Once upon a time, Pat Putnam and I drove to the baseball hall of fame at Cooperstown. It was interesting. On our way back to Pat’s home near Schenectady we stopped at Canastota to visit the International Boxing Hall of Fame. It made the trip truly worthwhile.
After our visit we spent the night at a nearby casino-hotel that was booked for us by Ed Brophy.
At the time, it did not have a liquor license!
Fortunately, Brophy’s area of expertise is not in booze, but in boxing history, because he is the executive director of the ever-expanding IBHOF, which every true boxing fan should visit at least once.
Once again this year I was pleased to vote for the hall. A voter can select up to 10 boxers on the list. Of the 45 candidates in the modern era, I chose six because they stood out. They were Eddie Perkins, Ceferino Garcia, Tiger Jack Fox, Holman Williams, Cocoa Kid, and Lloyd Marshal.
To qualify for the modern area, a boxer must have fought until at least 1943. A boxer must also be retired for five years to become a candidate.
Garcia retired in 1945, Williams and Cocoa Kid in 1948, Fox in 1950, Marshall in 1951 and Perkins in 1965. Now I have nothing against fighters of the last quarter of the 20th century. In fact, I am anxiously awaiting the chance to vote for Roberto Duran, Larry Holmes and Julio Cesar Chavez. As for current fights, I hope I am still able to vote Marco Antonio Barrera and Bernard Hopkins.
Of those on this year’s list that I did not vote for are some I could vote for next year. One of them is Michael Carbajal, who single-handedly developed interest in this country for the little fighters.
There’s no minimum limit of fights for a candidate, but I have a personal limit of 40, which are a lot in this era of phony weight classes, phony titles and undeserving champions. If a fighter has had only 40 fights or so, he should be expected to win almost all of them.
None of my six picks had fewer than 20 losses. None had fewer than 75 wins, and Cocoa Kid had 161 wins, Fox had 157, Williams had 157, and Garcia had 101. All six probably had more fights than are listed on their records.
Before I made my selections I checked out the records of all 45 candidates, using Boxrec.com. I also checked out the records of some of their opponents. My criteria are class of opponents and conditions, such as age at the time of a particular fight and the location of key fights.
Let’s look at my picks.
Eddie Perkins (75-20-2, 21 knockouts, 1956-65) fought out of Chicago – most of the time way out of Chicago. According to my unscientific research, he fought in 14 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, 21 foreign countries and 45 cities throughout the world. His record in foreign countries was 28-13-2. All seven of his world junior lightweight title fights in 1961-65 were outside the United States. Perkins fought a draw against champion Duilio Loi and the won and lost WBA title fights against him in Milan, Italy. He made successful WBA/WBC title defenses against Roberto Cruz in Manila, Yoshio Takahashi in Tokyo and Bunny Grant at Kingston, Jamaica, then lost the titles to Carlos Hernandez in Caracas, Venezuela. In only one of his 20 losses did he fail to go the distance.
Ceferino Garcia was the only other one of my six selections to win championship recognition. After losing decisions in welterweight title bids to Barney Ross in 1937 and Henry Armstrong in 1938, he won the world middleweight title in the eyes of the New York State Athletic Commission by knocking out Fred Apostoli in the seventh round in 1939. He made one successful defense before losing the title on a decision to Ken Overlin. In 1940, he boxed a 10-round draw against Armstrong in what was recognized as a middleweight title match by California. The Filipino fought from 1923 to 1945 and scored 65 knockouts in compiling a 101-28-12 record.
In his only shot at a championship, Tiger Jack Fox was stopped by Melio Bettina in the ninth round of a fight for the NYSAC light heavyweight title in 1939. Fox, who was two months shy of his 37th birthday at the time, had to wait until his 128th fight to get the title shot. Title chances did not come easy, if at all, to black fighters such as Fox, Cocoa Kid and Holman Williams. Earlier in his career, Fox (157-22-12, 100 knockouts, 1928-41 and 1944-50) had won, lost and drawn with Maxie Rosenbloom and he twice beat Jersey Joe Walcott. In 1948, the 46-year-old Fox won the Alaska heavyweight title. Whoever promoted that fight should have been ashamed of himself.
Cocoa Kid, born Louis Hardwick, and Holman Williams never did get title shots. Why should they have? The Kid was only 167-58-10, 46 knockouts, 1930-48, and in all those losses he failed to go the distance just seven times. Williams was a mere 147-30-11, 34 knockouts, 1932-48, and he failed to last the distance only three times.
In 1940, Cocoa Kid won the colored welterweight title with a 15-round decision over Williams, which was one of his seven decision victories over Williams against two decision losses and two draws. Another of the Kid’s victims was Louis “Kid” Kaplan. While Williams had trouble beating the Kid, he did beat Charley Burley in three of six matches and he also split two fights with Archie Moore. One of the wins and one the losses in the Burley fights were for the colored middleweight title.
Lloyd Marshall (71-25-4, 36 knockouts, 1936-51) also never got a title shot. Five of his victories were against Charley Burley, Jake LaMotta, Joey Maxim, Freddie Mills and Ken Overlin. All but Burley held either middleweight or light heavyweight titles at one time in their careers.