Louis-Galento: A Hype Master Proves He’s More Than Just Hype
By: Sean Crose
Tony Galento had some kind of left. Just how powerful was the stocky heavyweight’s power punch? Powerful enough to send the great Joe Louis off his feet. If that isn’t a ringing endorsement, nothing is. Yet Galento isn’t remembered today for that left of his. Rather, he’s better remembered for his nickname, “Two Ton Tony.” If that moniker strikes you as a bit over-the-top then it still serves its purpose. For Galento was a master of hype. A product of Orange, New Jersey. Galento looked more like Edward G Robinson than a prize fighter, and he played his off-center persona to the hilt.
Nutrition? How’s pasta, chicken and plenty of booze sound for a man in training? Ring aura? Galento is said to have avoided bathing before a bout in order to disgust his opponent in the ring. Smack talk? A story claims Galento once heckled iconic comedian Jackie Gleason so endlessly during one stand up performance that Gleason, remembered today for playing “The Honeymooners’” Ralph Kramden, tried sending the fighter “to the moon” (needless to say, things didn’t end well for Gleason that night). Showmanship? Galento once fought a bear. Need more evidence? According to BoxRec: “On May 1, 1931, Galento fought three times and won all three fights. He reportedly drank beer between rounds.”
Make no mistake about it, Galento was a character. He also really knew how to promote himself. Here’s the thing, though – Galento knew how to fight, as well. This wasn’t just some circus act come to life, this was a real contender who was a danger to any man he faced. And so it was, that on June 28th, 1939, Galento met the great Joe Louis for the heavyweight championship of the world. Unsurprisingly, Galento played up the opportunity to the hilt. “I can lick the bum!” he claimed in classic, over-the-top fashion. No one, though, seems to have thought the man had much of a chance. Why would they have? It was the great Joe Louis he was facing, after all.
The night of the fight, Galento entered the ring, stocky and balding as always. Yet his manner just before the bout exuded the kind of antagonistic confidence that only a master of mind games can exude. During the pre-fight faceoff in the center of the ring, he reached forward and rubbed Louis’ head. Louis, however, remained gunfighter cool. Shenanigans weren’t a part of the man’s makeup – at least not in the ring. And, like all great fighters, the champion knew not to take the bait from a man clearly trying to make him lose the all-important mental battle.
The first round was something of a surprise. The aggressive Jersey slugger had a crouched, awkward style that Louis wasn’t able to figure out. What’s more, Galento was firing that potent left, which was finding a home on his opponent. By the second round, however, Louis found his range and was able to effectively send his stocky foe to the mat. Galento got up, but by the third round it was clear the man’s less than stellar conditioning was starting to get to him. For Galento’s movements had slowed and his awkward style had become choppy. In short, he was no longer as effective as he had been minutes earlier.
Sure enough, from the look on Galento’s beat-up face, it appeared as if the fight were over for all intents and purposes. Then, however, the unbelievable happened. Backed up near the ropes, Galento fired a perfect overhand left perhaps a millisecond after Louis launched his own left to Galento’s body. Louis went down…to the explosively vocal shock of the crowd. Not that Louis was down for long. Indeed, the champion may not have even been on the mat for a full second before he was back on his feet, ready to fight again (he was given no count). Still, Galento had, if only for a moment, backed up the hype.
And, sure enough, Galento was still able to land aggressively and hard afterwards. He was also able to hold Louis behind the head and punch, as he had previously for brief moments before tough guy referee Arthur Donovan would step in and break things up. Still, by the fourth, Louis’ great skill set proved to be too much. Backing his man up, the champion was soon able to make Galento’s head look like a punching bag. Before the round was over, Galento collapsed onto the canvas for the last time after Donovan got in between the two fighters. It wasn’t a single blow that did Galento in, it was the accumulation. Technically speaking, Louis sent his feisty antagonist to the mat without a punch. Indeed, it was the series of Louis’ brutal shots seconds earlier that led to Galento’s odd, delayed-reaction defeat.
After the bout, Louis took a much deserved vacation to Atlantic City. Long after his run-in with Galento, though, the famous champion was still able to recall Galento’s pre-fight antics with clarity. “Tony berated me something terrible before the fight,” he admitted, “He got to me, and I hated him for it. I never hated anybody before. I decided to punish him before I knocked him out.” Some guys simply have a knack for rubbing certain people the wrong way. Others guys actually love doing it. Galento was just one of those guys who loved doing it.