Hector Constance: Some Great Thing

By Clarence George on May 27, 2015
Hector Constance: Some Great Thing
Constance placidly observed that Kid Gavilan wasn't much in the toughness department.

Hector Constance. Sounds like somebody who handled wardrobe or hairstyling for Warner Bros. back in the ‘40s. But that’s not what he was…

“Let me not then die ingloriously and without a struggle, but let me first do some great thing that shall be told among men hereafter.”—Homer, The Iliad

Hector Constance. Sounds like somebody who handled wardrobe or hairstyling for Warner Bros. back in the ‘40s. But that’s not what he was. He was a welterweight who fought from 1948 to 1969. You’ll find him on the back of the dusty shelf labeled “Forgotten.”

Granted, his record wasn’t anything to write home about, winning 34, seven by knockout, losing 40, nine by knockout, and drawing 14. There was also a no contest, when Constance and opponent Hugh Serville were sent to their respective corners for “lack of effort” while vying (or not) for Trinidad and Tobago’s welterweight title. But he stepped into the ring with some toughies, going the distance with Luis Folledo and Nino Benvenuti. Also Alfredo Parmeggiani (I never heard of him either but couldn’t resist the name). He decisioned Chico Varona and Ralph Tiger Jones, and stopped British welterweight titlist Wally Thom. Perhaps most impressive was the Trinbagonian beating the legendary Kid Gavilan by unanimous decision at the Auditorium in Miami Beach, Florida, on February 23, 1955.

The Cuban was on what he hoped would be the comeback trail after losing his welterweight crown to Johnny Saxton by unanimous decision at Philly’s Convention Hall on October 20, 1954, in one of the dullest (not to mention fixed) championship bouts of all time. True, Gavilan beat tough Ernie Durando by split decision at Madison Square Garden on February 4, 1955, but then came Constance. And I don’t mean Bennett.

“The 24 year old Constance, fighting a smart, aggressive battle all the way, scored heavily in the infighting and punished Gavilan with hard right uppercuts and a piston-like left whenever the Cuban launched one of his flurries,” reported the Chicago Tribune, noting that “Gavilan’s defeat by the ninth ranking contender may have ruined the once great champion’s hopes of beating his way back to the title.”

It did.

While Gavilan manager Yamil Chade and trainer Mundito Medina grumbled about the “very bad” decision, Constance placidly observed that the Cuban wasn’t such a much in the toughness department.

Despite manager Sammy Richman’s talk of his boy becoming champ, and wanting him to take on the likes of Vince Martinez and Carmen Basilio, it was pretty much all downhill for Constance following the Gavilan win. He came up short in his next fight, losing by split decision to Ramon Fuentes at the Garden on July 20, 1955. In fact, he only won 10 of his remaining 51 bouts.

But, as Pennsylvania’s Reading Eagle observed following Constance’s win by majority decision over Ralph Tiger Jones at the Garden on November 12, 1954, “There were no knockdowns but a lot of leather was thrown. The fans liked it.”

The fans liked it.

I can’t think of a better epitaph.

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  1. Mike Silver 10:08pm, 06/02/2015

    Pete, I think they also use whole milk but I didn’t know about the egg! Holy cholesterol!

  2. peter 01:51pm, 06/02/2015

    @ Mike…Do you know what you are drinking when sucking down a Papaya King beverage? Egg. That’s why it’s so frothy. You and Rocky Balboa.

  3. Clarence George 02:44pm, 05/29/2015

    I quite agree, Mike.  Fortunately, it appears to be going strong.

  4. Mike Silver 02:37pm, 05/29/2015

    When Papaya King goes I’m outa here!

  5. Clarence George 02:02pm, 05/29/2015

    I remember your telling me, Irish, about your Angie Dickinson lookalike.  If my long-ago fiancée had looked like Joey Heatherton, I might not have had the will to break things off.  Thank God she didn’t.

  6. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 01:28pm, 05/29/2015

    Clarence George-Barbara Nichols….Jennifer Tilly….what a vision….be stlll my heart! Years ago I had a sweetie who had a little work done on her nose and so help me, the results were such that she could could been a stand in for Angie Dickinson.

