On the outskirts of Philadelphia there are several towns side by side called Upper Darby and Broomall. At Upper Darby High School was a state runner-up wrestler who took “no hostages!” On the streets of Upper Darby known as one of the toughest “white towns” outside of Philly was one of the toughest “little big men” who took down the toughest of tough in Upper Darby and Broomall. His name? Augie Pantellas, a 130 lb. Greek kid that would wrestle bigger guys to the pavement until they “conceived defeat!”
Pantellas had a friend one day say “Augie, since you are so tough, why don’t you take up boxing?” The seed was planted into the head of Pantellas. With no amateur fights he came in touch with a former hard hitting professional, now a trainer named Marty Feldman. In order to not have Pantellas embarrassed looking like a beginner hitting the bag, shadow boxing, and whatever it took to become a fighter Feldman took him to the basement of a friends business “The Roman Bar” for a month. “Anyone he hit was a stretcher case,” said Marty Feldman
After a month Feldman took Pantellas to the gym. He saw such punching power in what would become the “hardest hitting” super featherweight in Philly rings. It was April of 1967 when Feldman took his young protégé to the Boston Arena in Massachusetts to face Hank Smith, 0-1, from Brooklyn. At 1:50 of the second round the referee saw enough awarding Pantellas his first victory!
It was nothing due to his size and on the east coast for Pantellas to have to give away weight in order to land a fight. For example: In his fourth fight against Johnny Keullan he was 129 to 139 giving away 10 pounds. Next fight against George Ayala he was 126 to Ayala’s 132.
“My father said Augie would hit people and paralyze them. He had some of the most natural power around. He did something not too many people could do and be successful at. He was one fight away from winning the world championship, without any amateur experience. He is one of a kind and busted my father when he was sick more than anyone. He was a terrific fighter and friend to my family,” said David Feldman.
It would be just four weeks later when Feldman put Pantellas in with one of the most experienced amateurs a Puerto Rican kid out of Philly named Luis Lopez who would be making his debut. “I got hit with a good shot,” said Pantellas. Pantellas learned a lot from this fight in what the fight game is filled with such as sharks and back stabbers. He would be stopped in the fourth and final round.
Feldman again returned Pantellas to Massachusetts at the Four Seasons Arena in Walpole again facing former 1960 Olympian Nick Spanakos, of New York who had a twin brother in Pete Spanakos, who was also a decorated amateur. Nick was a New York amateur champion from 1955 to 1961 winning New York and Chicago Golden Glove tournaments. Pantellas gave Spanakos all he could handle before dropping a four round decision. The fight was brutal enough that Spanakos would never put the gloves on again. “He was a good boxer,” said Pantellas. Here were two Greek youngsters with one’s career ending and the others just beginning.
Though Pantellas found himself with a 1-2 record he was determined to make it in a completely different sport than high school wrestling and street fighting. He would win his next 19 fights with 14 of his opponents not going the distance. Several such were experienced that fell at the hands of Pantellas like Canadian Gilles Boulay, 16-3-3, in two rounds. Puerto Rico’s Castro Ramirez, 7-1, fell in the second of a 10 round bout. Two fights later he knocked out Pat Kivlin, 14-1-1, in 4 rounds. “I got my power from wrestling in high school,” said Pantellas.
Pantellas would only fight in Philly since his loss in Walpole with the exception of several bouts in Upper Darby later on in his career. It was October of 1970 when he faced his toughest opponent to date in 1968 Olympian Trenton, NJ, their favorite son Sammy Goss, 18-1. It was a 10 round battle from start to finish with Goss getting a majority decision win. “I thought I won that fight,” said Pantellas. They would meet again but that would be years later down the road. Lucchese promoted this fight. Sam Margolis said “why would we let someone else like (Herman) Taylor promote it? Lucchese was with us from the beginning!”
Normally after a loss the next one would be an easy one getting a fighters confidence back. Not in the case of Pantellas. A Mexican knockout artist named Ricardo Arredondo, 54-4, with 38 knockouts had visited Philly 2 years prior knocking down and stopping Sammy Goss, 19-1, in 5 rounds, some 6 weeks after Goss fought Pantellas. Pantellas had Arredondo on the canvas in the ninth round only to suffer his only his second stoppage loss in the tenth and final round, dropping his record to 20-4.
