Category Archives: Boxing – all

Why Did Marciano Retire?

It Has Been Sixty-Four Years Since Rocky’s Last Fight

His Battle Against Archie Moore May Have Influenced His Decision To Hang Up The Gloves

By Bobby Franklin

This past September 21st marked the 64th anniversary of Rocky Marciano’s last fight, his winning defense of the title against Light Heavyweight Champion Archie Moore. The following April at the age of 32 Marciano announced his retirement from the ring stating: “I am retiring because of my wife and baby. No man can say what he will do in the future, but barring poverty, the ring has seen the last of me. I am comfortably fixed, and I am not afraid of the future.”

At the time of his retirement Rocky had a perfect record of 49 and 0 and would be the only heavyweight champion to retire with an undefeated record, a feat that still stands to this day.

Most boxing fans expected the champion to go for the 50th win and were surprised when he didn’t. So, is it true he retired to spend more time with his family, or was there more to it?

The Marciano vs Moore fight drew a crowd 61,574 to Yankee stadium with a gate grossing $948,117.95. Rocky’s share was $482,374.00. That is the equivalent of $4,289,456.00 in today’s dollars. Even deducting for his manager Al Weill taking a huge cut, that was still a very healthy sum of money. Combine it with the Rock’s previous earnings and it would appear he was very comfortable financially. 

It has been said that Marciano no longer wanted to fight because he believed Al Weill was taking too much of his money. While that is most likely true, it seems that some other financial arrangement could have been worked out. 

As far as spending time with his family, after retirement Rocky continued to travel, mostly without his wife, and enjoyed being on his own. I don’t buy the retirement was for family reasons.

Moore vs Marciano

I think the key to figuring out why Marciano stopped at 49 is to look at the Moore fight. While Rocky stopped the Old Mongoose in the 9th round, it was a grueling fight in which the champion took some terrible shots. Could it be that he felt he was starting to decline and did what hardly any fighter does, get out while on top? 

I asked noted boxing historian Mike Silver, the author of The Arc of Boxing what he thought. Mike replied: 

“Next to his title winning effort against Walcott this was Marciano’s toughest contest.  Moore landed some humongous punches to Rocky’s chin. During the course of the fight Marciano absorbed some of the hardest punches he had ever taken. He had to throw more punches per round than in any other fight in order to overwhelm Moore’s superior skill and experience. In a great fight it was Rocky’s chin, conditioning, relentless punching and almost superhuman durability that won it for him, but I wonder if the punishment he took in that fight helped convince him to retire while he still had his health?”

Archie Moore vs Rocky Marciano

After hearing what Mike had to say I watched a tape of the fight and it was indeed a very tough fight for Rocky. After a somewhat tame first round Moore came out and dropped Marciano at the beginning of the second with a right hand flush on the chin. Rocky was up at the count of four but was dazed. He took a lot of punishment for the rest of the round. Moore was using shoulder feints and landing very well with his left jab. It looked like Marciano was in serious danger of losing the title. By the end of the round the champion was bleeding from the nose and was cut and puffy under his left eye. 

In round three Marciano came out very aggressively throwing a lot of punches. Moore, ever the master boxer, was avoiding most of them by blocking, slipping, and rolling with the shots. 

In the third round Moore fought mostly off the ropes. Mike Silver points out that this was no Rope-a-Dope strategy. Instead, Archie was slipping and countering Rocky’s shots. Marciano threw a much larger number of punches but Moore had the more effective shots. Rocky won the round with his aggression but he paid a high price for it. 

The fifth round was Moore’s best. He was very accurate with his jab and landed a number of solid rights while taking short steps to the side. Marciano appeared to be slowing down and was missing a lot. It now appeared the tide was turning in Moore’s favor. 

Marciano must have been sensing the same thing as he came out on fire in the sixth round. He dropped Moore for a count of four at the beginning of the round and then pursued him relentlessly. Rocky was still missing with many of his punches, but the pressure and huge number of punches he was throwing was wearing Archie down. Rocky was like a freight train as he dropped Moore once again, this time for a nine count.

Between rounds the doctor checked on Moore and it appeared the fight was close to being stopped. But the old warrior was not through yet.

Moore actually looked refreshed as he came out for the seventh round and won the round with a strong jab. Perhaps Rocky had punched himself out in the previous round and the tide was again shifting. 

In the eighth round Moore’s legs were tiring. He spent most of the round fighting off of the ropes and was still very effective in making the champion miss. Watching Moore in this fight is like seeing a master class on how to roll with punches and pick spots for counters. Moore was definitely starting to fade by the end of the round. It was Rocky’s relentless pressure that was taking the toll. A Marciano right at the end of the round dropped Moore and he was up at the count of six as the bell rang. Moore’s right eye was now closing and he looked like a beaten man. Could he summon up another rally?

Marciano vs Moore

In the fatal ninth round Moore once again came out strong, but the end was near. Rocky attacked with a fury. Moore still got in a few good shots, but nothing was going to stop Rocky now. He pummeled Moore to the canvas where Archie took the ten count at 1:19 of the round. 

Moore did everything right in this fight. He boxed and punched beautifully. He seemed the superior fighter in so many ways, but Marciano would not be stopped. His incredible conditioning, heart, and brutal punching were all too much for Archie. Marciano defined what the heart of a champion is in this fight.

Mike Silver asks if it was the punishment Rocky took in this fight that convinced him to retire? I believe that was a major reason for his hanging up the gloves, and I do not mean this as a knock on Marciano. Quite the contrary, I believe it shows how smart he was. 

Marciano was a tremendously physical fighter. While his boxing abilities are often underrated, he was also almost superhuman when in the ring. The Moore fight is an example of how he would actually get stronger as a fight progressed. It seemed as though the rougher things got the more strength he would gain. Rocky trained very hard for each fight. The training grind and the brutality of the fights he was in would eventually take a toll. At this point in his career he was also experiencing back pain. 

It is not unusual for an athlete that continually pushes himself to the brink to eventually start to break down physically. It is very possible the Moore fight was Rocky’s last great fight. If he had continued, his body may have begun to fail him. I think he may have sensed that, perhaps subconsciously. Moore hurt him. Moore extended him. Moore did everything possible to beat him, but Rocky was relentless. He broke Archie down that night. 

