By: Ken Hissner
Philadelphia was a hot bed for boxing back in the 1970’s especially in the middleweight division. Out of own boxers would come in to test the water. Two of them that were schooled in Philly that went onto become world champions were “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler and Eddie Mustapha Muhammad aka then Eddie Gregory.
Let’s start with Hagler, who was 25-0-1, when he came to the city of “Brotherly Shove” at the Spectrum on March 13, 1976, losing a somewhat disputed majority decision to Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts, 27-3-1. All of Hagler’s Philly fights were promoted by J Russell Peltz’s Peltz Boxing.
Several months late on March 9, 1976 Hagler returned to fight a “different” Willie “The Worm” Monroe, 31-3-1, who was then being trained by future IBHOF trainer George Benton for his second fight. Monroe was no longer a runner but stood in front of you like Benton did as a boxer slipping and countering. This writer was in attendance that night and it looked like by the second round Hagler’s nose reminded me if memory serves me right like “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer”. Whether it was broken or not I do not know.
In September 14, 1976, Hagler returned to Philly to face their knockout artists Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, 30-6-1 with 28 knockouts. Hagler was ahead on all three scorecards when Hart was stopped in the eighth round.
This writer remembers seeing Monroe at a weigh-in with a cast on his I believe left hand sitting there. I asked “I hear you are having a rematch with Hagler in Boston” how come? “I beat him before didn’t I?” Well, like that old saying “watch what you ask for” and Monroe was stopped in the twelfth and final round for the vacant North American title.
Later that year on August 23rd Hagler and Monroe would have their rubber match back at Philly’s Spectrum with Hagler stopping Monroe in the second round.
Almost a year to the day on August 24, 1978, Hagler returned to face “Bad” Bennie Briscoe, 60-16-5, with 50 knockouts. I recall after defeating Briscoe Hagler went onto comment on how tough Briscoe was. It would be a little over two years when Hagler got his first title fight ending in a disputed draw against Vito Antuofermo, 45-3-1, in Las Vegas. A fight he should have gotten the decision. Antuofermo would lose his title in his next back to back fights with Alan Minter.
While Minter and Antuofermo were fighting one another Hagler got a rematch with Watts in Portland, Oregon, stopping Watts in the second round in April of 1980. Two fights later on September 27, 1980, Hagler traveled to the Wembly Stadium, in the UK, to stop Minter on facial cuts in the third round with a riot following the fight.
In Hagler’s second title fight he stopped Antuofermo in June of 1981. Two years after that he stopped “Caveman” Lee from Philly who was a member of the Kronk Team in the first round.
Now, let’s take a look at Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, 6-0, when he made his Philly debut on September 24, 1973 scoring a first round knockout over Philly’s Elwood Townsend, 3-6-2. J Russell Peltz told this writer he promoted the Townsend, Smith and Briscoe fights that Mustafa had in Philly. Almost a year later on August 26, 1974, in New York, he knocked out Hart in 4 rounds.
On January 14, 1975, Mustafa returned to the Spectrum knocking out Philly’s Steven Smith, 15-4, in 4 rounds. On April 28 he returned to the Philly Arena knocking out Don Cobbs, 25-12-1, of St. Louis. On June 16th he stopped Lenny Harden, 14-4, from nearby Philly suburb of Coatesville.
On August 18, 1975, Muhammad took on Briscoe, 51-14-2, at the Spectrum losing by split decision. On July 14, 1976, he returned to Philly’s Convention Hall to stop Lee Barber, 9-3-1, of Detroit in the fourth round.
On March 11, of 1977 Muhammad would take on Philly’s Matthew Saad Muhammad, 13-2-2, at the Philly Arena to take a split decision win. Later that year on November 20th he would get a title fight losing a disputed decision to Victor Galindez, 47-6-4, for his WBA Light Heavyweight title in Italy. He got knocked down in the fifth round which seemed to make the difference in the scoring losing by a point on two cards and by two points on the other. Galindez would lose his title less than a year later to Philly trained Mike “The Jewish Bomber” Rossman from Turnersville, NJ.
Muhammad would go onto win thirteen of his next fourteen fights only losing to James Scott at the Rahway State Prison. On March 31, 1980, he would win the WBA Light Heavyweight title stopping Marvin Johnson. His first defense was against Philly’s Jerry “The Bull” Martin, 19-1, who he stopped in the tenth round.
After Muhammad lost his title to Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Spinks in July of 1981 he would return to Philly one more time defeating Pablo Paul Ramos, 20-3-1, at the Spectrum.