Briscoe to Have His Own Award
by Bernard Fernandez
Philadelphia Daily News - May 23, 2007
MOVIE WORLD has the Oscar, the recording industry has the Grammy,
television has the Emmy. Coming soon: the Briscoe.
Two of the highlights of the 73rd annual Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of
Fame awards banquet, held Sunday evening at Romano's Caterers in
Northeast Philadelphia, were the induction of former middleweight
contender Bennie Briscoe, who made an extremely rare public
appearance, and the unveiling of a 14-inch clay prototype of the
Briscoe, the brainchild of John DiSanto and creation of sculptor
DiSanto was honored as Person of the Year by Ring One of the Veteran
Boxers Association, which stages the banquet. He is a huge boxing
fan, particularly of local fights and fighters, and toward that end
he created his own Web site,
www.phillyboxinghistory.com, which is an unabashed celebration
of our cheesesteak-and-scrapple-flavored version of the sweet
Several years ago, the proactive DiSanto realized that some deceased
Philly fighters were buried in unmarked graves.
Believing they deserved better, he began raising funds for
headstones to mark their burial plots. In 2005, a headstone was
placed on the grave of Tyrone Everett, and, in 2006, another was
placed on the grave of Gypsy Joe Harris.
Gypsy Joe's sisters, Arneta Miller and Daa'iyah Waheed, attended
Sunday's banquet, in no small part because they wanted to be there
for DiSanto, who has done so much to keep their brother's memory
DiSanto, however, was not finished with his plans to ensure that
this city's rich boxing past not fade away with the passage of time.
A member of the VBA's Hall of Fame selection committee, he
successfully pushed for the posthumous induction of the late Danny
Dougherty, a Philadelphia bantamweight who fought from 1896 to 1911.
Dougherty, who was recognized as this city's first world champion
when he outpointed Tommy Feltz in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1900, finally
became a Hall of Famer on Sunday.
DiSanto's latest labor of love is the first Philly Boxing History
Awards, which will be held in October and at which the first
Briscoes will be presented.
"We're going to honor a particular former Philadelphia fighter, and
also a great fight in Philadelphia boxing history," DiSanto said.
"I'm also considering honoring a current fighter."
DiSanto conceived the project about a year and a half ago, but he
had a problem: He needed an award that would be special and
distinctive. He immediately thought of Briscoe, now 64, who had been
one of the great Philly fighters he had admired while growing up.
"Bennie's the guy," DiSanto said. "I could have named the award
after any one of a long list of people, but Bennie's the ultimate
"I went to see Bennie and Karen [Briscoe's wife] and I pitched the
idea. He and Karen gave me permission to use his name and his
likeness, which was the first step.
"My initial idea was to get the art schools in Philadelphia
involved, to create a contest to create the award. But I hit a lot
of dead ends. I looked at some local artists, but once I talked to
Carl, who already was a member of the VBA, I realized the answer was
under my nose the whole time. He's the guy to do this because he's
one of us. He's a fan."
LeVotch, who has created several boxing-themed pieces, most notably
"The Spirit of Boxing," said DiSanto's enthusiam was contagious.
"John was so excited about the project, he seemed like an expectant
parent," LeVotch said. "He said, 'I want to do this thing, and it
has to be just right.'
"John was very familiar with my work, a lot of which is
impressionistic. But I knew what he wanted. He wanted to capture the
heart and soul of Bennie Briscoe."
LeVotch also admits to being an ardent fan of "Bad" Bennie.
"He's an interesting character," LeVotch said. "I saw him fight many
times. I looked at the photo [upon which the prototype is based],
but, as a sculptor, you have to reach inside to find the essence of
the man. The photo is just a guide. I have to put my own spin on who
Bennie is and what he was all about."
So, will the flesh-and-blood Briscoe receive the first bronze
"It's a real nice trophy," Bennie, who appeared to be enjoying the
Hall of Fame festivities, told me. "I'd like to have one myself."
Philadelphia Daily News - May 23, 2007
Bernard Fernandez is
the boxing beat writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, and this
story was originally printed in his weekly boxing column.