PHILLY BOXING HISTORY

Venue: Toppi Stadium  

Home Boxers Fights Arenas Non-Boxers Gyms Relics More About Contact
 
 
 
  TOPPI STADIUM  
     
 

 
     
     
 

In the only photo I've ever seen of Toppi Stadium (above) the venue looks like a dream. Imagine an outdoor stadium built specifically for boxing events. Instead of the massive five-figure capacity of the baseball and football fields that normally housed outdoor summer fights, Toppi Stadium was an outdoor arena of intimate proportions. It was a large outdoor boxing club really. Five-thousand seats. A bricked-in plot roughly the size of a football field

 
 

with raised bleachers on the east and west ends, a ringside circle of chairs on the ground, and tall floodlights lining the north and south walls. In the center of everything was a simple three-rope boxing ring. The four corner posts of the ring rose up to form a wrought-iron lighting framework above the canvas, making the ring look like an off-season cabana. The photo shows a South Philly crowd mostly in short sleeves presumably on a warm summer night. Toppi Stadium staged its first boxing show on July 15, 1948. And for six years it was a treasure for local boxing fans. Forty-six fight cards played out through 1953 in the open air of Packer Park between June and September.

No championship bouts were ever staged here. In fact the majority of the main events were 8-rounders. Still in the days of the late 1940s and early 1950s, during the very first period of TV competition, boxing talent abounded and boxing shows were frequent. Toppi Stadium offered a nice night out for fans during the warm weather months and a platform for the active purse-hungry boxing talent. In addition to the who's-who of Philadelphia fighters that appeared at this venue, many big names fought at Toppi Stadium. Included in this cast of characters were Sandy Saddler, Lew Jenkins, Paddy DeMarco, Arthur King, Jose Basora, Gene Burton and Chico Varona.

South Philly's Eddie Giosa headlined five shows, more than any other boxer. Other Philly-based stars who appeared were Clarence "Honeychile" Johnson, Marvin Edelman, Harold Johnson, Joey Giardello, George Benton, Jimmy Carlini, Ike White, Gil Turner, Calvin Smith, Johnny Forte, Jimmy Collins, Charley Spicer and New Jersey's Johnny Saxton & George Costner.

In the first show, Eddie Giosa beat Johnny Forte over ten rounds before

Toppi Stadium
Outdoor Arena / 5,000 Capacity
South Philly - Broad & Packer

Main Event List
Poster Gallery
Program Gallery
Photo Gallery

 KEY DATES FOR
TOPPI STADIUM

   1948 - First boxing card - July 15
   1948 - 8 fight cards held
   1948 - Chicken Thompson dies           1949 - 14 fight cards held
   1949 - Highest attendance 4,877
   1950 - 5 fight cards held
   1951 - 10 fight cards held
   1951 - Gil Turner fight - Jun. 11
   1951 - Harold Johnson appears 2X
   1951 - Joey Gairdello appears twice
   1951 - Johnny Saxton appears twice
   1951 - Saddler & Demarco shows
   1953 - 9 fight cards held
   1953 - George Benton fight - 8/13
   1953 - E. Giosa's 5th appearance
   1953 - Last boxing card - Aug. 27
 

 
 

2,649 fans. The largest crowd ever to attend a Toppi Stadium show was 4,877 in 1949. The main event that night saw George "Sugar" Costner beat Bobby Lee by ten-round decision. Young Gil Turner ran his undefeated record to 21-0 in the summer of 1951 when he stopped Rudy Zadell in five rounds after being staggered himself. The following summer after ten more bouts, Turner would challenge Kid Gavilan for the welterweight crown. Featherweight champ Sandy Saddler stopped by for a non-title bout on August 20, 1951 and scored a KO over Hermie Freeman. South Philly's Jimmy Carlini scored one of the best wins in his undefeated career when he decisioned Ike White in eight rounds on July 7, 1953. George Benton showed great promise in two appearances in 1953. He won a decision over Chuck Goldsby and stopped Jimmy Franklin in six. The latter was a main event. However, the most notable fight to take place at Toppi Stadium is famous for tragic reasons. 

On September 16, 1948, heavyweights Billy "Chicken" Thompson of Philadelphia and Johnny Haynes of New York clashed in an eight-round main event at Toppi. The 21-year old Thompson was coming off a KO loss at the hands of Jimmy Bivins, but still he brought a fine pro record of 17-3 into the ring against Haynes, 20-10. Haynes fought well and won most of the rounds. Thompson did win a couple sessions, but for the most part Haynes battered him. In the 8th and final round Thompson was dropped to the canvas, partially out of the ring. The final count of ten came with just three seconds left in the fight. Unable to be revived, Thompson was taken to the hospital in critical condition. He underwent brain surgery but never regained consciousness. Thompson died five days later.

The forty-six fight cards played out over six outdoor seasons, but there was no boxing in 1952 at Toppi Stadium, presumably due to the major outdoor action that year at Municipal Stadium - three massive championship shows in June, July & September. That summer Toppi Stadium only offered pro wrestling. But during all the other years of its existence, Toppi Stadium thrived. There were 8 boxing shows in 1948, and 14, 5, 10, and 9 in 1949, 1950, 1951, & 1953, respectively.

By 1954, Toppi Stadium was history. The ballparks continued to host occasional boxing events through 1958, but after that, outdoor boxing in Philadelphia was a thing of the past.

The venue's name came from Jimmy Toppi, Sr. and Jimmy Toppi, Jr., the prominent father-son and boxing manager-promoter team who built it.

Toppi Stadium was a little jewel of Philly boxing that came during a very fine ring era. It was a unique fight venue that carved out its own chapter in local ring history.

 
     
     
 

ARENAS