Red Applegate: Going the Distance

By Clarence George on December 29, 2015
Red Applegate: Going the Distance
Marciano vs. Applegate took place at the Rhode Island Auditorium on April 30, 1951.

Applegate should be remembered for going the distance with Rocky Marciano, one of the heaviest hitters in the history of the heavyweight division…

“There should be a little star or something by the names of the guys who did it the hard way.”—Happy Birthday, Wanda June

Willis “Red” Applegate was one of only five men to go the distance with the legendary Rocky Marciano. The others were Don Mogard at the Rhode Island Auditorium in Providence on May 23, 1949, Tiger Ted Lowry on October 10 that year and again on November 13, 1950, both times at the Auditorium, Roland LaStarza at Madison Square Garden on March 24 that year, and Ezzard Charles at Yankee Stadium on June 17, 1954. Each win came by way of unanimous decision, save for that over LaStarza, which was by split decision, and each was a 10-rounder, except for the one against Charles, which went 15. The Rock only went the distance once as champ, against Charles.

Marciano stopped LaStarza by 11th-round TKO at New York’s Polo Grounds on September 24, 1953, The Ring‘s Fight of the Year, and kayoed Charles in the eighth at Yankee Stadium on September 17, 1954, another Fight of the Year.

Marciano-Applegate took place at the Rhode Island Auditorium on April 30, 1951. Though Rocky unquestionably won, he couldn’t knock Red out. Hell, he couldn’t even knock him down.

Otherwise, however, Applegate’s ring career was woefully unimpressive. Fighting out of Montclair, New Jersey, from 1946 to 1951 (though out of the ring in ‘49 and fighting only once in ‘50), he wound up with a record of 12 wins, four by knockout, 16 losses, three by knockout, and two draws, averaging about 10 fights a year.

True, he beat rugged Gus Dorazio by fifth-round TKO at Valley Forge General Hospital in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, on July 24, 1946, and outpointed Blackjack Billy Fox (who won 47 of 48 by knockout) at Twin City Bowl in Elizabeth, New Jersey, on June 29, 1948, but lost to Tiger Gene Jones by third-round TKO at Hamid’s Pier in Atlantic City on November 7, 1946, Lee Oma by ninth-round TKO at the Queensboro Arena in Long Island City, Queens, on August 9, 1948, Jimmy Bivins on points at Miami Stadium on February 1, 1950, Marty Marshall (the first man to beat Sonny Liston, as well as break his jaw) on points at Detroit’s Olympia Stadium on January 3, 1951, and Omelio Agramonte by unanimous decision at Palacio de Deportes in Havana that April 7.

And Tony Galento? Even though Marciano was “a great fighter,” boxing’s Falstaff told Evans Kirkby, as reported in the April 5, 1966, edition of The Milwaukee Journal, “it took him 10 rounds to beat Red Applegate. I knocked out Applegate in one round in my saloon in New Jersey one day. It’s in the record book.”

What record book is that? As Kirkby wrote, “Marciano’s victory over Applegate is in the record book, but somehow or other the record book sleuths missed Galento’s historic triumph over that warrior of the early 1950s.”

Applegate last won on July 2, 1951, following six consecutive losses, outpointing power-punching Johnny Haynes (who twice stopped Lee Q. Murray) in Newark. It was in that same much-maligned city that Red had his final bout, for the vacant New Jersey heavyweight title, outpointed by Budd Schulberg-managed Archie McBride on September 10, 1951.

Red Applegate died October 1, 1965, age unknown.

Forgotten even 50 years ago, at least Red had some kind of send-off from the always reliable Jersey Jones, who wrote in the December 1965 issue of The Ring (the news coming too late for November) that “boxing lost one of the most accomplished all-around athletes it has known,” noting that Applegate had been with the Newark Eagles, a Negro National League team, owned by Effa Manley, the first woman inducted into Cooperstown.

Jones reminds his readers that Applegate once participated in a truly quirky bout. On July 20, 1948, he faced Bill Weinberg at the Queensboro Arena, but the match was called on account of rain after the third round, continuing for another seven the next evening, Weinberg winning by split decision.

But what Applegate should be best remembered for is going the distance with “The Brockton Blockbuster,” one of the heaviest hitters in the history of the heavyweight division.

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  1. Mike Casey 08:01am, 12/30/2015

    Yes, Eric, praise indeed!

  2. Eric 07:38am, 12/30/2015

    Mike Casey… “Scrap is undoubtedly one of the toughest guys in the business. If he had the ability to match his durability and heart, he would be champion of the world.” This is what Jerry Quarry had to say about Johnson in the book, “Hard Luck.”

  3. Mike Casey 07:25am, 12/30/2015

    Scrapiron and Archie McBride seemed to fight every guy there ever was.

  4. Eric 07:03am, 12/30/2015

    George “Scrap Iron” Johnson should definitely receive consideration for the J-slot. This 5’9” heavyweight fought some real monsters back in his day.

  5. Clarence George 02:43am, 12/30/2015

    Delighted you liked it, Beaujack.

    Unknown Winston, a favorite of mine, has come up in several of my articles, most recently in the one on Charley Massera.  Unfortunately, there’s very little information on him.  The same is true of another favorite, Turkey Thompson.  But I would be glad to do ‘em if I can find info above and beyond their stats.

  6. beaujack 08:53pm, 12/29/2015

    Another enjoyable article Clarence about a little known fighter of the past. What about a chapter on a fighter who’s moniker was Unknown Winston, a heavyweight of the past?

  7. Clarence George 07:44pm, 12/29/2015

    Those guys I know.  Good suggestions.

  8. peter 07:34pm, 12/29/2015

    Zulu Kid, of course!…Or, play it safe and do Juan Zurita.

