The 1970s and early 1980s were truly a golden era of boxing in Philadelphia. Fighters from the city and the surrounding area were remarkably well-represented in the world ratings. The fists and personalities of legends like Smokin’ Joe Frazier and Randy “Tex” Cobb brought an atmosphere of genuine excitement to Philadelphia fans. It was a grand time for the sport of boxing and especially for the City of Brotherly Love.
This book tells the story of that golden era. Larry Holmes of Easton, Pennsylvania ruled the heavyweight ranks. South Philadelphia’s Jeff Chandler was about to become the bantamweight champion. And there was a tough, wily group of middleweight contenders—from Bennie Briscoe to Cyclone Hart to Bobby Watts to Willie Monroe and Curtis Parker—all of them Philadelphians. Then Frank Fletcher came along. Matthew Saad Muhammad, a man whose matches always seemed to carry the dramatic punch of a Eugene O’Neill play, owned a piece of the light-heavyweight crown. So did New Jersey’s Mike Rossman. Then Michael Spinks, the Olympic gold medalist from St. Louis, won a piece of the title and practically became a fixture at the casinos in Atlantic City. Dwight Braxton—soon to be Dwight Muhammad Qawi—rose up from South Jersey and captured the light-heavyweight prize. These men may have been the greatest group of light-heavyweights to battle at the same time. Although the gyms all remained in Philadelphia, boxers, trainers, managers and legendary promoters like J. Russell Peltz made the sixty-mile trek to Atlantic City during the ’70s and early ’80s.
More than thirty years have gone by, and picking up the story of many of the fighters of that era became a special part of this book. But sadnesses were revealed as well. Some fighters had passed away, and others had fallen on hard times. Yet many of the old contenders and champions have gone on with life, and they still savor their glory years.
About the Author
Lew Freedman is a veteran sportswriter who covered the boxing beat full-time for The Philadelphia Inquirer in addition to working on the staffs of The Chicago Tribune and The Anchorage Daily News. A native of Boston, he is the author of numerous books about sports, including The 50 Greatest Players in Boston Red Sox History.