PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                        January 05, 2010


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By Ken Hissner

I was looking over a list of three of the top Philly boxing historians on, the web site founded by John DiSanto in 2004.  This is a site well worth looking into.  His Assistant Editor, Chuck Hasson, wrote a feature article on the history of Philadelphia boxing for Boxing Digest magazine in 1998. He also compiled 50,000 newspaper clippings on Philadelphia boxing.  The third historian is Hall of Fame Promoter J Russell Peltz, who is also an outstanding writer.  Though Peltz didn’t rank the boxers on his list, he was right in line with the rest of us.   I combined all four lists and was surprised with the results.   I want to give thanks to writer, public relations person and all around good guy Robert Coster and boxing promoter Jacques Deschamps for the idea.  Both operate out of the Dominican Republic and do work in Haiti, Mexico and Panama.  

#10  Philadelphia Jack O’Brien: 188 total bouts, 136-12-23-16 (55) with 1 No Contest. O’Brien won the light heavyweight championship from Bob Fitzsimmons in 1905.  Fitz would later become middleweight and heavyweight champion.   Prior to this, O’Brien defeated welterweight champion Joe Walcott and future heavyweight champion Marvin Hart in 1902.  He defeated future heavyweight champion Tommy Burns in 1904.  In 1906, he drew with then champion Burns and lost in the rematch.  He fought a draw with future heavyweight champion Jack Johnson in 1909.  He was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1994.                                                           

#9   Midget Wolgast: 161-37-16 (17) with 1 No Contest.  Wolgast won the NYSAC world flyweight title in 1930 from Black Bill, 117-19-9.  He later battled to a draw with the NBA flyweight champion Frankie Genaro (71-17-6) in a title unification match.   Former bantamweight champion George Pace said in Ring Magazine in 1970, "Midget Wolgast was a lightning streak.   I have never seen any fighter with trickier or speedier execution in the ring, and that includes Willie Pep.”   He was elected into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2001.

#8   Lew Tendler: 171 total bouts, 114-16-6-35 (38).  Tendler drew with future junior lightweight champion Johnny Dundee in 1917.  He defeated future world lightweight champion Rocky Kansas and KO Chaney in 1919.  After defeating Dundee again in 1922 he was matched later that year with legendary Benny Leonard for the world lightweight title.   In the 8th round Tendler had Leonard out on his feet but got “talked out of it” in a clinch.  The fight was close enough that a rematch was demanded the following year. Leonard again won by decision. In 1924, Tendler lost a decision to the NBA welterweight champion Mickey “Toy Bulldog” Walker, another pound for pound all time great.  Tendler was considered to be one of the greatest southpaws of his era.  He was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1999.

#7   Joltin' Jeff Chandler: 37 total bouts, 33-2-2 (18). In 1980, Chandler won the WBA bantamweight title by stopping Julian Solis (21-0), in Miami, Florida. After turning pro with a draw he went unbeaten in his next 32 fights, including one draw. He made a total of nine successful title defenses.   There was one draw among those defenses against Japan’s Eijiro Murata (18-0-2).  Chandler later defeated Murata in two subsequent title defenses.   In 1983, he lost a split decision to Oscar Muniz (36-3-3), in a non-title bout.  Before the year was out Chandler stopped Muniz in a title defense rematch.   In one of his defenses, Chandler defeated future world champion and future Hall-of-Famer, Gaby Canizales (24-1).   In making his 10th defense Chandler was dropped in the 11th round for the first time in his career, and lost his title that night to Richie Sandoval (22-0) in 1984.  Chandler never fought again.   He entered the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2000.   

#6   Sonny Liston: 54 total bouts, 50-4 (39). In 1962, Liston stopped Floyd Patterson for the world heavyweight championship, in Chicago.   His only loss prior to winning the title was to Marty Marshall (18-5-2), by split decision. Liston won their two rematches, stopping Marshall once.   He also stopped contenders Mike DeJohn, Zora Folley and Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams (twice).   He also defeated contender Eddie Machen.   In 1964, Liston was upset by then Cassius Clay.  In the rematch, by then Muhammad Ali, Liston was stopped by the “Phantom Punch” in round one.   Sonny went on to win his next 14 fights, 13 by knockout before losing to Leotis Martin.   Martin would never fight again following this bout due to a detached retina.   Liston had one of the most powerful jabs in the history of the division.

#5   Benny Bass, 'The Little Fish': 242 total bouts, 192-40-8 (71) with 2 No Contests.  In 1927 he defeated Red Chapman for the NBA featherweight title in Philadelphia.  In 1929, Bass defeated Todd Morgan for the world junior lightweight title at Madison Square Garden.   Bass lost his crown in 1931 to future Hall-of-Famer Kid Chocolate in Philadelphia. In 1937, Bass defeated Red Cochrane, a future world welterweight champion.   He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2002.

