One Eye & a Bag of Tricks That Was Philly’s “Gypsy” Joe Harris
One Eye & a Bag of Tricks That Was Philly’s “Gypsy” Joe Harris
By: Ken Hissner
In the 60’s the baddest gym in Philadelphia was the 23rd PAL on Colombia Avenue. Such boxers as “Bad” Bennie Briscoe, “Cyclone” Hart, “Sugar” Hart, “Classy” Al Massey, Jimmy Young, “Boogaloo” Watts, “Smokin” Joe Frazier and the one-eyed “Gypsy” Joe Harris trained there.
“I came to the 23rd PAL from the 39th PAL and was one of the few boxers. The others there liked to go to war. One day in order to see whowas the baddest guy in the gym insteps none other than “Bad” Bennie Briscoe and “Gypsy” Joe Harris into the ring. There was no referee or trainers involved. It was only for about a one when police officer Duke Dugent who ran the gym with an iron hand jumped in the ring pulling the two of them apart! Duke yelled at the two and said NEVER AGAIN! You’ve heard of Philly Gym Wars?
This was best of the best,” said Al Massey.
Briscoe was the AAU 147 champion and had a jab coming up from the floor like a sledge hammer always coming forward. Harris on the other hand was as slippery as you could get using angles (due to the eye) with arms wrapped around himself and weaving around hard to hit.
“He don’t make plans because he don’t know what he going to do until he do it,” said Willie Reddish (trainer). Born in Camden, NJ, word is Harris was “bag snatching” on Halloween and got hit in the right eye with a brick! He was a jokester so when he took eye exams he joked and got by them.
I was there the night Harris was fighting “Irish” Bobby Cassidy, a southpaw, who was holding Harris with his right hand on Harris’ left shoulder and he still couldn’t hit him! He had a bald head and could slip punch after punch.
Harris’ biggest win was over then welterweight champion Curtis Cokes in a non-title fight at Madison Square Garden in New York City. He would be asked afterwards “where’s the party?” He replied “ain’t no party here man, I’m from Philly!”
Today Cokes would have been stripped of his title for he was “nowhere to be found” when Harris showed up in Dallas for the rematch this time for the title! There was no ring in the hotel lobby and Cokes was “out fishing” per the local newspaper with picture in a row boat! Harris would move up to middleweight never to get close to a title fight again.
Harris turned professional in November of 1964 in Worcester, MASS, stopping Fred Walker in 3 rounds. In 1965 he went 9-0. In 1966 he defeated C.L. Lewis over 6 rounds in a bout filled with bad blood between the two of them. In May of 1966 he took on fellow Philly fighter Johnny Knight, 14-4-1 improving to 13-0 with the last 12 fights all in Philadelphia.
In October of 1966 Harris took on fellow Philadelphian Stanley “Kitten” Hayward, 22-2-1, stopping him in 6 rounds though coming off the floor in the third round. Next up was Cuban Jose Stable, 27-8-2, defeating Sidney “Sweet Pea” Adams and C.L. Lewis in NY. Then he defeated Cokes, Philly’s Charley Scott and Hayward in NY before coming to Philly to defeat Dick Turner, 19-0-1. In 1965 he lost in a title fight to Emile Griffith before returning to Philly losing to Percy Manning. He would lose to Harris in 1966.
Harris would go onto stop Knight in a rematch in 1967. Then he had the non-title win over Cokes weighing 151 improving to 18-0 at MSG before returning to Philly weighing 160 defeating Teddy Wright, 46-15-10.He would return to Dallas in the co-feature to Cokes defending against France’s Francois Pavilla. Harris posted a win but was at 158 ½ while 3 months later down to 152 in a war against Miguel Barreto, 15-1, winning a close one. Then coming off the canvas in the ninth to defeat Cassidy and win a rematch with Barreto. In February of 1968 he beat Dick DiVeronica, 38-8, just 6 months to his career ending fight against former world champion Emile Griffith, 55-9 in Philly.
Just before the Griffith fight Harris would marry a bar maid in Atlantic City and disappear showing up at the 23rd PAL Gym. “I only had a week to get him back in shape for Griffith,” said Duke Dugent (ran the gym). He was up to 160 losing to Griffith over 12 rounds. His offense was not there but his defense was. His 24 bout win streak was stopped. This fight set an indoor attendance record in Philly.
