Saturday, May 30, 2015

Book Review: In This Corner: Forty World Champions Tell Their Stories

The Boxing Glove Sunday Night Book Review by Peter Silkov

In This Corner: Forty World Champions Tell Their Stories.
Written by Peter Heller

This week at The Boxing Glove, we are reviewing a book, which originally came out in 1973, but is still available either new or second hand.

Pete Herman
From early 1970 to late 1972, Peter Heller traveled up and down America with a tape recorder, interviewing over forty former world boxing champions, going back to the 1910s. The result is a fascinating insight into the lives of these fighters, who at one point were the best in the world at their weight, back in the days when a world champion really was a world champion.

The book is sectioned off by decades, with varying amount of fighters representing each decade.  From 1910 to 1920, then the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s. 

Part of the charm of this book is that most of the fighters interviewed for it have since passed on, so this is in many ways a rare and precious recording of these men in conversation, talking about not just their boxing careers, but their lives, and experiences outside of the ring. There are many social insights within these pages, though so much has changed in many ways, interestingly much has remained the same.  For instance, the question of racism and prejudice comes up numerous times in this book, and we need only to look around us today and see that many of these problems are still with us today.

Jack Dempsey
The fighters interviewed in this book rage from legendary figures such as Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Henry Armstrong, Willie Pep, and Sugar Ray Robinson, to those not so widely known, especially today, men like Gunboat Smith, Charley Phil Rosenberg, and Pete Herman.

Even though many of the fighters who appear in this book have been written about many times and even published their own autobiographies, many of them were never interviewed in a one-on-one situation before this book. The result is that the ex-fighters often seem to come out with memories and feelings, which they had never expressed publicly before.  In his interview, for instance, Jack Dempsey says about the great Sam Langford “even at my best I don’t know whether I could lick him or not."

Lou Ambers
Some of the other fighters contained in this book are Willie Richie, Jack Sharkey, Lou Ambers, Jim Braddock, Battling Battalino, Lew Jenkins, Don Jordan, Willie Pep, Sandy Saddler, Billy Conn, Archie Moore, Bobo Olsen, Jake Lamotta, Rocky Graziano, Floyd Patterson, and Emile Griffith, just to name just a few.

This book is really a time capsule of the experiences and feelings of many of the great fighters who fought in the ring when boxing was one of the hardest and most poplar sports in the world. There are many insights into their lives and boxing careers that you cannot find elsewhere.  Peter Heller’s gift in putting this book together is that he had the ability to make each of these men relaxed enough with him so that they could confide in him things, which they often had never revealed before in public.  Many were also able to look at their careers in a more objective and philosophical light, now that they were years removed away from fighting.

Sugar Ray Robinson
I have had a copy of this book for over 30 years now and still dip into it regularly for quotes or information about some of the fighters that were interviewed. It is that good.

In all, no serious boxing follower can ignore this exceptional book. For those who are interested already in the fighters of the past, this book is invaluable, and for those who may think that the fighters of the past are irrelevant or over hyped, this is the book that will change your mind. 

Copyright © 2015 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to and

twitterfacebookgoogle pluslinkedinrss feedemail

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Book Review: The Real Rockys-A History of the Golden Age of Italian Americans In Boxing 1900-1955

The Boxing Glove Sunday Night Book Review by Peter Silkov

The Real Rocky’s: A History of the Golden Age of Italian Americans In Boxing 1900-1955      
Written by Rolando Vitale

Rocky Graziano
The name “Rocky” has become almost inextricably linked with boxing. Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky” films brought home the relevance of the name to the wider public, but the name, and Rocky’s Italian heritage goes back much further into boxing’s golden history. It is this subject, which Rolando Vitale tackles with such depth in “The Real Rockys: A History of the Golden Age of Italian Americans in Boxing 1900 - 1955.”  The author looks at the role of the Italian-American in boxing during a time when boxing was booming with a multitude of clubs and daily shows, the like’s of which today’s boxing fans can only sit and think about with wonder.

