Boston’s North End Honors Tony DeMarco with Statue

By Ted Sares on October 21, 2012
Boston’s North End Honors Tony DeMarco with Statue
Tony DeMarco fought the very best fighters and defeated top contenders and champions.

His behavior mirrored the values that existed in the 1940s and 1950s—when men toiled on blood-stained canvases to earn their living…

“Whoever in the world would think that this would happen? Trophies, yes, but a statue, no. I never thought a thing like this would happen.”—Tony DeMarco

Legendary warrior Tony DeMarco, a North End icon who 50 years ago captured Boston’s heart when he won the world welterweight title, will now forever grace his old neighborhood when a statue of the fabled bomber was unveiled on Saturday, October 20, 2012, during a warm and beautiful afternoon. 

Sculpted by designer Harry Weber, who also sculpted the beautiful Bobby Orr statue outside the Boston Garden and the equally stirring Doug Flutie statue on the Boston College campus, the six-foot bronze statute is located atop a platform at the corner of Cross and Hanover streets in Boston’s famed North End, and captures the pose of Tony’s famous left hook. Reportedly, the campaign to erect the statue was years in the making, but got on a fast track last November when the Privitera Family Charitable Foundation—headed by president Philip J. Privitera and his father, chairman Francis D. Privitera—agreed to fund the effort spearheaded by Bill Spadafora of the Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame. Fittingly, the statue will now go with a street named after Tony in the North End which is perpendicular to Atlantic Avenue and is named “Tony DeMarco Way.”

The 80-year-old DeMarco, whose real name is Leonardo Liotta and who remains as sharp as a tack, is a first generation Italian-American who started boxing at a very young age in the Boston Park leagues. He was only 16-years-old and underage at the time of his first professional fight, so he “borrowed” the name of 18-year-old Tony DeMarco and it has remained. On April 1, 1955, he knocked out Johnny Saxton in the 14th round in a fight that won him the world welterweight title. His later wars with Carmen Basilio are legendary, as both fights were incredible toe-to-toe slugfests with several ebbs and flows that kept the fans at the edges of their seats. While DeMarco fought the very best fighters in his division and defeated top contenders and champions like Paddy DeMarco, Teddy “Red Top” Davis, Chico Vejar and Don Jordan, he is best known for his two wars with Basilio.

DeMarco owned the Boston Garden—his fights consistently sold out, breaking attendance records in the process. He had a rare connection with the fans, full of charisma and electricity. The North End native was pure old school; pure 1950s through and through. DeMarco toiled at his trade through the entire decade amidst the hazy smoke generated by cheap cigars and the odiferous mix of perfume, beer and sweat.

More to the point, Tony represented his era extremely well. He was courageous, respectful, and hardworking—his behavior mirrored the values that existed in the 1940s and 1950s—when men toiled on blood-stained canvases to earn their living. Back then, it was a time of perceived higher standards or level of craft and not just in boxing. Whether you were a cobbler (as was the case with Tony’s beloved father) or a boxer, DeMarco’s heyday came in an era of perceived higher societal standards and craftsmanship in all things. Men were hard and determined, well schooled with great trainers, and had more fights to earn and stay sharp. They also had an uncommon ability to regroup from misfortune.

In a sport known for its inherent brutalities and sleazy underbelly, there is nothing wrong with a boxing story that has a happy ending, and Tony DeMarco is all about happy endings.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Statue to Honor Boxing Legend from North End

Tony DeMarco TKO 14 Johnny Saxton

Bunce's Boxing Hour: Tony DeMarco Interview

Carmen Basilio vs Tony DeMarco I Part 1

Carmen Basilio vs Tony DeMarco I Part 2


Carmen Basilio vs Tony DeMarco II (Fight of the Year 1955)

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  1. Ted Sares 05:53pm, 08/23/2015

    I’ll forward this to is wife, Debra

  2. Debra Agresti Butcher 03:49pm, 08/23/2015

    Dear Tony,
    My dad Christy Agresti grew up in the North End and talked about his friendship with you many times. My dad passed 7 years ago but I was wondering if you remembered him and provide me with insight into those days growing up in the North End.

  3. Tex Hassler 06:12pm, 10/24/2012

    If any fighter anywhere deserves recognition that is extremely long overdue it is Tony DeMarco. Tony was a great fighter who fought in an era of highly skilled and super tough opponents and he ducked none. Thanks Mr. Sares for this truly great news.

  4. The Pinoy Pikey 04:05pm, 10/23/2012

    Hi Ted,

    NICE!  NICE!

  5. the thresher 05:11pm, 10/22/2012

    Pug, well enough to call him my friend. which means a lot to me.

  6. william spadafora 04:02pm, 10/22/2012

    I was honored to be the Chairman of the Tony DeMarco Statue Committee. With much help from many people we finally recognized Tony for his great accomplishments both in and out of the ring.

    We must now work together to put Tony in the Boxing Hall of Fame and then the story of a true living Boston legend will be complete.

  7. Richard Powell 10:26am, 10/22/2012

    Great piece, now let’s get Tony in the Hall of Fame!  What a shame he hasn’t been recognized…

  8. John Rafuse 08:47am, 10/22/2012

    Thanks Ted, great article. I will never forget the day I was in his living room with the Belt, and he was showing me how to throw a left hook. Priceless…

  9. Dan Cuoco 07:09am, 10/22/2012

    Ted, thanks for this nice tribute piece. You’re the best.

  10. john coiley 02:08am, 10/22/2012

    history in the making has been reconfirmed…

  11. paul 11:43pm, 10/21/2012

    Great- this would get a cursory glance in most articles on other sites, thanks - what an individual

  12. Mike Silver 07:03pm, 10/21/2012

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention Ted. What a wonderful tribute.

  13. pugknows 03:02pm, 10/21/2012

    How well do you know him, Ted?

  14. Mike Casey 12:56pm, 10/21/2012

    Echoed, Don. Great tribute to Tony.

  15. Don from Prov 12:25pm, 10/21/2012

    I love this—

    Great.  And well deserved!!!!

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