Getting back into the ring with Manny Gonsalves was to be his comeback fight when it was finally discovered at the examination he had no sight in an eye. The charade and career for Harris was over. It was blamed on a gym war with C.L. Lewis who thumbed him and Harris hit him in return in the “family jewels!” With a blood filled eye it brought the attention of the physician.
This writer made an attempt to get Harris to either Puerto Rico or Canada where he would possibly be able to fight. I was with him at the 23rd PAL with Dugent and we went to his family doctor to get the records to prove he had been blind fighting for some time but the doctor was not there. I never saw Harris again and he never fought again! Harris was one of the most “colorful” boxers out of Philadelphia in their history! He was only 22 and lived another 22 years before dying from a heart ailment at age 44! He is still talked about in Philly gyms this day.
More Boxing History
Boxing Insider Notebook: Cotto, Kirkland, Khan, Golovkin, Jacobs, and more….
Boxing Insider Notebook: Cotto, Kirkland, Khan, Golovkin, Jacobs, and more….
Compiled By: William Holmes
The following is the Boxing Insider notebook for the week of January 3rd to January 10th; covering the comings and goings in the sport of boxing that you might have missed.
Photo Credit: Rebecca Taylor, Dave Saffran-MSG Photos
Miguel Cotto and James Kirkland Media Tour Quotes
Miguel Cotto and James Kirkland recently completed a media tour to hype their upcoming bout on HBO Pay Per View that is scheduled for February 25th, 2017 at the Ford Center in Frisco, Texas. Below are some select quotes.
Miguel Cotto – Five-Time World Champion
“James is a tough fighter and stout boxer and he’s going to go to work with victory on his mind. I’m going to work with that, too. We are going to start camp today with Freddie and we are looking forward to the fight.
“I will do my best as always in Los Angeles with Freddie Roach commanding our group. All we need is to be ready for Kirkland.
“It’s going to be a great fight, I know that James always comes with a wiry attitude. And I’m going to do the same.
“I’m here for the best fights and the best fighters out there so if Canelo Alvarez wants to fight, to clear what happened November 2015, they know where to find me. It was close. We orchestrated the plan in a perfect way and we believe that we were the winners of the fight.
“I’m going to do the same as always with Freddie Roach. We’re going to work hard and have a game plan in mind. We’re going to work for James Kirkland.
“I’m committed to this fight. I’m committed to look the best possible for February 25. Freddie is in charge of my camp. Freddie is the captain of the boat. I trust him and I know I am going to be ready for February 25.
“It’s good to be back. It’s good to be sweating. I know that Freddie has everything set for our training camp. I rested a lot. I healed. And now I am ready to fight.
“Jerry Jones is a great promotor. I have a lot of respect for the Dallas Cowboys organization. It’s great to have them support this event.
“This fight is going to be the newest chapter in my career. I’m going to take it. I’m going to handle it in the best way possible. I’m going to do my best first with Freddie in the gym and then the night of the fight to make my family proud. I can’t control my legacy. I can’t control what people say about me after I retire. All I do in life is for my family and my kids. That is going to my legacy – what they think about me.”
James “Mandingo Warrior” Kirkland – Former WBC Continental Americas & WBO NABO
“I’m definitely going to put on a great performance against an icon and legend like Miguel Cotto.
“I definitely feel this is a step up. Like I said, it’s Miguel Cotto. Someone who’s been putting on for the sport of boxing for a long time and I’m definitely feeling like this is a great opportunity for me to bounce back. I’m definitely going to give my fans a great performance.
“I feel it’s a lot different with Ann. They say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Dealing with Ann, we have a certain trust factor with each other when it comes to the training and techniques and things that we do to prepare for any fight. Bringing someone who knows me from the beginning back to the fight game and training Kirkland, it’s overwhelming on both ends. She’s a person that you feel in this atmosphere, the boxing game, who can push Kirkland to his ultimate limits.
“I’ve been training with Ann for so long. Everything that she put me through, or whatever situation might come with training with Ann, I feel like it was always worth it. She pushed me to the ultimate limit but never broke me down, never wear and teared my body, and always has put me in a great position for my performance.
“I just have one agenda, one focus, one mind frame and this is set for February 25.
“Boxing is always a learning experience. And I’ve learned from fighting Alvarez and certain people that I’ve made mistakes against. I take those mistakes and I build from them. I try to learn. I’ve learned a lot from my defeats. Biggest thing that I’ve learned is move your head!