Casper Leon
The book is an eye opener into how many excellent Italian-American boxers there were during this period of time.  The fact that the Italian-American fighter prospered during boxing’s boom time, when the amount of active fighters was at its highest, and the depth of talent at its deepest, serves to illustrate just how prevalent the Italian-American became in boxing.

Set out in these pages is a veritable encyclopaedia of information about the greatest exploits of the Italian American in boxing. Every thing that a boxing historian would want to find, from fascinating statistics to individual biographies upon the most outstanding of the Italian-American boxers, is in this book.

One of the welcomed aspects of this book is that the huge amount of information which is contains is set out in a reader friendly way. The book is divided into two sections; the first part consists of a straightforward narrative by Rolando Vitale, in which he analyzes the place of the Italian-American, not only in boxing, but also within American society itself.  Vitale delves into how the Italian immigrants had to fight for their survival in America and the roots of boxing in Italy. It is very interesting to read about the social upheaval of the late 1890s and early 1900s, and how the Italian vied for survival with immigrants of different nationalities, with this bitter competition eventually going from the streets into the boxing rings.

Young Zulu Kid
Vitale takes us all the way from the earliest Italian immigrants who were beginning to ply their trade in the American boxing rings, right up to the mid 1950s and beyond, where increased social mobility and education eventually see’s the numbers of Italian-American boxers dwindle to a trickle. Today, the Italian-American is more likely to be found in the business side of boxing, either in promoting, management or broadcasting.

The second part of this book is a collection of appendices, which contains a wealth of fascinating statistical information, broken up into twenty-one different chapters.  Included in this section is a chapter devoted to short, but informative biographies of 100 outstanding Italian-American boxers of 1900 to 1955.  The scope and variety of the other chapters in this section is impressive, including subjects such as; Italian Americans and prize money in professional boxing 1900-to-1955 (chapter 2), Italian American prize-fighters using Irish and anglicized names, 1900-to-1955 (chapter 4), Italian American world boxing title claimants 1900-to-1955 (chapter 8), Italian Americans in world title bouts 1900-to-1955 (chapter 10), Italian Americans in world top 20 rankings 1924-to-1955, (chapter 12), and, inter-ethnic rivalry in world title fights 1900-to-1955 (chapter14).

While the first section of this book is an engrossing study of the history of Italian Americans, not just in boxing, but also in American society itself, it is the second section of the book, which will draw in the boxing fanatic again and again, in order to study the multitude of historical facts and figures that it holds. This is a book that is likely to interest both the boxing historian and the more relaxed boxing fan, who is interested in discovering a wealth of information about a part of boxing history that has been so far surprisingly neglected.  “The Real Rockys” reveals just how prominent the Italian American once was inside the boxing ring, and how these fighters played an integral role at a time when boxing was at its most popular and powerful. This is certainly a welcome addition for any serious boxing collector, entertaining, informative, and at times surprisingly enlightening.  

Copyright © 2015 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to and

twitterfacebookgoogle pluslinkedinrss feedemail

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Book Review: Fight or Die: The Vinny Paz Story

The Boxing Glove Sunday Night Book Review by Peter Silkov
"Fight Or Die, The Vinny Paz Story"  written by Tommy Jon Caduto.

Few modern day boxers have lived such a roller coaster ride of a life, like the life of Vinny Paz. Better known through most of his boxing career as Vinny Pazienza, “The Pazmanian Devil” was one of the most exciting and controversial fighters of the 1980s and 90s, and a huge fan-favourite right up until his retirement in 2004.   Pazienza was flamboyant and an entertainer, who throughout his career was seldom in a bad fight.

“Fight Or Die:  The Vinny Paz Story’” is written by Tommy Jon Caduto, a life-long friend of Paz’s, who grew up with the boxer in Rhode Island.  Caduto has been with Vinny since the beginning and seen the full ups and downs of his highs and lows.  Consequently, this biography comes across like an intimate fly on the wall documentary and is at times not for the faint-hearted.

