Older fight fans will remember the tough-to-say name. Dave Zyglewicz, AKA “Ziggy,” was a rough, tough, incredibly gutsy heavyweight who fought hard, to the delight of his fans, from 1965 until the mid-1970s (and then made a quite shocking comeback in 1982). Various tributes have been written on Ziggy, who passed away earlier this month at the age of 79. Sadly, Zyglewicz was suffering from cancer and dementia.
A Navy man, Ziggy was born in Watervliet, New York and he moved to Houston, Texas upon coming out of the Navy. Standing just 5’10” and tipping-in at around 200 pounds, Ziggy proved to be a fearless, ready to rumble slugger. Training alongside a young George Foreman and the experienced Cleveland Williams, this in the Houston gym he also lived in at the time, Ziggy had by this point in his career fought on some Muhammad Ali under cards.
It was in April of 1969 when Zyglewicz had his most famous and celebrated fight. Sporting a 28-1(15) record when entering the ring to tackle the fearsome “Smokin’ Joe” for a version of the world heavyweight title that had been stripped from Ali and had then been splintered, Ziggy went for broke and he briefly wobbled Frazier with a hook to the head. But Frazier roared back, halting a brave but over-matched Zyglewicz in 96 hectic seconds. The short battle took place at the Sam Houston Colosseum and, according to a piece from NY Fights, almost all of the 12,000 fans in attendance were cheering for the challenger.
Ziggy fought on, winning more than he lost. In 1971, when working in a chemical smokestack – this a hard job, taken so he could make ends meet, Ziggy’s ring income not enough for him to be able to support his family – tragedy almost struck. Reportedly, the chutes were mistakenly opened and noxious fumes poured in. Ziggy’s co-worker was killed, Ziggy was hospitalized with chemical burns to his skin and respiratory system. If it was amazing that Ziggy survived, the fact that he fought again, and won, was nothing short of a miracle. Zyglewicz returned to the ring in 1972, getting himself a stoppage win. Two brief comebacks followed, one in 1975 (Ziggy losing on cuts in a fight) and one in 1982 (Ziggy winning by KO at age 39 – with him having successfully won his court case when he was initially prevented from fighting for being “too old.”)
Zyglewicz’s final ring record reads 32-4(18).
Our condolences go out to Ziggy’s family and friends on the occasion of his passing.