Rocky Hangs Up The Gloves

Marciano had been fighting professionally since 1947. He was now 32 years old, not terribly old for a fighter. But when you consider how many tough fights he had and how many times he had tortured his body in training camp you have to wonder if at some point he would start to break down. 

In the Moore fight he pushed himself unbelievably. I don’t think Archie could have stopped him if he had a bazooka in his arsenal. Rocky fought many very tough fights. His two goes against Ezzard Charles and he first fight with Walcott were both brutal affairs. It’s very possible he still had a couple more great fights in him, but at some point he would have broken down; all great athletes do. 

Rocky Marciano had an amazing career, made a lot of money, and now was walking away with his brains still in tact. He will always be remembered as one of the greatest Heavyweight Champions of all time. Knowing when to retire is a lesson that too few fighters have learned. Rocky was wise enough to get out in time, and that adds to his greatness.

Can Boxing Be  Made Less Dangerous?

Can Boxing Be 

Made Less Dangerous?

By Bobby Franklin

Jerry Quarry

Recently, I watched a news story from 1995 about heavyweight contender Jerry Quarry. The very popular Quarry who had twice fought Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier was being inducted into the International Boxing Hall Of Fame. This was considered a great honor and Jerry was there to bask in the glory. Well, he wasn’t exactly there. While his body was, his mind was no longer working, and the formerly very articulate Quarry was in such bad condition he was unable to sign autographs without the assistance of his brother James. 

It was heartbreaking watching this footage. Not only was Jerry unable to sign his name he also needed assistance dressing himself. When asked questions he just stared off into space. This is something you might see in an elderly person who is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, but Jerry Quarry was far from elderly; he was only fifty years old. He would be dead in less than three years. He was also broke.

Seven years after his passing, Jerry’s brother Mike would die from the same disease. Mike was only 55 and had been suffering for many years. At the time the cause was called boxing induced dementia. For years it had been confused with Alzheimer’s Disease, but it is quite different. Today, it is known as CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). It is caused by trauma to the head and is most common in boxing and football. It has also been found in military combat veterans, soccer players, ice hockey players, and victims of domestic violence.

Unfortunately, a true diagnosis cannot be ascertained until after death, when the brain can be dissected and studied closely. Dr. Ann McKee, Director of The Boston University CTE Center, has led the research into this terrible affliction. Doctors are becoming aware of the importance of looking at symptoms and patient history so as to be able to differentiate between Alzheimer’s and CTE. 

Paul Pender

In 2003, after former Middleweight Champion Paul Pender passed away from what was thought to be complications related to Alzheimer’s Disease,  his widow Rose asked to have Paul’s brain examined by Dr. McKee. Rose was concerned that if it was Alzheimer’s it could be genetically passed on to their children. The results showed no signs of the beta-amyloid protein found in Alzheimer’s but did show clumps of Tau Protein which is now known to form because of repeated blows to the head. The hits do not have to cause concussions as the damage is cumulative. Also, the younger the athlete when the head trauma begins, the higher the risk of developing CTE. In Pender’s case the damage may have begun while he was playing high school football.

Thanks to the courage of Rose Pender and the dogged research of Ann McKee and others, much is being learned about this terrible disease. I highly recommend the documentary “The Brain of a Boxer” which delves into the story of Paul Pender and Rose’s search for an answer to why her husband suffered so. The tragic part about this is how it is very preventable and how little is being done to stop it from happening.  

Jerry And Mike Quarry

In recent years I have had a number of conversations with people who love boxing but also are very conflicted because of the injuries caused to those who partake in it. These conversations usually circle around how to make the sport less dangerous. To be sure, there are things that can be done to lessen the danger, but seeing as the whole point of the sport is to inflict injury to the opponent’s brain it is unlikely, short of not allowing head blows, to stop participants from ending up victims to CTE. 

While it is true not all athletes who participate in contact sports will end up suffering from CTE, the risk is very high that a large number of them will. In the early years of the 20th Century President Theodore Roosevelt intervened when severe injuries and deaths were mounting in college football. There were calls to abolish the game. At TR’s urging, the rules were changed and football became safer. It is once again very dangerous, but rule changes could improve things. That is not likely in boxing as there is no way for the sport to be practiced without imposing head injuries. Rendering the opponent unconscious is the point of the sport and the thing that most excites the fans. 

Ali At Joe Frazier’s Funeral

The Quarry brothers are just one of many examples of boxers who have ended up suffering from the blows they received years earlier in the ring. Former heavyweight champions Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johansson both were diagnosed with pugilistica dementia when they died. Mickey Walker and Sugar Ray Robinson, two of the greatest fighters of all time, also had it. And most ironic of all was Muhammad Ali, a man who used to brag that he would never end up like the others. He  was perhaps the biggest victim of the sport. It is a myth that he would have been fine if it hadn’t been for Parkinson’s Disease. Ali, like the Quarrys, began boxing at an early age and stayed in the sport long after his skills had eroded. In the last decades of his life his mind and body succumbed to the punishment he took. One of the most gifted athletes in history ended up physically and mentally destroyed by the sport he so loved.

Everyday we face danger. Crossing the street and driving a car can lead to severe injury or death. However, unless one is crazy, we take precautions when doing these things. We also don’t do these things with the intent of causing harm to others. In boxing, while there may be some precautions taken, the aim is to cause injury. There’s just no getting around that. 

Years ago it was thought people watched auto racing because they wanted to see the crashes. It was found out that wasn’t sure. People watched because they enjoyed witnessing the skill of the drivers and the roar of the cars. When it comes to boxing, fans show up to see the accidents. 


Trailer: The Brain of a Boxer from Felice Leeds on Vimeo.

Hypothetical Matchup, Foreman vs Johansson

Thor’s Hammer

And Foreman’s Fatal Flaw

How Would Johansson Do Against Big George?

By Bobby Franklin

Ingo and Machen

Recently I wrote a column asking how well the second tier heavyweight champions would do when matched up with some of the greats when their different styles are taken into consideration. After all, even some of the best have problems with a less talented opponent because a certain technique can cause even the best difficulties. Ali always had major problems with Ken Norton, a fighter who was far from an all time great. 

While it is safe to assume the greats would have beaten the not so greats, it is interesting to try and find matchups where an upset could have occurred. 

