Back in the late 60’s and 70’s Philly was known for their middleweights. Unfortunately between gym wars and fighting one another on a couple got world title fights. Promoter J Russell Peltz felt they made the best matches and he was probably right but beating up on each other rarely got them into a title fight.
The lone exception was the fighter who is recognized as Philly’s kind of fighter. That being “Bad” Bennie Briscoe got the attention of Philly Boxing History’s John DiSanto to start “The Briscoe Awards” that will be conducted much earlier than when it was in October. This year’s event is on April 14th at the Xfinity Live in South Philly.
Briscoe went to Argentina in 1967 and fought to a draw with Carlos Monzon. No country in the world has as many draws as in the Argentine. If you beat one of their boxers you get a draw. Peltz took until 1972 to get Briscoe a rematch with Monzon who was then world champion in the WBA and WBC. He still had to go to Argentina to get that fight and lost over fifteen rounds. This writer feels because Briscoe had gotten hepatitis and only had one fight after that the Monzon people felt he wouldn’t be as strong as he was in their previous fight five years before.
This writer has written on quite a few of the past boxers. The hay days of Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts, Willie “The Worm” Monroe, Stanley “Kitten” Hayward were the major players back then.
Hart, 30-9-1 (28), in September of 1969 debuted and stopped his first 19 opponents until Don Fullmer went the distance with him in June of 1971. Today it’s Hart’s son Jesse, 25-2 (21), who has earned a pair of WBO World title fights. That’s 2 more than his father ever had the opportunity to achieve.
In May of 1971 Hart stopped Hayward in the first round and the following fight defeated Fullmer. In September he fought Denny Moyer 81-22-4, and both fell through the ropes in the sixth round. Hart suffered a concussion and the result was a no contest. In March of 1972 Hart was stopped by Nate Collins in Philly. In January of 1972 Collins returned to Philly and was stopped by Billy “Dynamite” Douglas who came back to Philly getting stopped by Briscoe and defeated by Monroe.
Hart would lose to Monroe and Watts in 1974. In 1975 he would draw with Briscoe and lose to him in 1976. Later that year he lost to Hagler ending his career in 1977 except for a comeback in 1982 where he lost again. There was never a title fight for Hart.
Watts, 39-7-1 (22), had his biggest win when he won a close majority draw if not controversial win over future world champion “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler in January of 1986. In September of 1970 Watts lost to the same person who defeated him in the Olympic Trials, Armando Muniz, 4-0, when Watts was coming off his first loss at 8-0. To lose a fight, especially your first and then travel to L.A. where Muniz was located wasn’t exactly a wise decision.
In April of 1979 Watts defeated his first well known Philly fighter in Perry “Lil Abner” Abney, 8-4-1, at the PA Arena. In December of 1981 Watts scored his first major victory traveling north to Scranton, PA, defeating Ralph Palladin, 22-1, by split decision. In the rematch in April of 1982 Watts again fought Palladin in Scranton ending in a draw. The rubber match was then in Palladin’s area in Baltimore where Watts stopped Palladin in 6 rounds in June.
In October Alvin Phillips, 31-9-1, was brought in from New Orleans to fight Watts. Phillips had defeated Philly’s Bill Lloyd twice. Peltz was smart enough to bring in out of town boxers who defeated Philly boxers. In January of 1971 Phillips came to Philly and lost to Monroe. Then in his next fight he defeated Hayward in New Orleans but lost to Lloyd in their third meeting there. In September of 1972 he defeated Monroe in a rematch in New Orleans. The following month he lost to Watts in Madison Square Garden.
In July of 1974 Watts stopped Hart in the first round. In November he defeated Monroe. In the following year he defeated Hagler, then 25-0-1. In March of 1977 he went to Texas and was stopped by David Love. In 1979 Love was brought into Philly defeating Briscoe. In the following year he was stopped by Philly’s Curtis Parker in Atlantic City. In Portland, Maine, Watts had a rematch with Hagler and was stopped more or less ending his career. Watts never got a title fight.
The night Monroe defeated Hagler this writer was there. Monroe in his previous fight took on a new trainer in the Philly legendary George Benton. Hagler came in expecting to face a runner but Monroe stood in front of him the way Benton once fought. In the first round Hagler’s nose looked like Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. In September Hagler came back to Philly and stopped Hart.
In 1977 at a weigh-in this writer asked Monroe who had a hand bandaged what’s next. He said he was going to fight Hagler again but in Boston. I questioned why he would do that and was told he beat him once he will beat him again. He stopped Monroe and 6 months later came to Philly and stopped Monroe again. In 1978 he came back to Philly and defeated Briscoe in a war.
