Long before the heavyweight division was being thoroughly entertained by the wit and the larger than life personalities belonging to Randy “Tex” Cobb and the comebacking George Foreman, a man with a memorable nickname and a propensity for amusing and original trash-talking was playing things by his own rules. It was back in the 1930s when Tony Galento, better known as “Two Ton,” was unleashing sharp quips and sharp left hooks.
The 5’9” heavyweight was arguably one of the most colourful and fun prizefighters of the 20th century. Training on a diet of hot dogs, steaks, beer, wine and more beer, Galento was a durable tank of a man who could whack with his left hand. Who knows how good Galento could have been had he lived the life of a fighter. Instead living for fun and for fights, Galento nevertheless proved his toughness and how dangerous he really could be in the ring.
It was eighty years ago today, June 28th 1939, when a 76-23-5 Galento, then aged 29, met arguably the greatest heavyweight champion of them all in Joe Louis. Never having been down in any fight at the time of his 8-1 challenge of the legendary “Brown Bomber,” Galento took the fight as seriously as all his others – as in not too seriously. Still, Galento did inform reporters how he was all business for the fight, so much so that he hadn’t touched a beer for two solid days.
Famously vowing to “moida da bum,” (in his classic New Jersey drawl) Galento managed to give the large crowd at Yankee Stadium a thrilling slugfest of a battle. Coming out fast, the stocky, balding, approx 235 pound challenger who was a dead ringer for movie star Edward G. Robinson (without the hair) stunned the 38-1 Louis with his lethal left, sending the champ across the ring. Louis, who had been stung by Galento’s pre-fight taunts, had now felt his rival’s punching power.
Louis was sharp as a tack in round-two, belting the rough and tumble Galento with his classic combinations. Soon Galento was bleeding badly inside the mouth and then Louis paid him back with a left hand of his own. His feet lifted clean off the canvas, “Two Ton” crashed to the mat for the first time in his life.
Then, in the third, Galento turned the fight into one fans would talk about for years. Taking yet more leather from a cool and composed champion who was in no mood to let go of his crown, Galento managed to fire back with another left hook and this time Joe went down. The crowd went nuts. Louis bounced back up swiftly yet he had been buzzed and he boxed the remainder of the session.
The fourth was pure carnage. Louis, embarrassed and angry, took target practice on Galento’s bloodied and battered mug. It was x-rated stuff now and Galento soaked up a fierce beating. Staggering into the ropes and collapsing under Louis’ barrage, every ounce of Galento’s fighting courage had been drained from him.
Galento was reportedly inconsolable after the fight, blaming his team for forcing him to change his fighting style. In truth, it’s unlikely any version of Galento would have ever been able to beat Louis but he sure did try his best. Galento, in similar fashion to today’s current heavyweight star Andy Ruiz, made any man who underestimated him due to his chubby and portly appearance pay badly for doing so.
Galento really was one of a kind. He retired in 1944 with a record of 80-26-5(57), being stopped just six times. Tony passed away in July of 1979, two years before Joe died.