Recently I’ve been thinking about a hypothetical matchup between Champions George Foreman and Ingemar Johansson. Johansson has never been considered an all time great, while there are many who would rank Foreman in the top ten greatest. In my opinion George is not an all time great and does not have the record to put him in the lofty company of Dempsey, Louis, Tunney, Marciano, Johnson, and Ali. But seeing that so many boxing fans do consider him to be one of the best I thought it would be interesting to consider how he would do against the Swede with the monstrous right hand.

While I believe Foreman is very overrated as a fighter, I also believe Ingo deserves more credit than he gets. George fought an incredible number of stiffs on his way up in contrast to Ingo who never faced an opponent who had a losing record. In fact, going into the first Frazier fight Foreman’s opponents had a collective record of 100 wins with 355 losses, and 48 draws. 

By contrast, going into his first title fight against Patterson, Ingo’s opposition had a collective record of 466 wins, 150 losses, and 43 draws. Quite a difference. On top of that, Johansson had some notable names among his wins. These included Joe Bygraves, Henry Cooper, Joe Erskine, Archie McBride, and most impressive of all, his destruction of Eddie Machen in one round. Machen was undefeated and the number one contender at the time and would go on to fight a prime Sonny Liston, taking the future champ the full twelve rounds while losing a very close decision. 

The most notable wins on Foreman’s record leading to to the Frazier fight were over George Chuvalo and two victories over blown up light heavyweight Gregorio Peralta who gave George all he could handle over almost 20 rounds of fighting.

The two most impressive wins in Foreman’s career part one were his victory over Frazier, though while impressive has to be considered in the light of Frazier being a shot fighter at that point in his career, and his blow out of Ken Norton. He was outsmarted by Ali and Jimmy Young, and struggled to defeat Ron Lyle in an exciting fight but not one where great boxing skills were on display.

Beyond their records it is important to contrast their styles to figure out how they would do against one another. It is here where I see Ingo being able to pull out the win. George had a serious flaw that only got worse as his career progressed. It was this flaw that would have played into Johansson’s strength.

Foreman Displaying His Fatal Flaw Against Ali. Reaching Out With Both Arms.

Early in Foreman’s career he had either gotten some instruction in parrying blows or he picked up the idea from watching footage of great defensive fighters such as Jack Johnson and Gene Tunney. The problem is, George never learned how to do it correctly. Instead of catching his opponents punches with an open hand when the fists came close to him, he would reach out and try to stop them just as they were being thrown. In doing this he also dropped his hands while his arms were extended. This left his chin exposed. Peralta, Ali, and Young all used that defect to great effect in countering Foreman. It is also the reason Lyle was able to deck him so many times. It was a very amateurish move that he never got over, in fact it got even worse as his career went on. It is also the reason any one of the great champs, and even many of the second tier ones would have beaten him. It is the reason I could not rate him as an all-time great. 

Foreman’s Flaw On Display Again

Going into a fight against Foreman, Johansson would have been very conscious of this flaw and would have exploited it. Ingo was a thinking fighter. He was quick on his feet, looked for openings, feinted well, had a tremendously powerful right hand, and knew how to set up an opponent.

In the first Patterson fight he used his left jab in a flicking manner that was employed to block Floyd’s vision so he would not see the right hand coming. The strategy worked perfectly as he destroyed Patterson and won the title. 

Ingo’s fatal flaw came outside of the ring. After winning the title he became quite the celebrity. He made the rounds of televisions shows where he would joke and sing. He loved the nightlife and his training took a back seat to the jet setter lifestyle he was living. It was this behavior that cost him the title.

In the Foreman/Johansson fight Johansson would not be a stationary target for the ponderous Foreman. Ingo, who was quite fleet of foot would be circling big George and feinting him with the jab. As he employed these feints Foreman would begin reaching out with his arms, just as Johansson would expect. This would go on for a few rounds as the Swede found the range and George became frustrated and would begin to tire. Being a patient boxer, Ingo would wait until George started pawing and reaching with both arms. At that point he would hit George with his hammer of Thor. If George got up after being floored by the punch he would get even more sloppy as he did with Lyle. Ingo, unlike Lyle, would not get wild but would continue to measure Foreman for the followup punches and would finish him off. In my opinion this would happen around the 7th or 8th rounds.

Of course, as with all of these hypothetical matchups, it is impossible to know what would have happened. The benefit of thinking these fights through is it forces you to think more deeply about the abilities of these fighters. If you had asked me a couple of years ago who I thought would win between George and Ingo I wouldn’t have blinked and gone with Foreman. However, now that I have taken the time to analyze both fighters more closely having written about each, my mind has been changed.

Great Punchers, Great Boxers

Great Knockout Artists 

Great Defensive Boxers

It Was Hard To Stop These Guys

By Bobby Franklin

Barney Ross

Recently, I wrote about Tony Canzoneri and argued that even though the stats did not show him to have an overabundance of knockouts, I still consider him to be a harder puncher than Roberto Duran. Of course, people will say if he was such a tremendous puncher why didn’t he have more kayos? The answer lies in the competition from the era in which he fought.

I’ve taken a look back at the Ring Magazine rankings of the featherweight, lightweight, and welterweight divisions during the 1930s. I choose these three divisions because many of the contenders in these weight classes fought in all three divisions during their careers. It is an impressive lot.

What is striking is the amount of all time great talent that was competing at the same time in these divisions. Even more striking is the fact that they did not avoid fighting one another. On top of this, it is amazing to read how often they fought and the total number of fights they had over their careers. 

Even more amazing is how rare it was for any of them to be knocked out. You are not looking at the records of fighters who were being fed stiffs. No, these guys were the best and they were consistently fighting the best. When any fighter during that era became a champion, he was truly a champion. Being a ranked contender was a feat in and of itself.

Henry Armstrong vs Fritzie Zivic

So who were these men? Looking through the rankings the names that show up are incredible. Men such as Tony Canzoneri, Lou Ambers, Henry Armstrong, Fritzie Zivic, Charley Burley, Cocoa Kid, Baby Arizmendi, Sammy Angott, Petey Sarron, Ceferino Garcia, Jimmy McLarnin, Holman Williams, Kid Chocolate, Andy Callahan, Sammy Fuller, Billy Petrolle, Teddy Yarosz, Fidel LaBarba, Johnny Jadick, Lou Brouillard, Battling Battalino, Andy Martin, and Louis Kid Kaplan. While there are a lot of names here, it is only a partial list and only includes top ten contenders and champions. There were also dozens of fighters competing on a level just below the top ten who were incredible fighters. After all, in order to get into the top tier a fighter had to wade through those guys. 