Hayward was hooked up with promoter Lou Lucchese out of Leesport, PA, who gave him a title shot with Freddie Little, 40-4, in March of 1969 losing a 15 round decision. Hayward like the other Philly fighters fought each other. He defeated Philly’s Ike White, 9-22-3, in back to back fights. He would lose a split decision to Philly’s Bruce Gibson but beat him in the rematch. In his next fight he defeated Philly’s Carl Hubbard, 18-2-2. In 1963 he stopped Philly’s Percy Manning, 12-1. In his next fight in 1964 I attended my first live fight watching Hayward got what I thought was a disputed decision over Philly’s Dick Turner, 19-1-1. Unfortunately for Turner he received an eye injury a detached retina that ended his career.
Turner had defeated Philly’s Al Styles and in his biggest win on national TV he defeated Argentina’s Federico Thompson, 130-12-10, at the legendary Blue Horizon. In February of 1963 he defeated Manning who was 11-0. Then in Baltimore he beat Cuba’s Isaac Logart, 64-20-9. In October he lost for the first time to another Cuban Jose Stable, 22-2-1. In his next fight he lost to Hayward ending his career. There was never a title fight for him.
Stable had beaten Philly’s Sidney “Sweet Pea” Adams, 16-2-1, in 1961. In 1963 he defeated Philly’s Charley Scott, 34-24 and Hayward. Next he came to Philly and defeated Turner. In 1965 in Philly he lost to Manning. In 1966 he lost to the legendary Philly boxer “Gypsy” Joe Harris, 15-0.
Harris was one of a kind. Blind in one eye he defeated Philly’s C.L. Lewis, 13-6-2. There was bad blood between the two of them. They would later spar together when Harris would put his knee in the groin of Lewis but get thumbed in the eye that would be so red for his upcoming fight with Manny Gonzales where he would flunk his physical. The truth of the matter was he lost for the first time in his previous fight former world champion Emile Griffith in 1968.
A week before the fight Harris left camp and got married to a bar maid in Atlantic City. Just before the fight he returned to his gym at the 23rd PAL, where Duke Dugent who ran the gym told this writer “I tried to work with him but in just a few days from the last time here he was not in the same shape”. Harris had gone to Madison Square Garden and defeated world welterweight champion Curtis Cokes. After the fight he was asked “where’s the part?” He replied “ain’t no part here. I’m from Philly and that’s where I’m going!” He would travel to Texas two months later and stop Benny Bowser. Cokes people had seen enough. When he traveled to Texas to fight Cokes for the title Cokes was not to be found which should have stripped him of his title. He could never make welter again.
Harris would have a pair of wars with Miguel Barretto, 15-1. In between this writer attended his fight with southpaw Bobby Cassidy. Cassidy couldn’t find or hit Harris who had one of the slickest styles Philly had seen. Cassidy had Briscoe in a corner holding his left shoulder with his right glove and still couldn’t hit him. In 1968 he would defeat Dick DiVeronica, 39-8, and lose to Griffith ending his career. The Griffith fight set a new indoor attendance record in Philly.
Some of the greatest light heavyweights in the world came from Philly starting with the very first one “Philadelphia” Jack O’Brien, 147-16-26 (55). One of the greatest if not the greatest boxer to ever come out of Philly was light heavyweight champion Tommy “Phantom of Philly” Loughran, 124-32-13, who when he got a heavyweight title fight against champion Primo Carnera he was outweighed by 87 pounds and lost a decision.
Other light heavyweights that Peltz promoted were Matthew Franklin aka Matthew Saad Muhammad, 39-16-3 (29), who lost to future world champion Eddie Gregory aka Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, 20-2-1, in March of 1977 losing a decision. Eddie had lost to Briscoe in 1975 and came back stopped a non-Philly fighter and then beat Matthew. He would win the world title from Marvin Johnson who also was promoted by Peltz fighting in Philly.
Matthew beat Johnson when he was unbeaten, Douglas, Richie Kates, 34-3, who knocked him down face first only to get up and defeat Kates, Yaqui Lopez, 43-7, and Johnson again for the world title in Indianapolis, IND. He made 7 defenses before losing to Jersey’s Dwight Braxton, 15-1-1, aka Dwight Muhammad Qawi and lose again in a rematch.
Mike “The Jewish Bomber” Rossman was from Jersey training in Philly. He would go onto win the world title from Victor Galindez in 1978. In a rematch he broke his hand and lost. He decided to change trainers after that like too many boxers do. I found his house in Turnersville, NJ, and told him not to get rid of his trainer “Slim” Jim Robinson. He won 8 of his last 9 fights losing to Braxton.
Another Philly fighter Jerry “The Bull” Martin, 25-7 (17), was in his 18th fight, 8-0 in Philly, beat contender Jerry Celestine, 16-2-1. He would win 4 more times in Philly and travel to Rahway Prison where they were put on TV with inmate James Scott, 18-0-1, who had defeated Gregory, Kates, Celestine, Lopez but lost to Martin. In his last fight Scott lost to Braxton.
Unlike the middleweights the light heavyweights got world title fights and won them!