I admit to having chosen mine in the land between the seemingly indestructible champions and the lowly tomato cans (a preference that leans toward the near champions and the fringe contenders), AKA, “The hearty battlers” who came so close but yet so far from attaining their goal of becoming a champion. They were left with memories of crushing defeats etched on their “scar tissued” faces and thoughts of what could have been.
 
In boxing you will see the names of those who were past champions in the record books. What about the boxers who fought the ones we hold in such high esteem, those pugilists who appear in the record books as just an opponent to the elite? It is very conceivable that more than a few of these past pursuers of glory may have attained the moniker of “champion” if they were competing today.
 
I would like to reflect back to the names of boxers who fell just short of their quest. Men whose soul and courage were bared for all to see on blood stained canvas. They rose from the ashes of defeat time and time again to resurrect their careers only in the end to fall and remain in the ashes forever. Hopefully this may be a comeback of sorts for the boxers I am about to mention (one more chance for them to come out swinging in our memories).
 
So here is to guys like Jerry Quarry, George Chuvalo, Yaqui Lopez, Bennie Briscoe, Armando Muniz, Earnie Shavers, Tex Cobb, Ron Lyle, Ernie Lopez and Clyde Gray. These ten boxers and several others like them endeared me to the sport even more then the past champions. They are truly champions in my mind.

Jim Amato is a participating member of both the Boxing Writers Association of America and the International Boxing Research Organization. He is a longtime correspondent of sport, both inside and outside the ring, and he is currently the president and owner of Amato Sports Memorabilia. Jim’s other works and “Legends of Leather” articles can be found at http://boxinggreats.multiply.com.

 

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Cuba’s Kid Chocolate

Cuba’s Kid Chocolate

By Jim Amato

Kid Chocolate was born Eligio Sardinias Montalvo on January 6, 1910 in Cerro, Havana, Cuba. He launched his professional boxing career in 1927 and would participate in over 150 bouts in a career that ended in 1938.
He was nicknamed the “Cuban Bon Bon” and during the 1930′s he was one of the best drawing cards in New York. His flashy personality and even flashier style in the ring made him a real crowd pleaser.
After racking up a series of victories in his native Cuba, “The Kid” invaded the U.S. in 1928 knocking out Eddie Enos in three rounds in Mineola, N.Y. He would go on to fight at all the popular New York spots like Ridgewood Grove and St. Nick’s Arena.
On November 30, 1928 at Madison Square Garden the Kid drew with rugged Joey Scalfaro. In 1929 he beat Bushy Graham and Vic Burrone. Then on May 22, 1929 the Kid outscored the great Fidel LaBarba. Kid Chocolate continued to win fights and among his victims were Gregorio Vidal, Al Singer and Dominick Petrone.
The year 1930 saw the Kid enter the ring for a match with Jackie “Kid” Berg. The energetic and quick Chocolate was hard pressed to last against his aggressive adversary, and Berg won a split decision. Three fights later the Kid was outhustled by Fidel LaBarbra. So what happens? Kid Chocolate is matched with Batttling Battalino for the featherweight title. On December 12, 1930 at Madison Square Garden, Battalino got the verdict in a bout that many felt could have gone to Kid Chocolate. 

Finally on July 15, 1931 at Baker Field in Philadelphia, the Kid finally won a world title when he halted the rugged Benny Bass in seven rounds to win recognition as the world’s junior lightweight champion. In November he moved up in weight to take on the lightweight champion Tony Canzoneri. It was a great fight witnessed by over 19,000 fans at Madison Square Garden.  This time the Kid came up on the short end of a split decision.
Chocolate would win nine straight after his setback to Canzoneri against some tough guys like Davey Abed, Lew Feldman and Johnny Farr. On July 18, 1932 Kid Chocolate would meet Kid Berg in a return match. Again Berg was able to pull off a close decision at the Garden.
The Kid again put together an impressive win streak including a fifteen round win over Fidel LaBarba that gained him the New York State Athletic Commission featherweight title.
On November 24, 1933 Kid Chocolate suffered a severe career setback when Tony Canzoneri blasted him out in the second round. One month later the Kid lost his junior lightweight title to Frankie Klick.
His career was on the decline but he was still winning more then he lost. There was a draw with tough Tommy Paul in 1934, a clear loss to Petey Hayes, and in 1935 he lost a decision in Caracas, Venezuela to Simon Chavez.
In December of 1936 the Kid would drop a points call to Phil Baker. He would then win over twenty fights through 1938. He was held to a draw by Bernie Friedkin and Orville Drouillard but managed a degree of vengeance when he was awarded a well-deserved decision over Phil Baker in Cuba in 1938.
After 1938 the ever-popular Kid Chocolate retired. He had met some of the best of his day. He was “Mantequilla” which means “smooth as butter” long before the great Jose Napoles was given that nickname.
In comparing Kid Chocolate’s style to more contemporary boxers, I would say the smooth boxing Ismael Laguna and the extremely clever Wilfred Benitez fit the bill.
Kid Chocolate was grace personified. He was surely in a class by himself.

Jim Amato is a participating member of both the Boxing Writers Association of America and the International Boxing Research Organization. He is a longtime correspondent of sport, both inside and outside the ring, and he is currently the president and owner of Amato Sports Memorabilia. Jim’s other works and “Legends of Leather” articles can be found at http://boxinggreats.multiply.com.

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