By: Ken Hissner
How many times do boxers fight in a small facility and become world champions and “forget where they got their start?” IBF World Super Middleweight champion Charles “The Hatchet” Brewer was “the exception!”
Turning professional in August of 1989 on a Peltz Boxing show Brewer won his debut at the legendary Blue Horizon in North Philadelphia. “Due to a knockout Brewer’s 4 rounder aired on USA Network,” said Peltz. Ron Katz of Top Rank saw this fight and signed Brewer to a promotional contract. He would go onto win his first fourteen bouts of which two were at the “Blue” and a dozen in Atlantic City, NJ. He would then run into a southpaw “spoiler” named Robert Thomas and lost back to back split decisions. This writer at one time well after this period of time put Thomas into several matches as his “advisor”. Eight of those fourteen wins were by stoppage. After losing those decisions to Thomas Top Rank dropped him. Brewer would go onto win eight straight by stoppage. It all started with stopping fellow Philadelphian Willie Harris, 21-1 and later Mario Munoz 14-0 among those eight wins. J Russell Peltz signed Brewer starting with the Harris fight.
“He was an aggressive big puncher with a wide-open style combined with a questionable chin, which made his fights exciting and a Philly crowd pleaser. Evidently like fans in Argentina and Denmark, where the local fighter NEVER loses, Philly fans were smart to the max and had no problem with the visitor winning, so as long as he did it in style. That’s how out-of-towner fighters like Billy “Dynamite” Douglas became huge local draws. So with Brewer, fans could rely on a good action fight, and one with the drama of an opponent always having a “puncher’s chance.” – That quote came from long-time writer Jeff Jowett now with Seconds Out.
Brewer was Ranked No. 6 when his streak was stopped with back to back losses at the “Blue” to Lonnie Beasley, 20-1-1 and Rafael Williams 32-13. Two fights later he lost to Rodney Toney 18-0-2. He would then go onto win nine straight including winning the USBA title over Frank Rhodes, 22-3-3 at the “Blue”. Rhodes was managed then by former Philadelphia Eagle coach Buddy Ryan. “It still rates in my book as the best performance ever turned in by any fighter at the Blue Horizon. It was a terrific shut out if you can imagine a 12-0 bout terrific,” said Peltz.
Two fights later he would defend his USBA title at the “Blue” defeating Greg Wright, 13-1-1. This would lead him to earning a world title fight set-up by his promoter J Russell Peltz. It was June of 1997 defeating Gary Ballard, 22-2-1, when he stopped Ballard for the vacant title that Roy Jones, Jr., vacated in Tampa, FL.
In Brewer’s next fight in his first defense he went “back to his roots” to be the first and only boxer to defend a world title at the “Blue” defeating Joey DeGrandis, 23-3. Next up would be European champion Herol Graham, 48-5, in Atlantic City whom he stopped. In his next fight he went to Germany and stopped USBA champion Antoine Byrd, 31-6-1. On that card would be German Sven Ottke who improved his record to 12-0.
The German promoter must have seen something he liked and challenged Brewer in a title defense against Ottke just two months later. Brewer would lose a disputed split decision. The first loss to Ottke was my fault. I thought the judge from Italy was neutral but was in the bag. US judge George Hill had it 117-111 for Peterson. “The other judges had it 115-113 and 116-112 for Ottke. What a farce,” said Peltz.
It would take eleven months to get a rematch. In the meantime Ottke would win half a dozen fights during that period of time. In September of 2000 the outcome would be the same with Brewer losing by split decision. The US judge had it 116-113 for Brewer.
Brewer would win two of his next three fights and get an opportunity to challenge World Super Middleweight WBO champion Joe Calzaghe, 32-0, in Cardiff, Wales, losing a decision. “It was the only fight under me that Brewer was dominated. He had Calzaghe buzzed late in the seventh round when the bell rang,” said Peltz.
Brewer would then defeat three good fighters in Scott Pemberton, 24-2-1, Etianne Whitaker, 27-8-2 and Freeman Barr, 25-3 and become the No. 1 contender under Peltz. It would be over a year before he fought again and got a title fight. “The contract ran out and he signed with Lou DiBella. Those three bouts earned him a shot at the interim World WBO Super Middleweight title in Germany losing to Mario Veit, 44-1. His next and final bout would be a loss in Copenhagen in April of 2005 ending his career at 40-11 with 28 by stoppage. Per Peltz “Years later I told him God punished him for leaving me for those last two fights. He said “maybe so!”
“He was from the same neighborhood I was from. I knew his mother and father. I started training him at the 23rd PAL. From then on he started picking up everything and was a dedicated kid who came to the gym and did what I told him to do. He had all the heart in the world. He was a real good kid. He never got in any trouble. He won the title and held it for a while. When it was time for him to retire I told him he did okay and to get out while he was ahead,” said Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts.
Knowing Brewer on a personal note he would agree to answer questions for this writer.
KEN HISSNER: You went from fighter to writer after your career was over. You are not only best known to being a world champion but the “only” Philadelphia boxer to defend that title at the Legendary Blue Horizon. Whose decision was that?
CHARLES BREWER: We had a team meeting at Peltz’ office and he brought up the idea of hosting a World championship fight at the Blue. We saw that, it would be the first time in the history of the Blue Horizon, that a reigning, world champion, would be defending their title at the Blue, so that was a plus. History was going to be made by “The Hatchet” of course, the fight was on!
KEN HISSNER: Were Augie Scimecca and Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts (co-managers) in your corner for the most part of your career?
CHARLES BREWER: Augie came on board upon me turning pro in 89’. “Boogaloo” had been my trainer since I was 14 years old.
