Terry Young: A Slight Case of Lightweight Murder

By Clarence George on September 21, 2015
Terry Young: A Slight Case of Lightweight Murder
Terry Young (r.) defeated Enrique Bolanos by unanimous decision at The Garden in 1949.

The boxer admitted to the crimes, perhaps with a Pythonesque “All right, it’s a fair cop, but society is to blame…”

“Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean.” —The Simple Art of Murder by Raymond Chandler

Terry Young was a durable but today forgotten lightweight who fought out of New York City from 1939 to 1953. Well, more or less. Following his unanimous decision win over Cleo Shans at the Arena in Philly on September 27, 1943, he didn’t return to the ring until August 26, 1947, when he knocked out Willie Odom in the third in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Reasonable to assume that he served in the military during the war. But you know what happens when you assume. He was in Sing Sing. He also didn’t fight at all in 1952. Korea? Well, let’s say so. But, hey, he fought 25 times in 1940 alone. He won all those save for a draw against Charley Varre at Madison Square Garden on September 20 and a unanimous decision loss to Bobby Ruffin in his last bout of the year, on December 17, at the New York Coliseum in the Bronx. Damn! So close.

Born Angelo DeSanza on April 27, 1921, the Ray Arcel-trained pugilist fought 103 times, winning 70, 25 by knockout, losing 28, seven by knockout, and drawing five. He often fought his betters, losing to Allie Stolz on points at the Garden on May 16, 1941; to Johnny Greco, who outpointed him at the Forum in Montreal on May 8, 1943, in a fight reffed by Benny Leonard and in which Young was referred to by the Canadian press as a “zoot-suiter” and “dead end kid”; twice to Paddy DeMarco, both times by split decision and both times at the Garden, first on January 30 and then on April 2, 1948 (“Throwing science to the winds,” the second fight was a duplicate of the first, Young and DeMarco battling “toe to toe almost from start to finish, neither giving an inch”); to Billy Graham by unanimous decision at the Garden on August 26, 1948; to Fitzie Pruden by majority decision at the Eastern Parkway Arena in Brooklyn on October 25, 1948; to Sandy Saddler by 10th-round TKO at the Garden on December 17, 1948, Young suffering a “terrific beating”; to Charley Fusari by eighth-round TKO at the Garden on November 11, 1949; to Willie Pep by unanimous decision at the Arena in Milwaukee on June 1, 1950 (the crowd saw Pep, “elusive and cagy, lefthand Young into almost frenzied frustration”); to Enrique Bolanos, who three times challenged Ike Williams for the lightweight title, by unanimous decision at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles on September 12, 1950; to Jose Maria Gatica by fourth-round TKO at the Garden on December 1, 1950; to Chico Vejar by fifth-round TKO at the Arena in Cleveland on December 5, 1951; and, in his last fight, to Tony DeMarco, who won by fifth-round TKO at the Mechanics Building in Boston on August 3, 1953.

Young also lost to Beau Jack by unanimous decision on October 12, 1942, at St. Nicholas Arena in New York City, but avenged that particular loss by winning via split decision at the Garden on February 20, 1948. “The Beau Jack comeback is stalled,” according to an AP story. “All because of a tough East Side New Yorker named Terry Young.”

He also beat hapless Joe Echevarria, Sugar Ray Robinson’s first opponent, outpointing him at St. Nick’s on May 6, 1940, and (see photo) Enrique Bolanos by unanimous decision at the Garden on September 23, 1949. “Terry Young, a rough and tumble battler from New York’s East Side,” reported AP, “upset the favored Enrique Bolanos, a Mexican from Los Angeles, Friday night in a bloody 10-round battle that left the Madison Square Garden ring splotched with blood.” Despite coming up short against Ike Williams, the outstanding “Durango Dropper” decisioned guys like Harry Jeffra, not to mention Chalky Wright two out of three, saw to it that Carmine Fatta, “135 pounds of fighting fury,” didn’t make it past the first, stopped Lulu Costantino, and twice stopped Mario Trigo, as well as avenged his loss to Young in September 1950.

Young drew against Chief Crazy Horse at Ridgewood Grove Arena in Brooklyn on January 25, 1941. No, I never heard of him either, but found the name impossible to resist.

Terry never fought the incomparable Sugar Ray himself. As Boxing.com’s Mike Casey writes in “The Bridge Builder: How Robbie United the Old and New,” “The shrewd and normally measured Irving Cohen, manager of Rocky Graziano, got quite animated when somebody tentatively suggested that his young fighter Terry Young might be a good match for Robinson. ‘What are you saying?’ Cohen spluttered. ‘Ray Robinson! Why, he’s the greatest fighter that ever lived. I’m a manager, not an undertaker!’”

Young brought it in 1947, the year of his comeback, winning all six of his fights, and was ninth-ranked by The Ring. He even brought it in his fight with Saddler, in 1948, rushing “the champion for the first three rounds,” as James P. Dawson wrote in The New York Times, “seeking to get close, pound the body and reduce Saddler to size.” Unfortunately for the tough New Yorker, “The plan failed because Saddler proved himself even more effective than the slugging East Sider in the close-range, short-arm punching when he wasn’t tilting Young’s head back on the end of snappy left jabs.”