Looking at the records of the boxers on the list provides some interesting data. As I have pointed out with Canzoneri, many of these fighters were terrific punchers but did not have stunning knock out percentages the way many of today’s fighters do. Why is that? Because while today’s fighters are being fed a diet of stiffs to build up their records, the fighters from the 30s were fighting each other which meant they were fighting the best talent in the history of the sport. 

Another thing they had going for them is they knew how to practice the art of boxing. They had defensive skills, were highly experienced, knew how to keep calm and were able to fight while hurt. These men were professionals in every sense of the word. Even beyond that, that were highly talented artists and craftsmen. 

Something else to remember when taking their knockout percentages into account is the fact that these men were rarely kayoed themselves. When you have fighters of such high caliber fighting each other the odds of one stopping another go way down. 

Charley Burley

In the list of 23 fighters I have compiled above, they have a combined total record of 3,154 bouts. Out of that huge sum there were only 55 fights where they lost by kayo. Boxers such as Barney Ross, Charley Burley, and Fidel LaBarba were never stopped. Others, such as Teddy Yarosz (127 fights), Lou Brouillard (133 fights), Battling Battalino (88 fights), Sammy Angott (131 fights), Petey Sarron (139 fights), Jimmy McLarnin (69 fights), and Canzoneri (171 fights) were only stopped once. The highest amount of losses for a fighter by kayo was 6. One was Johnny Jadick (6 out of 153 total fights) and the other was Ceferino Garcia (6 out of 120 fights). 

Henry Armstrong had 183 fights and was only stopped twice. One of those was in his first pro fight. He was stopped one other time, by Fritzie Zivic. Zivic had a total of 232 fights and only lost four times by kayo. 

These are astounding numbers, made even more so when you look at the level of competition these men were facing. But if you think more deeply about what was going on, then it isn’t surprising to see these statistics.  

Teddy Yarosz

To begin with, none of these fighters entered the ring assuming they were going to win by knock out. They were always ready to go the distance. They would score a kayo if the opportunity presented itself, which was rare when facing such talented opposition. They also had great defensive skills. Fighting often, as did Canzoneri when he fought 13 times in 1930 alone, they were always sharp. On top of this, when in the gym they were sparring with seasoned pros. They studied the sport and knew it in depth. 

These great fighters also knew how to keep their wits about them in a fight. When hurt the kept their composure. They knew how to tie up an opponent and take time to clear their heads. They also knew not to get wild when they had an opponent hurt as often a hurt fighter could be more dangerous, and getting wild with punches would leave give that opponent an opportunity to land a shot that could turn the fight around.

When comparing fighters from today to the greats of the past it is important to look at more than just knock out percentages. You have to take into account the level of opposition. When you do that there is no comparison. Just spend some time watching these old masters at work and you will see how superior they were. 

Tony Canzoneri, Forgotten Great

Tony Canzoneri

Forgotten Great

From The Golden Age Of Boxing

By Bobby Franklin

Tony Canzoneri

I recently did a search on the internet to see what I could learn about the great three title holder Tony Canzoneri. I was quite amazed to see that very little has been written about this man who ranks among the greatest fighters of all time. There is some footage of him on YouTube and quite a few photographs but not much more. 

In 2012 boxing historan Mike Casey wrote a fine tribute about Canzoneri that gave a lot of insight into this interesting man who died at the age of 51. Mike’s well researched piece is definitely worth reading.

Tony Canzoneri, who looked like a cross between Babe Ruth and Edward G. Robinson, was born in Slidell, Louisiana on November 6, 1908. From an early age he wanted to be a boxer and began an amateur career while living there. As a kid he met the great bantamweight champ Kid Herman, and was fascinated by the old boxer.  When he was 14 he and his family moved to New York. It was there that Tony really got down to the business of perfecting his craft.

Canzoneri was a great observer and would watch other fighters and learn from them. He developed his own unique style. Benny Leonard said of Tony that he had a style that could not be copied as it only worked for him, but it made him a great fighter.

Canzoneri and Ross

Tony went on to win world titles in the lightweight and junior welterweight divisions. He was the NBA featherweight champion. During his career he fought 18 world champions and 6 hall of famers. He fought some of the greatest fighters of all time including Kid Chocolate, Barney Ross, Lou Ambers, Jimmy McLarnin, Billy Petrolle, Jackie Kid Berg, Benny Bass, Al Singer, and Bud Taylor. 

In a career spanning 175 fights he was only stopped once, and that was in his last fight when he took on Al Bummy Davis. Considering the opposition he faced, that was a remarkable feat. In fact, his record is awe inspiring. He had 137 wins against just 24 losses with 10 draws. 

Tony Kayos Kid Chocolate

Tony was a tremendous puncher and a great counter puncher. He carried his left hand low in a usually successful ploy to set up his right hand. His jab was powerful. He was a very hard puncher. One example of his power was when he kayoed Kid Chocolate in the 2nd round in 1933. It was the first time the Kid had been kayoed in 100 fights, and only one of two times the great Cuban champion had been stopped in 152 bouts.

Today’s fight fans would probably look at Tony’s record and say he couldn’t have been much of a puncher because knockouts only accounted for 44 of his 137 wins. What they don’t understand is the opposition he was up against. The great fighters of that day were next to impossible to kayo. 

You had opponents of Canzoneri such as  Kid Chocolate who was only stopped twice in 152 fights, Jimmy McLarnin lost only one fight by KO out of 69. There was Lou Ambers, stopped only twice out of 104 fights, and Barney Ross who never lost by stoppage in 79 fights. Benny Bass went through a career consisting of 195 fights and was only stopped twice. 

In that era having a big punch wasn’t enough. You had to know how to box. The great fighters all had great defensive skills, were extremely experienced, and knew how to survive when hurt. In fact, many of them were more dangerous when they were hurt.

I am a great admirer of Roberto Duran and have called him the last of the old school fighters, but I would argue that Tony Canzoneri was as hard, if not a harder puncher than the great Panamanian. If Duran had faced similar opposition his knock out percentage would be much lower.

