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· Anon.
1,562 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)

Tony Zale: 1940s Middleweight Champion
Rich Thomas, Mar 31, 2011

Born on May 29, 1914 in Gary, Indiana (an industrial suburb of Chicago, just across the state line), Anthony Florian Zaleski changed his name to the more Anglicized Tony Zale early on and in keeping with the style of the times. Zale worked in the steel mills throughout his amateur boxing career, and it was that experience and his success in amateur boxing that pushed him towards becoming a prizefighter. He represented Chicago as a light heavyweight in the Inter-City Golden Gloves tournament in 1934, and then turned pro as a middleweight in June of that year.

Zale's early career is a study in how blue collar prizefighters made their starts in the 1930s, and stands as quite a contrast to the career arc of modern boxers. In his first six months as a prizefighter, Tony Zale fought 21 times, winning 15 and losing 6. Most of these guys were much more experienced than Zale, however, and the telling part of those first two seasons in pro boxing were Zale's eight knockouts over guys who knew how to stay out of trouble.

Standing 5'7" and with a 69" reach, Zale had heavy hands and a potent body attack. He also had what would become a legendary capacity to absorb punishment, leading to his moniker "The Man of Steel." Zale soon developed a style that involved eating punches while walking his man down, and relying on his fierce body punching to grind opponents down.

Rise to Contention
Zale started climbing from the ranks of the journeymen and into world title contention in November 1937 when he lost on points to Nate Bolden. Zale rebounded to defeat Bolden in a rematch three weeks later, and then again in January 1938. Three weeks after that, Zale fought contender Henry Schaft in a tough struggle that saw Zale hurt badly in the 6th, only to rebound and floor Schaft in the 6th, 7th and 8th to clinch a Unanimous Decision. Even though Zale went 0-1-1 with Billy Celebron later that year and lost his 4th fight with Nate Bolden in January 1939, the Man of Steel was established as a force in the 160-lb division.

By January 1940, Tony Zale was enough of a recognized fan favorite that the World Middleweight Champion, Al Hostak, wanted to fight him in a non-title bout. Hostak bit off more than he could chew, as The Man of Steel took whatever Hostak could throw at him and hammered back, pounding out a points victory.

That fight led to a July 1940 rematch, this time with the title on the line. Zale handed the champ a beating, cutting his eye in the 8th Round and knocking him down in the 12th and 13th. The fight was stopped after the knockdown in Round 13. Tony Zale was now the NBA (WBA) Middleweight Champion.

Of course, this was the world of old school boxing, and unlike modern champions, Zale could not afford to fight only once or twice a year. The very next month he was back in the ring and lost a points decision to contender Billy Soose, a future world champion. Zale was still spent from the Hostak fight and always vulnerable to a slick boxer, but the title wasn't on the line and the fight became little more than a footnote in Zale's title reign.

The Champ
In January 1941, Zale traveled to Milwaukee to fight 36-6-6 contender Tony Martin in a non-title bout, and hammered the challenger so much that both his eyes swelled shut and the fight was stopped in the 8th. Zale went back to Chicago and fought another contender, Steve Mamakos, only nine days later and won a disputed points victory in another non-title bout. That led to a rematch for the title in late February, one that saw Mamakos drop Zale in the 5th and bag round after round on the scorecards. Zale ground away, however, and pounded Mamakos to the canvas twice in the 13th, leading to a 14th Round stoppage.

May 1941 saw a rubber match with Al Hostak, and their third encounter proved to be a slugfest. Hostak nailed Zale and sent him to the canvas in the 1st Round, only to see Zale's enormous recuperative powers kick in. The Man of Steel survived the 1st Round and came on in the 2nd to crush Hostak, knocking the former champ down eight times before finally knocking him out.

