PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                        January 22, 2009


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2008 proved to be a tough year when it came to the passing of old fighters. More died last year than I can remember ever passing in prior years, and not just in Philly. It seems that every month more sad news came in the form of an e-mail, or news flash, or telephone call. Fans truly paid a heavy toll. Let's hope that 2009 is less eventful with regard to this topic. In all, thirteen men related to Philly boxing in some way died during 2008. Let's review the names and honor them one more time.


Joe Aurillo
Died: January 25th

Aurillo was a middleweight of the 1940s & 1950s from Darby, PA who compiled a pro record of 26-11-3 with 6 KOs between 1947 and 1955. He also had a very active amateur career. He fought the likes of Joey Giardello, Marvin Edelman, Johnny Bernardo, Joe Bonadies, Harold Moore, and many others. He was a member of the Veteran Boxers Association - Ring One and was inducted into the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame in 1974. Joe was famous for being a nice guy - perhaps too nice. Sonny Wiggins, his manager, claimed Aurillo's lack of killer instinct in the ring was caused by Joe's good nature and his penchant for NOT hurting or embarrassing opponents that he was dominating. Joe was 85 at the time of his death.


Fred 'Rocky' Jones
Died: February 23rd


Jones was a former light heavyweight contender who scored a shocking upset of Roland LaStarza in 1952. He was born in Akron, OH and spent much of his youth in an orphanage in that city and always had nothing but kind words for those who cared for him. Although only a 175 pounder, Jones met some of the best heavyweights of the 1950's and always gave a fine account of himself. Rocky boxed LaStarza (twice), Tommy Harrison, Dan Bucceroni (3x), Danny Nardico, Curt Kennedy, Jimmy Rousse, Art Swiden, Jimmy Slade, Charlie Powell, Chubby Wright, Ted Calaman, Freddie Beshore, Bill Gilliam and Doc Bee. Jones was 86.


Jimmy Toppi, Jr.
Died March 13th


A 16 year old Toppi was installed as the "promoter of record" for his father, boxing impresario & manager Jimmy Sr., to circumvent conflict of interest rules that prohibited managers from promoting their own fighters. But instead of becoming the Carl King of his day, Jimmy Jr. showed a knack for match-making & publicity that allowed him to take on more & more of the family business. Together they built Toppi Stadium & purchased numerous other venues. Jimmy Jr. eventually bought an old moose lodge and turned it into the Blue Horizon. At the time of his passing, this famous "kid" was 85.


Dan Bucceroni
Died April 4th

Bucceroni was a heavyweight contender of the 1950's who was born December 3, 1927 in South Philadelphia. As a light-heavyweight amateur, Bucceroni won the Diamond Belt in 1945 and the national golden gloves championship in 1947. He turned pro later that same year and ran off 12 straight wins and won 30 of his first 32 bouts. By 1953, Bucceroni was ranked as the number three heavyweight contender for Rocky Marciano's crown. However, Dan never earned a shot at the title. Over the course of his career, he split two fights with Roland LaStarza, and beat Rocky Jones three times. He ended his career in 1954 after three consecutive losses with a record of 46-6 with 30 KOs. In retirement, Dan managed a few boxers including Kitten Hayward. He also developed and sold a popular how-to-box lesson book. He entered the PA Hall of Fame in 1979. Dan was 80.


Adolph Ritacco
Died June 22nd

Ritacco was a legendary trainer and cut man. The 5-foot-2-inch Ritacco was an amateur flyweight boxer who turned professional under the management of Frank Palumbo. But it was as a trainer and an especially crafty cut man that he became famous. Adolph trained heavyweight contender Dan Bucceroni, middleweight champion Joey Giardello, and welterweight contender Stanley "Kitten" Hayward along the way. As Matthew Saad Muhammad's cut man, Ritacco saved the light-heavyweight champ's title in 1979, in his very first defense (vs. John Conteh), when he kept Saad's cuts under control with some corner  wizardry and a mysterious blood-stemming concoction. South Philadelphian Ritacco was truly one of the sports greatest cut men. Adolph was 93 at the time of his death.


Joe Miceli
Died July 19th

Miceli was a welterweight from Brooklyn, NY who makes this list because he is considered an essential opponent in Philly boxing history. His record was 60-42-8 with 28 KOs between 1948 and 1961. He only fought in the city twice, but his list of Philadelphia opponents includes Gil Turner, Ike Williams, Johnny Saxton, Joey Belfiore, and Joey Giardello. Miceli, born January 8, 1929, was 79 when he died.