McLarnin vs Canzoneri 1936

Canzoneri is exciting to watch in action. His fights against Jimmy McLarnin and Lou Ambers which are on YouTube are. Studying these great fighters really forces you to put things into perspective when comparing boxers from the different eras. The subtle moves, the ring savviness, the footwork they exhibit is something to behold.

As Benny Leonard observed, Canzoneri had a very unique style. He could do it all in there. 

In 1939, after fighting for 14 years, Tony hung up the gloves. A string of bad investments and high living left him broke after a few years, but he remained popular with the public and loved talking boxing with his fans. 

Gentleman Tony

Did he have any regrets? In Mike Casey’s article he quotes the Champ as saying, “I often wonder whether it was worth it. But I don’t have to wait long for the answer. Every day strangers stop me in the street and say, ‘Aren’t you Tony Canzoneri?’ Lots of times, little kids who weren’t even a gleam in their father’s eye when I was fighting, ask for autographs or just to shake my hand. It’s a wonderful feeling to be remembered after all these years. Sure it was worth it, every drop of blood and every stitch of it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

It’s sad to think how few people recognize his name today. 

Was The Fix In When Lowry Fought Marciano?

It’s Been 60 Years Since

Tiger Ted Lowry and Rocky Marciano 

First Fought

Controversy Still Hangs Over The Fight

By Bobby Franklin

On October 10, 1949 at the Rhode Island Auditorium in Providence, the up and coming heavyweight prospect Rocky Marciano stepped into the ring with veteran Tiger Ted Lowry. Rocky had won his first 20 fights, 19 by knockout, and was stepping up in class against the cagey and hard hitting Lowry. Ted’s record going into the fight was 63 wins, 49 losses, and 9 draws, but the numbers don’t tell the real story behind what a formidable opponent he was.

Lowry had been fighting since 1942 and had faced many of the best fighters of the time. He had also squared off against champion Joe Louis in an exhibition bout where he more than held his own. He had been stopped only one time in those 121 bouts. He showed no scars on his face, a tribute to his fine defensive skills. His record lists such names as Archie Moore, Lee Oma, Omelio Agramonte, Aaron Wade, and Lee Savold. 

This fight would be Rocky’s first big test against a highly skilled fighter who would be able to extend him. The fight was scheduled for ten rounds, and went the full distance.

3,696 fans showed up, the vast majority were there to cheer on Rocky. As the bell rang for the first round it quickly became apparent this was not going to be an easy night for the kid from Brockton. Lowry stung Marciano at the outset with two right hands, and in the second hurt him with a pair of left uppercuts. Lowry held the upper hand in the 4th round as well when it appeared Rocky was close to being stopped. 

Things changed in the 5th round when Lowry went into a more defensive posture. Some of the fans started booing as they felt Ted was purposely backing off. Had he been told to back off? Perhaps he was tiring. 

At the end of the ten rounds the decision was awarded to Rocky. This did not go over well with the crowd that felt Lowry deserved the win. Of course, when a prospect has been on a roll and has been mowing down every opponent put in front of him, his fans will feel let down when he has a night where he looks less than formidable. 

Out of his 49 fights Rocky only had two that could be called at all controversial decisions. This fight with Lowry and his first bout against Roland LaStarza. In the LaStarza fight Marciano decked Roland at the end of the 4th round. Rocky had the 8th taken away from him because of a penalty for hitting low. One judge had LaStarza winning 5 rounds to 4, while the other judge had it for Marciano by the same margin. The referee had the bout even at 5-5 but gave Rocky the nod on points. The press reported the win as paper thin. This wasn’t so much controversial as it was a very close fight that could have gone either way.

UNITED STATES – JULY 12: Rocky Marciano is victorious over Harry Matthews at Yankee Stadium. (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

In the Lowry fight it is very possible Rocky got the benefit of the doubt in getting the decision, but the controversy was not so much over the scorecards but rather Lowry’s change of tactics in the fight. Even today it is said either the fix was in or Ted was told to back off when he came to his corner after the 4th round.

To the first accusation, that the fight was fixed. This doesn’t hold up at all. If Lowry had agreed to throw the fight why would he have gone after Rocky so hard in those early rounds, almost stopping him in the 4th? He was obviously going for the win, there can be no doubt about that.

The other theory is that after the 4th round his cornermen told him to back off. The reason supposedly being that certain people had spoken to them during the round and told them it would be bad for their health if Ted kept up the his assault. Could this have happened? Well, it is boxing so anything is possible. 

Ted Lowry never ever said this happened. He felt he deserved the decision, and denied he had been told to back off. He told reporters that after the 4th round Rocky had changed his strategy and he only adapted to that change. He still felt that he won two of the last 5 rounds which, coupled with his strong start entitled him to the win. It must also be noted that Marciano came on strong in those later rounds, a trait he would display throughout his career.

Unfortunately, no film of the fight exists. What really happened? If you look at the rest of Rocky’s career, you will see a number of fights where he did not do well in the early rounds. His matches against Jersey Joe Walcott and Archie Moore are two examples. The Moore bout might be the best one to use when trying to figure out what happened in the Lowry fight.

Against Moore, Rocky was decked in the second round by a thunderous right hand. Moore landed heavily on him and appeared to have the upper hand. However, Marciano got stronger as the fight progressed, and by the 9th round had worn Archie down and stopped him. 

It is very likely a similar thing happened in the Lowry fight. While Tiger Ted was landing heavily on Rocky early on, the Brockton Blockbuster never stopped coming. When Ted says Marciano changed tactics after the 4th round, that is also quite possible. With the brilliant Charley Goldman in his corner he was surely given solid instructions, probably along the lines of being told to get into a lower crouch so he would not be an easy target.

I believe this fight was on the up and up. It is possible that Lowry deserved the decision, but it was not the Brink’s robbery. What was seen that night was the drive that would lead Rocky to go on to win the heavyweight title. 

The two would meet again a year later with Marciano winning a decision. Ted Lowry did not dispute the outcome of the rematch.

It is interesting to note that out of Rocky’s 49 victories, only two could be considered at all close. The win over LaStarza and the first fight with Lowry were close, but in both fights Marciano had a solid claim to victory.

It should also be noted that Ted Lowry was the only man go the distance twice with Rocky, and, with the exception of Ezzard Charles, he fought the most rounds against the Rock. That’s quite the accomplishment.