“I’m more focused than ever. Cotto is somebody who has fought all of the greats so I know that he has many tricks up his sleeves and that he prepares well for his fights. At the end of the day, to fight someone who knows the sport, I think about what would he do and how he would feel about certain things. I try to get in the head of Miguel Cotto when I’m training. I’m anxious for the opportunity and I’m thankful for the opportunity.
“Miguel Cotto is someone I look up to. For to me to able to get the opportunity to show what I can bring and take my boxing skill to the next limit is definitely something I can put down in things I have accomplished in boxing. My career needs to get back on the rise and show not just the fans but to the sport of boxing itself that Kirkland is definitely someone that can put on a great show.”
Watch Golovkin and Jacobs Kick Off Press Conference
Gennady Golovkin is scheduled to face Daniel Jacobs on March 18th at Madison Square Garden live on HBO PPV. Golovkin and Jacobs recently held a New York City Kick-Off Press Conference and footage of this press conference has been made available for all to view.
Amir Khan’s Super Fight Leage Teams up with India’s Billionaire Club
Super Fight League (SFL), the world’s leading mixed martial arts (MMA) league, has announced that eight of the world’s leading entrepreneurs have come on as team owners for the inaugural SFL season scheduled to begin from 20th January 2017 till 25th February 2017 in Mumbai, India.
Aditya Munjal from Hero Cycles, Amit Burman from Dabur Group, Keshav Bansal from Intex Technologies, Achin Kochar from VI-John, Kanav Parwal from SPA Capital, Raahil Bhatia from Belmaks Group, Shreeram Suresh and Vinodini Suresh from 8K Miles Media, Deepak Saluja and Pramod Sharma from UV Media, Jaskaran Punihani & Navraj Jaura from Jaura Group, Preeti Mahapatra from Mahapatra Universal Pvt Ltd – “India’s Billionaire Club” – are some of the entrepreneurs who have invested in SFL’s growing ecosystem and who are now team owners in this first of its kind franchisee based MMA league. A full list of the owners and their teams can be found below.
Bill Dosanjh, SFL’s CEO & Principal Founder said: “India is clearly waking up to the significance of combat sports and it is overwhelming to receive support from these marketers across diverse industries who will be associated with the League.”
Amir Khan, SFL’s Co-Founder and two-time world boxing champion, adds: “There is an immense talent pool in India and we’re happy to bring the first season of Super Fight League to fans with the tremendous support shown by the team owners not only to promote the sport but also nurture the inherent talent the country possesses. We’re confident that with the SFL platform, we will be able to create a vibrant sporting ecosystem in India.”
The Super Fight League recently signed a momentous deal with Sony Pictures Network India (SPN) who will be the league’s official broadcast partner. SPN will broadcast the inaugural SFL season live on SONY ESPN and SONY ESPN HD channels while the opening ceremony will be telecast on Sony MAX. In India Super Fight League is the second most watched sports online today.
There is a distinctive point scoring system that separates the Super Fight League from all of the other leagues. Each SFL team will be comprised of six players (five male fighters and one female fighter) who will be competing in six different weight categories and evaluated on the basis of a 5 point scoring system.
Here’s a great example of how the SFL team competition keeps an audience in their seats.
Super Fight League is currently the biggest MMA Promotion in Asia and GCC Region and the third biggest digitally viewed league in the world.
Showtime Sports Announces Original Documentary “Prison Fighters: 5 Rounds to Freedom”
SHOWTIME Sports® announced a powerful new documentary, PRISON FIGHTERS: 5 Rounds To Freedom, which examines a controversial practice in Thailand’s criminal justice system whereby inmates can earn their freedom by winning a series of Muay Thai fights. A SHOWTIME Sports original production, the 90-minute film will premiere on Friday, Feb. 24 at 8:30p ET/PT on SHOWTIME.
The state-sponsored rehabilitation program, popularly known as Prison Fight, is not reserved for petty criminals. Under the law, violent criminals, including those convicted of murder and sexual assault, have been freed and, in some cases, fully absolved of their crimes through their participation in Prison Fights.
“This story is unlike anything we’ve ever encountered,” said Stephen Espinoza, Executive Vice President and General Manager, SHOWTIME Sports. “Redemption is a common metaphor in sports stories, but this is a story about actual redemption and rehabilitation, with prisoners literally fighting for their release from prison. This film brings viewers inside a personal story of crime and punishment, set against a societal debate about the meaning of justice, rehabilitation and the opportunity for a second chance.”
