Venue: Alhambra  

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In the late 1950s, Jimmy Toppi, Jr. purchased an old movie theatre located at the corner of 12th & Morris where Passyunk Avenue bisects South Philly. Toppi's vision for the place was to turn it into a boxing venue, like he'd done with other properties around the city. However, the Alhambra was an unusual setting for fights. Inside, the walls were painted pink and decorated with hearts, cupids and arches. The elaborately romantic motif left over from Saturday evening movie "date nights", turned out to be perfect for boxing lovers. But the romance only lasted about four years. From 1959 to 1962, South Philly fight fans were treated to shows that spotlighted up and coming boxing talent.

Jimmy Riggio, the owner and proprietor of the nearby Passyunk Gym, decided to try his hand at promoting fights and leased the Alhambra from Toppi. Riggio staged his first card on September 25, 1959. About 600 fans came


out. The show's supporting bouts were filled with quick knockouts - Kitten Hayward KO1 Jimmy Johnson, Dick Young TKO1 Jimmy Pratt, Frankie Taylor TKO1 Johnny Austin and Jersey Joe Medley TKO2 Tony Romano - which cleared the way for the main event between Chicago's Eddie Perkins and Philadelphian Carl Hubbard. It was a terrific match that lasted the full 10-round limit, finally giving the crowd a real battle to watch. The fight was close, but Hubbard rallied in the final stage of the fight to capture the decision. After the bout, Perkins collapsed and was taken to the hospital. He turned out to be fine and went on to become two-time jr. welterweight champion and a hall of famer. Hubbard kept his undefeated record with the win, firming his position as a hot prospect.

Riggio promoted a total of ten shows in 1959, the most active year for the Alhambra. Hubbard returned for two more main events, while Jimmy Beecham starred in three shows of his own. Other headliners included George Benton, Mel Middleton, Joey Rowan and Dick Young.   

1960 opened with Arthur Persely's 10-round win over Jerry Black. Later that season, Black would return to the Alhambra in another main event. Kenny Lane made Black a two-time loser at the venue, winning a decision over ten rounds. That year, Charley Scott and Vic Diamond each won main events, and Bruce Gibson dished Stanley "Kitten" Hayward the very first loss of his pro career (L8) in the

Indoor Club / 1,600 Capacity
South Philly - 12th & Morris Street

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   1959 - First boxing card - 9/25
   1959 - Beecham vs. Smith
   1959 - Benton vs. Washington
   1960 - Kitten Hayward's 1st loss     
   1961 - Diamond vs. Lennon
   1961 - Giardello vs. Greaves
   1961 - Soo vs. Douglas
   1961 - Hernandez vs. Cason
   1962 - Smith vs. Alford
   1962 - Last boxing card - 5/21


Alhambra's last event of the year.

The following year featured eight shows, including three starring Jimmy Soo of Grays Ferry. Soo was a popular lightweight of Irish and Chinese decent who was in the midst of a comeback after four inactive years. This crowd-pleaser was responsible for the second and third biggest box office dates at 12th & Morris. Included in his three Alhambra fights was a "savage brawl" with Bobby Douglas that is arguably the best fight ever staged at the venue. Soo's career would end for good later in 1961.

Also in 1961, future middleweight champ, Joey Giardello stopped Wilf Greaves in nine rounds before the biggest Alhambra crowd ever - 1,630. On the undercard, 1960 Olympic shot-put gold medalist, Bill Neider made his disastrous pro boxing debut when he was KO'd in the first round by Jim Wiley. 

Charley Scott defended the PA State welterweight crown with a 12-round win over Jerry Black on October 24, 1961. It was a repeat victory for Scott, and a third loss in an Alhambra main event for Black. 

The year ended with a bang - and a near-riot - when Carlos Hernandez of Venezuela was awarded with a 10-round nod over Philly's Jethro Cason, after a very tough fight. When the close but unanimous decision was announced, the crowd of 811  not only booed, they threw their bottles and chairs toward the ring. This card was promoted by Al Lewis, and it was the only time in the Alhambra's history that Jimmy Riggio wasn't the ringmaster.

1962 was the final year for the Alhambra. Highlights that year included bouts with classy welterweight Dick Turner who pushed his promising record to 13-0-1, a KO by Willie Davis, and an all-Philly affair between "Crazy Horse" Jesse Smith and Johnny "Bang Bang" Alford. Smith won the showdown by 8th round TKO.

The Alhambra's final show featured a card of eight 4-round bouts headlined by the pro debut of junior national amateur champion Irish Johnny Gilmore, who drew with Jimmy Fabrizio. Also on the card was future heavyweight star Leotis Martin in his third pro bout.

Around this time in 1962, Riggio decided to try promoting bigger fights in larger venues. After his lease lapsed, owner Jimmy Toppi sold the Alhambra to the city of Philadelphia. The building was eventually demolished and replaced with a parking lot.

Three boxing seasons spread over four years comprised the entire history of this legendary South Philly fight palace. In 2004, the venue was remembered and honored when South Philly's newest boxing locale opened and was named the New Alhambra.