“I was very upset with one of the news writers when I saw his write-up the next day. He made it seem like I was getting beat up the entire fight. He said Arredondo kept moving due to my power. I was ahead on the scorecards. I called him up but was so mad I couldn’t say anything so I just hung up. At night I was afraid to go to sleep fearing I would never wake up. I drove around until daylight,” said Pantellas.
“After the Arredondo fight I promoted Pantellas’ next two fights. I believe Herman Taylor promoted the (Miguel) Herrera fight and Augie quit after that one,” said J Russell Peltz. There was a riot after the Ruben de Jesus split decision win by Pantellas. My brother and I were up in the balcony and wondered if they would throw us off. The Commissioner was Chuck Bednarik, the Philadelphia Eagle great, who I remember ducking under the ring since bottles were flying from the balcony. “I went into the dressing room afterwards hoping to promote a fight with Goss, but Lucchese did it,” said Peltz. It was a close fight. “I was sick with a cold and didn’t have the power I usually had,” said Pantellas.
When Pantellas was out of the ring he was a street kid dealing in things he should not have been dealing with like drugs. He would bounce back with a pair of knockout wins before losing a 10 round decision to Miguel Herrera, 16-20-1, of Ecuador. Herrera had gone the entire 10 rounds in just his third pro fight against former Olympic and World Flyweight champion Argentina’s Pascual Perez, 78-3-1. He would go onto lost and stop Godfrey Stevens only to lose the rubber match for the South American title to Stevens, then 56-4-3. During that period of time Herrera had defeated American’s Ronnie Jones, 23-8, Frankie Crawford, 15-3-1, and Brazil’s Waldimero Pinto, 52-2-3. He had been thrown to the wolves losing to such fighters as Bernardo Caraballo, 44-1-1, from Colombia. The point is his record was very deceiving coming into the fight with Pantellas.
At this time in his career Pantellas knew the battle with drugs and not preparing himself into the best of shape had taken its toll. “I was gone, totally lost. Name something bad and I was into it,” said Pantellas. He decided to stop fighting only to return one month shy of 6 years. He was now 33 years old and would win 5 straight, 3 by stoppage over a period of 11 months. One of his opponents was Roberto Quintanilla, 29-4, who he won a 10 round decision over.
It would be 6 months before Pantellas would be back in the ring a shell of the once hardest pound for pound puncher in Philly. They brought in future world champion Bobby “Schoolboy” Chacon, 38-4, with 34 knockouts, from California. Chacon had been stopped in a pair of fights to one of the all-time knockout artists Ruben Olivares, then 71-3-1, and 79-5-1, for the WBC title, before taking a 10 round decision in their third encounter, when he was 82-8-1.
This writer remembers then PA Boxing Executive Director Francis Walker telling me “when this kid (Chacon) walked in I thought he looked like a choir boy. When he got into the ring he was a tiger.” Pantellas at 34 was no match for Chacon who was about 26, but held his own before being sent to the canvas twice in the sixth round. He would be stopped by referee Tommy Reid at 1:32 of the seventh round. It was a gallant effort on the part of Pantellas but in his then condition no match for the future world champion, who ended his career with a 59-7-1, record with 47 knockouts.
It would be 4 months later when Pantellas would have his final career ending fight with his old opponent Sammy Goss, 42-10-2, at the Upper Darby Forum. It had been 8 years since the two had met. Pantellas would take a 10 round decision 48-46 48-44 and 47-42, finishing up his career at 28-6, with 20 knockouts.
This writer was there when Pantellas was inducted into the PAB HOF in 2007. When he was introduced and from those in attendance you heard “Augie, Augie!” He was about 65 but looking more like 45. His wife and youngest son were with him that night along with the many fans he had won over during his 12 years in boxing. Several weeks ago I contacted Pantellas through his last promoter J Russell Peltz for the phone number. He gave me half a dozen questions to ask him. I contacted Pantellas on the phone and sent him the questions telling him I’d like to sit down with him in his Broomall home. Upon calling him again I asked if he was busy that day.
Upon driving up to the home of Pantellas at James and Ann Street there were several trees with “red crosses on them”. Being a born again Christian myself I remembered when he entered the ring with those red trunks and the white cross on them.