Paz first came to prominence in the mid-80s as a cocky and colourful lightweight, with a hyperactive style, both in and out of the ring. From the beginning of his career Vinny could box and slug it out, but he usually seemed to enjoy slugging it out more.  Paz’s fights would more often than not develop into no-holds barred brawls, where sometimes the rulebook seemed to have been thrown out of the ring.

Yet, Paz’s propensity for fan-friendly action has often led to his boxing skills being somewhat underrated. At his best, Vinny’s fast hands and excellent mobility made him a formidable opponent for anyone. Ironically, Vinny’s biggest failing through much of his career was also one of his greatest assets. Despite his genuine boxing skills, Vinny always tended to fight more with his heart than his head.

"Fight Or Die” takes us through Vinny’s career step by step, from his time as an amateur, then his rise to his first world title in the 1980s. Paz fought top names such as Greg Haugen, Hector “Macho” Comacho, and Roger Mayweather; with his three-fight rivalry with Greg Haugen standing out as one of the most heated and exciting rivalries of the 80s era.  Paz won the IBF world lightweight championship from Haugen in 1987. He would lose it back to him in 1988, in two bitterly contested matches, in which both men got as heated with each other outside the ring, prior to their matches, as they did inside the ring during their fights.  The two later had a deciding 3rd non-title bout in 1990.

After losing his world lightweight title back to Haugen in 1988, Vinny would go through a career funk, which would see him lose three world title fights in a row, as he was beaten in various fashions by Roger Mayweather, Hector Comacho, and Loreto Garza. Although these fights were all fan-friendly wars, with plenty of action, drama and blood, unfortunately for Vinny, most of the blood being spilt was his own. The drama usually ended with him in the hospital after the fight. After losing to Roger Mayweather for the WBC light-welterweight title in 1988, Vinny almost came close to death after the fight due to dehydration. These defeats at the top level during the late 80s, while not hurting Vinny’s appeal with the fans, made many in the boxing world believe that his title days were over, and there were calls for him to retire.

However, unknown to most during this time was the fact that Vinny had been fighting a huge battle with the scales for each fight, with him taking off as much as 25 pounds from his 5’ feet 7” inch frame every time he fought.

With the end of the 1980s it looked as if the best days of “The Pazmanian Devil” were over, yet, Vinny showed the resilience that so many admired, and turned his career right around.  He moved up two divisions, from light-Welterweight to light-middleweight, and in October 1991 he beat Gilbert Dele on a 12th round stoppage to win the WBA world light-middleweight title. 

It was a stunning career turn around for Paz, but just as he was again at the top of the world, disaster struck just a few months later, when Vinny was involved in a horrific car crash, which resulted in him breaking his neck in three places. With the prognosis that he would never be able to box again, Vinny’s famous resilience and never-give-in-heart needed to come into play like never before.

Much of “Fight or Die” is built around Vinny’s fight back from his broken neck.  It was a fight, which would lead, once more to an improbable yet, victorious comeback in ring in 1992.  Paz would go on fighting until 2004, and although he wouldn’t win anymore world titles, he would fight top names such as Lloyd Honeyghan, Robbie Sims, Herol Graham, Roberto Duran, Roy Jones Jr., Eric Lucas, and Aaron Davis, in what would be another decade of action-packed ring wars.

