The Brilliance and Tragedy of Philly’s Eddie Cool

By Sembello C. Hasson on April 7, 2015
The Brilliance and Tragedy of Philly’s Eddie Cool
Cool was an undisciplined Irishman from the Tacony section of Northeast Philadelphia.

During the height of his career, Eddie was a drunk — not an alcoholic, but a “passed out in the gutter” drunk, which he freely admitted…

It has long been the perception that the typical Philadelphia fighter is a fearless, all action warrior who must be carried out on his shield before he will concede defeat. Indeed Philly has had more than its share of this type battler. But, generally overlooked is the fact that the city has produced legions of highly skilled craftsmen, experts in the art of boxing.

Tommy Loughran, Philadelphia Jack O’Brien, Midget Wolgast, Harold Johnson, Jeff Chandler and Joey Giardello all won world titles due largely to their superior boxing technique. Of course, other top Philly men like Tyrone Everett, Johnny Hutchinson, Georgie Benton, Boogaloo Watts, Wesley Mouzon, Jimmy Young, Tyrone Crawley, Willie Monroe and many others were known primarily for their overall ring skills. But, perhaps the best of them all was a cocky, undisciplined Irishman from the bustling Tacony section of Northeast Philadelphia named Eddie Cool.

During the height of his career, Eddie was a drunk — not an alcoholic, but a “passed out in the gutter” drunk, which he freely admitted. His escapades were legendary and he totally exasperated three of Philadelphia’s all-time greatest trainers, Jimmy Coster, Jack Brady and Jimmy Wilson, each of whom took turns trying to keep Eddie in harness and take advantage of his superlative talent.

Cool was born on February 16, 1912 and the sudden death of his father at age 15 forced him to become the sole support of his mother. Eddie, who loved to fight, figured boxing was the best (and only) way for him to succeed. After a short amateur career, he turned pro on Thanksgiving Day 1928, winning a four-rounder from Mike Palmer at the Cambria where he would build a rabid following. Managed by a neighborhood iceman Joe Bradley, Cool was virtually self-taught in the nuances of the fight game by facing unusually stiff competition at the beginning of his career. Suffering eight losses and three draws in his first 34 matches, Eddie learned his trade the hard way. He developed a swift counterpunching style that when properly trained was beautiful to watch.

By 1932, Eddie had become a consistent winner, but it was his victory over flashy Jackie Willis, hero of South Philly’s 20th and Federal Streets’ Black Colony, that really made people sit up and take notice. Eddie snapped Willis’ 22-bout unbeaten streak with a magnificent display of precision punching on April 22, at the Cambria, winning 9 out of the 10 rounds.

Two upset wins over long time lightweight contender Lew Massey in November and December at the Arena put Eddie in the ratings. His second victory over the “Downtown Latin” was particularly impressive as he picked himself up off the floor, being badly hurt in the second round to stage a spectacular rally to nip Lew at the wire.

Philadelphia, at this time, was a lightweight hotbed that included Cool, Massey, Willis, Tony Falco, Johnny Jadick, Tony Morgano, Georgie Gibbs, Young Joe Firpo, and the top dog, Benny Bass, that provided the city’s boxing fans an exciting round robin of crosstown rivalries and neighborhood feuds, as all of the above faced each other in hectic matches. When the smoke cleared, Cool and Bass had licked all the others and became their own chief rivals.

On Sept. 9, 1933, Cool scored a brilliant victory over Frankie Klick after ten torrid rounds at the Arena and issued challenges to Junior Lightweight Champion, Kid Chocolate, who dethroned Benny Bass in July of 1931, and to Barney Ross, recent winner of the lightweight crown from Tony Canzoneri. The Klick match was promoted by Morris Fried and Rudy Fishman, rivals of the top Philly promoters Herman Taylor and Bobby Gunnis, who now offered Cool the big money shot for local bragging rights with Benny Bass on December 28, at Convention Hall. Fried and Fishman had tried to match Cool against Chocolate and after being out maneuvered by Taylor-Gunnis, they countered by persuading “the Keed” to defend against Klick at the Arena on December 26. Klick scored a sensational seventh round upset knockout to win the championship.

