Philly Boxing History

MAY 01, 1964



On this day in 1964, colorful Kitten Hayward stopped Curtis Cokes of Dallas, TX with three knockdowns in the fourth round of the nationally televised bout. The give-and-take sock-fest is generally regarded as the greatest fight ever staged at the legendary Blue Horizon.

Both men were rising stars in the welterweight division, with Cokes a step or two ahead of Hayward in the ratings. Emile Griffith was eyeing Curtis as a potential challenger for his title, so long-time Griffith manager-trainer, Gil Clancy worked the Texan's corner just to get a close look at him.  What Clancy got was an eye-full of a fierce 24 year old Philly fighting machine named Stanley Hayward. 

The bout itself was electric. Both welters started quickly, with Cokes, 26, taking an early lead with his stiff and straight shots as Hayward pressed forward. In the second round, an explosive left hook sent Hayward down. But on this night, the Kitten would not be denied. Hayward rose and began to wage war.

In the third round, Kitten walked through everything Cokes had, only to land his own bombs to the head and body. He was dancing in the danger zone that had put him down just a round before, but this was the edge that Hayward lived best on in the ring. He was a rough and tumble brawler in his prime years, and the roar of the smallish Blue Horizon crowd and thoughts of all those watching on TV that night pushed Kitten to perform. Above all else, Kitten Hayward was a crowd pleaser. He was an entertainer who could fight.

However, Cokes was no shrinking violet, and as always, it takes two to make a classic battle. Cokes fired back, trading with Hayward through the third and into the fourth. They matched smacks until a hard right wobbled Cokes and sent him to the ropes. Kitten blasted away, and Cokes dropped hard after a windmill of punches landed. The tough Texan was up at the eight-count and Kitten moved in for the kill.  Hayward wailed away, but Cokes wouldn't go down. Perhaps in frustration, Hayward pushed Cokes near the ropes and the groggy visitor went to the mat. Referee Zack Clayton called it knockdown number two. Cokes jumped to his feet. Hayward turned tiger and stormed toward his weakened foe for the finish. Hard shots hailed down on Cokes and he started to sag on the ropes. A Hayward right did the deed, and as a bonus left hook just missed, Cokes dropped to the canvas. Zack Clayton waved the fight over on this third knockdown of Cokes, declaring Hayward the winner and new star of the welters.

With recent wins over local prospects Percy Manning and Dick Turner, and now this huge victory over a bona fide contender,  Stanley "Kitten" Hayward sure looked like the real thing. But his shot at the title didn't come, and he followed up this win with a year of inactivity. Still when Hayward clocked back in the following year, he ran off Philadelphia wins over Vince Shomo, Tito Marshall and another rising welterweight star named Bennie Briscoe. After this impressive string, he again waited for an opportunity to fight for the championship - which by then was held by a certain Texan named Curtis Cokes. The rematch was a natural and seemed to be in the works. However, after ten months off., Hayward signed to fight Gypsy Joe Harris, then a 14-0 Philly Phenom. It was the wrong match at the wrong time and Kitten blew his title chances. 

Hayward would rise again however a couple of years later and eventually get his title shot. In the end, the Kitten posted a 32-12-4 (18 KO) record.

  1944 - Billy Arnold KO1 Eddie Saunders at St. Nicholas Arena in New York
  1947 - Johnny Forte W8 Petey Virgin at Philadelphia
  1950 - Eddie Giosa W10 Johnny Greco at the Philadelphia Arena

  1964 - Phil Allen W6 Cash White at Philadelphia's Blue Horizon

  1964 - Mike DeFeo W6 Young Joe Walcott at Philadelphia's Blue Horizon
  1964 - Charley Sgrillo W6 Leon Stowers at Philadelphia's Blue Horizon
  1964 - Johnny Gilmore D6 Jerome Sharpe at Philadelphia's Blue Horizon
  1969 - George Benton W10 Juarez de Lima at the Philadelphia Arena
  1984 - Jimmy Muse W8 Johnny Cooper at the Blue Horizon in Philadelphia
  1990 - Rodney Moore KO2 Roger Brown at the Blue Horizon in Philadelphia
  1887 - Promoter Herman Taylor
  1954 - Mike Everett