“Fight or Die” reads much like its subject, entertaining and fast moving, it is never dull, and there is plenty of action jumping out of the pages at the reader. This is a worthy biography for an outstanding fighter who did much to keep boxing exciting during his career.  Recently, Paz’s life story has been made into a movie called “Bleed For This” and Open Road Studios has just bought the rights starring Miles Teller, directed by Ben Younger, and Executive producer Martin Scorsese. With the release of this film coming out in the near future, Vinny Paz seems set to make another comeback into the limelight.  
 Copyright © 2015 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to and

twitterfacebookgoogle pluslinkedinrss feedemail

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Boxing Glove Remembers Joe Louis

By Peter Silkov

The name Joe Louis conjures up certain nostalgia for a time when boxing ruled the world of sports, and when the heavyweight champion of the world was not only the most widely known face in boxing, but in the general world of sport. In Joe Louis boxing had a champion who was able to transcend the sport, and become one of the most famous in the world, to an extent that few boxing champions, before or after him, would ever come close to achieving. The fact that Louis was the second black man to win the world heavyweight crown had much to do with it.  While Jack Johnson was the first black man to wear the heavyweight crown, he found himself mired in controversy and racial hatred.  Louis, with his quiet and gentlemanly demeanor, was able to win over the public at large, and in time, become one of the most popular and enduring champions that the ring has ever seen.

Joe Louis was born Joseph Louis Barrow on May 13, 1914, in Lafayette, Alabama, the son of sharecroppers. When he was two years old, Joe’s father was committed to a state hospital, where he would spend the rest of his life. Louis would grow up in stark poverty and with little schooling. When he was 10 years old, his family moved to Detroit, and where the young Louis would do odd jobs to help financially. As Joe entered his teenage years, his mother bought him a violin and paid for music lessons, believing that this would offer Joe a chance of a better life. Unknown to his mother, Joe began going to the boxing gym, rather than the music lessons, after being encouraged by a friend Thurston McKinney, who was an amateur boxer himself.

After losing his first amateur fight, Barrow soon started to make progress, fighting under the name of Joe Louis, so that he could keep his new activity a secret from his mother.

In 1934, Louis’ amateur career culminated in his winning the Chicago Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions in the light-heavyweight division and the AAU light-heavyweight championship. After compiling an amateur record of 53-3, Louis turned professional on July 4, 1934.

From the beginning of his professional career, Louis was nurtured to win the World heavyweight title. He was taken under the wing of manager John Roxborough, an African American businessman, who would, with the help of promoter Mike Jacobs and trainer Jack Blackburn, guide Louis to the top. 

Roxborough was determined that Louis would avoid the problems and controversies, which befell Jack Johnson, and helped Louis construct his public image. Louis was not allowed to celebrate after beating an opponent in the ring, especially if he was white.  He was also never to be photographed with white women or to flaunt his growing wealth as his career progressed. In other words, Louis was coached in how to become an antithesis of what Jack Johnson had been, at least in public.

It was Louis’ exploits in the ring and his aura as “The Brown Bomber” that generated much of the love and admiration, which Louis would enjoy throughout his career.

Louis’ progress as a professional was meteoric. There was never any doubt that he was a very special fighter. He fought like a smooth-running fighting machine; eliminating opponents with a fearsome ease. Louis had a great jab, which he would use like a battering ram upon an opponent. Jack Blackburn taught The Brown Bomber how the jab could be used as an offensive weapon, rather than just a defensive weapon. Louis’ jab would pave the way for his two-fisted attacks, which were powerful, and accurate.  Louis wasn’t fast on his feet, but he had a way of manouvouring himself to cut off his opponent, as he advanced with a catlike smoothness. Once he had someone hurt, they rarely got away. Louis was probably the best finisher that the heavyweight division has ever seen.

Incredibly, just after a year, Louis was already a ranked contender. On June 19, 1936, however, Louis’ progress came to a shuddering halt when he was knocked out in the 12th round by former World heavyweight champion Max Schmeling. The defeat by Schmeling seemed to threaten Louis’ whole future at first, but he was back inside the ring two months later, knocking out another former world champion Jack Sharkey in 4 rounds.

Although he had been beaten by Schmeling, it was Louis, not Schmeling, who received a shot at Jim Braddock’s World heavyweight title on June 22, 1937. Louis had won 6 fights since his defeat to Schmeling and was primed to fight for the World heavyweight title.

