Ahead of Saturday’s Brooklyn derby between Danny Jacobs and Peter Quillin, Glynn Evans lists the Big Apple’s greatest beak busters.
Despite suffering a stoppage defeat on his pro debut, aged 15, ‘The Ghetto Wizard’ from the Jewish quarter of the Lower East Side evolved into one of the most complete pugilists of all-time.
A defensive genius with hammer fists, Leonard was labelled by fabled US fight scribe Bert Sugar as: ‘the most cerebral fighter in the history of boxing.’
He reigned as undisputed world lightweight boss from 1916-23 and, at one stage, the jabbing Jew went unbeaten in 145 successive scraps spanning nine years. Post fights, he’d gloat: ‘I never even got my hair mussed!’
The son of Irish immigrants, the Greenwich Village raised, college educated Tunney served in World War One prior to lifting the world heavyweight title from Jack Dempsey before 120,000 fans in 1926.
Known as ‘The Fighting Marine’ and feted for his quick hands and feet, this master strategist was beaten just once in 67 starts. His $990,000 purse for the Dempsey rematch was not bettered for 36 years!
Son of a Talmudic scholar, ‘The Pride of the Ghetto’ was born in New York, reared in Chicago, but returned to the Big Apple for several major fights at Madison Square Garden and the Polo Grounds.
A super smart, super skilled combination puncher, Ross bagged his three world titles from fellow Hall of Famers Tony Canzoneri (lightweight and light-welter) and Jimmy McLarnin (welter) during the 1930s.
Tungsten tough, Ross never kissed the canvas in 79 fights. Later awarded the Silver Star for bravery whilst serving with the US Marines.
This three-weight, five-time world champ was born in Louisiana but bred in Staten Island. He won the NY State amateur title aged just 16, and seldom fought outside NY in a 175 bout career that included 21 world title fights and 259 world championship rounds.
An exciting box-puncher with a potent right cross and inexhaustible energy, ‘Canzi’ nailed the featherweight, lightweight and light-welter titles in the 20sand 30s before opening a bar on Broadway.
Brooklyn-born but raised in Little Italy, ‘Da Rock’ was a street-fighting hoodlum who was in and out of reform schools as a juvenile. He later earned time in the stockade and a dishonourable discharge from the army for levelling his superior officer!
A one-trick slugger, Graziano considered a jab was what nurses did with needles but he owned a volcanic right hand and it took him all the way to the world middleweight crown in 1947. His championship rivalry with Tony Zale remains among the most brutal trilogies ever.
Rocky’s ‘dese’ and ‘dose’ rhetoric later brought mainstream fame on the chat show circuit and Paul Newman portrayed him in his 1956 biopic ‘Someone Up There Likes Me!’
‘The Bronx Bull’ is a prime candidate for having the sturdiest chin in the long history of boxing. Monster hitting Sugar Ray Robinson failed to floor him in six fights!
Dainty hands forced LaMotta to perfect a vicious body assault – where the target was softer – and he fought with a rage fuelled from his austere upbringing on the city’s Lower East Side.
Avoided like a leper, he was forced to ‘throw’ a 1947 fight with Billy Fox for the mob before his overdue title shot was granted. He mauled Marcel Cerdan when it finally came in 1949.
Later immortalised by Robert DeNiro in the 1980 movie ‘Raging Bull’.
‘The Onion Farmer’ from upstate Canastota might have been the toughest mother ever to put the gloves on.
It was once written that his craggy face had more stitches than a baseball but Basilio’s boundless stamina, ridiculous courage and sheer stubbornness took him to world welter and middleweight titles during the 1950s.
The 5ft 6in ex-marine split a pair of epic battles with all-time pound-for-pound leader Sugar Ray Robinson – despite conceding five inches and half a stone!
Featured in Ring Magazine’s Fight of the Year for five successive years between 1955-59.
Though born in the Virgin Islands, the graceful, Y-shaped Griffiths migrated to NYC aged 11 and won the city’s Golden Gloves twice before becoming the first fighter to regain both the world welter and world middle titles during the 60s.
Nobody ever boxed more world championship rounds (339) and only Beau Jack fought more main events at Madison Square Garden.
A brilliant all-rounder with an incessant body attack, Griffiths was never noted as a ferocious puncher. Ironic then that he is probably best remembered for killing Benny ‘Kid’ Paret inside the ring, after the Cuban mocked the bi-sexual Griffiths as a ‘maricon’ (faggot) during the build up.
Having traumatised the good citizens of Brownsville, Brooklyn during his gangbanging teenage years, ‘Iron Mike’ advanced to terrorise the globe’s leading heavyweight talents.
A fistic wrecking ball whose blistering combinations and crunching one-shot ‘take out’ power were supplemented by a sinister aura of menace, the young Tyson proved an invincible force between 1985-90.
If not the greatest fighter from the city, he was unquestionably the biggest box-office, generating (and squandering!) hundreds of millions. Ultimately ruined by his out of ring antics.