31.12.03 – By Keith Terceira: “Cyclone” Hart during the 60’s and 70’s ranked as high as third in the middleweight division. He began his career in 1969 at the Blue Horizon in Philly and in only his third pro fight he knocked out Allen Thomas who had a record of 25-7-2. Sporting a vicious left hook, Hart climbed the middleweight charts remaining undefeated until he faced Nate Collins in 1972.
In 72 his record stood at 22-0 1 NC and 21 ko’s. He suffered his first defeat against Collins, followed by a KO loss to Jose Gonzalez. Gene continued to give all out performances in two battles with Bennie Briscoe, Vito Antuofermo, Eddie Mustafa Mohammad, Chucho Garcia and a points win over Sugar Ray Seales. Following parts of three decades in the ring Cyclone retired 30-9-1-1 with 28Ko’s. He has turned his attention since retiring to working with amateur boxers at the Martin Luther King Recreation Center in Philadelphia.
I had the pleasure of speaking at length to Cyclone this week regarding his career, his opponents, and his coaching at the Center.
Cyclone, its good to talk to you again and can you tell us how you got involved with the Martin Luther King Center.
“What happened is that I was working with the recreation dept here in Philly and I was talking with the Mayor, John Street. So I asked him if I could work with the kids at the Rec Center. I was doing a lot of work for the Philadelphia Housing Authority, for the Union Local 332. I have been with the Local for the past 15 years. So, now I have some great, great fighters coming up, a couple of good middleweights, a couple lightweights, I have some terrific young ladies that are coming up in the amateurs. We are doing good with the amateur fighters, One of which is my son, Jesse Hart, who is 9-1 and fights at 126, he is 14 years old now.”
Cyclone how does Jesse feel about following in your footsteps?
“He says he is going to be an amateur champion, he is an amateur champion now, but what I am trying to do is take him to the Olympics, then let him turn pro after school when he is 18.”
You had a long career and were in with some of the best. Tell us about your fights?
“I was one of the best myself, being rated number three in the world, so I had a lot of experience with some of the best. They always thought I was a converted southpaw, because I was left handed. That gave guys trouble. I was left-handed but I always trained from the right side. From the start I worked on the right side. They thought I was a right-hand puncher but I was a left hook puncher. That’s where I fooled a lot of my opponents at.”
Would you consider Hagler to be your toughest opponent?
“To be honest, tell you the truth my toughest opponent was Bennie Briscoe.”
You fought Bennie twice, didn’t you Gene?
“Yes, I fought him the first time in a ten rounder, they made it a draw but I thought I had won it. After watching the tape so long, I see that I beat Briscoe that night. In the second fight he came back and hit me with a right-hand and took me out (laugh).”
What about Vito Antuofermo?
“I fought him and he was a good fighter, a good tough fight. He was just a tough, tough opponent. I had him out in the fifth round, I thought he was out, but then he then he threw an overhand right and took me out of there. But up to that point I was getting ready to take him out.”
If you matched up Hagler with Hopkins whose skills do you think would win out?
“Well from what I have seen Hopkins do over the years, I would have had Hopkins to beat Hagler.”
If fans in Philly want to help support the Center what do you need?
“If people wanted to assist us here, we could use equipment for these youth. They can send it to the Martin Luther King Center over at 2101 Susan B. Moore Ave. That would be a great help to a lot of our young youth, to get some of the equipment they need. To be able to do things and have things to work with. A lot of our kids would need equipment, we have a lot of good fighter that come out of Philadelphia, Amateur fighters as well as professional. We try to get the best trainers in the world in Philly. Guys who have names guys like Bennie Briscoe, Cyclone Hart, Boogaloo Watts, other guys that are name fighter that made Philadelphia the way it is today. At 26th and Masters, we got Fred Jenkins, who became Boxing Hall of Fame with me and he has been doing a great job with the young folks. An Another guy we have doing a great job is Jeff Chandler from South Philly, he is at Waterview. Saad Muhammad is doing a great job with the Amateur kids too.”
Sounds like you have good support in Philly, Cyclone!
“We have the best, we have great Champions helping us with the youth, people like Mayor Street, Lucian Blackwell, Jane Blackwell, Darrel Clark, Sam Staten Sr, and Jackie Fraser. I got 6 great Champions out of the ring. Helping the fighters out of the gym. These are people of great support. My thing is to bring these kids up knowing how to respect themselves in and out of the ring as boxers and men. I try to fill their head up with how they need to get their heads into them Books and get an education to protect themselves in boxing and help themselves after boxing is finished for them. I no from the experience I had in boxing that we all have some good days and some bad days about managers and trainers and what not.
I do know from experience that if a person has a good education and knows how to protect themselves he will be able to stand on his own two feet and get on with his life after he is finished boxing.”
Coming up who were some of the fighters that helped you out?
“When I came up I came up with all warriors, guys like George Benton, Briscoe, Haywood, Muhammad, Gypsy Joe Harris. Leotis Martin helped me out a lot. Leotis Martin was a great fighter, I remember how they ducked him. Fraser ducked him. I talked a lot to Harold Johnson. Harold could teach a rock how to box.”
Thanks, Gene for telling us about the Center and a look back at your great career.
“Thank you Keith for calling me and supporting us at the center, I’m glad you are doing what you do for Philly and for the kids. Its been a long time, you and I, in boxing but by the grace of God we both still doing what we do. Have a Happy New Years and be healthy.”
Class cannot be measured by what we write or the belts we wear, only by the deeds we do. Someday I hope to be in the class of Gene “Cyclone” Hart, honestly he is in a league by himself. Happy New Year Philly!
If you have some equipment you might want to get to the Martin Luther King Center write me at KeithTerceira@aol.com.