New-York Historical Society's Bill Shannon Dictionary of New York Sports

Category Archives: Boxing

Johnny Addie


Johnny Addie (Ring announcer, boxing. Born, New York, NY, Aug. 12, 1902; died, New York, NY, December 12, 1971.)  Starting at the Fort Hamilton Arena in 1942, Johnny Addie became one of the better-known of the small club announcers, reinforcing the tradition of working in a tuxedo (now an industry norm) and, having learned sufficient Spanish, introducing Latin fighters in their native language. Born as one of eight Addonizio children on the Lower East Side, Addie achieved the height of his profession when he first worked at Madison Square Garden in 1948. He remained the regular voice of the Garden ring (and its Gillette-sponsored Friday Night Fights) until his finale on Oct. 28, 1971 (George Foreman vs. Luis Pires). He worked over 100 world championships, including several at Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds.

Muhammad Ali


Muhammad Ali (Boxing.  Born, Louisville, KY, Jan. 17, 1942.)  Known in his earlier years as Cassius Clay, Muhammad Ali is one of the most exciting and controversial heavyweight champions in the history of the sport and, by his own admission, “The Greatest.”  Ali was the national A.A.U. light heavyweight champion, the Golden Gloves heavyweight titlist and the Olympic gold medalist as a light heavyweight in 1960.  He became the heavyweight champion Feb. 25, 1964, when he defeated Sonny Liston in Miami Beach, Fla.  During his career, Ali fought 10 times in New York, winning all but one of those bouts.  Before winning the heavyweight title, he fought three times in Madison Square Garden, winning twice in 1962 and beating veteran Doug Jones in a close decision in 1963.  He then defended his crown against Zora Folley at the Garden in 1967, his last bout before losing his title due to his refusal to serve in the military as a religious objector.  Ali defeated Oscar Bonavena in 1970 at the Garden as he began his comeback.  On Mar. 8, 1971, Ali fought Joe Frazier at the Garden in “The Fight of the Century” as two undefeated heavyweight champions met for the first time. Frazier won a 15-round decision.  Ali defeated Floyd Patterson here in 1971 and in 1974 regained the crown by defeating George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire.  Earlier that year, Ali defeated Frazier in a rematch at the Garden, and he defended his title successfully against Ken Norton at Yankee Stadium in 1976 and Earnie Shavers at the Garden in 1977.

Ray Arcel


Ray Arcel (Boxing.  Born, Terre Haute, IN, Aug. 3, 1899; died, New York, NY, Mar. 7, 1994.)  Ray Arcel handled over 2,000 fighters and 20 of them became world champions over the course of a 70-year career as the leading trainer of the 20th century.  As staggering as his record is, Arcel was equally renowned in the boxing community for his qualities of understanding and his teaching abilities.  Arcel drifted into sports after his family moved to New York when he was four following the death of his Brooklyn-born mother.  He graduated from Stuyvesant H.S. in 1917 and went to work at Grupp’s Gym at 116th Street and Eighth Avenue.  By 1923, he was handling his first champion, flyweight Frankie Gennaro.  The next two years saw two more of his fighters attain world titles – bantamweights Abe Goldstein (1924) and Charlie Phil Rosenberg (1925).  He handled such fabled fighters as Ezzard Charles, Kid Gavilan, Roberto Duran, and Larry Holmes.  Along the way, his other champions included such great names as Barney Ross, Sixto Escobar, Jim Braddock, and Tony Zale.  Several of his fighters won more than one title, including Ross (lightweight champion in 1933 and welterweight in 1934) and Duran (lightweight in 1972 and welterweight in 1980).  He handled three heavyweight champions in three different decades – Braddock (1934), Charles (1950) and Holmes (1980).  His record may be the most astonishing in the history of the sport.

Alexis Arguello


Alexis Arguello (Boxing.  Born, Managua, Nicaragua, Apr. 19, 1952; died, Managua, Nicaragua, July 1, 2009.)   Boxing’s elegant assassin was a brilliant tactician who carried knockout power in both hands. Arguello began his career as a 16-year old in his native Nicaragua. After winning 35 of his first 37 fights, he knocked out Ruben Olivares in the 13th to win the W.B.A. featherweight championship Nov. 13, 1974.  Four years later, Arguello stepped up in class and knocked out Alfredo Escalera to win the junior lightweight title.  He successfully defended this belt eight times, including a thrilling 11th-round knockout against the dangerous Rafael (Bazooka) Limon July 8, 1979, in New York.  In 1984, Arguello beefed up to battle the lightweights. The mass he added to his frame enhanced his already formidable punching power.  On June 20, 1985 Arguello mauled Jim Watt for 15 rounds in London to snatch the lightweight crown.  He won his next five title defenses, all on knockouts.  The most dramatic of these victories came against Ray (Boom-Boom) Mancini in Atlantic City, N.J., on Oct. 2, 1981.  For 13 rounds, the unrelenting Mancini bulled forward, cutting off the ring to pressure the champion.  Arguello masterfully parried each attack.  He wore down Mancini with body blows before finally knocking him out in the 14th round.  On Nov. 22, 1982, Arguello attempted to win a world title in a fourth division when he challenged welterweight king Aaron Pryor in Miami, Fla.  Arguello’s superior boxing skills dominated the early going. But midway through the bout, Arguello tired as the brawling Pryor pressed his attack.  By round 14, an exhausted Arguello could barely defend himself.  The referee declared Pryor the winner on a technical knockout.  In a rematch Sept. 9, 1983, Pryor stopped Arguello in the 10th round.  Arguello would fight sporadically over next decade before permanently retiring Jan. 21, 1995. His career record: 77 wins and six losses, with 59 knockouts. – R.L.

