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Lou Scozza; Buffalo's Forgotten Scrapper

by Keith Terceira

It always amazes me how the mind works, yesterday while writing up an interview with Ross Thompson of Buffalo, one comment struck a cord and got me thinking about Lou Scozza, a rarely remembered boxer of that city.Consider that in this age of prizefighting that a trilogy is something that rarely occurs any longer where once it was common, a trifecta with a world champion caliber boxer even more unique, but what about four, five , or even seven bouts of Manny versus Floyd , hard to imagine as one can't get off the ground.

Lou Scozza fought seven bouts against the late, great, light heavyweight champion Maxie Rosenbloom, and had legendary Jimmy Slattery hanging on the second rope in the 13th round of their 15 round title fight failing to close the show losing by majority decision.

Rosenbloom was ranked by Herb Goldman as the #12 All-time greatest light-heavyweight and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993, the Ring Hall of Fame in 1972, and the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1984. Rosenbloom fought over 300 bouts and though not a powerhouse rarely knocking out his opponents he specialized in the science of boxing outpointing his challengers. Yet he dropped three of his seven fights with Lou and all went the distance.

Born Louis Scazzaro on April 5th, 1905 in Buffalo, N.Y., Scozza was never really a household name outside of the New York area and often he was booed in his own state starting out, mostly when he bested local favorites. His career spanned from 1925 to 1934, included over a hundred bouts with 79 wins and 30 losses. His fame was at it's highest between 1929 and 1932, He was a victim of being born in the wrong place and the wrong time as Jimmy Slattery also called Buffalo home.

According to newspaper accounts on August 10th 1925 Scozza took a 6 round decision from Jack Pry in a middleweight bout and was booed for five minutes and Pry was cheered when he left the ring , this fight took place at Queensbury Athletic club in the heart of Buffalo. A rematch was immediately set for August 25th yet the fight never happened.

By July 1927 the young fighter was already 32-5-5, had faced Rosenbloom once, losing by decision in Buffalo, as well as losing to former light heavyweight champ Mike McTigue.

On July 21st 1927, Lou was pitted against "Cleveland Rubber Man" Johnny Risko in Bison Stadium, Buffalo, Scozza was in charge of the fight up until Risko put on a late surge in the final two rounds that swayed the judges and Risko was awarded an unpopular verdict with the fans, his performance in this fight caught the attention of Maxie and set-up a rematch on August 20th with Rosenbloom.

Though this fight was important at the time it went rarely reported as no one held out hope for a Scozza victory, yet boxing experts recalled after the fight that Lou beat Rosenbloom by a wider margin than champion Jimmy Slattery had.

Scozza's problem was that Slattery, his hometown rival had cultivated strong Irish fan support in that town based on his own fantastic fighting ability. It did not help that Scozza was Italian at a time that strong anti-Italian feeling were raging in upstate New York which first received a wave of Irish immigration . Newspapers rarely failed to mention Scozza as an Italian, it was as if it was his middlename.

Between November, 1927 and March, 1928 his career took a downturn when he dropped decisions to Lou Bogash , Young Stribling, and Jack McVey. The highly unappreciated McVey badly trounced Lou in front of his hometown crowd winning eight out of the ten rounds, but then again the welterweight sensation, who often fought at middleweight and light heavy to stay active often embarrassed great fighters, of course due to the fact that McVey was African American he never received his title shot.

McVey was known to be one of the best at working the body and breaking down his opponents. Scozza would go on to lose two more decisions to McVey in his career, though McVey could never put him on the canvas.

In 1928 after his loss to McVey, Scozza reeled off several wins and took his show on the road to Denver, first stopping in Williamsport, Pennsylvania and beating Allentown Joe Gans, Tiger Thomas, and Vince Forgione in eight round bouts from April 16th to May 30th.

Tiger Thomas cracked Lou so had he fought in a daze most of the fight, coming out of the fog asked his trainer why the guy across from him was so swelled up, long time manager Bert Finch told him " go out and swell him up some more", Scozza fully refreshed went on to win the fight though he had fought most of it on instinct.

