Sheik Rangel: The Pestiferous Varmint

By Clarence George on May 19, 2015
Sheik Rangel: The Pestiferous Varmint
Sheik hadn't the slightest aversion to butting, elbowing, or even kicking his way to victory.

There’s nothing appealing about sadism, but I like a fighter who knows how to thumb and gouge in order to get the job done…

“Always work the ref’s blind side.”—Fritzie Zivic

As Sir Mix-a-Lot might put it, I like dirty fighters and I cannot lie.

Not if they’re crude or inept, and there’s nothing appealing about sadism, but I like a fighter who knows how to thumb and gouge in order to get the job done. Battling Nelson, he knew, as did Tony Galento and Sandy Saddler. And Fritzie Zivic, the dirty fighter’s dirty fighter.

“When you fight for a living,” Zivic said, “if you’re smart you fight with every trick you know. If I hadn’t known nine zillion of them I never could have won the welterweight title from Henry Armstrong.” Never disqualified, Zivic “hit guys low.” His advice? “Choke ‘em or give ‘em the head. My best punch was a left hook to you-know-where.”

It’s that total lack of apology that I like. It reminds me of how Australia’s feisty prime minister, Billy Hughes, dealt with a sanctimonious Woodrow Wilson, who wanted German New Guinea declared a trustee of his proposed League of Nations. Hughes didn’t see it that way.

“Am I to understand that Australia is prepared to defy the opinion of the whole civilized world?” demanded Miss Priss Wilson of the man he considered “a pestiferous varmint.”

“That’s about the size of it, Mr. President,” said Hughes.

Boxing boasts several such varmints, including Richard Rangel, a little-remembered welterweight from Fresno, California, who fought from 1934 to 1948, winding up with a record of 60 wins, 18 by knockout, 29 losses, eight by knockout, and 27 draws. Save for three draws, he won his first 12 fights, four by stoppage, before losing to Frankie Wright by third-round TKO at the Legion Stadium in Hollywood, California, on February 18, 1938.

Known as “Sheik” since childhood, because he always wore a tie, Rangel was a pressure fighter who hadn’t the slightest aversion to butting, elbowing, or even kicking his way to victory.

Hey, it worked. Well, sometimes. And even when it didn’t, it was entertaining. In the accompanying photo, Sheik is taking it to Newsboy Joe Gavras at San Francisco’s Civic Auditorium on September 29, 1939. Newsboy was down in the sixth and seventh, Rangel winning on points.

In what proved to be Young Corbett III’s last fight, Sheik went the distance, losing on points at Fresno’s Italian Entertainment Park on August 20, 1940, but he’d outpointed Corbett’s cousin, Al Manfredo, at Fresno’s Ratcliffe Stadium on August 1, 1939. Manfredo retired after losing to Freddie Dixon in 1940, and managed Rangel from 1941 to 1942.

Something of a Tony Canzoneri lookalike (and they both died at 51, Tony in 1959 and Sheik in 1970), Rangel was tough enough to go the distance with Henry Armstrong, losing on points at the Auditorium in Oakland, California, on June 24, 1942. He even fought Sugar Ray Robinson, who stopped him by second-round TKO at Philly’s Convention Hall on December 12, 1944. Also Fred Apostoli, who outpointed him at the Memorial Auditorium in Sacramento, California, on August 27, 1946.

Rangel’s last win took place on October 21, 1947, outpointing Jackie Byrd at Ryan’s Auditorium in Fresno. He retired from the ring after being knocked out in the first by Buford Ransom (who’d learned not to flail as though swarmed by killer bees when manager Frisco McGale tied his wrists to his arms, giving him the freedom to defend but not hit) at the Civic Auditorium in Seattle, Washington, on May 4, 1948.

But before hanging up the gloves, Sheik took on Fritzie Zivic himself. They met at San Francisco’s Civic Auditorium on November 16, 1942, Rangel winning on points.