Despite all of his stubborn bravery, and an early knockdown against Louis, the champion Braddock took a fearful beating from The Brown Bomber, before eventually being counted out in the 8th round.

Joe Louis proved to be every bit the champion that he had been trained to be, and more.  He was the most active and enduring of any World heavyweight champion and his record of 25 successful defences over 12 years still stands today. Never before, nor since, has a heavyweight champion cleared out his division with such clinical devastation. Indeed, Louis’ reputation was such that many of his opponents were beaten before the first bell sounded. Included in Louis’ 25 defences were many classic fights, such as his contests with Tommy Farr, Tony Galento, Buddy Baer, Billy Conn and Jersey Joe Walcott, but perhaps his greatest performance as world champion was the night of June 22, 1938, when Louis gained his revenge over Max Schemeling, with a crushing 1st round knockout.

During WW2, Louis’ reputation grew even higher, due to his enlistment in the Armed Forces and his involvement in the war effort. The champion became a physical instructor and boxed exhibitions for both the American and English troops. Louis enlisted in the US army in January 1942. He defended his title twice that year, against Buddy Baer and Abe Simon, with most of his purses going towards the war effort.  After the Simon bout, Louis would not have another official fight for over 4 years, with his ring activity confined to training, and dozens of exhibition bouts.  

When he did finally return to the ring to defend his world title in 1946, it was an older and heavier Louis, who now lacked the timing and catlike reflexes of the past. Louis also returned to the ring without his father figure, advisor, and trainer, Jack Blackburn, who died in April 1942.

Tragically, Louis was also heavily in debt by the end of WW2, after years of being unable to earn anything from his championship. Furthermore, the world champion was being taxed by the IRS for the fights where he had donated his purse to the war effort.  Louis had kept going financially during the war years by borrowing heavily from his promoter and managers, and by 1946, was heavily in debt to them as well as the IRS.

Remembering Joe Louis...the Quiet Patriot

The Brown Bomber’s chaotic finances saw him make four further defences of his world title following the end of the war, even though it was plain to see that the champion was a faded force.

After defending his title against Jersey Joe Walcott for the second time, Louis announced his retirement on March 1, 1949. Retiring undefeated champion, after an amazing reign of 12 years, and 25 defences. Louis was a beloved figure by now amongst all boxing fans and beyond. Alas, the IRS were making ever-increasing demands for money from Louis, who could not even pay the interest upon his ever-escalating debts.

On September 27, 1950, Louis returned to try to regain the world title, which he had never lost inside the ring, from Ezzard Charles, a brilliant boxer-puncher who had acceded to the vacant throne. Louis still had some of his old power and strength, but he had lost his speed and reflexes, and was beaten clearly on points.

Despite the conclusive nature of this defeat, Louis would continue to fight on, having 8 fights in the next year, and winning them all. Louis was then matched with a young rising contender called Rocky Marciano. The two met on October 26, 1951, and despite Joe putting up a brave and stubborn fight, “The Rock” proved to be too young and strong for the old Bomber, and Louis was worn down, and then knocked out in the 8th round. 

Louis never fought again.  Retiring for good with a final record of 63(49koes)-4.

Retirement was not easy for Louis.  He was still in demand from the public, but the jobs he could do now, such as commentating on fights, or training young fighters, and working as a referee, just did not pull in the money that Louis had become accustomed to earning. Even when the IRS finally wrote off much of the debt that Louis owed them in the 1960s, Louis would still struggle to make ends meet.

Ironically, one of the greatest fighters of his generation would end his days living on the kindness and charity of friends and admirers.

Yet, for all his failings outside of the ring, Joe Louis remained and still remains one of the most loved and respected of all the champions in boxing history. He was a man who brought together fans, both white and black, and who raised the status of the coloured fighter to a level of acceptance, which had never before been attained.

