|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY April 09, 2012||
KITTEN HAYWARD TO ENTER
Philadelphia legend Stanley "Kitten" Hayward had one of the best and most colorful careers in Philly boxing history. He was a tough, exciting, and extremely popular boxer who fought in a golden era of welterweights and middleweights. His 32-12-4 (18 KO) run included big wins over Curtis Cokes, Emile Griffith, and Bennie Briscoe. He also earned a crack at the word junior middleweight championship against Freddie Little in 1969. Already a member of the PA Boxing HOF, Hayward will be enshrined in the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame Tuesday night.
Kitten began his career with a 4-round decision win over Tommy Holmes in Scranton, PA to begin a 9-fight winning streak that included two victories over Ike White. Philly's Bruce Gibson dished Hayward his first defeat on June 09, 1960, but Kitten won the rematch five months later.
Hayward's stock continued to rise as he piled up wins, but his craving for the high life began to compete for his attention. According to Hayward, he zipped up to Madison Square Garden with his convertible's top down and caught a cold. Not feeling well, he dropped a decision to "Philly Killer" Jose Stable at the Garden. It was a loss, but it ushered in perhaps the best run of his career.
Over the next two years, Hayward beat Percy Manning (a dangerous puncher with 11 KOs in 12 wins), Dick Turner (a talented once-beaten fellow prospect who came within a hair of beating Kitten in their 1963 battle of prospects), Curtis Cokes (welterweight contender and soon-to-be champion in what most consider the best fight ever at the Blue Horizon), Vince Shomo, Tito Marshall and Bennie Briscoe (in a memorable war at the Philadelphia Arena). The streak pushed his record to 22-2-1 with 10 KOs.
By the time Hayward faced Philly Phenom, Gypsy Joe Harris, Cokes was the welterweight champ. Hayward was pushed into the fight with Harris, a style match up he never liked, while talks about a rematch with Cokes were going on. The thought was that Hayward would easily dispense of the talented but relatively inexperienced Gypsy Joe and then move on to a title challenge of Cokes. However, the fight did not go as planned. Hayward dropped Gypsy early, but Harris used his unusual style and ramrod head to eventually bust up and stop Kitten. The lost shattered Hayward, and broke up his long-time professional relationship with manager George Katz.
Hayward bounced back to defeat a number of solid foes including former two-division champ Emile Griffith at the Spectrum in the first of their two bouts. The victory earned him his title shot with Freddie Little in Las Vegas for the vacant world 154-pound championship. The title fight lasted a full 15-rounds, but Little took the unanimous verdict.
Hayward then dropped a 12-round decision to Emile Griffith at MSG. By this time, Hayward's heart was only occasionally dedicated to the sport. He made a second trip to Europe where he found many parties but only one win in four fights. On the tour, Hayward also mixed with celebrities and dabbled in movie-making. Although he did not find stardom, he returned to the states with a lifetime of stories to tell (and deny).
After losing a US comeback fight with Alvin Phillips in New Orleans, Hayward faced rising Philly KO Artist, Eugene "Cyclone" Hart. The fight only lasted one minute, and Hayward found himself to be Hart's knockout victim number 19.
Hayward stayed out of the ring for more than two years, but was lured back to boxing at the end of 1973. Kitten beat Jose Anglada (KO3) and Lil' Abner (TKO4) at the Spectrum, before being stopped himself by a rising Willie "The Worm" Monroe.
Hayward came back for a KO win at the Blue Horizon over Flasher Isibashi in 1975. The victory led to a rematch with Bennie Briscoe, ten years after their first fight.
Back in 1965, Hayward out-hustled Briscoe for the better part of 10 rounds, before Bad Bennie stormed back for a near KO at the end of the fight. Kitten survived and won the decision. Ever since the fight, fans were dying for a rematch, and finally got it, in 1975 at the Spectrum.
The rematch lacked much of the drama of the original fight, but was still a quality match between two of Philly's best. The world-weary 36-year old Hayward gave Briscoe, then 32, a tough fight, but Bennie had much more left in his tank, and took the decision.
Hayward returned for a KO win over Luis Vinales three months later, but when Larry Davis stopped Kitten in four rounds in 1977, Hayward gave up the ring for good. He never again put on a pair of gloves - not even for fun. He was almost 38.
However, the Kitten Hayward story was just getting started. Unlike many ex-fighters, Hayward's boxing career never defined him. He looked for a new line of work that would support his lifestyle of living well, betting the horses, chasing women, and dressing to the hilt.
He dabbled in sales and a few other white collar jobs before finding a home with the City of Philadelphia in the Criminal Court. Hayward worked in the court system until his retirement in 2011.
Still a local celebrity to every boxing fan in Philly, as well as a host of non-fight game VIPs, Hayward has kept a high profile since his days in the ring. besides a bit part in the Tom Hanks / Denzel Washington film "Philadelphia", Kitten regularly attends fights in Philly and Atlantic City, attends the PA HOF banquet as well as the Briscoe Awards every year. At the 2010 Briscoe Awards, Hayward presided over the "Kitten Hayward Exhibit", a one night only retrospective of his boxing days.
He remains one of the best dressed and classiest of class acts in Philadelphia. One can only wonder if Hayward had come along today, an era with multiple routes to the numerous champions and belts available, exactly how many titles the rugged and talented "Kitten" would have claimed. Further, given his exciting style, charisma and "one of a kind" personality, how many millions of dollars in purses would he have earned? The simple answer is many titles and many millions.
Tuesday night, his career will be celebrated once again when he is inducted to the PA Sports Hall of Fame, one of the few boxers to achieve the honor. Congratulations to Stanley "Kitten" Hayward on this well-deserved honor.
Hayward will share induction with Jimmy Wilson, perhaps Philly's greatest trainer-cutman. Wilson, born Vincent Silvano, died in 1958 at age 54.