I brought in my 3-ring binder of “boxing pictures” with such great boxers starting with the former world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, the Spinks brothers, Bernard “Be Hop” Hopkins and Joe Calzaghe together, “Sweet Pea” Whitaker, Mark Breeland, Kid Gavilan, Alexis Arguello, Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran and Willie Pep. Then I came upon a picture of Pantellas being inducted into the PAB HOF with his wife and son by his side at the table. We sat down and I started with the 6 questions Peltz gave me before going onto my own questions. Pantellas and I must have spent several hours together.
“Augie is one of the nicest guys I ever met in all my years in boxing! Never without a smile on his face. He was a hell of a fighter in his day. Saw him fight a few times when my father would take me to the fights as a kid. Got to know Augie years later. He always liked the story I told him about that “Cyclone” Hart actually thought I was Augie for a few years before I had to say I wasn’t. “Cyclone” swore we looked identical. As long as I have known Augie he is in phenomenal shape. Just an all- around good guy,” said Joey Eye (PAB HOF Cut Man).
“Augie always put on a good fight in Upper Darby. A nice guy as well. Judged several of his fights,” said Carol Sharp Polis. (Former first female boxing judge).
KEN HISSNER: How did you feel about the build-up for the first Goss fight?
AUGIE PANTELLAS: It was done pretty good, a lot of press.
KEN HISSNER: What were your feelings fighting Goss 8 years later in your final fight and defeating him?
AUGIE PANTELLAS: It wasn’t the same. Lou Lucchese had been my promoter after having some fights and Russell Peltz promoting me during my comeback.
KEN HISSNER: What was it like fighting Bobby Chacon in your next to last fight?
AUGIE PANTELLAS: He along with Ricardo Arredondo were my two toughest opponents. I could hit harder than anyone I ever fought but the drugs and not being in the proper shape I should have been in may have made a difference with my punching power. I don’t mean to brag but I could really punch. My trainer Marty Feldman could really punch and showed me how to get the most out of my punching power.
“World class puncher! Seriously! He had Ricardo Arredondo on the canvas who is one of Mexico’s most underrated fighters of all time,” said J Russell Peltz (IBHOF Promoter).
KEN HISSNER: How was your relationship with your manager Sam Margolis?
AUGIE PANTELLAS: We had a good relationship. He had managed Sonny Liston among others and was in the vending business.
KEN HISSNER: Was it true you started training in Marty Feldman’s basement?
AUGIE PANTELLAS: No, it was in one of Marty’s friend’s basement.
KEN HISSNER: At that time I started with my first question that I could wait to ask. When did you become a born again Christian? His eyes lit up!
AUGIE PANTELLAS: I was about 10 years old when my mother took me to an Oral Roberts revival at the Philly Arena. It would be 13 years later I was starting my boxing career in that same arena. I accepted the Lord that night. We had been raised Greek Orthodox but knew that Jesus (Christ) was now a great part of my life. In 1977 my mom took me to a revival and I was 33 and again born again knowing what it meant this time.
KEN HISSNER: Where do you attend church now Augie?
AUGIE PANTELLAS: At the Calvary Temple in the city on South 20th Street. My dad went to the food kitchens helping hand out food when he learned about Jesus.
KEN HISSNER: Who was your cut man?
AUGIE PANTELLAS: Eddie Aliano.
KEN HISSNER: Eddie was the best cut man in the business. They nicknamed him “the clot” for he could stop any cut. Funny, he never had a car. He either used public transportation or got a ride with someone.
AUGIE PANTELLAS: I got cut in the first round of a fight and when I came back to the corner he said “oh God, it’s a bad one!” He patched me up so I could continue fighting.
KEN HISSNER: Didn’t you have a hot dog cart after your retirement?
AUGIE PANTELLAS: Yes, outside the Media court house. My dad had been selling (Philly) pretzels so I gave it a try with food and it paid off.
KEN HISSNER: Marty was a real character wasn’t he?
AUGIE PANTELLAS: He sure was but what a great trainer. He and another guy would go into the area bars and clean out the house. They loved to fight.
KEN HISSNER: Augie, I can’t tell you how I enjoyed sitting here and talking to you along with showing you the pictures. I will make a copy of the one with you at your PAB HOF induction.