Copyright © 2015 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to and

twitterfacebookgoogle pluslinkedinrss feedemail

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Boxing History: Remembering Gil Turner

By Peter Sikov

Gil Turner was one of the most exciting and popular fighters ever to come out of Philadelphia. He had, what would in later years, come to be seen as the stereotypical Philadelphia fighting style; an ultra aggressive, all-action, whirlwind of a fighter. The 1950s era in which he fought was the era where TV fell in love with boxing, and Gil Turner was to become one of the most popular and widely televised fighters of that generation.

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on October 9, 1930, Turner turned professional in 1950, and became a sensation from the start. The fans loved Turner’s high energy fighting. His fists would blaze away, as if he were trying to punch his way through a wall. He appeared to be tireless and impervious to his opponent’s punches. Like most ’sluggers’ of his era, Turner knew how to box and had a useful jab, but he was a fighter who seemed to love going to war and the fans quickly loved him for it. Turner was making a charge up the welterweight rankings, and for such a young professional, he was matched tough. It seemed to make no difference, as he collected victory after victory in exciting fashion. By the middle of 1951, having been professional for barely a year, Turner was already a rated contender at welterweight, with wins over former lightweight world champions Beau Jack, Ike Williams, and top contenders Charley Fusari and Vic Cardell. 

By the beginning of 1952 Turner was 27-0, and hankering after a shot at the World welterweight championship that was held by “The Cuban Hawk” Kid Gavilan. In hindsight, it seems audacious to say the least, that Turner’s management could feel that their boy was ready to take on the formidable and battle-hardened Gavilan, with his record of 82-12-4, after barely two years as professional and just 27 contests. Yet, this is what they did after Turner had posted 4 more wins in early 1952 to bring his record up to 31-0. On July 7, 1952, Turner was given his shot at the Hawk.

The fight itself was eagerly anticipated. The champion was persuaded to defend his crown at Philadelphia’s Municipal Stadium; in other words, in the challenger Turner’s own backyard. A crowd of more than 39,000 created a record gate of 269,667 dollars, making the contest the richest ever for the World welterweight title up to that time.

In regards to action and excitement, the fight did not disappoint, although the majority of the fans there that night, most of whom had come to cheer on their home town fighter Turner, were destined to be deflated by the contest’s conclusion.

In what has become one of the more overlooked classics of the ring, challenger and champion blazed away at each other for 11 rounds until someone finally broke.  Turner went after the champion for most of the fight, showing a good jab, and then firing away with both hands, at the body, the head, anywhere he could land. Gavilan seemed content to counter with fiery combinations of his own. After 10 rounds, both men were about even on the judge’s scorecards, but Gavilan, had been waiting, biding his time, keeping his attacks measured, while his challenger was going for broke every round.  While Turner had been past 10 rounds just once so far in his career (and then only into the 11th round) Gavilan was an expert in going the distance and out- lasting his opponents in grueling fights. Although Gavilan was only 4 years older than Turner was, he had seven years ring experience over him, and at 26 years old, was in his prime. Perhaps most crucially for Turner, who was used top knocking most of his opponents out, Gavilan had one of the best chins in all of boxing, and would end his career having never been stopped or knocked out.

In short, Turner’s constant blazing attacks upon the champion were nothing short of suicidal. He was never going to stop or KO Gavilan, nobody would. Then again, nobody knew that in 1952. 

At times during the fight’s first 10 rounds it did seem as though “The Cuban Hawk” would wilt under the ferocity of his challenger’s vicious attacks. For certain periods it seemed as if Turner would overwhelm Gavilan. Then the moment was gone, as Gavilan fired back another combination of counter punches.

By the 11th round Turner’s white mouthpiece was glaring through his lips as he tried desperately to find more air. He was tired and exhausted, yet, he continued to carry the fight to the champion, and with even more fury than in the earlier rounds. 