  7. Clarence George 12:39pm, 05/29/2015

    So do I, Nicolas, but I couldn’t find out anything about him post-boxing.

  8. Clarence George 12:35pm, 05/29/2015

    It’s rapidly disappearing, Mike, sad to say.  The Famous Oyster Bar, which had been on the corner of 54th and Seventh since 1959, closed in early 2014.  The building itself will probably come down.  La Parisienne Restaurant, between 58th and 59th on Seventh since 1950, shut its doors a few months ago.  There was a Horn & Hardart on 57th off of Sixth, which is long gone.  The whole building was torn down.  It was right next to where party girl Dot King was found murdered in March 1923 (a huge case in its day that was never solved).  That building, too, is gone.  All the Hungarian and Czech restaurants in Yorkville, and almost all the German ones…gone.  Some of these places are trying to make a go of it on Ninth, but I don’t know how long that will last.

    A site you might be interested in is Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York.  Jeremiah Moss has been praised for cataloguing and lamenting “New York’s blandification” and “all that’s constantly being sacrificed to the god of rising rents.”  He even took note of the passing of the little bookstore I used to manage on the corner of 71st and Lexington.

    Thank God for Papaya King, eh?

  9. nicolas 12:17pm, 05/29/2015

    According to BOXREC, Hector Constance resided in Europe, of course the last years of his boxing career was spent in Europe. He died in 2008 at 76. I hope he was okey in the end.

  10. Mike Silver 11:32am, 05/29/2015

    Ah! Great article of the foodie remnants of olde New York. Thanks for sending. These places define the city and hopefully will not close down. I am still depressed over the closing of the last Horn & Hardart Automat! To this day the best food I ever had. (OK, so I’m not a gourmet, but it’s the truth!) Did anything reek of New York more than those wonderful places.

  11. Clarence George 04:15am, 05/29/2015

    Mike:  I’ve forwarded this to Bob and Peter (yes, I do have their sought-after emails), and thought you’d also get a kick out of it.  I’ve been to all, except for Sylvia’s.  Haven’t been to El Quijote in more than 20 years.  My former fiancée (who, I must say, was a stimulating cross between Barbara Nichols and Jennifer Tilly) was addicted to lobster, which was very cheap there.  We went frequently, until I ordered a steak that was literally rotten.  My last visit, as you can imagine. 

    http://nypost.com/2015/05/29/give-these-restaurants-landmark-status-before-its-too-late/

  12. Clarence George 07:27pm, 05/28/2015

    Thanks for that observation, Mike, with which I agree.  No shortage of yesterday’s journeymen who would be champions today.  That’s obviously not true of the current crop.  I respect any man who steps into the ring, but a truck driver or security guard who’s willing to play punching bag for a couple of extra bucks doesn’t deserve to be called a journeyman.

  13. Mike Silver 07:04pm, 05/28/2015

    Old timers like Hector Constance who could rightly be called “Journeymen” were by no means the tomato cans who make up the phony KO records of today’s army of undefeated mediocrities who can barely put a decent combination together. A true journeyman, on any given night, providing he was not too used up, was capable of pulling off an upset against a ranked contender (eg; Constance vs. Gavilan and Jones) or even a world champion. It is completely different today. Other than two guys trying to hit each other in a ring there is very little today that compares to what this industry was like when fighters like Hector were the rule rather than the exception.

  14. Clarence George 06:53pm, 05/28/2015

    Were judges more willing to score draws in the old days, Irish?  Maybe.  Of the guys I’ve recently written about, Sheik Rangel and Julie Kogon had a fair number.  That said, Ramon Fuentes only had one.  Speaking of close decisions, Constance lost to Fuentes by split call.  Perhaps his career would have taken a very different turn if it had gone the other way, which it easily could have done. 

    Always a delight when you visit, Laurena, and your generous comment is much appreciated.  On the one hand, I enjoy writing about these forgotten boyos; on the other, I know full well that most people couldn’t care less about them.  But, hey, whaddya gonna do?