In Denver on June 28th that year he faced George Manley losing a ten round bout after drawing with Manley 16 days before. Twenty nine days later he would be in the ring with Rosenbloom again in Denver. Rosenbloom always seemed to give Lou a bout after a tough loss. The same evening that Rosenbloom and Scozza faced off for their trilogy in Denver, Gene Tunney was stopping Tom Heeney in the tenth round in front of a sell-out crowd at Yankee Stadium in New York.

Even in little Blytheville, Arkansas the Tunney fight was front page news with full page photo spreads, Scozza and Rosenbloom received a one line mention in the results column. One boxing column reported the fight as a slow and uninteresting event, though the jockeying for position to fight Slattery was on going little reporting of this fight occurred.

Scozza reeled off a long series of wins in 1929 and earned a shot at Slattery on February 10th of 1930, by way of light heavyweight elimination tourney that left Rosenbloom and Leo Lomski out an fighting each other in the Garden, the New York press was focusing on that fight in the beginning of January and giving little props to Scozza and Slattery title fight in Buffalo.

In January Jack Dempsey wrote a syndicated column listing the Ring ratings for best fighters in each division, this was the annual event normally done by Tex Rickard. In the Light -Heavyweight division though he owned a 2-1 margin of victory against Rosenbloom, Scozza was placed third, with Rosenbloom ranked first, Slattery second, Scozza, and Lomski respectively.

The buildup to the Slattery fight finally began at the very end of January and Scozza was at his heaviest weight ever 170 pounds. Also in January an order was issued by the commission in New York that the winner of this contest would have to face Rosenbloom in a title fight.

As written before Slattery survived a thrashing in the thirteenth and fourteenth rounds at the hands of Lou who rather than pick his shots to end the staggering Slattery was over eager and punched himself out losing the final round by sheer exhaustion.

Slattery was declared the light heavyweight champion recognized by New York State and Scozza would have to wait until 1932 to face Rosenbloom for the title. In the meantime Slattery lost his title to Rosenbloom in in 1931.

In 1932 Scozza met Rosenbloom in a non- title bout in Flint, Michigan and was soundly beaten by Maxie losing nine of ten rounds, splitting their series at two apiece and setting the stage for them to meet on July 14th 1932 in Buffalo for the New York version of the world title.

Scozza had the opportunity to defeat Rosenbloom in Buffalo and reclaim the cities respect after Slattery had lost them face losing the title there. The day of the fight many nationwide papers, in love with the popular charismatic Rosenbloom dedicated two paragraphs to the title fight. Some simply reported as "Maxie faces Scozza"

The night of the 14th came and went as a heavy downpour caused the fight to be rescheduled for the next day.

On July 15th Lou failed to dethrone Rosenbloom, as Maxie built a huge lead for the first ten rounds cutting Scozza badly throughout the fight with a barrage of jabs and combinations. Coming on in the late rounds wasn't enough to pull out the victory that night and Scozza would never earn another title fight from Maxie, even though they would fight twice more, once again in 1932, and then in April of 1933 with Lou winning the final meeting by decision.

Maxie would lose the title to Bob Olin in November of 1934 and fail to reclaim it retiring in 1939, he went on to have success in Hollywood and in business passing in 1976.

At the young age of 29 years, Scozza would hang up the gloves in 1934, become a great referee for the State of New York and passed suddenly of a heart attack November 30th, 1967 at the age of 63. Many newspapers failed to mention his great fights with Maxie Rosenbloom, just reporting him simply as a veteran fighter who lost to Slattery for the title.

Columnist Jack Laing wrote the best piece on the passing of Lou in his " Memory Lane" article reminding people that only twice in his career did Scozza hit the canvas and both times he rose up to defeat his opponents, commenting on his great conditioning and his serious dedication. He failed to mention over decades of service to boxing as a referee.

Only two men in the world ever knocked out James "The Cinderella Man" Braddock, Joe Louis, 1937 in the eighth round, the night Louis won the Heavyweight title and Lou Scozza did it in 6 rounds in San Francisco 1932…

Buffalo is definitely a city of winners having once sustained not one but two of the greatest light-heavyweight boxers of an era. Slattery and Scozza….
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