One Ton Tony
Would just another four inches or so have made a difference to his rather lackluster record of 37 wins, 13 by knockout, 30 losses, and three draws?
“Short People got no reason
To live” —Randy Newman
At the 1960 Golden Globe Awards, Mickey Rooney stepped on stage to accept an award for an absent Cantinflas, the accolade presented by Jayne Mansfield. Barely coming up to the high-heeled beauty’s armpits, 5’2” Rooney had an enviably up-close-and-personal view of her justly renowned 40-D bust, observing, “Who wants to be tall?”
Perhaps Tony Musto. At 5’7½”, the heavyweight who fought from 1937 to 1946 was unusually small, even by the standards of a time when few heavies attained the 6’4” mark of Abe Simon, never mind the 6’7” of today’s Vitali Klitschko. Would just another four inches or so have made a difference to his rather lackluster record of 37 wins, 13 by knockout, 30 losses, and three draws? Maybe. But that doesn’t mean that the crouching “Blue Island Tank” (a native son of Blue Island, Illinois) wasn’t as tough as he was diminutive.
Musto fought hard boys. Though he lost to Clarence Burman (“A savage 10-round scrap,” reported the Associated Press), Arturo Godoy, Tami Mauriello, and Buddy Walker, and drew against the redoubtable Turkey Thompson, he beat Johnny Risko, Hardrock Harden, Jimmy Bivins, and Lee Savold.
One of Joe Louis’ “bums,” Tony faced the “Brown Bomber” at the Arena in St Louis, Missouri, on April 8, 1941. Most gave short shrift to “One Ton” Tony, so nicknamed because of his battered-down resemblance to fellow heavy “Two Ton” Tony Galento. Wrote Bob Considine in the St. Petersburg Times: “Musto is expected to sink into a large lump of protoplasm as a result of his chin coming in violent contact with two blunt objects known as Louis’ left hook and short right.”
Louis won, of course, and by stoppage. But the “Baby Tank” was only knocked down once, in the third, and survived until the ninth, when referee Arthur Donovan stopped the fight because Tony was badly cut. Not a bad showing, despite Considine’s choice of “epitaphs,” sour like an old lemon is sour: “It Musto been something I et” or “Beat me in St. Looie, Looie.”
Tony Musto died age 78 on September 30, 1994. Dead and apparently forgotten. Look up Blue Island, Illinois, and you’ll see certain favorite sons listed, including baseball player Curtis Granderson, Robert Schuller of Crystal Cathedral fame, and actor Gary Sinise. Nary a mention of One Ton, who’s most definitely not to be confused with Won Ton Ton, the dog who saved Hollywood, or so the plot goes. Suit yourselves, you blue-jawed denizens of Blue Island, Illinois, but any man who stepped in the ring with the greatest heavyweight of all time is a tall man in my book.