Beating the Master at his own game, is it?


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  1. todd 01:06pm, 11/24/2015

    That’s incredible I cant believe you were there! The film I’m doing is for his grandaughter and I would love to talk to you about it.. Even if you don’t remember much it would help me SO greatly just to hear the words from you.. (on a personal note i grew up in Brockton, MA home of Rocky Marciano and Marvin Hagler..boxing is in my blood)
    my email is .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
    Please let me know..

  2. beaujack 12:42pm, 11/24/2015

    Todd, yes I saw Steve Riggio fight Rocky Graziano at the old MSG on 8th ave in NYC in 1943 or 1944. I and my dad would go every Friday night to watch the great fight cards those long ago days. I saw Rocky Graziano in almost all his early days fighting in MSG and local clubs. I remember him fighting Steve Riggio and losing to Riggio by decision, but remember very little details about the fight, sorry to say. Riggio with his style of fighting seemed to trouble Rocky who blossomed later on when Graziano an 1-8 underdog upset a great prospect Billy Arnold by flattening the “new Joe Louis” as Billy Arnold was called. And after this upset ko for Rocky , he became the biggest drawing card in America.But , yes Steve Riggio beat the young Graziano twice..

  3. todd 08:30am, 11/24/2015

    hi Beaujack - im trying to track footage photos articles on Steve Riggio (my friends wifes grandfather) and you mentioned you were at Riggio v Graziano - i would love to speak with you.. please let me know how I can get in touch! thank you

  4. todd 02:46pm, 11/21/2015

    Hi Clarence - i saw that someone named Beaujack mentioned seeing Steve Riggio decision Graziano -Im trying to make a surprise video for Riggio’s Grandaughter - I’m looking for anything articles photos footage or stories - can you put me in touch with him?

  5. Clarence George 12:41pm, 05/22/2015

    Thanks again, Beaujack.

    Riggio’s interesting in that he didn’t have a particularly successful career, yet beat Graziano…twice!  Perhaps I’ll write about him one day.

    I’m delighted you like these articles.  I’m sort of like Burke and Hare, a resurrection man.  Which reminds me of the mysterious miniature coffins found at Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh, in the 1830s.  Ah, but that’s a story for another day.

  6. beaujack 10:51am, 05/22/2015

    Yes Clarence, I saw Steve Riggio a journeyman fighter decision Rocky Graziano once. I believe they fought each other a few times. Rocky Graziano didn’t become the great ring attraction until he an 1-8 underdog flattened Billy Arnold at MSG in a great upset that thrilled the crowd including VP Harry Truman…My dad and I went bonkers that
    night… I love when you bring back to life old fighters long forgotten…

  7. Clarence George 08:51am, 05/22/2015

    Very glad, Beaujack, thank you.  And for the reminiscences.  Leave it to you to remember Jimmy McDaniels, who went the distance with Henry Armstrong and Cocoa Kid, and beat Sammy Angott.  And speaking of Rocky Graziano, did you know that Steve Riggio’s son, Leonard, founded Barnes & Noble, of which Leonard’s brother, Steve, used to be CEO?

  8. beaujack 07:28am, 05/22/2015

    Love your article on Sheik Rangel, one of the real toughies of the 1940s. I never saw him ringside as he fought primarily on the West Coast, but I did see an opponent of his Jimmy McDaniels of similar toughness against the immortal Ray Robinson at MSG when Robbie as a WW was at his zenith…I love your take on Sir Fritzie Zivic of etiquette fame…I saw Sir Fritzie ringside but once when he was near finished against a young spectacular knockout artist from Philly named Billy Arnold at MSG. We all thought Arnold would flatten the older Zivic, but Zivic with his bag of tricks “outcutied” Billy Arnold for a decision. A short time later I saw Rocky Graziano an 1-8 underdog flatten “the New Joe Louis” as Arnold was called at MSG, making Rocky the best new drawing card in America and Billy Arnold was through as a top fighter..Great days in boxing in the 1940s…

  9. Clarence George 05:55pm, 05/20/2015

    Thank you, Peter.  I like good comments and I cannot lie.