    Love your post, Peter, thank you.  Constance lived in Vienna, which may very well explain why he fought so frequently in Europe.  I don’t think he fought in the U.S. for the last 12, 13 years of his career.

  15. peter 06:37pm, 05/28/2015

    There is a well-worn path on my computer: The path starts at a Clarence George article…it proceeds to Google…then the path takes a left turn to BoxRec…then the path circles back to Boxing.com…then this path scrolls itself down to the “Leave A Comment” section. The comment at the end of the road:... Hector Constance was a fighter who bridged the 1950s and the 1960s. He was a well-travelled gladiator who visited more countries than I will ever see—15 countries in total. Thanks for this interesting look back in time.

  16. Laurena 06:18pm, 05/28/2015

    Thank you, as always, Clarence. My knowledge of this glorious sport expands whenever you write.

  17. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 05:52pm, 05/28/2015

    Clarence George-I agree with everything that has been posted so far….I’m just saying the guy has the look of a fighter to me and yet…. 14 draws?! What’s the difference between a draw and a close decision win anyway….maybe in some cases one good punch or one round where a guy steps on the gas. He obviously wasn’t a fighter who was “taken care of”....that’s for sure.

  18. Clarence George 01:01pm, 05/28/2015

    Absolutely right, Nicolas.  A record can indeed be deceiving, and should be only one of several factors that go into the equation.

  19. nicolas 12:24pm, 05/28/2015

    When Gavilan lost to Constance, Constance’s record was 23-5-8. The amount of fights and the way people fought back then, that was a pretty good record. He also had already beaten Jones, who we all know beat Sugar Ray Robinson on his comeback. Records should not be judged on just the record, but who you fought.

  20. Clarence George 03:08am, 05/28/2015

    Thank you, Irish.  A “lack of effort” may be part of the explanation, as evidenced by his bout with Serville.  But I think it was more a matter of being only so good, in combination with too many fights and “just staying around too long,” as Mike says.  And if Mike’s hinting that Constance became little more than an “opponent,” I think that’s right.  Thirty-five losses, almost half of his career draws (six), and only 10 wins out of 51 fights…was he only going through the motions?  Perhaps.  But, if so, I think it was largely because it was all he could do at that stage of the game.  His win over Gavilan was his last hurrah.  Perhaps things might have been different if he’d beaten Fuentes (his superior, IMO), but everything fell apart instead.  After that loss, there was no way his manager could have gotten him that wished-for match with Basilio, or even Martinez.  Though ninth-ranked in 1954, according to “Ring,” Constance wasn’t among 1955’s top 10—Basilio was champ, Fuentes was third, and Martinez was fourth.  He got the fight with Fuentes because of his win over Gavilan.  If he’d won it…but he didn’t.

    Thank you, Mike.  You’re absolutely right about Constance staying too long at the ball.  I think he knew it, as evidenced by his not fighting at all in ‘66 and ‘68.

    Guys like Constance are something else, aren’t they?  Although forgotten “mediocrities,” they bested not only names but legends.  Perhaps the quintessential example is Al Iovino.  On the one hand, a “nothing” boxer; on the other, one of only two men to stop the great Henry Armstrong.  OK, it was Armstrong’s first pro fight.  Still…Armstrong.

  21. Mike Silver 09:25pm, 05/27/2015

    Thanks Clarence George for unearthing another forgotten gem. Irish Frankie-I don’t think it was “lack of effort” so much as doing a bit of business in those foreign rings towards the end of his career and just staying around too long. 29 of those 40 losses came in the last six years of Hector’s 18 year boxing career, including 8 of his 9 knockout losses. As for only 7 KO victories, we have gotten too used to these crazy inflated KO records today. Not everyone in the old days went for the KO as that was not their style. Think Willie Pastrano, among others. This old pro should have retired at least five years earlier.

  22. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 07:28pm, 05/27/2015

    Clarence George-Thanks for shining your light on Hector. He looks like the real deal in the photo above. Still…his overall record screams “lack of effort” with 7 KOs in almost 90 fights and 14 draws no less. One might conclude that his heart just wasn’t in it….yet he took all those punches for damn 20 years and beat Kid Gavilan and Ralph Tiger Jones along the way.

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