TALES ABOUT LIGHTWEIGHTS Part Three — Sometimes the end is rough


By Angelo Prospero Jr.

Wallace “Bud” Smith was one of a handful of lightweights who died tragically. Others were Bummy Davis, Orlando Zueleta and Teo Cruz. Smith died in a shooting when he tried to break up a fight. He won the title from Jimmy Carter, defended it successfully against Jimmy, then never won another fight. He lost the title to Joe Brown and lost his next ten fights before retiring.

Al “Bummy” Davis figured prominently on the boxing scene in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. He won some big fights, kayoing Tony Canzoneri to end his career and stopping Bob Montgomery in less than a round. He also fought Lou Ambers, who gave him a boxing lesson, and Rocky Graziano, who finished him with a KO in 1945.

Davis is probably best remembered for his notorious “foul” match with Fritzie Zivic. After getting a thumb in the eye, Davis unleashed left hooks to Zivic’s groin and continued the attack despite warnings to stop. Bummy was disqualified and later suspended. He died a hero’s death trying to stop a bar holdup and ending up taking a bullet.

Orlando Zueleta had the best left handin the history of the division. His left jab was like a rapier. However, his lack of punching power kept him from being a title holder. He ws decisioned by Joe Brown over 15 rounds in 1957. Orlando was found stabbed to death on a lonely city street.

Carlos “Teo” Cruz of the Dominican Republic won the title from Carlos Ortiz in 1968, defended it against Mando Ramos, then lost it by knockout to Ramos in 1969. Cruz and his family were killed in a plane crash in 1970.

Mando Ramos only held the title briefly but was credited with the least modest remark in lightweight history. He said, “I’m not only the youngest champion, but the best looking.”

Tony Canzoneri was a popular drawing card from 1925-1939, winning 139 fights. He won the championship from Al Singer, lost it to Barney Ross, then regained it in an elimination bout with Lou Ambers before losing it to Ambers. Tony became an actor, owned a liquor store and restaurant, made thousands in the ring, but died broke in a small apartment in 1956.

Al Singer won and lost the title in less than two rounds. He kayoed Sammy Mandell in one round in 1929 and lost it to Canzoneri in 1930 in one round, holding the title less than four months.

Willie Joyce, never a champ, was a nemesis for Ike Williams, beating him three out of four times. The twelfth round of their 1945 fight was Ring Magazine’s Round of the Year. Both fighters were down in the round and threw dozens of punches in non-stop action.

Few displayed more courage in the ring than frail looking, but smooth-boxing allie Stolz. Many at ringside thought he beat Sam Angott in a title bout despite losing two rounds on low blows. Allie was brilliant in defeat against hard-punching Bob Montgomery, finally failing in 13 rounds.

When the Depression wiped out the savings of Benny Leonard, he made a comeback of 1931 which ended the following year before the dynamite ladened fists of Jimmy McLarnin. Benny served as an officer in World war II and died while refereeing a four-round fight at St. Nick’s Arena in 1947 at age 53. Bill Corum, radio announcer at the fight gave a touching eulogy the night Benny died.

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