    Oh, Andrew, don’t go all Franklin Pangborn on us.

  10. andrew 05:23pm, 05/20/2015

    I find it pathetic to glorify cheating.

  11. peter 01:13pm, 05/20/2015

    The after-glow of this excellent story—the comments—are excellent, as well.

  12. Clarence George 10:47am, 05/20/2015

    And George “Elbows” McFadden.

  13. Eric 10:34am, 05/20/2015

    The King of Boxing.Com aka Harry F*ckin’ Greb might give Fritzie a run for his money.

  14. Clarence George 08:49am, 05/20/2015

    Such lowlifes cannot be compared to Fritzie Zivic, a true artist.

  15. Kid Blast 07:38am, 05/20/2015

    But not as nasty as Kabary Salem

  16. Clarence George 06:47am, 05/20/2015

    He was just downright nasty.

  17. Kid Blast 06:35am, 05/20/2015

    No article about dirty fighters should leave Teddy Reid out.

  18. Clarence George 06:20am, 05/20/2015

    Trop gentil, Bob.

    There must be an actual boxer named Sailor Mike, Eric.  I mean, how could there not be?

  19. Eric 05:53am, 05/20/2015

    Wonder if Fritzie ever put a tack in the thumb of his glove like the guy who fought Mickey Goldmill? Sailor Mike was the one who put all the vegetation on Mickey’s face though.

  20. Bob 05:29am, 05/20/2015

    Clarence George has unearthed another forgotten treasure, making him a fistic archeologist of the highest order.

  21. Clarence George 02:34am, 05/20/2015

    I quite agree, Irish.  As Jim said, “When men
    were men.”

  22. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 08:23pm, 05/19/2015

    Clarence George-Rangel and Gavras pictured above have what could be considered archetypal fighters physiques…’s as if they came out of the same mold were predestined to be fighters during those lean, mean years of the Great Depression

  23. Clarence George 07:07pm, 05/19/2015

    Thankee, Irish.  I hate fighting and use any means at my disposal to bring such vulgar encounters to as speedy and definitive endings, in my favor, as possible.  My favorite Zivic quote is, “My God, kids today think that the laces are for tying up the gloves.”  Quintessential Fritzie.

  24. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 06:45pm, 05/19/2015

    Clarence George-Another winner on your side of the ledger. “When you fight for a living,” Zivic said, “if you’re smart you fight with every trick you know.” The same goes when a guy reaches a certain age… more Marquess of Queensberry….just hope there are no witnesses or cameras around.

  25. Clarence George 06:34pm, 05/19/2015

    Ha!  I knew someone was going to mention Charlie Rangel, Eric…and I just knew it was going to be you.

  26. Clarence George 06:26pm, 05/19/2015

    That’s about the size of it, KB.

    Thanks very much indeed, Jim.  Like you, I suspect, I never judge a man by his politics—that sort of thing never has anything to do with whether I like him or not.  As for Sarah and Michele…my recent comments pertained only to their attractiveness and sex appeal.  Sarah, in particular, is extraordinary in that regard.  Anyway, neither one has any kind of political future that I can discern.

  27. Eric 06:14pm, 05/19/2015

    Speaking of politics, fighters, and Rangel. Charlie Rangel could very well be one of this year’s nominees for the annual Spider Rico Is He Still Around Award.

  28. Jim Crue 05:42pm, 05/19/2015

    Another wonderful and interesting story CG. When men were men.
    We may be on the opposite sides of the political spectrum,I think Sarah Palin is an ignorant idiot and being from Minnesota I know Bachman is a liar and nut job, but we are on the same boxing page and on this site thats what counts. I look forward to your next story.

  29. Kid Blast 05:09pm, 05/19/2015

    Whatever it takes

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