Philly Boxing History

OCTOBER 29, 1968




By Tom Cushman
A Philadelphia Daily News Classic Column

It was a week before the fight and trainer Adolph Ritacco was watching Stanley "Kitten" Hayward glide around the right, hooking sparring mate Barry Andrews to the body, stringing together smart combinations......and moving, always, just out of range of the whistling power shots of the heavier Andrews.

"Only thing I wish is that I had this kid five years ago." Ritacco said at the time. "He would be champion now. He has all the equipment, but he may have started to school too late." Hayward moved out of the Spectrum last night, a graduate student. Ignoring earlier disappointments, scorning the idea that his tortured face would be the decisive battleground, the Kitten ripped out a 10-round split decision over Emile Griffith before a paltry crowd of 4,335 that seemed lost in the spacious Southside arena.

Hayward's victory over the man often described as the finest fighter, pound-for-pound, in the world today, was a product of shrewd calculation and perfect execution. Moving in-and-out with a precision he had never shown previously. Kitten consistently beat the stronger Griffith to the punch for the first half-dozen rounds, landed the more telling blows, and then refused to panic in the face of a furious rally by Emile near the end.

The decision, in character with what Philadelphia has been producing recently, was weird. Judge Lou Tress and referee Zach Clayton both scored it 47-46 for Hayward, but judge Jack Styles called it 47-44 for Griffith. The Daily News scored it 47-45 for Hayward and a hasty poll of ringsiders produced an almost unanimous vote for Hayward, some scoring it even more decisively.

The split immediately triggered irate screams from the Griffith dressing room, however. Co-manager Gil Clancy, informed that Clayton's card had called the final round even (which swung the decision to Hayward) said he would appeal to the state athletic commission. "The only thing that guy did in the last three rounds was try to stay in the ring," Clancy stormed.

The final three were not the decisive ones, however. Griffith, who is a notoriously slow starter, was obviously surprised by Hayward's sharp-shooting in the early rounds. Kitten worked effectively to the body and then consistently swung hooks and well-timed right hands to the head, some of which landed with what appeared to be stunning force. Griffith, magnificently conditioned as always, shrugged them off almost nonchalantly.

"I really believed before the fight that I could knock him out," Hayward said later. "But I never fought anyone so strong. I hit him good shots...great punches, and he just stayed right there. I tell you he is the strongest man I've ever seen. I thought Barry was strong during the workouts, but he was nothing like this. I couldn't even see around the guy's shoulders." The knockout wouldn't come, but the points were piling up. And Hayward, unlike the earlier days, refused to lose his cool as the Griffith flurries mounted in the later rounds.

The ninth round may have been decisive. It appeared that Griffith needed to win the final two to have a chance but Hayward, who had been slowing down, hung two lovely right hands on the former champion's jaw early in the ninth and appeared to win the round.

Griffith's corner must have thought so. Emile poured over Hayward in the 10th, firing from all angles in what seemed a desperate attempt for a knockout. When the bell sounded, there was a swelling roar from the small crowd, which obviously sensed the upset.

"I told Stan to take care of himself after the sixth," Ritacco said. "I thought we had won the first six rounds, and then when he won the ninth I told him to really go into a shell. We were too close to big things for anything to go wrong at that point."

As for the big things, manager Bernie Pollack announced immediately that middleweight champion Nino Benvenuti would be a welcome guest in Philadelphia. Any thought of a title fight with welterweight king Curtis Cokes were raised when Hayward sank into the scales at 155 during the noon weigh in yesterday. "He matured to the point where he is just too big for the welterweights," Ritacco said. "We wouldn't even attempt to get him down to 147 anymore."

Clancy, in the grim air of the Griffith dressing room, said that he had received an anonymous telephone call during the afternoon, advising him that, "They have a lot of help from the officials." "I reported this to the commissioner," Clancy said, "and he assured me he would have the three most qualified people available here tonight. I don't want to take anything away from Hayward, because he fought one hell of a fight, but from the seventh round on he wasn't figuring to win anymore., just to stay in. Just because he was a valiant warrior is no reason to have his hand raised." Clancy also claimed that Clayton worked in Hayward's favor, breaking the fighters when Griffith was banging away inside.

However, Clancy did not mention Griffith's persistent use of his head. Not butting, but apparently trying to work on the notoriously weak tissue over Hayward's right eye. Kitten's corner was treating that danger area from the first round on and, although Hayward's face was alive was bruises after the battle, there was no blood at any time during the 10 rounds.

"Everybody was nervous about this fight but me," Kitten said. "Adolph was jumping all over the place today, but I never did really get excited. I knew I was in shape. I knew I could take a punch., and I guess you could say I had a lot of confidence. I knew if Griffith beat me tonight he would be beating Kitten Hayward at his best."

Someone asked if the impact of what he had accomplished had set in. "Not really", Kitten said. "I don't feel any different now than I did after any other win. Maybe I will tomorrow. I guess I did do something big, didn't I?"

NOTES FROM RINGSIDE - In the top preliminary, unbeaten heavyweight Roy Williams of Philadelphia ran his streak to eight straight with a dull, unconvincing victory over Bob Stallings of New York...... Augie Pantellas, who is the classiest of the small guys around the local rings these days, took out Willie Battles of Brooklyn in 0:27 of the third round..... and Greg Jones of Philly decisioned Billy Price in six rounders. Roland Marshall won a TKO over Jackie Witherspoon at 1:42 of the fourth and Ed Williams of Camden knocked out Joe Jones of Atlanta at 1:52 of the first in four rounders.

  1931 - Harry Blitman D10 Bud Morgan at the Armory in Newark, NJ
  1943 - Billy Fox KO2 Billy Williams at the Cambria in Northeast Philly (Kensington) (Pro debut)
  1945 - Johnny Forte KO2 Sammy Mammone at Providence, RI
  1949 - Dan Bucceroni KO2 Billy Guy at the Cambria in Northeast Philly (Kensington)
  1959 - Vic Diamond W6 Eddie Henderson at the Alhambra in South Philly
  1959 - Dick Turner KO1 Bobby Church at the Alhambra in South Philly
  1991 - Andrew Maynard TKO3 Matthew Saad Muhammad at Washington, DC