Philly Boxing History

DECEMBER 06, 1965




On this day in 1965, two Philly legends in the making clashed in one of the most interesting matches of the mid-sixties.  Stanley 'Kitten' Hayward was on a good roll, having beaten Percy Manning, Dick Turner, Curtis Cokes, Vince Shomo, & Tito Marshall in the preceding two years.  The 1964 nationally televised, come from behind KO of Cokes at The Blue Horizon, was an instant classic and made him a title contender.  Bennie Briscoe, four years into his pro career had held the PA Welterweight Championship, but recent decision losses to Percy Manning and Tito Marshall, had placed him a notch lower than the streaking Hayward in 1965. 

It was a highly anticipated local match up, but as the bout neared, Hayward's poor training habits reached a new low.  Just weeks before the December fight, Kitten disappeared to spend time with his young sexy girlfriend, who had just returned from a semester in Paris.  Their lost weekend together lasted for about a week.  After that, Hayward reappeared, ready to put in a solid week or two of preparation for the dangerous destroyer, Briscoe.  Kitten's manager George Katz locked him up in a Philly hotel and trainer Quenzel McCall watched him like a hawk until December 6th. 

From the opening bell on fight night, Hayward looked fantastic.  He moved and boxed and piled up points, winning round after round, apparently inspired by his latest love.  But Briscoe needed the win and his trainer Yank Durham, pushed him to pick up the pace.  Bennie started to bear down in round six and his conditioning, trademark pressure, and heavy punching power got him back into the fight.  Hayward's right eye started to close, and he began to tire.  Briscoe kept pressing and throwing hard shots, although the ever-tough Kitten kept fighting back.  Hayward landed many hard shots of his own, but the tables were turning in Briscoe's favor.  Before long, Hayward's shutout was gone and the scorecards were getting close.  Two questions were buzzing through the Philadelphia Arena - "Could Kitten handle this onslaught?" and "Did Briscoe have enough time to catch him?" 

When the bell sounded to start round 10, Hayward still seemed to be sitting on a slight lead.  Briscoe knew it and moved in for the kill.  Hayward, never one to play it safe, traded with his fresher opponent.  Bennie cut off the ring and maneuvered the action to a neutral corner where he blasted away.  Kitten toughed it out and fired back a bit, but Briscoe administered a frightful beating until the end of the round.  The 5,485 Arena fans loved it and waited for the official verdict. 

In the end, the decision was split and for Hayward, but then the real drama began.  "Let me live, God, let me live", Hayward ranted in the dressing room, as the doctor attended to his badly swollen eye after the fight.  Kitten had become hysterical and started to hallucinate.  He jumped around and screamed for several minutes.  Dr. Wilbur Strickland of the PA Commission believed that either dehydration or a concussion suffered during the fight caused the erratic behavior.  He sent Hayward to Philadelphia's Presbyterian Hospital for observation.  By the next day, Kitten was feeling fine and was discharged. 

Briscoe, still bristling over the split decision he thought should have gone his way said, "He gets the decision and has to go to the hospital.   I lose it and just catch a cab and go home." 

The two would fight again ten years later with Briscoe winning the unanimous decision.

  1937 - Al Ettore W10 Joe Wagner at Newark, NJ
  1948 - Percy Bassett KO1 Archie Wilmer at Philadelphia
  1949 - Bob Sandberg W10 Eddie Giosa at Milwaukee
  1955 - Garnet 'Sugar' Hart W8 Harry Deputy at the Adelphia in South Philly
  1956 - Slim Jim Robinson KO4 Rudy Watkins at Philadelphia
  1960 - Doug Valliant W10 Len Matthews II at Convention Hall in West Philly
  1963 - Harold Johnson W10 Henry Hank at the Blue Horizon in North Philly
  1965 - Leotis Martin W8 Von Clay at the Arena in West Philly
  1965 - Gypsy Joe Harris KO4 Jose Meyers at the Arena in West Philly
  1969 - Leotis Martin KO9 Sonny Liston at the International Hotel / Casino in Las Vegas
  1977 - Curtis Parker KO1 Frank Williams at the Blue Horizon in N. Philly (Parker's Pro Debut)