Philly Boxing History

MARCH 31, 1967




The following excerpt is from the story Gypsy Joe Harris: Career (And Life) Interrupted    by Greg Smith

...In 1967, Harris continued on his flamboyant journey. Gypsy Joe’s wild and audacious wardrobe might’ve made even Hendrix blush that year, and his nonpareil style astounded crowds and opponents just as Jimi did at the Monterey Pop Festival that year. On March 31, Harris decisioned Cokes over ten rounds at Madison Square Garden. Cokes was a textbook stylist, just as Eric Clapton was a precision guitarist. Cokes wasn’t referred to as “God” like Clapton, but Cokes’ jabs, crosses and hooks are what every traditional trainer would appreciate and endorse.

Testimony to Cokes’ abilities is that he went 2-1 against the great Luis Rodriguez from 1961-1966. In his last bout with Rodriguez on July 6, 1966, Cokes stopped Rodriguez in the fifteenth round. Rodriguez was one of the most underrated and classy boxers in history, and was only stopped three times in his 121 bout career. A natural welterweight, Rodriguez beat Bennie Briscoe and Rubin Carter, and fought four nip and tuck battles with Emile Griffith. If there was a truly fluid and smooth technician of the 1960s, it was Luis Rodriguez. It was like Clapton out-dueling Jeff Beck.

Cokes may have gotten the better of an all-time great like Rodriguez, but he was befuddled by Harris, just as Clapton was blown away when he first saw Hendrix perform onstage. Over ten rounds, Harris took Cokes to places he’d never been. The normally composed Texan was so confused that he might’ve felt like Timothy Leary spiked his water with LSD. Harris was a bad trip for Cokes, as if poor Curtis was floundering and hallucinating in a Hendrix purple haze. What worked with Rodriguez and other stellar opponents simply didn’t work with Harris. Cokes later exclaimed, “I couldn’t jab him. He don’t have a style. He just stands there and acts the monkey. I hit him a few times, but he’d just wobble and come back. He’s a tough kid. They got to give me a roomful of money to fight him for the title, and there ain’t enough to get me to fight him in New York.” The decision was unanimous, and Harris was officially on his way. Harris continued his winning ways for the rest of the year with wins of excellent opposition like our own Bobby Cassidy...(full story)

  1924 - Tom Cowler WDQ2 George Godfrey at Philadelphia
  1942 - Melio Bettina W10 Gus Dorazio at the Arena in West Philly
  1945 - George Larover W8 Jackie Peters at Valley Arena in Holyoke, MA
  1954 - Sonny Liston W6 Stanley Howlett at St. Louis, MO
  1969 - Roy 'Tiger' Williams KO3 Bill Hardney at the Alexandria Roller Rink in Alexandria, VA
  1975 - Youngblood Willias KO2 Victor Henley at the Spectrum in South Philly
  1987 - Robert Hines KO7 Ismael Negron at the Blue Horizon in North Philly