13.10.03 – By Keith Terceira: With our world quickly converting to a global community, the perspective that boxing fans have towards the sport is evolving in the same direction. The knock on fighters like Guinn and Mesi before the HBO Night of Heavyweights were that they were little known fighters with regional appeal. As our world and our perspective of distance and travel expands, what was once the norm is now something to be criticized.
With the advent of relatively inexpensive air travel, much larger purses, and coast to coast casino venues Boxers have the opportunity to travel a great deal more. Train travel coast to coast was very costly in the early part of the century and often fighters would book fights say in Detroit or Chicago on their way to California. This travel can give boxers more competitive opponents or a it can assist in the hand selection of opponents.
Case in point, Tony DeMarco , in 1955 fought Johnny Saxton for the World Welterweight title in Boston. As of April 1, 1955 DeMarco had fought 51 fights with only 2 outside a 400 mile radius of the Massachusetts capital. The fact of the matter is that Demarco only ever fought 2 matches further than that from his home, both in Montreal.
Curtis Cokes, prior to his bout with Manuel Gonzalez in New Orleans, had fought 51 times going outside a 400 mile radius of Dallas, Texas only 13 times by 1966. His travel from his hometown area started in earnest after winning the Welterweight belt.
The distance from New York to Washington D.C. is about 250 miles which in this day is about a five hour drive on interstate highways and two hours by plane. In the global world that boxing has become a fighter that stays in that radius is a regional name. Joey Giardello from 1948-1958 fought 101 bouts , only 19 of those matches were over a few hundred miles from Brooklyn.
James Braddock from 1926 to 1935, the year he won the Heavyweight championship, only made one trip to California, fighting there September to November, 1932 on four occasions. The majority of his career was spent in the four hundred mile radius of New York. Ralph Dupas rarely left New Orleans. Carmen Basilio spent the largest part of his career in upstate New York. The list can go on and on. We now see journeyman fighters that wouldn’t even make decent sparring partners for these ex-champs traveling to all corners of the globe.
Lets consider a boxer trying to launch a career from a small island in the Pacific. Hawaiian Carl Bobo Olson from 1944- 1950 had 40 fights. His first eight fights were in San Francisco to start his career. Only 5 of his 32 following bouts were outside Honolulu. In 6 years and forty matches Bobo made 2 trips from Hawaii, one to Manila , and one to Sydney, Australia before he went all the way to Philly to face Sugar Ray Robinson.
Sugar Ray Robinson is probably the only fighter prior to the seventies that traveled more than current fighters . From 1940 to 1965 Robinson had two hundred professional bouts and in his career traveled throughout the world. In a four year period from 62-65, Sugar Ray had 41 bouts ,more than many fighters have in an entire career. His traveling took him across Europe , to Jamaica, to the Dominican Republic, Trinidad, All four points of the compass in the U.S., Tijuana, Honolulu and even to Paisley, Scotland.
Vegas oddsmakers would like you to think that the entire sport begins and ends in Glitter City though the majority of fighters before the modern era, began, made, and ended their careers having only ten to fifteen percent of their fights outside their regional areas. If you were not a top ten contender you rarely left your base of support. Now boxers travel coast to coast with less than a handful of matches under their belts but may not have had any exposure in the press.
Baby Joe Mesi is still considered a regional fighter by many in the boxing community. The truth is that Mesi in the first five of twenty seven matches traveled more miles than Tony Demarco traveled in all seventy one bouts in his illustrious career. James Toney has logged more travel miles than Braddock, Giadello, Basilio, Cokes, Demarco, and Dupas combined.
In part two of this piece we explore what we now consider busy boxers. E-mail me your thoughts on who you think has the most active careers currently and we will compare these fighters to some of the past. KcircleT@aol.com