One of the myths about the yesteryear of boxing is that there was only one world champion for every division. This was more true then that it is today, but even in the 1930s and 1940s, boxing had multiple world titles. Of these, only two were consistently important: the NBA (forerunner to the modern WBA) and the New York State title. Zale was the NBA champ, but Georgie Abrams was the New York world champ, who had beaten Billy Soose to claim that half of the crown. The two gladiators met in November 1941 in a barn-burner that saw Zale down early, but storm back to win control of the fight and hammer out a clean Unanimous Decision. The Man of Steel was now the Undisputed World Middleweight Champion.

The War Years
Tony Zale's last fight for some years was in February 1942, when he fought and lost a non-title bout against light heavyweight champion Billy Conn. Given that Conn was 10 lbs bigger and had almost out-boxed heavyweight kingpin Joe Louis, this was certainly no black mark against Zale. At 51-15-2, Zale was a national sports figure, a hero in his hometown of Gary (as well as in neighboring Chicago), and a solid family man, yet the country was at war and he heeded his nation's call. In 1942, Zale enlisted in the US Navy and served for the duration. He was 28 years old and giving away the prime years of his boxing career.

Return from the War
Tony Zale started his post-war career with by knockout out a journeyman in a January 1946 non-title bout in Kansas City. He spent the next five months shaking off the rust with a string of knockout wins, all to get ready for his first post-war title defense against Rocky Graziano, a fresh contender who was eight years younger than Zale. The contrast between Zale, the upstanding family man from the Midwest who gave three years to the war effort, and Graziano, the New York street hoodlum who came within a hair of deserting the US Army, could not have been sharper. Still, few knew at the time that when these two men met at Yankee Stadium, they were starting one of boxing's classic trilogies.

Zale came out and attempted to put his stamp of authority on Graziano, knocking him down in the 1st for a 5-count. Graziano was not really hurt, however, and he came back with thunderous punches that put Zale on his backside just seconds before the bell ending the round was run. The 2nd Round opened and Graziano furiously attacked Zale, firing bazooka-like power shots in rapid succession in an effort to pound the champion into submission and out of the fight. Zale was unable to stem the surging tide of the Rock, but displaying his concrete chin, rugged determination, recuperative powers and iron will, the Man of Steel grimly hung on and weathered the storm. It was one of the most savage beatings in boxing history, but Zale absorbed it and was still standing in the 6th, when Graziano was practically panting and in disbelief. Zale knocked Graziano out with a right to the body and a left, winning what became The Ring's 1946 Fight of the Year and keeping his title. Even so, Zale could barely stand and had to be helped around the ring for his victory wave.

That fight left boxing fans desperately hungry for more. A rematch was staged in July 1947 on Zale's home turf in Chicago, largely because Graziano had gotten himself embroiled in a bribery scandal by not reporting an attempt to fix one of his fights to the New York authorities. With his New York license to box revoked, Graziano had no choice but to fight in Zale's backyard.

This did not help Zale, however. The two warriors reversed rolls, and this time it was Zale who came out throwing punches in bunches, trying to get Graziano out of there. The Rock absorbed the attack and came back to stop Zale in the 6th and take the title. The rematch was named the 1947 Fight of the Year, giving Zale and Graziano that accolade twice in a row.

At 33, Tony Zale was on the comeback trail. He fought three bouts in the early part of 1948, including a knockout victory of contender Lou Woods. Those wins and popular demand got him a rubber match with Graziano in June 1948. The two men tore at each other in the 1st Round, but it was Zale who found the mark, decking the Rock in the 1st. Graziano got right back up, however, and stormed back at Zale. The Man of Steel ate Graziano's thunder and found his mark again, knocking Graziano down with a left hook in the 3rd. That blow hurt, and while Graziano got back up, he was unable to recover and soon stopped. Tony Zale had won back the world title at age 34 in a stunning 3rd Round knockout.