Some Summer Reading Recommendations

 Boxing Books That Belong In 

Every Fan’s Library

 

By Bobby Franklin

This time of the year it is common to see lists of book recommendations for summer reading. Often these lists are titled along the line of “Books To Bring To The Beach”. 

That has always made me chuckle as I love going to the beach but not to read. Sitting in the sun with the beautiful ocean in front of me is not conducive to sparking a desire to read. I prefer doing my reading at home where it is quiet and the distractions are few.

The one good thing about these lists is it gives people like me an excuse to recommend favorite books. In this case the books will be some of my favorite boxing reads. It will be a brief list and is just a small sampling of titles that I think you will enjoy. I could have a much longer selection, but I decided to pick the few that I believe are absolute musts for any serious boxing enthusiast to have in his library.

My first choice is Mike Silver’s “The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science”. When I first read it in 2010 I was so impressed I put it at the top of my list for must read boxing books. Mike looks at boxing with the eye of an art critic. He knows the game and he understands the art. His arguments, which I find indisputable, about how and why boxing has become a lost art are measured, well thought out, and solid. If you want to know what has happened to boxing over the years, and why today’s boxing no longer even resembles what it was in its golden years, you will find the answers here. For instance, he points out the differences between a great scientific boxer and a boxer who may appear to have great skills but is relying on his physical talents instead of boxing IQ.

Next is Paul Beston’s The Boxing Kings: When American Heavyweights Ruled The Ring. Paul has written an overview of the heavyweight division that covers all the important events and champions over 100 years. While I have referred to it as an overview, don’t think this is just a list of champions and their fights. 

Paul Beston is an extraordinarily talented writer and his history brings the legends and the times they lived in to life. His treatment of John L. Sullivan shows just what an important figure the Strong Boy was in making boxing a mainstream sport and the Heavyweight Champ a mythic figure. 

His chapter on Joe Louis actually brought tears to my eyes as Paul gives the very great champion the recognition he deserves not only for his talent as a fighter, but also for the incredible strides he made in race relations in this country. My sadness came from the realization this great man has been all but forgotten today. Joe Louis transcended boxing and he should never be forgotten. 

Dempsey, Johnson, Tunney, Baer, Marciano and the others are included. After reading this wonderful book you will really appreciate just how unique each of these men were.

Glen Sharp wanted to be a boxer and spent time in the boxing gyms in his native California. After a brief amateur career he turned pro and had three fights, losing two of them. I can understand if this doesn’t sound like the makings of a great boxing memoir to you, but it would be a big mistake not to read his book Punching From The Shadows: Memoir of a Minor League Professional Boxer. 

The best way to describe Glen’s well written account of his time is the ring is to call it honest. His descriptions of the gyms around Stockton, California during the early 1980s and his time spent as a sparring partner for light heavyweight contender Yaqui Lopez is the stuff of novels. 

The honesty in the book comes from Glen’s openness in telling about the emotional struggle every boxer goes through but few will admit. There was never a young man that laced on a pair of gloves who didn’t somewhere in his head believe he would one day become a world champion. It is in facing the fact that you can never succeed at something you love and desire so much that makes boxing such a cruel yet valuable parent. 

I am not one to toss around the word classic, but I am also not alone in calling Punching From The Shadows one. This  is an important boxing book as well as an important book about dealing with life. 

I will finish by recommending a work of fiction that turned fifty years old this year. Leonard Gardner’s Fat City is one of the great boxing novels of all time. The story about washed up pro Billy Tully and novice Ernie Munger is set in Stockton, California, which makes it a great book to read in conjunction with Glen Sharp’s memoir.

It is a dark story but the work is more poetry than prose. In less than 200 pages Leonard Gardner paints a picture in words that will remain vivid in your mind. I read it for the second time a couple of years ago when I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Leonard. He is a fascinating man who knows his boxing. He also knows human nature and is one incredible writer. If you haven’t yet read this masterpiece, you are missing out one of the best works of fiction written by an American author. It was also made into a terrific movie directed by John Huston with the screenplay also written by Leonard Gardner.

There you have four books that I can unreservedly recommend. I’ll call them beach reading, but it’s okay if you sit in a chair at home and enjoy them. There are less distractions there. 

Book Review: “My Favorite Fights” By Jerry Fitch

Cleveland’s Mr. Boxing
Looks Back At His Favorite Fights

Book Review
My Favorite Fights
By Jerry Fitch
152 Pages
jerryfitch1946 [at] gmail [dot] com

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Every fight fan has his favorite fights. Some are those that were seen live either in person on on television. Others have been viewed on film and usually include classics such as Ali v Frazier I and Louis v Schmeling II. But those would be included on any list of “great” fights.

In Jerry Fitch’s latest book, he does not compile another list of the greatest fights. What he does is to look back at a lifetime, over 50 years of watching fights, and chooses his “favorite” fights. Yes, some of his favorites are also some of the great fights of all time, but there are many included in this collection that became favorites for other reasons. It is that difference that makes this book so enjoyable. In fact, after reading it I started to look back at my own history of watching fights and recalled how many fights I saw on the local level that would rank on my list of favorites.

In 25 chapters, Jerry describes the fights he fondly remembers and gives his reasons for why they stand out in his memory. Living in Cleveland, he had the good fortune to be in a place that had an active boxing scene over the years. He has written a book on the history of Cleveland boxing as well as biographies of two great fighters from that city, Johnny Risko and Jimmy Bivins. Jerry has earned the title “Cleveland’s Mr.Boxing”.

His list does have some of the all time great fights on it. He has chapters on Ali vs Frazier I, the first Leonard/Duran fight, the first Louis/Conn fight, and the fight where Rocky Marciano won the title from Jersey Joe Walcott. His take on these fights is very interesting, and there is no doubting Jerry is an “old school” boxing guy.

While reading his views on experiencing these well known battles is a treat, the book gets really interesting when Jerry writes about some of the lesser known matches between figures that never made to the top. Or fights that would never be considered great, but certainly are interesting. He has a fine eye for picking out the matches.

Doyle Baird

One favorite of mine, for obvious reasons, is the first fight between the exciting Akron, Ohio middleweight Doyle Baird and Boston favorite Iron Mike Pusateri, held in Cleveland in 1971. Baird had established himself as a world class fighter having fought a draw with champion Nino Benvenuti in a non title fight, scoring a win over Don Fullmer, and going ten rounds with Emile Griffith while losing a decsion. As any Boston boxing fan from that era will tell, Iron Mike Pusateri was one tough battler.

