Tony Galento (1910 - 1979)                                                                             

Tony Galento "I'll moider da bum"
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U.S. heavyweight boxer whose finest moment was knocking champion Joe Louis down in a 1939 title fight, on being asked what he thought of Shakespeare.

'two-ton' Tony Galento  galentoappreciateprogram.jpg (146146 bytes)Born in Orange, New Jersey, Galento was a prototype dock brawler standing 5'9" and weighing around 240 points, described by one reporter who watched him fight as a 'walking beer barrel'.

The History Of The Sweet Science


by Bill Kelly

Throughout the history of sports, there have been heroes of sorts handed down from generation to generation. For example, Babe Ruth was Gargantura in human form. Millions of people were influenced by Jack Dempsey and felt the impact of his individuality. In the littler world of golf Bobby Jones invoked the same effect. Helen Wills was the Mardi Gras of Tennis. Knute Rockne was football's high priest. As a kid growing up in Tom's River and Orange, N. J., my hero was Domenick Anthony "Two-Ton" Tony Galento. He was the local martyr. Jersey was agog.

My mom never had to look for my dad in those days. Just part the bat wings of Tony's bar and there he'd be, sitting on a stool talking to Tony or Tony's "fight doctor," Doc Max Stern, who was also a New Jersey Boxing Commission doctor. Maybe it was because we kids were never subjected to his gruff side that we all idolized him. We cheered when he won and we cried when Joe Louis and Max Baer punished him in a way only Hitler would enjoy.

"I was only twelve when I waited with my dad and a large group of people for Tony to return to Doc Stern's office at two in the morning to get patched up after the Louis fight. My dad told him, "Tony, for two seconds you were the Heavyweight Champion of the World." "Next time I'll moider da bum," he smiled through swollen lips. But the next time's were over for Tony. The bludgeon proved to much for the fat man.

I went into the Marines and lost track of Tony until many years later when I read in the papers he was to referee an Ernie Dusik wrestling match in Lancaster, Pa. I approached him at the bar and introduced myself. I was flattered that he remembered me as a kid from the old block. He made them give me back my general admission money and took me and my agog girlfriend down to the front row. He and Dusik (of course) got into a skirmish, and Dusik tore his shirt off. Tony reached over the ropes and tossed the shirt into my enthralled girlfriend's lap. It was still hanging on a wall in her bedroom along with his autographed picture when she gave me the brush-off.

Tony and I talked about his career. We talked about the fighters of the day -- the late '60s. He boasted about how he would have "moidered da bums today." A prototypical dock-brawler, he stood 5-foot-9 and weighed 235-240, depending on how much beer and spaghetti he wolfed down before he entered the ring. "Did you ever see a beer barrel walking, well I did," wrote one reporter covering an early fight.

No disrespect, but if Galento was starting his career in the year 2000, he would rule over the heavyweight division like Ben Hogan ruled golf. None of today's top contenders, or the champ himself, could have stood up under Two Ton's lambasting. The fat man was a bus accident. Geronimo terrorizing one fort after another in old Arizona. The greatest charge of the light brigade the ring has ever known.

Okay, so he was fat, vulgar and uncouth. As far as insulting someone, he made Don Rickles look like Pope John XXIII. Joe Louis told me Galento was the only man alive he ever hated. He didn't hate Max Schmeling. He didn't Joseph Stalin. He hated Tony Galento. Louis could chuckle about it now that the bitterness between the two former combatants had ended in a great friendship. In retrospect, Joe said he was hurt because of the following conversation.

Reporter: Tony, what do you think your chances are against Joe Louis?
Galento: Joe who?
Reporter: Joe Louis.
Galento: I never hoid of da bum.

It sold tickets, but Louis's pride was hurt. The final insult came when Tony dropped Louis for the count of 2 in the second round. Louis felt humiliated. People couldn't believe it. Picture if you can, Fuzzy Knight saving the fort. George Foreman met a hamburger he didn't like. Tony Tucker showed up in shape to fight. It was that unbelievable.

Galento's pulverizing round-house left hook and total disregard for the Marquess of Queensbury made him one of the most feared heavyweights of the 1930s. Born on March 12, 1910 in Orange, N. J., he began fighting in 1928 and he fought almost every month. He lost his fourth pro fight to a club house fighter named James Jay Lawless by repeatedly fouling him until the referee stopped it in the in the 5th round. From June 25, 1930 to April 8, 1931 he mowed down ten opponents in a row like grass before the sickle.