Finally, Gavilan was done waiting. Around the 2.00-minute mark of the 11th, as Turner continued to try and tear into him with both fists, Gavilan answered with one of those combinations. This time, however, there was an added weight and purpose in the combination. Turner was suddenly hurt, wobbled, and as he fell against the ropes Gavilan opened up with a seemingly never-ending fusillade of punches that landed with unforgiving accuracy upon the challenger’s head and face. Turner staggered around the ring under the attack, looking like he would go down at any moment, but somehow keeping his feet. The referee watched as he took punch after punch, then Turner was hanging on the ropes, drooping, but still on his feet. Gavilan was still firing mercilessly upon him, only then did the referee finally step in and stop it.

Turner had lost but lost valiantly, in the true tradition of the Philadelphia warrior, going down all guns blazing.  What Turner and nobody else knew at that point was that this would turn out to be his one and only shot at a world title.

Some fighters lose something when they are beaten for the first time, especially when they had been almost invincible until that point in time. 

Gil Turner would remain a huge draw and score some great victories in the coming years, but the losses would also come more often now; the sparkle of invincibility that Turner had felt before the Gavilan contest was gone.

In his first fight after the loss to Gavilan, Turner was out-pointed by Bobby Dykes.
The Dykes fight was another war for Turner and he came out of if needing ten stitches to close up cuts over his left eye, on his right cheek, and in his mouth.

Turner came back to win 10 out of 12 contests over the next 12 months, including a revenge win over Dykes on points. His two losses during this time were on points to Joey Giardello and Rocky Castellani.  By now, Turner had moved up to middleweight, a move that meant that he was often giving away weight. Against Giardello he gave away 7 pounds. With hindsight, Turner’s move up to middleweight was not the greatest of ideas, even when he put on extra poundage to weigh close to the middleweight limit, he was never a true middleweight.  If anything, Turner was probably a natural light middleweight by this point in his career. Unfortunately, in the 1950s, no such division existed. With the move up to middleweight every fight became evermore of a war for Turner.

1954 proved to be a turning point for Turner’s career, as he went 4-3.  Being out- pointed and then stopped by Bobby Jones in two fights and then, being knocked out in 3 rounds by Al Andrews. Despite ending the year with two wins, Turner’s days as a genuine top contender was over.

Turner vs. Basilio
However, television and the fans (and indeed the promoters) continued to love Turner, win or lose, he always gave value for money. You could always count on an action- packed (and often bloody) contest when Turner was in the ring. From the mid-1950s onwards, he started being seen more as an opponent, and a fringe contender.

As always, Turner was never matched easy, one wonders what might have happened had he been given a softer run at some point, or even (heaven forbid!) more than a month or two off between fights sometimes. But, this was the 50s when fighters fought, where only the very best and the very well managed, rose to the top.

Turner vs. Giambra
During the last four years of his career Turner’s opposition reads like a whose-who of the top welterweights, where Turner still flirted occasionally, and middleweights of that time. Fighters such as Joe Miceli, Gene Fullmer, Carmen Basilo, Isaac Logart, Johnny Saxton, Yama Bahama, Joey Giambra, Del Flanagan, Vigil Atkins, Vince Martinez, and Ralph Dupas were some of his competition. 

Victories over Fullmer (who would later beat Turner twice on points), Atkins, and Flannigan, would keep Turner upon the fringes of contendership, and he was never an easy opponent for anyone. 

Turner went 13-12-2 in his last 27 contests from 1955 to 1958, and finally retired after losing on points to Del Flanagan, on November 20, 1958. Turner was only 28 years of age, but in true Philadelphia style. He had blazed bright, and burnt out young.

Gil Turner may not have reached the absolute heights and won a world title, but he came close, and gave it his best shot against one of the greatest fighters of his and any other era.  In today’s multi-titled era, a fighter like Turner could more or less count on winning a number of world titles, at different weights. But, Turner fought in an era when the champions were few and just to reach the status of being a contender was enough to prove that you were something special. 

Gil Turner’s final boxing record was 56(34koes)-19-2.

 Copyright © 2015 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to and

twitterfacebookgoogle pluslinkedinrss feedemail