Jerry’s descriiption of the fight is terrific, but he also gets into some of the background of the promotion as well as telling a funny story about a fan he was seated next to. It’s all part of the charm of this book.

Another reason for choosing a fight as his favorite has to do with his personal boxing history. Most real fight fans will remember the first pro boxing match they ever attended. In Jerry’s case it was the third fight between Carmen Basilio and Johnny Saxton which was held in Cleveland. This welterweight title fight was the rubber match between the two combatants, and Jerry admit it was anti-climatic, but it was very exciting to have his first live boxing experience be a championship fight.

Some of the other fights discussed in the book are the 2nd bout between local fighters Billy Wagner and John Griffin, Cassius Clay vs Doug Jones, Danny Lopez and Bobby Chacon, Ali vs Wepner, and Palomino vs Muniz I.
There is even a very interesting chapter on a fight card Jerry attended in Palm Springs, CA where the main event had to be delayed because the ring was swarmed by grasshoppers.

Jerry Fitch “Mr.Boxing”

This is Jerry’s fifth book, and he is to be credited with doing much to keep alive the memory of the great history of boxing. In choosing to include a number of local fight cards in this collection he has seen to it that the guys who never made it big are still remembered for the wonderful fights they put on before smaller crowds. Some of these fight cards were more exciting than many of the big pay per view fights that fans laid out big money to see.

After reading Jerry’s book I hope you too will think back on those fights you saw at the local arenas, and come to appreciate how hard those fighters fought for the short money. While Boston boxing fans have never witnessed an infestation of grasshoppers before a main event, I am sure you will have many of your own stories to tell about nights at ringside. Jerry Fitch shows us just how interesting so many of those memories are.

To order a copy of My Favorite Fights, email Jerry Fitch at jerryfitch1946 [at] gmail [dot] com

 

A Weigh-In Or A Sideshow

The Weigh-In

By Bobby Franklin

Robinson and LaMotta

Fighters have always weighed in before a fight. This ritual used to take place the day of the fight, usually in the early afternoon. With heavyweights it wasn’t as important as with the other divisions as there is no limit on what weight the big guys can fight at. In the other categories it used to be watched closely because if a fighter did not come in below the limit for his division he would be forced to shed the extra pounds within a couple of hours. If he didn’t, the fight could be canceled, he could agree to pay a fine, or, if it was a title fight, the two camps could agree to go on with the bout without having the championship on the line. 

Schmeling and Louis 1938

With the heavyweights, it was more of a case of seeing what kind of shape the fighters were in. It was a bit like predicting earnings before a company makes its quarterly financial report. If a company exceeds expectations, its stock will rise, if not, the stock will take a hit. In a heavyweight fight a fighter coming in overweight, or even too light, could have an effect on the odds.

Today, the weigh-in is quite different. While in the past it was expected the fighters would enter the ring weighing pretty close to what the scales said earlier that day. Now fighters step on the Toledo a day or two before the bout and can put on as much as ten, fifteen, or more pounds by fight time. Quite often you will see one fighter who looks much bigger than another. That’s because he is.

Another difference is in how the ritual of the weigh-in is conducted. Throughout most of boxing’s history it was a fairly serious affair. Both fighters would appear and take turns stepping up to be weighed while the other looked on. A doctor would give each a brief examination, and then the two would shake hands and wish each other luck while photographers snapped pictures. With rare exception, great sportsmanship was displayed as each showed respect for the other.

Gene Fullmer and Ray Robinson 1957

Somewhere along the line, probably starting with Cassius Clay vs Sonny Liston in 1964, this ritual began to take on a circus atmosphere. While what happened that day in Miami was very unusual for the times, and remained rare for a number of years, it has now gotten even worse and has become the norm. Fighters hurl obscenities at each other while pushing, shoving, and throwing wild punches. It has devolved into something more like pro wrestling. It’s also interesting to see today’s fighters standing on the scales and striking body builder poses, another thing taken from wrestling. At its best it is silly, but it is more often childish and demeaning to the sport and its participants. 

I suppose it is just another reflection of the changes we see in society. As for me, I would like to see a return to the old decorum that made us look with respect upon the athletes who were going to step into the ring that night. Clowns may be funny in a circus, but for those of us who looked at boxing as a serious profession, it is depressing to witness. Could you imagine Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Ray Robinson, or the hundreds of other great champions behaving like that?  

Book Review: The Magnificent Max Baer

MAGNIFICO!

The Magnificent Max Baer

by Colleen Aycock with David W. Wallace

Published by McFarland (McFarlandBooks.com)

A Book Review/Interview by Roger Zotti

“Primo Carnera’s a nice chap, and he’s got lots of heart, a lot more than I thought he had. I pleaded with [referee] Donovan to stop the fight.” 

Max Baer

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 Colleen Aycock’s latest book conclusively shatters the negative stereotype of Max Baer as he was depicted in Cinderella Man and many of his other movies. Perhaps someday a movie about  the real Baer, the one Colleen so convincingly describes in The Magnificent Max Baer: The Life of the Heavyweight Champion and Film Star, will be made. 

Compellingly written with David W. Wallace and exhaustively researched, Colleen’s latest book is a terrific account of an intriguing and unforgettable prizefighter’s life inside and outside the ring. A must-read for boxing fans, boxing historians, and lovers of biography.

In an interview with Aycock, the first question I asked her was What Made Max Baer, well, Max Baer? “Max was seen as a clown, but he was a clever clown, much smarter than given credit for,” she said. “He tried to make the sport nicer, and the crowds loved his laughter, his stories, and his charisma, not to mention his powerful fist and unpredictable behavior. And he always stood strong for children and the just.”

Next question: Why has Max been  portrayed in  films, such as The Harder They Fall and Cinderella Man, as  “a villain?” “Hollywood is Hollywood,” Aycock replied, “and to make a good film you need a hero and a villain.”

She continued: “Because early in his boxing career Max had killed a man in the ring, Frankie Campbell, the story gave Max a ‘killer’ image and that’s what Hollywood came looking for: a good-looking man (he was beautiful) who could pass a screen test and who had a reputation as a killer, though in reality he was the opposite. Unfortunately, that ‘killer image’ was usually virtually in all of the films he made, or that were made about him, even in western comedies.”

