|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - May 11, 2015
Former featherweight boxer, Frankie Sodano died Monday, May 11, 2015, at age 84. Sodano had a solid professional career as a prize fighter, but the greatest glory of his boxing life came in the amateur ranks where he won multiple tournaments and represented the USA at the 1948 London Olympics.
Sodano was born on March 10, 1931 in South Philadelphia. He attended Furness Jr. High School and Southern High School were he was an outstanding gymnast as a teenager. Eventually he became an amateur boxer, training and fighting out of the 33rd PAL at 15th & Snyder.
In 1947, at 16 years of age, Sodano won the Philadelphia Diamond Belt (AAU) as a 112-pound novice. Later that same year he won the 112-pound Golden Gloves tournament in the Open Division. As good as 1947 was for the then-flyweight Sodano, the best of his amateur career was yet to come.
The following year, 1948, Sodano won the Open Division Diamond Belt (AAU) at 112 pounds. Frankie advanced to the National AAU Tournament and brought home the 112-pound national championship.
Sodano then qualified for the 1948 Olympic Games by defeating Henry "Pappy" Gault. Frankie represented the USA in the London Games, and won his opening bout by KO. However, Sodano lost in the quarterfinals to the Czech fighter and returned to Philly without a Medal.
In November of 1948, Sodano turned professional under the management of Pete Pancello. Frankie made his pro debut in Atlantic City, defeating Art Randell by 4-round decision. He won his first five bouts, three by knockout, displaying an aggressive style and good counterpunching skills. Before long Sodano developed a strong following and became a popular attraction. He fought on the road many times, especially in New York.
"He was one of my first neighborhood idols," former professional boxer Carmen Bartolomeo said. "He trained hard and was a real good fighter."
In his six years as a pro, Sodano once mounted a 33-bout unbeaten streak and beat good fighters like Willie Alexander (KO4), Bobby Bell (W8), as well as his old amateur rival, Pappy Gault (W8). However, top-level fighters like Percy Bassett, Lulu Perez and Ike Chestnut prevented Sodano from advancing to the top of the featherweight ratings.
"He always said that the only fight people asked him about was the fight with Percy Bassett," Bartolomeo said.
Bassett defeated Sodano at the Arena by bloody 9th round TKO.
"It frustrated him," Bartolomeo said. "He used to say, 'I had all those wins (going into the Bassett bout) by being aggressive, but I fought Bassett the opposite way. I should have been more aggressive against him.' Frankie was mad at himself."
Bartolomeo also said that despite the fact that he defeated Sodano, Lulu Perez greatly admired Frankie's skills. "Lulu said, 'I wish I could be like that Frankie Sodano'," Bartolomeo said.
Frankie closed out his career with an 8-round decision victory over Charlie Slaughter at the Trenton Arena on December 14, 1954, and retired with an overall record of 49-8-1 with 22 KOs. He was elected to the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991.
After his boxing career, Sodano owned and operated a taxi cab and liked to go dancing with friends at various Philadelphia and South Jersey clubs. He was the father of eight, grandfather of twenty one, and great grandfather of eight.
"He liked to sing Louis Prima songs," Bartolomeo remembered with a chuckle.
Sodano's viewing will be held 9-11 AM on Friday, May 15th, at St. Joseph Church, 500 Woodlawn Ave., Collingdale, PA, 19023, with the funeral mass immediately following at 11:00 AM. Burial is private at Most Blessed Sacrament Cemetery in Bally, PA.