#4   Joey Giardello: 134 total bouts, 101-25-7 (33), 1 No Contest. Joey won the undisputed world middleweight title in 1963 over Dick Tiger (47-14-3) in Atlantic City.   Joey would lose it back to Tiger in 1965, in their fourth match-up two years later. Each won twice.   Giardello defeated Billy Graham (98-9-8), Joey Giambra (26-1-1) and Chico Vejar (73-10-2).  He drew with Gene Fullmer (51-4), in 1960 for the NBA middleweight title in Montana.   Fullmer was lucky to get the draw .   In 1962, he defeated Henry Hank (51-13-3), in Ring Magazine’s Fight of the Year.   The following year, he defeated the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson( 154-12-3), to earn the Tiger title fight.   He was inducted into the International Hall of Fame in 1993 and later into the World Boxing Hall of Fame.

#3   Harold Johnson: 87 total bouts, 76-11 (32). Johnson won the NBA world light heavyweight title in 1961 by stopping Jesse Bowdry in Miami Beach.   Johnson defeated Hall of Famer Archie Moore in 1951 for his lone victory in five meetings between the two.   In their fifth match and only title bout, Johnson was ahead on the scorecards when he was stopped in the 14th round.  In 1953, he defeated former heavyweight champion Ezzard Charles (81-9-1) in Philadelphia.  After winning the NBA title he made four successful title defenses and defeated the top heavyweight contender Eddie Machen (37-3-1).   In two of his defenses he defeated Doug Jones (19-1) at home, and European champion Gustav “Bubi” Scholz (85-1-6) in Germany.   In 1963, Johnson lost his title on a disputed decision to Willie Pastrano (57-11-8), in what boxing film historian Jim Jacobs called the worst decision he ever saw.  Johnson was inducted into the International Hall of Fame in 1993.

#2   Tommy Loughran, 'The Phantom of Philly': 175 total bouts, 109-30-11-25 (17).   Loughran won the NYSAC light heavyweight title in 1927 over Mike McTigue.   That same year he won the world light heavyweight title over Jimmy Slattery.  He had a previous win over Georges Carpentier, in 1926 before more than 30,000 people in Philadelphia.   In 1929, he defended his title by defeating Mickey Walker, and future world heavyweight champion, Jimmy Braddock.   After the Braddock fight, Loughran campaigned as a heavyweight and eventually challenged Primo Carnera for the championship. He gave away 84 pounds, and lost the fight by decision. In 1922 at the age of 19, Tommy lost to Harry Greb in their first meeting.  He had only lost once in his previous 43 fights.  He won one out of three in 1923 to Greb, and a drew with him 1924.  In his next fight, he drew with future world champion Gene Tunney.  In 1927, he reversed a decision loss to Young Stribling.  In 1931, he defeated future world champion Max Bear, and in 1933, former champion Jack Sharkey.  Loughran was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991.

#1   Smokin' Joe Frazier: 37 Total bouts, 32-4-1 (27). Frazier won the world heavyweight championship in 1970 stopping Jimmy Ellis, 27-5, who had won the tournament after Ali’s title was vacated. Smokin' Joe had four successful title defenses, including one against light heavyweight champion Bob Foster, and a returning Ali, in the first bout of their legendary series. In 1968, he won the NYSAC title stopping Buster Mathis, 23-0.  He had four successful defenses including wins over Oscar Bonavena and Jerry Quarry before meeting Ellis.  He lost his title to George Foreman in 1973 in Kingston, Jamaica, after winning his first 29 bouts.   Frazier was the 1964 Olympic Gold medalist at the Tokyo Games.   He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.     

In compiling this list, I created a point system that weighed each fighter's placement on the four individual lists (by Hasson, Peltz, DiSanto, and myself). Frazier had 45 points to runner-up Loughran’s 42 points.  Johnson had 38 points and Giardello 36 points.   DiSanto had Giardello as his top pick while Hasson and this writer had Frazier on top.  Peltz did not rank the fighters but is a big supporter of Johnson.   Loughran had two second and one third place votes.   

Others receiving votes:  Bob Montgomery 14; George Benton, Tyrone Everett and “Bad” Bennie Briscoe 13; Matthew Saad Muhammad 12, and “Gypsy” Joe Harris 11.  It was decided by a 3-1 vote to exclude Bernard Hopkins since he is still an active fighter. Once he does retire, one can only imagine how he might shake up these rankings.          




Ken Hissner - January 05, 2010