Tony Zale's resurgence did not last long, however, In September 1948, he went to Jersey City and defended the middleweight crown against European champion Marcel Cerdan. Cerdan was a 2-1 underdog, but Zale was old for a middleweight of the day and had a lot of boxing miles on his body. For his part, Cerdan was 28 and the best fighter France ever produced. Cerdan out-boxed, out-hustled and simply out-fought a tired, old Zale who wanted to fight but couldn't quite muster the gusto to do so. Zale was dropped by a left hook in the 11th, and after that the referee stopped the fight. Cerdan vs. Zale became The Ring's 1948 Fight of the Year, and was the last fight for Tony Zale, who retired shortly thereafter.

When Tony Zale retired, his record stood at 67-18-2 with 45 KOs. He was named Fighter of the Year in 1946 and participated in three successive Fights of the Year from 1946 to 1948. In other words, Tony Zale was the most exciting fighter in boxing for three straight years, all of them in the twilight of his career. His trilogy with Rocky Graziano was an instant classic, and produced some of the most bruising encounters in boxing history. Zale routinely appears on lists of great middleweights, and noted historian Herb Goldman ranked him as the #10 middleweight of all time.

After his retirement, Zale became active in amateur boxing circles, eventually becoming the head of Chicago's municipal amateur boxing program. In1956, Paul Newman was cast to play Rocky Graziano in the half-fictional biopic Somebody Up There Likes Me, a film in which Tony Zale was originally cast to play himself. Zale sparred with Newman to prepare him for the part, but the cocky actor started to get rough with Zale, who promptly flattened him. Zale was promptly dropped from the picture, and his part played by an actor instead of a boxer. Zale passed away in 1997.

· Anon.
1,562 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Best of A Century:
Fight of The Decade: 1940-1949

Tony Zale Vs. Rocky Graziano 1 Sept. 27, 1946

By: Monte Cox

It was Rock vs. Steel. The fiery, aggressive Rocky Graziano with the devastating right hand against Tony Zale, the "Man of Steel", with the Iron chin and will to match.

Rocky Graziano, the popular slugger from Manhattan's Lower East Side, was a big favorite to take the Middleweight Championship from the older, rustier, Tony Zale.

After all Zale had not fought in five years due to a stint in the Navy during the 2nd World War. Zale had won the NBA Middlweight title by kayoing Al Hostak in 13 rounds in 1940. He unified the title by decisioning George Abrams, the NY title claimant, the following year. Then came Pearl Harbor and a long period of inactivity. Meanwhile, the 9 years young challenger had been a busy fighter with recent kayo's over Al "Bummy" Davis, Freddie Cochrane, and Marty Servo.

A throng of some 40,000 screaming fans came into Yankee Stadium expecting a new champion to be crowned. Instead they were proud witnesses to one of the greatest fights of all time. Zale demonstrated early that he was a champion who came to win. A classical left hook landed flush and dropped Rocky for a four count in the first round. One of the most brutal slugfests in history was on.

Rocky came storming back with the whirlwind rage of a mighty thunderstorm. Rocky pressed the attack, firing a volley of lefts and rights that had the champion reeling around the ring by the end of the first exciting round.

Graziano caught Zale in the 2nd with a flurry of power punches that had Tony on the brink of defeat. Zale's lip was spit, his face badly swollen. In the third, a series of puninshing right hands drove Zale into the ropes. He was literally pounded into the canvas by Rocky's piston-like right hand blows. He was hammered like a piece of steel being forged at one of the steel mills from Zale's hometown of Gary, IN. Zale, amazingly pulled himself up at three. He was in serious trouble and had to be dragged to the corner by his seconds as the bell ended the third round.

It takes fire to make steel. Graziano had the fire and Zale was molded into a "man of steel" that night. The two warriors continued to pound away in the fourth and fifth. At the end of five rounds it looked like Zale was finished. The younger man had finally wore him down. He was ready to be taken. In fact many of the fans were calling for the fight to be stopped.