Kenny Lane
Died August 8th

Lane was born April 9, 1932 in Michigan and fought as a lightweight out of Muskegon. Like Miceli, Lane makes this list as a classic opponent of Philly boxing. Lane posted an 82-16-2 record with 19 KOs, between 1953 and 1965, plus a brief comeback as a 50+ year old between 1982 and 1985. Lane was a real "Philly Killer", posting KO wins over Henry 'Toothpick' Brown, Sidney 'Sweet Pea' Adams, Len Matthews and a decision win over Jerry Black. Len Matthews did stop Lane in their first meeting. At his death, Lane was 76.


Rocky Castellani
Died August 21st

Castellani, of Luzerne, PA, was given the name Attilio at his birth on May 28, 1927, but took the name "Rocky" for his boxing career. He went 65-14-4 with 16 KOs as a professional. Rocky was a top-rated middleweight contender who lost his only bid for the crown by 15-round decision against Carl "Bobo" Olson. Also fought Sugar Ray Robinson, scoring a knockdown before losing a decision. Other opponents included Gene Fullmer, Gil Turner, Joey Giambra, Johnny Bratton, Billy Graham, Tiger Jones, Kid Gavilan, and Joey Giardello. Castellani died at age was 87.


Joe McCausland
Died August 22nd

McCausland was born February 10, 1934. He began his boxing career at age 12 at the Lighthouse Boys Club before moving on to the 26th PAL in Kensington. He served as a Marine and became the boxing coach for the Second Marine Division. As a professional boxer, he compiled a record of 28-9-3 as a welterweight, and was inducted into the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame in 1988. After his days in the ring, McCausland worked as a roofer for 38 years. He was 74 at the time of his death.


Joey Giardello
Died September 4th

One of the true giants of our sport passed away after battling health problems for the better part of 2008. Giardello was born Carmine Orlando Tilelli on July 16, 1930 in Brooklyn, NY. He came to Philadelphia as a young man and with the legendary Passyunk Gym as his eventual home base, Joey began to build his fine boxing career which spanned for almost 20 years during a time when so many good fighters crowded the rankings (1948-1967). Joey amassed an incredible record of 101-25-7-1 with 33 KOs. He fought an amazing roster of excellent opposition and was a ranked contender for many years before receiving a shot at the title in his 12th year as a pro and after 107 bouts. In that first crack, he fought to a controversial draw with NBA champ Gene Fullmer. After 16 more fights and 3 more patient years, Giardello finally received another championship opportunity.  At age 33, Joey took the world crown from Dick Tiger by 15-round decision at Atlantic City's Convention Hall in 1963. He defended his title the following year against Rubin Carter before losing it back to Tiger in 1965. He was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993. In a city known for great middleweights, Joey Giardello is probably the best 160-pounder to ever come out of Philadelphia. Joey was a blue-collar hero who earned every one of his accomplishments. Joey was 78 at the time of his death.


Stan 'The Cut Man' Maliszewski
Died September 9th

In addition to being a career fireman and a Viet Nam veteran, Fishtown's Maliszewski was also one of the top corner men in Philly boxing. He earned the nickname of "Stan the Cut Man" partly for his ability to stop the bleeding between rounds, and partly to avoid the need to pronounce his tricky last name. Stan was a well-liked and well-known ring fixture since the 1980s.


Johnny Saxton
Died October 4th

Saxton, born July 4, 1930, was a welterweight from Newark, NJ but still gets credit as being a Philly fighter thanks to his frequent ring appearances in the city and the fact that he had Blinky Palermo for a manager and Jimmy Wilson as his trainer. Saxton compiled a pro record of 55-9-2 with 21 KOs between 1949 and 1958. He won the welterweight crown with a controversial decision over Kid Gavilan in Philadelphia on October 20, 1954. He faced numerous top-flight opponents including Giardello, Gil Turner, Carmen Basilio, Tiger Jones, and many others. Saxton was 78.


Willie Alexander
Died October 13th

Alexander was from Chester, PA and fought about 80 professional bouts in the 1940s and 1950s, all over the east coast. His opponents included Johnny Wolgast, Jimmy Sulla, Tony Cocco, Frankie Sodano, Mel Neary, and Tommy Forte. Alexander also trained young amateur boxers, including Pete Bufala who won the Middle Atlantic AAU title under his guidance. Alexander died at age 81.