If Tony needed a friend in those days he would have to buy a dog. Ray Arcel, who worked across the ring from him in his fights with Max Baer, Lou Nova and Nathan Mann, said "Nobody really like him except maybe the guys who hung out in his saloon. "He was a crude guy, to put it mildly, who would resort to all sorts of foul tactics to win a fight."

Yeah, but in those days, it was the survival of the fittest. There's no hospitalization benefits on the bomb squad.

For dirty fighting, next to Galento, Mike Tyson was a member of the House of Lords. Willie Pep an alter boy. Fritzie Zivic sang in the choir at St. Anthony's. During his 15 year career Galento got away with more heists than Dillinger. He would butt. Use his elbows. Gouge eyes. Aim for the gonads. Look out, he has a gun!

His fight with Lou Nova on September 15, 1939 in Filthydelphia was the dirtiest fight on record. Mills Lane would have stopped it. Richard Steele would have called the cops. It was like a walk through South Central L.A. after midnight. You won't be around for breakfast.

Pugilism was at its highest point by the time Galento mauled his way into a championship fight with Joe Louis. They called it "The Bum of the Month" club, but how many fighters today could have matched Galento's record of 74-22-6 with 51 knockouts? And the numbers do not begin to tell the story of his fabulous career. In 1931 he kayoed three Detroit opponents in one night, stopping Frankie Kits and Joe Brian in one round each and disposing of Paul Thierman in three. In between rounds he quaffed his favorite brew.

In 1932 he won a $10 bet that he could eat 50 hot dogs. 10 minutes later he climbed into the ring and pulverized Arthur DeKuh in 4 rounds. That same year he was disqualified in a fight with Jack Gagnon. It was like watching a shark eat.

Galento even won on a disqualification in 1934. Battling Bozo heard of Galento's reputation as a dirty fighter and decided to foul him first. The referee stopped the fight in the first round. Galento followed that one up with a 3 round KO over Italian Jack Herman. He lost twice on TKO's, once to Marty Gallagher in 13 rounds, and once to a light-heavyweight named Al Gainer in 4 rounds. From there he ran up a streak of stoppages of leading contenders including Nathan Mann (KO 4), Al Ettore ( TKO 8), Jorge Brescia ( KO 1), Abe Feldman (KO 3) and Natie Brown ( KO 4).

His TKO of Harry Thomas in the 3rd round in Filthydelphia on December 7, 1938, was highly booed by fans who shouted "fake!" and tossed trash into the ring. Said one old timer, "They threw everything but the stature of William Penn from the top of the arena into the ring." Well, if there was a joker in the deck, it wouldn't be the first time Jackie Robinson got caught stealing bases. Or Ma Barker dragged her sons off to a drugstore and treated them to a bottle of pungent crabocide.

Two Ton went through managers like Elizabeth Taylor went through bridesmaids. He trained on beer and Italian food. He hated the country and refused to go into the mountains to a training camp. He defended his queer-potato methods by saying "They work for me." He did his roadwork after dark because, he said, "I fight at night, don't I?"

This was the reason his list of managers read like a chapter of Lamparski's "Whatever Became Of...?" Elmer Flynn (1928) Harry Kinney (1928-1929), Johnny Scavone (1929-1931) Max Waxman (1931-1932), Pete Dodd (1932-1933), Jack Dempsey (1933-1934), Joe Jacobs and Harry Mendel (1935-1941), Willie Gilzenberg (1943).

He was already one of the most picturesque characters in American ring history when he got his "Bum of the Month" shot at the title in Yankee Stadium on June 28, 1939. More shocking than Tyson munching on Holyfield's ear, Joe Jacobs and Tony Galento were at their sleazy worst. In the days before the fight, Jacobs drummed up a phony charge against Louis, accusing the Brown Bomber of having concealed a metal bar in his right glove the night he blitzkrieged Max Schmeling. Fight promoter Mike Jacobs and the New York State Athletic Commission came unglued. Sparks flew upward and they demanded a retraction, which they got.

Galento wouldn't give up. Louis, you must consider, didn't go for clowning. He was as serious as a heart attack. So Galento's customary, "I'll moider da bum," annoyed him like sweats and jeans on Sunset Plaza Drive. As the fight approached Galento's taunts became uglier. He called Louis on the phone at all hours of the night, belaboring his race and his family. During the pre-fight introductions, Galento made sexual remarks about Louis' wife, including some on-camera crotch-polishing. The usually clam Louis lost his composure -- and it almost cost him his title.

