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Philadelphia Back in the 60’s and 70’s!

Image: Philadelphia Back in the 60’s and 70’s!

By Ken Hissner: Philadelphia had a reputation in the 60s and 70s of gym wars fighting one another, and few got title fights let alone being world champions.

The first live boxing match I attended was in January of 1964 when Dick Turner, 19-1-1, lost a split decision to Stanley “Kitten” Hayward, 17-2-1, at the Philadelphia Arena. I felt it was a bad decision, and Turner should have gotten the win. He suffered a detached retina and never fought again. He was the uncle of the three Fletcher brothers, Frank, Anthony, and Troy.

Hayward was one of the few to get a world title fight from Philadelphia, losing in a vacant title fight to Freddie Little, 40-4, in March of 1969.

Percy Manning won his first 11 fights with 10 by stoppage when he lost to Turner. He would later lose to “Bad” Bennie Briscoe, 15-0, by stoppage in 8. In the rematch, Manning won a split decision. Two fights later he won a split decision over former world champ Luis Rodriguez, 71-4, earning a vacant title fight which was the California version of a world title. He was stopped by Charley Shipes 28-1-1.

I remember when former IBF Lightweight champion Charlie “Choo Choo” Brown, 24-4-2, was sparring with Tyrone “Butterfly” Crawley, 18-1. A month later, Brown needed an opponent, and it ended up being Crawley. They fought for the vacant NABF Lightweight title, with Crawley taking a majority decision. In Crawley’s next fight, he in a world title fight lost to Livingston Bramble, 23-1-1, being stopped in the thirteenth round.

The worst decision I ever attended was in November of 1976 when southpaw Tyrone Everett, 34-0, lost to WBC Super Featherweight champion Alfredo Escalera, 36-7-2. I had Everett ahead 13-2 in rounds, but two of the so-called judges had Escalera as the winner. One from Escalera’s Puerto Rico and the other Lou Tress from PA, who never judged a fight again, fortunately. The 16,019 attendance set an indoor record in Philadelphia. Escalera received a cut in the thirteenth round, and losing those final rounds cost him the title.

In New York, I had lunch with Mike Tyson’s future manager Jim Jacobs who said the worst decision he ever saw was Philadelphia’s Harold Johnson losing his world light heavyweight title to Willie Pastrano in June of 1963 by split decision. Six fights later, Pastrano, who wouldn’t give Johnson a rematch, was matched against Jose Torres, 34-1-1.

On a visit with legendary trainer Cus D’Amato who trained Torres, told me the mob had Pastrano, and in order to give the former Olympian Torres a title fight, he wasn’t allowed to work the corner. He had a method of calling out numbers in what punches to throw, and he was about six feet from his assistant trainer telling him what to say. Pastrano was stopped in nine rounds.

Only Philadelphia boxer “Smokin” Joe Frazier had won a world title during this era. Those who got title fights but failed were Briscoe, who went to Argentina and got a draw against future world champion Carlos Monzon, 40-3-6, in May of 1967. No other countries have more draws than Argentina. It wasn’t until November of 1972 when Briscoe, 43-10-1, got a rematch for the world title losing to Monzon in Argentina.

Against other Philly boxers, Briscoe stopped Charley Scott, 34-26, Manning, 14-2, then lost to him by split decision. Stopping Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, 29-5-1, lost a split decision to Hayward, stopped George Benton, 54-11-1, then lost twice in world title fights to Rodrigo Valdes, 50-4-2.

Then there was “Gypsy” Joe Harris, 17-0, who in New York won a non-title fight against Curtis Cokes in March of 1967. Instead of getting a rematch three months later, it was Francois Pavila, 38-3-4, getting the losing title fight. After this, Harris moved up to middleweight, winning 6 in a row before his final fight losing to former world champ Emile Griffith. He was 24-1 after this. In having an eye test, it was discovered he only had vision in one eye ending his career.

Another never getting a title fight from Philly was Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, 30-9-1 with 28 knockouts. Willie “The Worm” Monroe, 40-10-1, with 26 knockouts and a win in Philly over future world champion “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler. I was there when it looked like he broke the nose of Hagler early.

Monroe had a new trainer in George Benton, who changed his style from a runner to standing in front of Hagler. He would go on to lose to Hagler in Boston twice. I saw him at a weigh-in and warned him not to fight him again, and he questioned why not? By then, Hagler knew what to expect style-wise with Monroe.

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