North End Native Defeated Five World Champions
by Bobby Franklin
I remember getting to know Tony Shucco when I was a young amateur boxer training at the New Garden Gym in Boston. He would climb the stairs to the fourth floor of the legendary gym many a day to watch the fighters work out. He was usually quiet, but it was obvious he enjoyed being there. Boxing had been and still was his life.
It is sad that such a great fighter, a man who defeated five world champions including two heavyweight champs, is not better remembered. Tony was among the best boxers to fight out of Boston and deserves to be recognized for that.
Not long ago I spoke with his daughter Angela and she allowed me to look at a box filled with letters, photographs, and news clippings of her father’s career. She is very proud of her father and hopes more people will learn about his career.
Tony Shucco was born June 13, 1911 and grew up in Boston’s North End where he lived most of his life. His original name was Anthony Sciucco, but he changed it to the more easily pronounced Shucco when he began boxing.
After an outstanding amateur career that consisted of nearly a hundred bouts and numerous championships, Tony moved onto the professional stage with his first bout taking place in 1928. He would remain undefeated for 18 fights before dropping a decision to the great Johnny Indrisano at the Boston Arena. At this time Tony was campaigning as a welterweight but would begin moving up through the weight classes. And, like so many great boxers who start off at lower weights, he retained the speed and skills that are rarely seen in the heavier fellows.
Tony was a brilliant boxer who possessed one of the best left jabs in the business. Though he rarely weighed over 180 pounds he fought many of the leading heavyweights of his day. He defeated Natie Brown, Lee Ramage, Tuffy Griffiths, and two heavyweight champions, Jack Sharkey and James J. Braddock. He also scored wins over champions Maxie Rosenbloom, Bob Olin, and Lou Brouillard.
Tony Shucco was a solid top contender for years and it is unfortunate he never got a shot at a title. He certainly had the credentials for it, but back in those days there were so many outstanding fighters competing you really needed to be connected to get a shot.
In 1938 Tony traveled to Europe where he had an English representative by the name of Tom Hurst. He was a making a name for himself across the Atlantic with fights in England, Ireland, and Germany. In letters he wrote home he began signing his name “English” Tony Shucco. While there he became close friends with American Flyweight Champion Jackie Jurich who was also represented by Hurst. The clouds of war were starting to gather and it was difficult being separated form his wife Etta and young son Anthony, so Tony returned home. He was immensely popular with the European fans and surely could have built a great reputation on the Continent had he continued fighting there.
When he returned to the States he dropped a close decision to top rated heavyweight Bob Pastor and then went on a winning streak. It is at this point in Tony’s career where he just couldn’t catch a break. In 1940 Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis agreed to defend his title in Boston. The logical opponent for Joe would have been Tony Shucco who was on a six fight winning streak. Tony was back from Europe, in good shape, and full of confidence. Unfortunately, the title shot was given to Al McCoy who had lost three of his last six fights including two consecutive losses leading up to the Louis fight. I am not sure why McCoy was chosen over Tony, but it should have been Shucco in the ring on that December night.
I am not arguing Tony would have beaten Louis as there wasn’t a man on the planet who could have taken Joe back then. But, I will make the case Shucco had the style to give the Brown Bomber some trouble. It is also highly possible Tony could have lasted the distance. It is a shame he did not get the opportunity to fight for boxing’s biggest prize against its greatest champion. I can guarantee you he would have been remembered for that and would have made Boston proud.
It is interesting to note that after the loss to Pastor, Tony continued without a loss until he retired in 1942. In spite of this great record he would never get that elusive shot at the title.
In 1944 Tony embarked on a comeback. He had seven bouts winning three, losing two, with one ending in a draw. He retired for good in 1944.
When I got to know Tony he was showing the effects of the punches he took later in his career. I remember being told at the time that his managers, one of whom was a relative that I shall not name, kept him fighting to cash in on his reputation. At this point Tony’s legs were not what they used to be and he was taking punches he easily would have avoided as a younger man. Once again, that dark side of boxing reared its ugly head.
I spent many an afternoon talking with Tony in the New Garden Gym. He aways stressed the importance of the left jab to me. He would say “Kid, keep hitting ‘em with the left, and every once in a while toss in a right so they don’t get bored.” He also stressed to me to always fight fair. He told me “Even if the other guy pulls stuff on you never sink to his level.”
There is a sign at the corner of Bowdoin and Cambridge Streets in Boston that names it “Anthony Sciucco Square”. There are two things wrong with this sign. One, it is a Gold Star sign that is meant to remember a fallen soldier. Two, it should read Anthony “Tony Shucco” Sciucco Square, and have a pair of boxing gloves on it. Maybe some politician will read this and correct that oversight.
Tony Shucco passed away February 26, 1983. It was an honor to know this great man. I know his family is very proud of him. It is time Boston rediscovers him. He was one of its greatest athletes, and a man who always fought fair even though he wasn’t treated that way.
Video: Shucco vs Lydon: