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

Category Archives: Boxing

Bill Brady


Billy Brady (Boxing, bike racing.  Born, San Francisco, CA, June 19, 1863; died, New York, NY, Jan. 6, 1950.)  A successful Broadway producer and sports promoter, Billy Brady was also a theatre operator and the only man to manage two heavyweight champions.  Brady promoted bike racing champion Major Taylor and managed both James J. Corbett and James J. Jeffries when they were heavyweight titlists.  He also operated the Playhouse Theatre in New York and produced over 260 plays (many starring his wife, actress Grace George (1879-1961)).  Brady was nearly wiped out by the 1929 stock market crash but was saved by his production of Elmer Rice’s Street Scene, the 1929 Pulitzer Prize-winning play.  It ran 601 performances before going on tour.

Bill Brennan


Bill Brennan (Boxing.  Born, Chicago, IL, June 23, 1893; died, New York, NY, June 15, 1924.)  One of the most popular heavyweights of his time, William James Brennan was the ring name of William Schenk.  Brennan was Jack Dempsey’s opponent when the reigning heavyweight champion made his only Madison Square Garden appearance Dec. 14, 1920.  Brennan won the hearts of the crowd of over 12,000 in the second Garden with his spirited battle that forced Dempsey to go 12 rounds.  He also took Luis Angel Firpo to 12 rounds in the Garden Mar. 12, 1923, before being knocked out, sustaining a mild concussion.  Brennan’s last fight was Nov. 7, 1923, a loss to Billy Miske.  Shortly thereafter, he opened the Club Tia Juana at 171st Street and Broadway.  There, in the early hours of Sunday, June 15, 1924, he was accosted by two men and shot fatally.  A friend was also shot and the two men were captured after a wild chase in upper Manhattan.  Police Lt. John Haggerty was beaten by the pair as they fled the club.  From 1914-23, Brennan had 121 bouts, winning 63 by knockout.  He lost six decisions, had five draws, and was kayoed four times.

Teddy Brenner


Teddy Brenner (Boxing.  Born, Brooklyn, NY, Apr. 25, 1917; died, New York, NY, Jan. 7, 2000.)  In a business not noted for integrity, Theodore Brenner was a pillar of honesty and was also called, for good reason, “the best matchmaker in boxing.”  After military service in World War II, Brenner started matchmaking for Irving Cohen in New Brunswick, N.J.  He then went to Newark’s Laurel Gardens.  Brenner became the assistant matchmaker (under Al Weill) at Madison Square Garden in 1949.  He also booked fights at St. Nicholas Arena, which was then being run by the Garden.  But two years later, he almost literally came to blows with Weill over what he believed to be a fixed fight and quit both jobs.  Brenner was then hired by Emil Lence at Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway Arena, which had a contract for weekly fights on ABC-TV.  He staged 156 shows there (1952-55).  A crackdown on mob-influenced managers ended Stephen (Tex) Sullivan’s contract at St. Nick’s and Brenner took over the little West Side club Apr. 9, 1956, on a two-year contract with DuMont Network.  After the James Norris interests were forced to sell the Garden, Brenner returned as the matchmaker in 1959.  He remained with the Garden for 20 years, the last six (1973-79) as both matchmaker and president of M.S.G. Boxing, Inc.  It is unfair to assess his career as peaking with the fabled 1971 Ali-Frazier match at the Garden, though it clearly was the most famous fight of his time.  Brenner’s true monument is the thousands of honest, entertaining fights he matched in his over 40 years in a sport rife with corruption.

Tony Canzoneri


Tony Canzoneri (Boxing.  Born, Slidell, LA, Nov. 6, 1908; died, New York, NY, Dec. 9, 1959.)  At 5’5”, Tony Canzoneri was one of the most dynamic fighters his size in ring history and also one of the most active, logging 175 career pro fights (of which he won 141, lost 25 and drew 10).  He ruled as world featherweight titlist and twice each as world lightweight champion and world junior welterweight champ.  Canzoneri moved to Brooklyn as a youngster and began his ring career there with his first pro fight, a first-round knockout of Jack Gardner at Rockaway July 24, 1925.  He was unbeaten in his first 31 fights as a pro (winning 28 with three draws) until losing a 10-round decision to Davey Abad in Brooklyn Nov. 6, 1926.  Of his 176 fights, Canzoneri fought 108 of them in the New York area, including 46 in New York, 42 in Brooklyn, seven in Long Island City and three in Newark.  Canzoneri captured his first world title, the featherweight crown, in Madison Square Garden Nov. 24, 1927, with a unanimous 15-round decision over Johnny Dundee.  Although he lost the featherweight championship in 1928, Canzoneri moved up in weight and captured the lightweight crown for the first time in 1930 when he kayoed Al Singer in 1:06 of the first round at the Garden.  He lost the title to Barney Ross (q.v.) in 1933 and dropped a controversial rematch to Ross on Sept. 12, 1933 in the Polo Grounds.  He was the junior welterweight titleholder in 1931-32 and again in 1933.  He regained the lightweight championship with a 15-round decision over Lou Ambers on May 10, 1935 at the Garden, only to lose it again to Ambers on Sept. 3, 1936, also at the Garden.  His last championship challenge was another loss to Ambers in 1937, a 15-round decision, but he fought until 1940 before retiring.

Frankie Carbo


Frankie Carbo (Boxing.  Born, New York, NY, Aug. 10, 1904; died, Miami Beach, FL, Nov. 9, 1976.)  Born on the Lower East Side, Paul John Carbo became the biggest of the mobsters who infested boxing in the 1940s and 1950s.  Carbo secretly owned shares of boxers and controlled managers, matchmakers, officials, and even promoters.  His biggest connection was with James Norris, owner of Madison Square Garden and its promotional arm, the International Boxing Club.  I.B.C. matchmakers Al Weill and Billy Brown did business with Carbo, apparently sanctioned by Norris.  Frank (Blinky) Palermo and Carbo orchestrated the infamous Jake LaMotta swoon against Billy Fox in 1947.  Carbo was eventually convicted of attempted extortion involving the manager of middleweight champion Don Jordan.  He spent 18 years in federal prison.  Carbo didn’t always “own” a fighter; sometimes, the manager was enough.  At least two heavyweight champions were in that situation, since Weill managed Rocky Marciano and Felix Bocchicchio managed Jersey Joe Walcott, and Carbo controlled both.  Carbo and his associates not only shared in the purses won by fighters but cashed in sizable betting coups by having fights thrown to underdogs.  Those in the business who were not corrupt, such as Harry Markson, Teddy Brenner, and Irving Cohen, to name a few, had to work hard to avoid mob-influenced matches.  Even they didn’t always succeed.  Much of this was common knowledge in the flourishing post-World War II boxing business, but it was very difficult to prove, especially where the insidious “Mr. Gray” was concerned.

Primo Carnera


Primo Carnera (Boxing.  Born, Sequals, Italy, Nov. 26, 1906; died, Sequals, Italy, June 29, 1967.)  A 6’6”, 260-pound boxer, Primo Carnera was heavyweight champion for slightly less than a year (1933-34).  Carnera won the title June 29, 1933, with a sixth-round knockout of Jack Sharkey at the Madison Square Garden Bowl in Long Island City.  He lost it to Max Baer on an 11th-round kayo at the Bowl June 14, 1934.  Carnera had 103 pro fights, winning 88 and losing 14 (with one draw).  A tragic moment in Carnera’s career occurred Feb. 10, 1933, in his final fight before winning the crown.  He knocked out Ernie Schaaf in the 13th round at Madison Square Garden.  Schaaf died the next day from his injuries.  Carnera retired in 1937.  During World War II, he joined the Italian Sniper Brigade on the Allied side to fight the Nazi occupation of his country.  Carnera attempted a one-fight comeback in Italy in 1945 but was knocked out.  He turned to wrestling the next year, touring the U.S., Australia, and South Africa, as well as Europe.  Carnera became a U.S. citizen, lived in Los Angeles for many years, and appeared in a few films.