"Tony berated me something terrible before the fight," Louis whispered to me during our interview. "He got to me, and I hated him for it. I never hated anybody before. I decided to punish him before I knocked him out. I wanted it to go into later rounds, but he kept calling me dirty names during the fight. So I ended it."

Over 30,000 fans jammed the stadium on the night of the fight. Galento was a 6-1 underdog with as much of a chance of winning as a Wigwam has in a hurricane. It was even money it would not last 5 rounds. Yet, a Gallop poll published by the New York Times said 47% of the people were in Galento's corner -- fight fans love an underdog. Ringside seats went for $27.50. Cheap seats in the balcony sold for $2.50.

Here's a story that has never been printed. Remember you heard it here first. It was told to me by my departed father, and everyone knows an Irishman will never tell a lie.

The night before the Louis fight, Tony's brother walked into his bar and asked Tony for a couple if free tickets for the fight. Tony told him to stand in line like everybody else. His brother hit him over the head with a beer bottle. Doc Stern quickly stitched up a three-inch gash in Tony's head and the ordeal was hushed up, for fear the fight would be cancelled. So Tony fought Louis with a raw gash in his head. Today a fight is canceled on a sneeze.

"The first good punch I hit him with will put him on the floor," Galento told his listener's at the bar. He was almost right. At 233-3/4 pounds, Galento bullied the 33-pound lighter Louis around the ring in the first round, and nearly flattened him with a stunning left hook that glazed the eyes of the champ. Louis returned to his corner on wobbly legs. Galento staggered Louis again in the second, but near the bell Galento was knocked down for the first time in his pugilistic career. His face looked like slumgullion, but his finest moment was yet to come.

Louis was picking him apart with jabs, when suddenly, Galento's dreaded left hook appeared like Haley's Comet out of nowhere. An embarrassed and mortified Louis went down. The rafters shook with excitement. Louis jumped up at the count to two, but his legs were Jello. In his effort to finish Louis off, Galento's punches fanned the air and Louis weathered the round.

In the fourth round Louis began running Galento's face through a thrashing machine. He battered Tony so badly that referee Arthur Donovan stopped the slaughter at 2:29 of the round with only the ropes keeping the blimp-like Galento up.

The following morning's newspaper quoted Galento as saying, "He's not as good as they rate him. He can't take a punch. I would have won. He pushed me and I went down. They shouldn't have stopped the fight."

He didn't speak about the 23 stitches needed to close his wounds. He failed to mention that he was hanging on the ropes like a jumble of sausages in the window of Mario's delicatessen when referee Donovan pulled Louis off him.

From there, everything went Chinese for Galento. Although he gave Lou Nova the licking of his life before stopping him in the 14th round, Galento, himself took the worst beating he ever took in his next two fights with the Baer brothers, Max and Buddy. Max always said he got more pleasure out of beating up Galento than he did winning the heavyweight title from Primo Carnera in 1934.

Ray Arcel said Max Baer was a good-natured clown who never disliked anyone, "..but he hated Galento with a vengeance. He really wanted to kill him. In the ring, the two of them were cursing so much, people in the cheap seats could hear the most vile obscenities."

Tony's face looked like a bag of plums when Max stopped him in the 8th round in Jersey City on July 2, 1940. Brother Buddy stopped Galento in the 7th round on April 8, 1941 in Washington. The fight was as one-sided as an airliner crash. Small, dumpy, Tony was no match for the towering 6-foot-6 Buddy Baer.

Throughout 1942 Galento scrambled for a living, refereeing wrestling matches and slugging it out with the wrestlers to the delight of the crowd.

In 1943 he returned to the ring and knocked out Herbie Katz in one round, then in 1944 he kayoed Jack Suzek in Wichita. Finally, after a 15-career and a 82-26-6 with 59 knockouts record, he quit.

He tried acting; he appeared as a thug along with fellow Bum of the Month club members, Abe Simon and Tami Mauriello in the Academy Award Winner, On the Waterfront. And, like Jake LaMotta, he did stand-up comedy. He even became friends with Joe Louis and they appeared on TV together watching the film of their age-old fight and commenting on the ballyhoo with light-hearted good humor.