Then suddenly in the sixth, Zale, with Iron fists, took the fight right out of Rocky with a killer right to the heart! Graziano went down. He got up but was still hurt. Zale then shot a perfect left hook to the chin that dropped Graziano, well, like a rock. Graziano later wrote in his autobiography, "That jolt shot from my head to my feet. The feeling went out of my feet and I went whang on the canvas like I didn't have any feet at all." Referee Ruby Goldstein counted him out.

The Ring Magazine International Ratings panel named this fight the fourth greatest fight of all time.

It was the beginning of a great rivalry, for Rocky would come back to win the title in the rematch the following year, in another thriller, that also ended in 6 rounds. Then Zale would regain the title in the rubbermatch in 1948.

Honorable Mentions:

Joe Louis Vs. Billy Conn, June 18, 1941. Louis behind on the scorecards and outfoxed for much of the fight ends the fight suddenly with a devastating flurry in the 13th round.

Tony Zale Vs. Rocky Graziano 2, July 16, 1947. Rocky bleeding profusely and in serious trouble reverses the outcome of their previous classic battle with his magnificent right hand bombs to become champion.


· Anon.
1,562 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·

Tony Zale

Alias Man of Steel
Birth Name Anthony Florian Zaleski
Country USA
Global Id 9045
Hometown Chicago, Illinois, USA
Birthplace Gary, Indiana, USA
Division Middleweight
Born 1914-05-29
Died 1997-03-20
Stance Orthodox
Reach 175cm
Height 171cm

Career Record ©

Date Opponent Location Result
1934-06-11 Eddie Allen Chicago, US W PTS 4
1934-06-15 Johnny Simpson Chicago, US W PTS 4
1934-06-21 Bobby Millsap Chicago, US W KO 1
1934-06-25 Johnny Liston Chicago, US W KO 3
1934-07-02 Ossie Jefferson Chicago, US W KO 3
1934-07-09 Lou Bartell Chicago, US W PTS 4
1934-07-16 Einar Hedquist Chicago, US W TKO 4
1934-07-30 Bobby Millsap Chicago, US W PTS 4
1934-08-07 Bruce Wade Peoria, US W KO 3
1934-08-13 Billy Hood Chicago, US L PTS 6
1934-08-15 George Black Milwaukee, US L PTS 6
1934-08-27 Wilbur Stokes Chicago, US W PTS 8
1934-09-03 Mickey Misko Chicago, US L PTS 8
1934-09-17 Mickey Misko Chicago, US W KO 4
1934-10-08 Young Jack Blackburn Chicago, US W PTS 8
1934-10-22 Frankie Misko Chicago, US W KO 6
1934-10-29 Jack Schwartz Milwaukee, US W TKO 4
1934-11-05 Jack Charvez Chicago, US W PTS 8
1934-11-26 Kid Leonard Peoria, US L PTS 10
1934-12-17 Jack Gibbons Chicago, US L PTS 10
1934-12-28 Joey Bazzone Chicago, US L PTS 6
1935-02-25 Young Jack Blackburn Chicago, US W PTS 6
1935-03-11 Max Elling Chicago, US W PTS 8
1935-03-27 Roughhouse Glover Cincinnati, US L TKO 9
1935-05-06 Johnny Phagan Chicago, US L KO 6
1935-07-02 Dave Clark Chicago, US L PTS 5
1936-04-13 Jack Moran Chicago, US D PTS 5
1937-07-26 Elby Johnson Chicago, US W PTS 4
1937-08-16 Manuel Davila Chicago, US L PTS 4
1937-09-17 Elby Johnson Chicago, US W TKO 3
1937-10-11 Billy Brown Chicago, US W KO 1
1937-10-18 Bobby Gerry Chicago, US W KO 2
1937-11-01 Nate Bolden Chicago, US L PTS 5
1937-11-10 Leon Jackson Gary, US W PTS 6
1937-11-22 Nate Bolden Chicago, US W PTS 5
1938-01-03 Nate Bolden Chicago, US W SD 8
1938-01-24 Henry Schaft Chicago, US W PTS 8
1938-02-21 Jimmy Clark Chicago, US L KO 1
1938-03-28 King Wyatt Chicago, US W PTS 8
1938-05-16 Bobby LaMonte Chicago, US W TKO 5
1938-06-13 Jimmy Clark Chicago, US W TKO 8
1938-07-18 Billy Celebron Chicago, US D PTS 10
1938-08-22 Billy Celebron Chicago, US L PTS 10
1938-10-10 Tony Cisco Chicago, US W PTS 10
1938-10-31 Jimmy Clark Chicago, US W KO 2
1938-11-18 Enzo Iannozzi New York, US W PTS 6
1939-01-02 Nate Bolden Chicago, US L PTS 10
1939-05-01 Johnny Shaw Chicago, US W KO 5
1939-05-23 Babe Orgovan New York, US W PTS 6
1939-08-14 Milton Shivers Chicago, US W KO 3
1939-10-06 Sherman Edwards Chicago, US W TKO 3
1939-10-31 Al Wardlow Youngstown, US W KO 3
1939-11-13 Eddie Meleski Chicago, US W TKO 1
1939-12-08 Babe Orgovan Chicago, US W KO 3
1940-01-29 Al Hostak Chicago, US W UD 10
1940-02-29 Enzo Iannozzi Youngstown, US W KO 4
1940-03-29 Ben Brown Chicago, US W KO 3
1940-06-12 Baby Kid Chocolate Youngstown, US W KO 4
1940-07-19 Al Hostak Seattle, US W TKO 13
National Boxing Association World Middleweight Title
1940-08-21 Billy Soose Chicago, US L UD 10
1940-11-19 Fred Apostoli Seattle, US W PTS 10
1941-01-01 Tony Martin Milwaukee, US W TKO 7
1941-01-10 Steve Mamakos Chicago, US W PTS 10
1941-02-21 Steve Mamakos Chicago, US W KO 14
National Boxing Association World Middleweight Title
1941-05-28 Al Hostak Chicago, US W KO 2
National Boxing Association World Middleweight Title
1941-07-23 Ossie Harris Chicago, US W KO 1
1941-08-16 Billy Pryor Milwaukee, US W KO 9
1941-11-28 Georgie Abrams New York, US W UD 15
NYSAC World Middleweight Title
National Boxing Association World Middleweight Title