KEN HISSNER: You would face two boxers that would retire undefeated in Joe Calzaghe at 46-0 and Sven Ottke at 34-0. What was your opinion on both of them?
CHARLES BREWER: Calzaghe, definitely one of the best, gotta give credit where credit is due. He fought the smarter fight in our battle. Ottke? The WORST ROBBERIES I’ve ever experienced in my boxing career. (He would have gotten the decision if it were in the US with Calzaghe. He beat Ottke twice but lost a hometown decision.” – Bobby Watts)
KEN HISSNER: You were 15-2 at the “Blue”. Was that one of or the one favorite place for you to fight?
CHARLES BREWER: Well, not necessarily. Of course I loved the hometown admiration I received at the Blue and that I was becoming a household name there as well, but I wanted to through boxing see the world, and I am ever so grateful, to have traveled internationally through boxing.
KEN HISSNER: I want to thank you for taking the time to answer these questions and also thank you for so many exciting fights you gave to us fans.
CHARLES BREWER: Thank you…… Boxing Fans, for becoming fight fans of Charles “The Hatchet” Brewer.
There Was Only One Philly Blue Horizon & Ring Magazine Voted It #1 in the World!
By: Ken Hissner
The Blue Horizon is a historic 1,500-seat former boxing venue in Philadelphia. The Ring magazine voted it the number-one boxing venue in the world, and Sports Illustrated noted it as the last great boxing venue in the country.
The Blue Horizon was originally constructed as three four-story Second Empire style houses in 1865. Originally built to house the nouveau riche, the properties were eventually sold to the Loyal Order of Moose. Architect Carl Berger oversaw the 1914 alterations to house the fraternal lodge, adding a ballroom, bar, and auditorium. Lodge #54, located at 1312-1316 North Broad Street had over 20,000 members by 1920, at that point the highest membership of any fraternal lodge in the world. By the late 1920s, membership had reached over 40,000 and plans were made for an extensive expansion of the building; however the Great Depression forced Lodge #54 to abandon their plans. The building also got its first taste of professional boxing during the Moose era, with two fight cards on March 1 and March 28 of 1938. The March 28th card featured heavyweight Willie Reddish, who later trained Sonny Liston and Joe Frazier.
Jimmy Toppi Sr. purchased the building in 1961 for $85,000, and renamed it after the song “Beyond the Blue Horizon” from the 1930 film Monte Carlo. After another series of renovations, regular boxing shows began in the Blue Horizon on November 3, 1961. The main event featured Hall of Famer George Benton against Chico Corsey, a late substitute. The early days of the building as a boxing venue saw regular weekly shows. Promoter Marty Kramer was given a grant from Madison Square Garden to put on these matches in order to develop young fighters. Kramer promoted over 30 main events before leaving the Blue Horizon in 1963.
Promoter Herman Taylor then hosted three nationally televised bouts at the venue in 1963 and 1964, featuring Jose Stable, Dick Turner, Harold Johnson, Henry Hank, Stanley Hayward, and Curtis Cokes. On May 26, 1966 “Gypsy” Joe Harris took a 10 round decision over Johnny Knight in a fight promoted by Lou Lucchese. There would be no more fights until September 30, 1969, when J. Russell Peltz had his first promotion of his Hall of Fame career. Peltz set a site attendance record of 1,606 in his first of many cards at the Blue Horizon. Peltz would leave the Blue in 1971 after 31 cards to promote at bigger venues like the Spectrum, but would return in 1974. Peltz would promote more fights at the Blue Horizon than anyone else in its history.
The Peltz era brought Philadelphia greats such as Matthew Saad Muhammad, Bernard Hopkins, Cyclone Hart, Tim Witherspoon, and Bennie Briscoe. Peltz left the Blue Horizon in 2001, came back to promote one card in 2004 and three card in 2009 for the last time.
In 1994, the site was purchased by Vernoca L. Michael, Carol P. Ray, and Carol M.A. Whitaker. In 1998, Vernoca Michael became licensed as the first female African American boxing promoter in the state of Pennsylvania. She has promoted bouts since featuring established fighters such as Eddie Chambers, Yusef Mack, and Lajuan Simon.
On December 2, 1997, the venue held its first world title fight when Peltz promoted Charles Brewer in a defense of his International Boxing Federation super middleweight crown. The Blue Horizon has also hosted international, regional, and state title fights.
In 2008, Ms. Michael was named one of Top 50 Women in Business in the State of Pennsylvania by Governor Ed Rendell.
Michael has worked to make the building a cultural center for the surrounding neighborhood by creating a learning center with connections to Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania and a Philadelphia Boxing Museum. The venue also hosts special events, meetings, receptions, weddings, and cabarets.
The Blue Horizon appears in the film Rocky V as some of the fight scenes with Tommy Morrison were filmed there. The building was also used to film the boxing scenes in the movie Annapolis.
The Blue Horizon was closed, reportedly due to tax problems, in June 2010. In January 2011, it was announced that $6 million had been granted to help West Philadelphia developer Mosaic Development Partners build an $18 million hotel-and-restaurant complex with a jazz bar and fitness center at the site of the Blue Horizon. In July 2013, Mosaic’s plans called for the venue to be demolished in order to make way for a parking garage.
The last show was June 04, 2010 with Farah Ennis winning in the main event.
“Rockin” Rodney Moore claims to have fought there 27 times. Box Rec shows he was 20-1-1 at the Blue.
As of May 2017 the venue along with the upgraded boxing ring remains untouched, abandoned and in remarkably good to pristine condition with virtually no signs of any interior damage or structural problems since its closing in 2010.