When Philly Was One of the Boxing Capitols of the World
By: Ken Hissner
With no world champions in Philly here in 2018 you wonder about the “good old days!” This writer has expressed “the Philly Jinx” which seems to happen every time a Philly boxer gets a shot at the world title. An exception was Tevin “American Idol” Farmer getting robbed on December 19th losing by split decision to Kenichi Ogawa in Las Vegas. That was robbery at its best!
In the late 60’s and early 70’s Philly had such boxers as “Gypsy” Joe Harris, 24-1 (9), who won a non-title fight over welterweight champion Curtis Cokes and couldn’t get a rematch. He was referred to as a “bag of tricks!” He wrapped his arms around his body and you couldn’t hit him if you wanted to. He was a street buy that led to his downfall including being diagnosed as being blind in one eye that led to his career coming to an end.
Out of the stable that “Smokin” Joe Frazier was Willie “The Worm” Monroe, 39-10-1 (26). This writer was at ringside the night he exploited “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler. Hagler’s nose was red as can be in his second and could have been broken. Under new trainer George Benton Monroe’s new style was no longer hit and move, but stay in front and roll with the punches. This must have confused Hagler not expecting this. I saw Monroe at a weigh-in with a cast on his hand and asked “are you really going to fight Hagler again and up in Boston?” He replied “why not, I already beat him once!” Fast forward ahead and Monroe lost twice to Hagler after defeating him.
Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts, 39-7-1 (22), defeated fellow Philly boxers, Eugene “Cyclone” Hart and Monroe. His biggest win was defeating Hagler in 1976 by majority decision giving Hagler his first loss. I didn’t witness it but the decision was said to be controversial.
Like Monroe Watts gave Hagler a rematch in 1980 and was stopped in 2 rounds.
Today Watts is a trainer at a Recreation Gym at 22nd and Cecil B Moore a block from the famous 23rd PAL which had such boxers as Frazier, Harris, “Bad” Bennie Briscoe, Jimmy Young, Watts, “Classy” Al Massey and others run by “Duke” Dugent.
Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, 30-9-1 (28), won his first 19 fights by stoppage. He is the father-trainer of his son Jesse “Hard Work” Hart a recent title challenger for the WBO Super middleweight title. He recently won his first fight back. Hart defeated Stanley “Kitten” Hayward, drew and lost to Briscoe, beat Olympic Gold Medalist “Sugar” Ray Seales, lost to Watts, Monroe, Hagler, Vito Antuofermo and Eddie Mustafa Muhammad.
Stanley “Kitten” Hayward, 32-12-4 (18), got a title shot at the Super Welterweight champion Freddie Little thanks to Philly promoter Lou Lucchese in 1969 losing a 15 round decision. He earned it by defeating Emile Griffith who he would loss to in a return match. He defeated Cokes, Percy Manning, split with Briscoe, lost to Hart, Monroe and Harris.
This writer’s first live fight I attended was Hayward getting a “disputed decision” in my opinion over fellow Philly boxers Dick Turner on January 20th 1964.
Dick Turner, 19-2-1 (11), lost his last two fights, the second to Hayward that ended his career with a detached retina.
He defeated Isaac Logart, Manning and South American Champion Fredrico Thompson of Argentina who drew and lost to Benny “Kid” Paret and went onto win 150 fights.
In the late 70’s and 80’s it was the light heavyweights that promoter J Russell Peltz of Peltz Boxing had after promoting the middleweights in the late 60’s and 70’s. Hayward got a title fight but it wasn’t one of Peltz’s promotions. Peltz promoted “Bad” Bennie Briscoe’s three title fights. He also promoted Bantamweight champion “Joltin” Jeff Chandler’s title fights.
Peltz made up for it with the bigger fighters starting with Matthew Saad Muhammad, 39-16-3 (29), who won the WBC title in 1979 over Marvin Johnson who would become champion under Peltz.
Muhammad aka Matthew Franklin had wins over a pair of future champions in Marvin Camel and Mate Parlov in back to back fights.
Richie Kates, 44-6 (23), was from Bridgeton, NJ, one of the Jersey fighters that fought regularly in Philly. When he dropped Saad Muhammad face first he thought the fight was over. Nobody told Muhammad who got up and would go onto win the fight in 1978 for the NABF title. He had wins over future champions Murray Sutherland and Jeff Lampkin. He lost to Victor Galindez twice in world title fights. He defeated Jimmy Dupree and Don Fullmer.
Another Jersey boxer, Mike “Jewish Bomber” Rossman, 44-7-3 (27), from Turnersville, NJ, defeated Galindez for the WBA title but losing it in a rematch. He defeated Mike Quarry and Lonnie Bennett. He lost to Yaqui Lopez who along with Rossman and this writer attended the Saad Muhammad funeral. He lost to another New Jersey boxer Dwight Muhammad Qawi aka Dwight Braxton.
Braxton was 41-11-1 (25), and called the “Camden Buzz Saw” who was the WBC Light Heavyweight champion! He defeated contender James Scott in the Rahway Prison as did Jerry “the Bull” Martin whom he defeated. He lost to Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield twice, George Foreman (giving away 61#), beat Leon Spinks, but lost his title to Michael Spinks. He lived in Lindenwold, NJ, but lived in Camden at one time. He beat LeRoy Murphy and Eddie Davis.
Jerry “The Bull” Martin, 25-7 (17), beat Jesse Burnett in 1979 and Scott in 1980.
He lost to Kates, Saad Muhammad and Mustafa Muhammad. He defeated Anthony Witherspoon and Billy “Dynamite” Douglas. He was originally from Antigua.
Marvin Johnson, 43-6 (35), from Indianapolis was 5-1 in Philly rings losing his WBC title to Saad Muhammad and then in Indianapolis lost to same in a rematch. He defeated Galindez for his WBA title. He defeated “Prince” Charles Williams (future IBF champion) and Parlov. He was a member of the 1972 USA Olympic team.