Louis told me, "Really, I got to like the son-of-a-bitch. He had something these guys lack today -- charisma. He could have taken most of these fighters today and would have been a millionaire ten times over. He was either born too soon or too late. He was a throw back to John L. Sullivan. He would have been a great bare-knuckle fighter. The man was absolutely fearless."

Two Ton Tony Galento died on July 22, 1979 after a three-year battle against diabetes that cost him the amputation of a foot, then later both legs. We kids who knew him better than anybody else while growing up in Orange. We never got to know the gruff Tony. We only saw the gentle, good-hearted and happy-go-lucky side of the man.

Tony Galento is still my hero. I can still see him rising from the rosin canvas, eager to absorb more punishment. I can still hear him saying, "Next time I'll moider da bum."

They didn't come any tougher than Tony Galento.


A Bit About Bill Kelly

From 1965 to present Bill Kelly has written for dozens of magazines and newspapers either as a staff writer or free-lancer. His 15,000 published articles include modern crime and gangsters, celebrity interviews, old West gambling stories, treasure stories, tales of the old West, and boxing. His most memorable interviews were conducted with John Wayne (Wayne's last interview), Henry Fonda, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson and Ike Williams.

His California tabloid experience includes The Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Orange County Register, Valley Tribune, and Valley Star, where he doubled as Managing Editor and feature writer.

Kelly's magazine experience includes Gambling Scene Magazine, Poker Digest, Treasure Search, Oklahoma State Trooper, California State Trooper, Virginia State Trooper, Boxing Digest, Boxing Illustrated, KO Magazine, Hollywood Studio, Country Review, Sports Illustrated, and too many true crime magazines to list here.

Kelly's book of true crime stories is called Homicidal Mania.

His stories on New Mexico History are currently running in the Bill is currently looking for a publisher for his manuscript, Empty Saddles. This book contains interviews with 50 of the 1940 B-cowboy movie stars including Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Bob Steele, Sunset Carson, and many more. This book is the result of 25 years research and writing, and Kelly considers this his finest work to date.

Bill Kelly is a writer for hire. His Kelly's Korner was at one time syndicated and well received. He is especially interested in reviving this column for an interested tabloid.



I "Fight" Two Ton Tony

By Bill Newman

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        My dream had come true, I was employed Friday and Saturday nights to work behind the counter at the Pokerino Palace.  The manager hired me in spite of being underage, as I was very bright.  This was another way of saying that I would be paid below the legal minimum wage.

        Things went along without incident the first two weeks and then disaster struck on the third Friday.

        A heavy set woman was playing and one of her balls got stuck between two others.  The rule, as posted was that the ball was to be returned to the player.  I was told by the woman to place the ball in an Ace hole which would give her three aces and a winning hand. I pointed to the rule and returned the ball to her.  She stood up, threatened me with a bad beating and left.

        Another worker in the Palace told me that the woman was Tony Galento's wife and that I was in deep trouble.  Tony Galento was better known as Two Ton Tony because of his squat build with a large stomach.  Tony was a heavyweight boxing contender and was scheduled to fight Joe Louis in a few weeks for the heavyweight title.  

        A few minutes later the woman returned with Tony, pointed to me and said, "That's the one, Tony."

        Two Ton came rushing at me uttering curses and saying he was going to  kill me.  I took off for the back door with Tony in hot pursuit.  I was able to go right out the back door, but Tony had to get over the counter I was behind.  He made a good jump for a man his size and shape but luckily for me his toes caught on the counter and he went down on his face.

        While running across the park I would glance back and could see that I was easily outrunning my pursuer.  I found a good hiding spot behind a trash can next to a custard stand.  Two Ton never found me.

        About fifteen minutes later I returned to the Palace and learned that I no longer had a job.  The manager explained that if either Mr. or Mrs. Two Ton came back and saw me there Tony would take the place apart.

        A few weeks later the big fight took place and I was among the millions of radio listeners.  Needless to remark I rooted for Joe Louis.  Each punch Joe landed was for me.  The fight was stopped with Louis being the winner by a TKO. I couldn't have been happier.

        In later years Two Ton became a wrestler, had an act in which he wrestled an octopus and ended his career owning a bar in Orange, N.J.

        Many times I passed his bar and often thought of stopping in. I never did though as one thought always hit me, Suppose he's still angry?