Narrated by Ron Perlman, PRISON FIGHTERS centers on the story of Noy Khaopan, a convicted murderer serving time in the Khao Prik Prison in Thailand. Viewers will follow Noy’s journey through Prison Fight and hear from his family, as well as from the heartbroken family of Noy’s victim. Ultimately, Noy’s freedom rests on one final fight, which poses a critical question: Can violent men redeem themselves through violent acts?
But while Noy and other inmates fight literally for their freedom, the Prison Fight program has also attracted professional Muay Thai fighters from around the world eager to test themselves in this unique environment. American Cody Moberly of Wichita, Kan., a professional fighter training and competing in Thailand with a redemption story of his own, serves as Noy’s opponent in the final high-stakes fight.
The film also focuses on former World Champion boxer “Oh” Sirimongkol Singwangcha, who now runs a training facility on the outskirts of Bangkok. Once considered Thailand’s Manny Pacquiao, “Oh” was convicted of drug possession years earlier, but earned his way to freedom through the Prison Fight system.
PRISON FIGHTERS: 5 Rounds To Freedom is produced by Sports Emmy® award winner Jason Bowers, written by author and Sports Emmy award-winning writer Mark Kriegel and directed by Micah Brown. PRISON FIGHTERS: 5 Rounds To Freedom is among several distinct and provocative documentaries available on SHOWTIME. Other recent titles include “RUNNING FOR HIS LIFE: The Lawrence Phillips Story”; “ONE & DONE” (Ben Simmons); “KOBE BRYANT’S MUSE,” “IVERSON,” “PLAY IT FORWARD” (Tony Gonzalez), “I AM GIANT: Victor Cruz,” “THE DREW” (Baron Davis), and “DEAN SMITH.”
Adam Lopez vs. Danny Roman Elevated to 12 Round WBA Super Bantamweight Title Eliminator
The previously announced matchup between undefeated WBA ranked No 3-ranked super bantamweight Adam Lopez and the WBA’s No. 4-ranked Danny Roman has been elevated to a 12-round title eliminator for the WBA (regular) Super Bantamweight belt held by Nehomar Cermeno.
Lopez (16-0-1, 8 KOs) and Roman (20-2-1, 7 KOs) will square off in the most significant fight of their careers in the main event of a ShoBox: The New Generation quadrupleheader on Friday, Jan. 20, live on SHOWTIME (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast) from Bally’s Atlantic City Hotel and Casino.
Lopez is a classic example of a ShoBox prospect-turned-contender. He’s 3-0-1 on the series, having defeated three previous unbeaten boxers. Roman has won 13 in a row dating to March 2014, and none of the fights have been close.
“I am excited that this is an elimination bout and I am one step closer to fighting for a world championship,” said Lopez. “Very few fighters ever get a chance to fight for a title, and I’m not going to let it slip away. It’s a huge motivator, and the stakes are higher. I am fighting for a chance to fight a guy in Cermeno who is 37 and maybe past his prime. So if I win on January 20, I feel I will win against Cermeno. He is beatable, and that is the perfect opponent to become a world champion. After I beat Roman, Cermeno will pass the torch to me.”
Said Roman: “This is what we’ve been working toward since day one. A shot at a world title is every boxer’s dream. I can’t speak for Adam, but the stakes have never been higher for me. Beating Adam is the only thing on my mind.”
Mykal Fox to Take on Tre’Sean Wiggins
Undefeated junior welterweight prospect, Mykal “The Professor” Fox will take on hard-punching Tre’Sean Wiggins in the main event of a big night of boxing on Saturday night, February 11th at the Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington, Maryland.
The show is promoted by King’s Promotions.
Fox, 21 years old of Forestville, Maryland is coming off a good 2016, where he went 4-0 and became a main event fight in the Maryland area.
The 3-year pro is coming off a 7th round stoppage over Juan Rodriguez on November 5th in the same venue.
Wiggins of Newbergh, New York has a record of 7-2 with six knockouts.
The 26 year-old southpaw scored knockouts in his first three bouts by knockout which was highlighted by a 1st round destruction of current WBA Super Featherweight world champion Jason Sosa.
The 7-year professional is coming off a six-round split decision defeat to Benjamin Whitaker on April 15, 2016 in Verona, NY.