(After Campbell’s death, Aycock writes, Baer “was an emotional wreck. It was a personal battle he would fight for the rest of his life” . . . New York Mirror columnist Dan Parker added, “Had it not been for the tragedy, his killer instinct would have made Baer [the] greatest.”) 

Asked How Baer would do against today’s heavyweights? Colleen said, “In boxing skill, Max was a slugger with a good chin—in the chronological line between Dempsey and Louis. The question is like asking ‘How would Joe Louis fare against the moderns?’ We have to remember that Louis in his prime beat Max.

“In entertainment value, Max would win hands down. I would love to see Max in the ring today—it would be entertaining as hell, and the millions of dollars he would draw would be difficult to predict.”

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Colleen’s book contains eighteen chapters, among them “The Screwball Championship Fight, Galento, 1940” and “Glamour Boy in Hollywood, 1933 to 1958.” In the Baer-Galento chapter I recall seeing highlights of it on “Greatest Fights of the Century,” which aired from 1948 to 1954, with Jim Stevenson as narrator. I knew what to expect.

Before the Galento fight Baer spoke with Lou Nova, a victim of “Two Ton” Tony’s tactics in their 9/15/39 battle. For some reason the referee allowed Galento to repeatedly thumb Nova in the right eye. (Watch it on YouTube. It’s definitely cringe-worthy!)

Baer told Nova, who was stopped in the 14th round and later hospitalized, he had fought Galento incorrectly, that the way to fight  him was, Colleen quotes Baer as saying, “’at long range and go directly to the head . . . [Galento] couldn’t be beaten in a clean fight because he was one of the dirtiest . . .’” 

Before Max left Nova’s hospital room, Lou looked at him and said,   “’You’re the man who can beat Tony Galento.’”

Colleen writes, “It was a fight of head butts, slashes with laces, thumbs, and gouges.” (No surprise, eh!) Also, she quotes reporter Gayle Talbot of the Asbury Park Press as writing: “’The fat old tavern keeper was sitting on his stool, blowing blood like a harpooned whale, when the bell rang to start the eighth round. His handlers wouldn’t let him go out.’ The only thing the fight proved was that ‘there isn’t a heavyweight in the world today worthy of challenging Joe Louis for the championship.’”

While he was still active in the ring, Baer began his acting career. And why not? He had looks and was a natural ham. 

His first film was 1933’s The Prize Fighter and the Lady,” co-starring Myrna Loy, probably best known today as the wife of private detective Nick Charles in those great Thin Man movies of the thirties and forties. Prizefighter was a success and so was Baer. Aycock quotes the movie poster: “Watch your  pulse, Girls! A curly haired man is coming into your life. Resist him if you can. Handsome, strong, and alive! Hollywood calls him the male Mae West with a streamline chassis.”

Appearing in the film was then heavyweight champion Primo Carnera, who played a character named Primo. He and Max’s character, Steve Morgan, do battle. Reality intervened seven months after the movie’s release when Carnera and Max fought, in New York’s Madison Square Garden, for the former’s heavyweight title.

During his long career, Max appeared in mostly corny but enjoyable movie comedies, with such actors as William Bendix, Patsy Kelly, Brian Donlevy, and Walter Brennan, among others. 

In 1945, he teamed with former light-heavyweight champion “Slapsie” Maxie Rosenbloom in a vaudeville revue. “It was said that the boxers gave up clout for corn,” Colleen writes, “but it was very successful corn . . .”

 She quotes reporter Alan Ward of the Oakland Tribune as writing, “. . . unlike other fighters and champions who became broke and bewildered after their ring careers, ‘it is gratifying to realize that here are two who not only are doing well financially but are right up there with chips.’”

 In the last decade of his life, Max appeared as a guest in numerous televisions shows, such as “The Milton Berle Show,” “The Perry Como Show,” and “So This Is Hollywood.”

Baer had an important role in Humphrey Bogart’s last movie, 1956’s The Harder They Fall. Tautly directed by Mark Robson and adapted from Budd Schulberg’s memorable novel, the movie co-starred Rod Steiger, Jan Sterling, and Mike Lane. Lane played a Primo Carnera-like character—he was called Toro Moreno—and Max portrayed heavyweight champion Buddy Brannen, a thinly disguised copy of himself. 

“When the movie opened in 1956,” Aycock writes, “Primo Carnera sued Columbia Pictures and the book’s author  . . . for $1.5 million, charging that both products were an invasion of privacy causing him scorn and ridicule and the loss of respect.”

The Harder They Fall is a movie that digs deeply into the corrupt side of boxing; and its star, Humphrey Bogart, Colleen says, “fearlessly commented on the social impact of the film, saying he realized ‘a lot of fans are as interested as I am in seeing the bad elements in boxing cleaned up.’”

Colleen rightly believes the portrayal of Max, in 2005’s Cinderella Man, directed by Ron Howard and starring Russell Crowe as James J. Braddock, was a “character assassination.”  Craig Bierko, a fine actor, plays Max, who’s wrongly portrayed as a big mouth womanizer unremorseful about his tragic fight with Frankie Campbell. 

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Aycock said The Magnificent Max Baer is her “heart book [because] it represents my connection to boxing through my father, a professional boxer during the Great Depression.” Abandoned as a teenager in South Texas, her father, Ike, “tried continuing his high school education while working in a dairy for room and board . . . There was a time in the 30s when a town’s entertainment was a make-shift boxing ring city center where men could throw pennies and nickels on the canvas to encourage a challenge. My father stepped into the ring as a young man so he could buy a pair of shoes.

“He always told me, ‘Don’t feel sorry for me, the black boxers had it worse.’ Coming from Mississippi, I admired his feelings for the black boxers at a time when society was still drawing the social color line and racial division was at a boiling point. He told me pointedly, ‘Everyone is equal in the ring.’ It was an early, visible lesson for me in equal rights.” 

When Baer advertised for sparring partners in 1934, Colleen writes, “my father took the train to California” to help the big heavyweight prepare for future fights. “He loved Max as many did during that bleak economic times. So I always dreamed of writing a book about Max Baer.”

A regular contributor to the IBRO Journal, Roger Zotti has written two books about boxing, Friday Night World and The Proper Pugilist. Contact him at rogerzotti [at] aol [dot] com for more information about them.