1942-02-13 Billy Conn New York, US L UD 12
1946-01-07 Bobby Giles Kansas City, US W KO 4
1946-01-17 Tony Gillo Norfolk, US W KO 5
1946-02-07 Oscar Boyd Des Moines, US W KO 3
1946-02-26 Bobby Claus Houston, US W KO 4
1946-04-12 Ira Hughes Omaha, US W KO 2
1946-05-02 Eddie Rossi Memphis, US W KO 4
1946-09-27 Rocky Graziano Bronx, US W KO 6
NYSAC World Middleweight Title
National Boxing Association World Middleweight Title

1947-02-03 Deacon Logan Omaha, US W TKO 6
1947-02-12 Len Wadsworth Wichita, US W KO 3
1947-03-20 Tommy Charles Memphis, US W KO 4
1947-04-01 Al Timmons Kansas City, US W TKO 5
1947-05-08 Cliff Beckett Youngstown, US W TKO 6
1947-07-16 Rocky Graziano Chicago, US L TKO 6
National Boxing Association World Middleweight Title
1948-01-23 Al Turner Grand Rapids, US W KO 5
1948-03-08 Bobby Claus Little Rock, US W TKO 4
1948-03-19 Lou Woods Toledo, US W KO 3
1948-06-10 Rocky Graziano Newark, US W KO 3
National Boxing Association World Middleweight Title
1948-09-21 Marcel Cerdan Jersey City, US L RTD 11
National Boxing Association World Middleweight Title

Record to Date

Won 67 (KOs 45)
Lost 18
Drawn 2
Total 87
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