Philly Boxing History

November 03, 1961



Blue Horizon's Boxing Debut

On this day in 1961, the Blue Horizon debuted as a boxing venue with a fight-card promoted by Steve Tomassi and  headlined by George Benton.  Benton won the bout - a 3rd round KO over Chico Corsey - and the Blue Horizon went on to become one of the great boxing clubs in the country. 

Originally built as a residential property in the 1800s and later converted to a Moose Lodge, the Blue Horizon's boxing life began when fight promoter Jimmy Toppi purchased it in 1960.  Originally named "Toppi's Auditorium", the now legendary Blue was home to many great Philly boxing stars including Harold Johnson, Gypsy Joe Harris, Matthew Saad Muhammad, Jeff Chandler, Tim Witherspoon, Willie 'The Worm' Monroe, Bobby 'Boogaloo' Watts, Cyclone Hart, Bennie Briscoe, Kitten Hayward, Curtis Parker, Rodney Moore and many others.   

The Blue Horizon steadily hosted shows between 1961 and 1964 (mostly promoted by Marty Kramer, and a few by Herman Taylor) before going almost completely quiet.  Then in 1969, upstart promoter Russell Peltz launched his Hall of Fame career there with a string of 31 fight cards that ran through 1971.  Peltz moved on to bigger venues while former World Lightweight Champ Bob Montgomery promoted a few shows at the Blue. Then things got quiet again.  Even though Peltz returned in the mid 1970's for occasional promotions, the arena mostly endured long stretches of inactivity until the mid-1980's. 

In 1986, with Peltz back as the house promoter on a regular basis, USA Network discovered the venue and regularly featured it on their popular cable TV broadcasts.  This exposure helped to spread the word and before long Philly had another great boxing star - The Blue Horizon. 

Today the fight club is alive and well, and still standing at 1314 North Broad Street.  It was recently named as an official Philadelphia historical site*, and still regularly hosts boxing cards promoted by Vernoca Michael and other local promoters.  It remains as one of the best places in the country to watch a fight. 

(Editor's note:  The Blue Horizon staged it's final boxing show on June 4, 2010. The venue was closed the next day, and to date remains inactive. In 2011, stories began circulating that the venue had been purchased by a developer that planned to turn the place into a hotel & restaurant. Thus far, the Blue Horizon is still closed.)

*Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Used with permission.

  1932 - Tony Morgano KO4 Harry Blitman at the Broadway A.C. in South Philly
  1938 - Bobby Green W10 Johnny Marcelline at the Waltz Dream Arena in Atlantic City
  1938 - Al Ettore KO3 Joe Sofi at Clarksburg, WV
  1939 - Johnny Forte W6 Danny Russell at Harrisburg, PA
  1939 - Spider Armstrong W10 Johnny Marcelline at the Cambria A.C. in Kensington (NE Philly)
  1949 - Dan Bucceroni KO4 Ted Calaman at the Met in North Philly
  1968 - Sonny Liston KO2 Willis Earls at Juarez, Mexico
  1976 - Richie Bennett KO1 Alex Coleman at the Wagner Ballroom in NE Philly
  1976 - Youngblood Williams W8 Lester Camper at the Wagner Ballroom in North Philly
  1976 - Skinny Jimmy Rothwell KO1 Paul Thomas at the Wagner Ballroom in North Philly