Henry Armstrong


Henry Armstrong (Boxing.  Born, Columbus, MS, Dec. 12, 1912; died, Los Angeles, CA, Oct. 24, 1988.)  Henry Armstrong (whose real name was Henry Jackson) was the first man to hold three world boxing championships at the same time.  Armstrong won the featherweight, welterweight, and lightweight crowns in the span of fewer than ten months in 1937 and 1938. He won all three titles in New York bouts:  the welterweight at the Madison Square Garden Bowl in Long Island City, and the other two at the third Madison Square Garden on 49th Street.  Over his career, Armstrong fought 175 times, winning 144, including 97 by knockout.  He fought 18 major fights in New York (seven of them in 1937 alone), including two in which he lost titles.  Armstrong relinquished the featherweight crown in Dec. 1938 and, after 18 successful defenses, lost the welter title Oct. 4, 1940, to Fritzie Zivic in a 15-round battle at the Garden.  Lou Ambers had already taken Armstrong’s lightweight title in a 15-round decision at Yankee Stadium Aug. 27, 1939.  Following his retirement from the ring, Armstrong became an ordained Baptist minister and published a biography called Gloves, Glory, and God. He was also the founder of the Henry Armstrong Youth Foundation in Los Angeles.

Max Baer


Max Baer (Boxing.  Born, Omaha, NE, Feb. 11, 1909; died, Hollywood, CA, Nov. 21, 1959.)  Maxmillian Adelbert Baer was world heavyweight champion for one day less than a year.  He knocked out Primo Carnera in the 11th round June 14, 1934, at the Madison Square Garden Bowl in Long Island City.  On June 13, 1935, Baer was upset by James J. Braddock in 15 rounds in the same ring.  He was the fourth straight champion to both win and lose the heavyweight title in New York.

Abie Bain


Abie Bain (Boxing.  Born, St. Petersburg, Russia, Aug. 10, 1906; died, Ormond Beach, FL, Apr. 9, 1993.)  Brought to the U.S. as a child, Abie Bain (the Anglicized version of his Russian name) gave Cambridge, Mass., as his birthplace in the 1930s when he was a middleweight and light heavyweight fighting mainly out of Newark, N.J.  Bain had over 100 pro fights, the highlight of which was his three-round knockout of German middleweight champion Herman Hersch Jan. 2, 1929.  Following his boxing career (1924-34), he developed a second career as a technical advisor for many boxing films and appeared in several, including Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962).  Bain retired to Florida in 1984.

Whitey Bimstein


Whitey Bimstein (Boxing.  Born, New York, NY, 1887; died, New York, NY, July 13, 1969.)  A ubiquitous character in New York boxing for more than five decades, Morris Bimstein was long associated with Ray Arcel.  Considered one of the best cornermen in the game, Bimstein excelled as a cut man who worked with Sixto Escobar, Freddie Apostoli, Joey Archibald, and Billy Graham, among others.  Often in association with Arcel, he was also considered one of the top trainers, handling many champions, including Jim Braddock, Primo Carnera, Barney Ross, and Rocky Graziano.

Oscar Bonavena


Oscar Bonavena (Boxing.  Born, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sept. 25, 1942; died, Reno, NV, May 22, 1976.)  A serious heavyweight contender who once took Muhammad Ali 15 rounds, Oscar Natalio Bonavena was never quite good enough to beat a top heavyweight.  Among his eight career losses in 67 fights were those to Zora Folley (1965), Jimmy Ellis (1967), Floyd Patterson (1972), and Ron Lyle (1974).  Bonavena lost a 15-round decision to Joe Frazier in Philadelphia, Penna., Dec. 10, 1968, and to Ali, who knocked him out in the 15th round Dec. 7, 1970, before 19,417 at the Garden.  He scored 46 KOs in his career, was knocked out only once (by Ali), and held the South American heavyweight crown from 1965 until his death.

James Braddock


James Braddock (Boxing.  Born, New York, NY, June 7, 1906; died, North Bergen, NJ, Nov. 29, 1974.)  In 1950 when The Associated Press conducted a poll to determine the greatest sports upsets of first half of the 20th century,  James J. Braddock’s heavyweight championship victory over Max Baer was ranked fourth on the list.  Such was the impact of the upset Braddock scored on June 13, 1935, when he gained a 15-round decision in what was thought to be a light workout for champion Baer.  Braddock had been working as a stevedore and then went on the 1930s version of welfare after losing a shot at the light heavyweight title in 1929.  Braddock (whose full name was James Walter Braddock) dropped a 15-round decision to Tommy Loughran on Dec. 15.  But after this drop down the social scale, Braddock got lucky.  He was offered (and won) a prelim on the Baer-Primo Carnera heavyweight card at the Garden and suddenly burst back into the championship picture.  He had 86 fights in his career, 29 of them in New York.  His overall record was only 46-23-4 with 11 no-decisions and two no contests.  His first pro fight was Apr. 14, 1926, at West Hoboken, N.J., a four-round no-decision against Al Settle. In his New York fights, Braddock was 17-9-3.  Braddock lost the title to Joe Louis slightly over two years after he won it – June 22, 1937 – when Louis kayoed him in six rounds in Chicago, Ill.  But that June night at the Madison Square Garden Bowl in 1935 earned James J. Braddock’s place in the history of the sport.  Damon Runyon tagged Braddock “the Cinderella Man” for his rags-to-riches rise and a major motion picture by that title was released in June 2005, starring Russell Crowe, telling Braddock’s story.

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The Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports is an open database of sports biographies maintained by Jordan Sprechman and Marty Appel. We welcome public and scholarly contributions and suggestions.

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A prolific author, wire service sports reporter, long time Major League Baseball official scorer, football statistician, sports museum founder, theatrical agency owner and public ... read more

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