Young was equally tough outside the ring. Sent to reform school in 1937, the reason he wound up in Sing Sing in 1943 was because of a series of holdups. The boxer admitted to the crimes, perhaps with a Pythonesque “All right, it’s a fair cop, but society is to blame.”

Terry Young was murdered, shot to death, at the Playboy Social Club on 13th Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side on November 5, 1967. He was 46.

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  1. Herb Vigran 12:15pm, 09/23/2015

    Steve:  No relation to the late, great Herb Vigran of Superman fame, but thanks for asking.

  2. Clarence George 07:22pm, 09/22/2015

    I’ll let Mr. Vigran speak for himself, of course, but your post provides me with the opportunity to mention the passing of Jack Larson, who played Jimmy Olsen.

  3. Steve 07:11pm, 09/22/2015

    Re; Herb Vigran. Are you by any chance related to the character actor who acted in several Superman episodes?

  4. Clarence George 05:48pm, 09/22/2015

    Very much appreciated, NYI.

  5. NYIrish 04:52pm, 09/22/2015

    Top Notch Clarence!

  6. Clarence George 01:12pm, 09/22/2015

    Thank you, Mr. Vigran, and honored by your visit.


    Marc Lawrence

  7. Herb Vigran 12:14pm, 09/22/2015

    Great article. Mr. George. Reminds me of the guys that used to be in my crew.

  8. Clarence George 05:57am, 09/22/2015

    Thanks very much, Marvin, for the kind words and terrific post.  Cleo Shans was a toughie.  Despite suffering some 50 losses in his career, he was only stopped three or four times, once (I think) by Ike Williams.  He died around the same time as Terry Young, but I don’t know the cause.

  9. marvin moskowitz 05:13am, 09/22/2015

    great article.. I was only twelve in 67 but I remember my uncle Sid Haber and the rest of my moms family upset over the news of Young’s Death.. seems he was pals with my mom’s brothers back in the day.. also the name of Cleo Shans bought back fond memories of a friend of mine John Burns who was a lot older then me , He grew up with Referee Harold Valen who always mentioned Cleo Shans among other fighters of the day that he knew. thanks for the great article and memories..

  10. Clarence George 03:00am, 09/22/2015

    Great post, Beaujack, as always.  You never fail to deliver info and color.

    Valid point, Irish.  Such places tend not to accomplish much other than brutalize.  Clyde Barrow was sent to what was then known as Eastham Prison Farm, which was about the worst.  Although there less than two years, he came out a “rattlesnake,” as a fellow inmate observed.  That said, an alternative doesn’t exactly leap to mind.  Some 50 years ago in England, Mary Bell (who was 10 or 11 at the time) murdered two little boys.  She was sent to what the Brits call a “secure unit.”  I mean, what else were they gonna do?  No reason to think, though, that our Terry did anything so vile.  More likely the kind of shenanigans the Dead End Kids used to get up to in movies like “Angels with Dirty Faces.”  Hollywood-sanitized, to be sure.

  11. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 08:24pm, 09/21/2015

    Clarence George-You got beaujack excited….me too! Years ago I had two friends who were sent to a “reform school” called “Morganza” near Canonsburg, PA and when they came home after a couple of years they just weren’t the same. I doubt if the experience did Terry Young any good either.

  12. Beaujack 07:35pm, 09/21/2015

    Clarence, your great article just put me in a state of nostalgia for a simple reason. The first pro main event my dad took me to see was at St. Nick;‘s Arena where the young sensational lightweight prospect Beau Jack met a friend of Rocky Graziano, “Tough” Terry Young of the mean streets of the lower East Side of Manhattan…What a great fight that was to see especially for a youngster as I was…Terry Young who I saw maybe a dozen times was the guy who took Rocky Graziano to Stillman’;s gym and introduced Terry Young to Irving Cohen and whitey Bimstein the great trainer…Terry young though not a great technician was as tough and pugnacious as his paisan Rocky Graziano though only a lightweight…
    His nickname TOUGH Terry Young he wore bravely…I recall after Young retired he was shot and killed in a social club a few blocks from where he lived on the lower East Side.. Thanks for your article on the forgotten
    Angelo De Sanza…Keep em accumen….

  13. Clarence George 07:24pm, 09/21/2015

    Delighted you liked it, Jim, and very well put.

  14. Jim Crue 06:42pm, 09/21/2015

    Another great story Clarence.Thanks for remembering Rocky’s stablemate Terry Young. A terrific fighter when men were men.

  15. KB 05:00pm, 09/21/2015


  16. Clarence George 04:53pm, 09/21/2015

    I think I get the reference.  That was a line from “Knock on Any Door,” and he was married to Bo.

  17. KB 03:03pm, 09/21/2015

    Like John Derek married to a Perfect 10!!

  18. Clarence George 02:56pm, 09/21/2015

    And one who deserves to be better remembered.

  19. KB 02:42pm, 09/21/2015

    My kind of guy!


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