R.I.P Tony Thornton - "The Punching Postman" Passes Away At Age 49

by James Slater - In sad news, it has been reported how Tony Thornton, the former USBA middleweight and super-middleweight champion, has passed away at the age of just 49. According to, New Jersey's Thornton died in hospital last night after suffering injuries in a motorcycle crash a week ago. Tragically, Thornton joins a list of great fighters who have left us way before their time this year - 2009 being one of the worst years ever when it comes to the passing of top fighters..

Nicknamed, of course, "The Punching Postman" due to his working as a mail man at the same time as he was fighting for a living, Thornton made his pro debut at Atlantic City, New Jersey in June of 1983, scoring a 1st-round TKO over Steve Waters. The 24-year-old middleweight would go 17-0-1 before suffering his first loss - a decision defeat at the hands of the tough Doug DeWitt. The DeWitt fight, in November of 1987, also in Atlantic City (Tony fought the majority of his pro bouts there) was something of a history-making moment, as it was a fight that had a 13th-round added after the usual distance of 12 rounds had been reached. A new idea designed to put a stop to bad decisions, the 13th-round was fought after both guys had had a short rest interval. DeWitt won the 13th and final round and went home with a majority win and the USBA 160-pound title.

Four decent wins followed after the setback - including a fine points win over Mike Tinley in January of 1989 that earned Thornton the USBA title - before Tony was outscored first by Kevin Watts and then by Irishman Steve Collins; losing and failing to regain the USBA belt, respectively. Things got even worse for Tony two fights later, when he was stopped for the first time in losing a 6th-round TKO to Ismael Negron. "The Punching Postman's" best days were still ahead of him though.

From February of 1990 through to June of 1992, in slowly moving up in weight each time, Tony won nine on the spin (including a win over the dangerous Merqui Sosa) - a roll that earned him a shot at Chris Eubank's WBO super-middleweight strap. Travelling to Glasgow, Scotland to face the man from Brighton in September of 1992, Thornton was to go home with a controversial 12-round UD loss on his record. Seeming to take the fight to Eubank and troubling him on a number of occasions, in the championship rounds especially, the challenger looked to have done enough to have gotten the win. Despite his fine effort, one judge, who shall remain nameless, somehow had Eubank winning by a whopping five points! A disgrace.

Back to the drawing board, Tony got himself four good wins, including one over tough guy John Scully, before he was given a shot at James Toney's IBF 168-pound title. Pushing "Lights Out" all the way, Thornton lost another decision, this one fairly widely. Toney was to later say, though, that of all the fighters he's been in with, Thornton had the toughest chin.

Two more wins followed, including one over Darren Zenner for the USBA 168-pound belt in January of 1995 (TKO 2), before Tony was to fight his final pro fight. Going up against the formidably peaking Roy Jones Junior in September of that year, a faded Thornton was taken out in the 3rd-round in a bout that saw Jones defend the IBF super-middleweight belt he'd taken from Toney three fights previously.

Way past his beat and knowing it, Thornton wisely hung up the gloves at age 36.

He may not have been a world champion and he may not have been a household name outside of New Jersey, but Tony Thornton was a clever boxer who always came in in shape and gave his best. Three times he fought for recognised world titles, and had the judges been a little fairer, who knows, he might have taken the WBO 168-pound belt in 1992.

Tony's final record reads 37-7-1(26). He was USBA middleweight champion in 1989, and he was USBA super-middleweight champion in 1995.

Article posted on 12.09.2009

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