Saturday, May 7, 2016

Frank "The Animal" Fletcher: A Breathless, Blood-Splattered, Pugilistic Rollercoaster Ride

Frank ’The Animal’ Fletcher was one of the most exciting fighters of the 1980s, a sawn-off southpaw middleweight with an all-action do-or-die style. He epitomized the Philadelphia fighter’s reputation for being the bravest and most enthralling of fighters, and he fought at a time when the city of brotherly love had a fearsome reputation for churning out outstanding, gun-ho middleweights.

‘The Animal’ came from a fighting family, his uncle Dick Turner was an outstanding welterweight, and his younger brother, Anthony, was also a talented boxer in the lightweight division.

Fletcher was born on May 7, 1954, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He grew up in a tough neighbourhood, and soon showed that he had a penchant for finding himself in trouble, one way or another.  However, boxing offered him a way out from street fights and the petty crime, which was already consuming his life by the time he had reached his teenage years.  Fletcher began his professional career in 1976, and was pushed in deep from the beginning, being matched with rising prospects Art McCloud, Tony Braxton (twice), Jerome Jackson, and Caveman Lee, in his first 10 contests.  Yet,only McCloud and Braxton beat Fletcher, who was building up a following due to his exciting kamikaze style, which perfectly fit his ring nickname of ‘Animal.’

Fletcher’s Mother also became something of a minor celebrity, due to her vociferous ringside support of her son.  Watch any ‘Animal’ Fletcher fight on video from around this time and you will surely hear his Mother’s raucous shouts of support, rising about the voices of the rest of the crowd, and on occasion, the TV commentators themselves.

‘The Animal’ burst onto the big time on June 14, 1981, when he out-pointed Norberto Sabater over 10 brutal rounds, to win the vacant USBA Middleweight title.  


Over the next 20 months, Fletcher took American boxing fans on a breathless, blood splattered, pugilistic rollercoaster ride, as he defended his USBA title five times, all against world-class middleweights. He faced fighters such as Ernie Singletary, Tony Braxton, Clint Jackson, James ’Hard Rock’ Green, and Wilford Scypion, in a series of fights that contained the kind of fistic violence seldom seen outside of a ’Rocky’ movie.  For a while ’The Animal’ was riding high.  He overcame copious amounts of blood, swollen flesh, and more punches, which at times seemed impossible for a fighter to take and still win, and keep winning.  He successfully defended his USBA title 4 times, with displays of heart, durability, and a will to win that were astonishing.  Fletcher was often out-boxed, out-speeded, and outgunned, but he simply wanted it more.  He would wear his opponents down with his non-stop attacks and his gleeful love of going to fistic war.

However the ride couldn’t last, and when it came to an end, the road downhill was sudden and steep.  It was 5th defence unlucky for ’The Animal’ when he faced challenger Wilford Scypion, on February 13, 1983, and found himself out-pointed over 12 torrid rounds.  For the first time, Fletcher lacked that extra spark that had taken him to his improbable victories.  Defeat cost him both his USBA title and a guaranteed shot at Marvin Hagler’s World middleweight title. 

There was a comeback victory over Curtis Ramsey five months later, but then in November 10, 1983, Fletcher was steamrolled by the ultra-tough Argentine, Juan Domingo Roldan, being knocked out in the 6th round. The almost superhuman resistance that had taken ’The Animal’ so close to the very top had waned considerably. There are only so many wars that a human body can take, and it is no coincidence that the vast majority of Philadelphia’s war hungry contenders of the 70s and 80s, often ended their careers prematurely burnt out.

If there was any doubt about ‘the Animal’s’ flame being all, but completely extinguished, the answer came on August 5, 1984, when Fletcher was brutally beaten by an undefeated and rampaging John ‘The Beast’ Mugubi.  ‘The Animal’ was pounded and stopped in 4 rounds.  There would be one more fight on February 4, 1985, ironically at the hands of another Philadelphia warmonger, Curtis Parker, who stopped Fletcher after 2 one-sided rounds.

Unfortunately with his boxing career over, and without the safety net of boxing to keep him on the straight and narrow, Fletcher soon fell back into the grip of the streets.  After a series of brushes with the Philadelphia Police, Frank Fletcher is sitting in a Pennsylvania jail, the Graterford Correctional Institute, after falling foul of the ‘three strikes and you are out’ policy.

Frank Fletcher’s final record is 18(12koes)-6-1, which are surprisingly short and unimpressive statistics that do not begin to show the drama and violence that the ‘Animal’ brought to the ring during the late 70s and early 80s. For a short time, Fletcher was one of the most exciting fighters in boxing, during an era where excitement was not hard to find.  That fact alone should mean that Frank ‘The Animal’ Fletcher will always be remembered by boxing fans who enjoy a classic fight.

In a sad irony, Frank’s younger brother, Anthony, a talented fighter, who saw his own career crumble due to bad management, injuries, and bad luck, has now spent over 20 years incarcerated for shooting a man to death, despite overwhelming evidence that proves that he was acting in self-defence. 

What they share in their pugilistic talents and careers, the Fletcher brothers also share in an abundance of bad luck.  

Copyright © 2016 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to

No comments:

Post a Comment