  9. Clarence George 06:53pm, 12/29/2015

    Glad you liked it, Chuck, and thanks for introducing me to Larry Zernitz.

  10. c.h. 05:30pm, 12/29/2015

    Larry Zernitz would be a great “Z.” Thanks Clarence for another top notcher.

  11. Clarence George 04:23pm, 12/29/2015

    Extraordinarily kind, Peter.  But who would be “Z”?

  12. peter 03:36pm, 12/29/2015

    Another fine story which transported me back. Do I see a Clarence George anthology in the making? The title of this forthcoming book might be,  “Forgotten Fighters From the Past—From A to Z” . If so, Red Applegate would be your “A” for chapter one.

  13. Clarence George 02:04pm, 12/29/2015

    Much too kind, Pete, and I assumed it wasn’t a euphemism, given “old crone.”

  14. Pete 12:48pm, 12/29/2015

    And Clarence, “shovel out” is not a euphemism.

  15. Pete 12:45pm, 12/29/2015

    After hours spent clearing away a record snowfall—during which, to paraphrase Durante the Great, only the hope of dyin’ kept me alive—I come in and find myself mentioned in the same breath as Nonpareil Clarence George. Thank you, Mr. Schallert and old school. And thanks to Clarence for another matchless piece.  I’m so stoked now I may go shovel out the old crone across the street. Happy New Year to all.

  16. Clarence George 09:23am, 12/29/2015

    Lou did indeed have Max’s.

    Thanks very much, FFC.

  17. The Fight Film Collector 09:07am, 12/29/2015

    I believe it was Max Baer who said of Lou Nova, “Some guys just have your number.”  Great piece Clarence.

  18. Clarence George 08:40am, 12/29/2015

    Thanks very much indeed, Irish.  I wouldn’t bet against Tony in a barroom brawl, not against any opponent, and I don’t see Red an exception to the rule.  No reason to question Tony’s story, but what he means by a “record book” is a mystery.  “The Saloon Brawl Record Book”?  I don’t know.  Maybe he simply means, “Hey, it happened and that’s a fact.”

    Yes, didier, Bivins fought a few times in Florida.  Or are you wondering about the stadium itself?  Its name was later changed in honor of Bobby Maduro. Eventually torn down, an apartment complex was put up in its place.  I think that was about 15 years ago.

    Thanks, Eric, glad you liked it.

  19. Eric 08:26am, 12/29/2015

    Nice write-up on Mr. Red.

  20. didier 08:14am, 12/29/2015

    Miami stadium?(Jimmy Bivins)

  21. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 08:14am, 12/29/2015

    Clarence George-I enjoyed reading this article very much and it really got good when Tony Galento made an appearance. Which reminds me…I doubt that many could deal with Tony Galento in a close quarters barroom brawl where the combatants are not able to slide along the ropes and move away. If Red was indeed in Tony’s bar that would indicate that he was there to imbibe and maybe in the case cited by Tony over indulge and draw Tony’s attention as the barkeep/peace keeper.

  22. Clarence George 08:04am, 12/29/2015

    Thank you, oldschool, though I think Pete has me beat.  I mean, there’s obscure…and then there’s obscure.  That’s not a criticism, by the way—quite the contrary.

    I looked it up—at the Marvel Gymnasium.

  23. Clarence George 07:53am, 12/29/2015

    Too kind, Mr. Schallert.  Your namesake, by the way, is still with us, age 93. 

    In case you’re interested:

    All the best,

    Ed Platt

  24. oldschool 07:51am, 12/29/2015

    You and Pete are the keepers of the flame for fighters like Applegate. By the way, the Jim Henry-Marvin Hagler fight also took place in Providence, RI. Must be something in the water.

  25. William Schallert 07:38am, 12/29/2015

    Mr. George: You and Mr. Ehrmann would have been old school even in the old days. That’s what makes your stories so interesting and important. Keep them coming. The Red Applegate’s of the world need to be known. Waiting with eager enthusiasm to see who’s next.

  26. Clarence George 07:34am, 12/29/2015

    It’s what I most like to do, oldschool, as does Pete Ehrmann.

  27. oldschool 07:22am, 12/29/2015

    Clarence, It’s nice to see that some of the journeyman fighters from the past are still remembered. Mike, you are right…..every fighter has that one awkward fighter that for reasons that dumbfound us have a night that can’t be explained. For Marvin Hagler that fighter was Jim Henry (10-15-77). He ended Hagler’s 9 fight KO streak. Henry was a natural welterweight whose career spanned from 1972-1981. He compiled a record of won 16 (KO 9) - lost 39 (KO 12) - Drawn 3.

  28. Clarence George 05:23am, 12/29/2015

    Very kind, Jim.  I have a couple more in the offing, which I hope you’ll like.

    It’s cold here today, too, and rainy.

  29. Jim Crue 05:02am, 12/29/2015

    Thanks Clarence, another nice article. Keep them coming
    cheers from the frozen north

  30. Clarence George 04:35am, 12/29/2015

    Glad you liked it, Mike, and spot-on analysis.

    “Sometimes in life you just run into one infuriating guy you can’t do anything with.”  How true.  Oh, how very true.

  31. Mike Casey 04:01am, 12/29/2015

    Nice article, Clarence. Some people just never understand that certain fighters like Red Applegate - who might not be that good overall - just have something that frustrates great fighters like Marciano. Dempsey still gets lashed for not being able to put Willie Meehan in his place, but Meehan was far better than Applegate and didn’t have a bad record. The very underrated Gregorio Peralta frustrated George Foreman. Arturo Godoy gave Joe Louis fits and Clay/Ali was perplexed by Henry Cooper’s double jabbing. Sometimes in life you just run into one infuriating guy you can’t do anything with. Tyson Fury has become the world champion by being bloody awkward, though I’m still trying to believe it.

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