Georges Carpentier


Georges Carpentier (Boxing.  Born, Lens, France, Jan. 12, 1894; died, Paris, France, Oct. 27, 1975.)  Known as the only boxer to have fought professionally in all weight classes, Georges Carpentier was a party to boxing’s first million-dollar gate main event.  Carpentier, a French World War I veteran, had 106 pro bouts but is remembered for only one.  He was knocked out the fourth round on July 2, 1921, by Jack Dempsey in a heavyweight title fight at Boyle’s 30 Acres in Jersey City, N.J.  The fight grossed $1,789,238, with a crowd of 80,183 packed into the wooden structure.  Carpentier began his pro career in 1907 and fought until Jan. 11, 1927 (when he had an exhibition fight in Paris).  He was a lieutenant in the French Army Aviation Corps during World War I (1914-18).  The Orchid Man’s career record showed 85 wins (51 by knockout), 15 losses, one draw, and one no-decision, plus a half-dozen exhibitions.  The losses included kayoes by Dempsey, Battling Siki in Paris in 1922, and Gene Tunney in 1924.  Carpentier, who normally fought at about 175 pounds, won the world light heavyweight title Oct. 12, 1920, at Jersey City by knocking out Battling Levinsky in the fourth round.  He lost the title in the 1922 fight against Battling Siki Sept. 24 on a sixth-round knockout.

Hurricane Carter


Hurricane Carter (Boxing.  Born, Clifton, NJ, May 6, 1937.)  An above-average middleweight who once fought for the championship, Ruben Carter became a national cause celebre after being convicted in a triple murder.  Carter held wins over top fighters such as Emile Griffith (1963) and Jimmy Ellis (1964) and earned a shot at middleweight champ Joey Giardello.  He lost a 15-round decision in Philadelphia, Penna., to Giardello on Dec. 14, 1964.  Contemporary accounts and witnesses do not support the later contention by his adherents that “racism” was the major factor in the verdict.  Carter (along with John Artis) was jailed in 1967 for a triple murder committed in Paterson, N.J.  His conviction started a slowly growing protest that spawned several books, a Bob Dylan song (“Hurricane”) and, in 1999, a film starring Denzel Washington (The Hurricane).  Carter’s conviction was overturned in 1985.  Earlier in his life, he had escaped from a New Jersey reform school, joined the Army (1954-56), and began his boxing career after leaving the service.  Carter had a record of 27 wins in 40 professional bouts (19 of them by KO), with one draw.

Jimmy Carter


Jimmy Carter (Boxing.  Born, Aiken, SC, Dec. 15, 1923; died, Aiken, SC, Sept. 21, 1994.)  The first man to win the same world title three times, James W. Carter was a dominating lightweight in the early 1950s.  Carter fought 27 bouts in New York before winning the championship the first time by defeating Ike Williams in the Garden (May 25, 1951).  He lost the title from, and regained it against, Lauro Salas in 1952 before losing it again to Paddy DeMarco in the Garden (Mar. 5, 1954).  Carter defeated DeMarco in Nov. 1954 to regain the crown one more time but lost it to Wallace (Bud) Smith in 1955.  He fought twice in Newark, N.J., Brooklyn, and Long Island City during his 122-bout pro career.  Carter won 82 (31 by knockout), lost 31, and had nine draws.

Marcel Cerdan


Marcel Cerdan (Boxing.  Born, Sidi Bel Abbes, Algeria, July 22, 1916; died, near Ponta Delgada, Azores, Oct. 28, 1949.)  Born in what was then considered metropolitan France, Marcel Cerdan began his pro boxing career in 1935.  Cerdan ultimately fought 100 times as a pro and held the world middleweight title for nine months.  He won the crown at Jersey City’s Roosevelt Stadium Sept. 21, 1948, knocking out Tony Zale in the 12th round.  Cerdan made two successful defenses before being knocked out by Jake LaMotta June 15, 1949, in Detroit, Mich.  It was his last fight.  Cerdan was killed a little over four months later in a plane crash in the Azores Islands.  He had three New York fights and won all three, the last two by KOs.

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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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