Meanwhile, on the 28th, Cool seemed in awe of the legendary Bass and gave him a little too much respect in front of 8,500 fans who braved a monstrous snowstorm to witness a fast paced action match. Disappointed by losing both the Bass bout and the title shot, Eddie reportedly went on a long binge.

Now under the management of Sam Weinberg, after Cool replaced Joe Bradley whom he considered “too strict,” Eddie would look great some nights and unmotivated on other nights and it was no secret that his conditioning and life style left much to be desired.

Matinee Idol handsome, and impeccably “turned out,” Eddie was hotly pursued by the young ladies and liked to step out on the town but after marrying in the summer of 1934, he seemed for a while to re-dedicate himself to boxing and wowed them at Madison Square Garden with a couple of outstanding performances, beating Al Roth and Teddy Loder. The New York press wrote, “Cool was a brilliant boxer and landed with the precision of a fencer, stabbing and jabbing his opponent at will” after the Roth bout.

Cool was to prove a disappointment in his next New York appearance losing to tough, Sammy Fuller, with a lackluster performance, and it was about this time that reports of Cool sitting on the curb passing the bottle with the neighborhood rummies and passing out in the gutter, dead drunk in his cashmere topcoat, persisted.

Often, when questioned by boxing people and fans alike about the possible effects upon the success of his career by alcohol [abuse], Cool answered with a nonchalant but tragic retort, “My father died a drunk at a young age and I guess I will go the same way.”

He still managed to remain highly ranked in spite of it all. Although he would drop a decision here and there, usually on the road, he was still able to score big victories over such top fighters as Benny Bass (in a rematch), Harry Dublinsky, Fritzie Zivic, Red Cochrane, Chino Alvarez and, in his greatest performance, outpoint lightweight champion Lou Ambers on October, 28, 1936 at the Arena. Ambers in his previous match six weeks earlier had taken the crown from Tony Canzoneri. This victory catapulted Cool to the number one contender in the division where he remained for over a year, hoping in vain for a shot at Ambers with the title on the line. But, Al Weill (Ambers manager) considered Eddie too much of a risk with too little financial inducement to even consider.

Eddie’s lifestyle would shortly catch up to him and he was totally washed-up by age 27. He crowded 140 pro bouts into his career of which he lost 28, scoring only 15 knockouts, depending on his superlative boxing ability to thwart his opposition.

When discussing Cool with those that saw him perform, their descriptions of him could best be described as “shoulda, woulda, coulda.” Willie O’Neill, former trainer of Jeff Chandler, said Cool was “when in shape, the second greatest boxer ever to come out of Philly” (rating Midget Wolgast as the best).

The late Dan Cavanaugh, who saw almost every fight card in Philly (“except when I took my family on vacation”) from 1917 to the early 1970s, and a great admirer of Tommy Loughran, said of Cool “when he was right, he was the best Philadelphia boxer of them all.” And long time trainer, Sam Solomon said “Eddie was a wonderful boxer who coulda been champ.”

In 1947 while walking horses at Liberty Bell Park Race Track in Philadelphia, where he worked, Eddie collapsed and was rushed to Philadelphia General Hospital where he died from liver disease brought on by alcohol abuse. He was 35 years old and tragically fulfilled his earlier prediction of an early death from drinking, like his father.

Eddie Cool and his brother Jimmy, also a pro boxer, languished for over 60 years in an unmarked grave at a Philadelphia cemetery until through the compassion, dedication and commitment of founder and editor, John DiSanto, and his Gravestone Program and contributions from boxing fans, a beautiful stone was erected for the Cool brothers. DiSanto’s Gravestone Program has also put quality markers on the previously unmarked graves of other Philly greats such as Tyrone Everett, Gypsy Joe Harris, Garnett Sugar Hart and recently reach the goal for a stone for Matthew Saad Muhammad. DiSanto is a top notch, quality individual, to say the least!

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  1. ch. 03:06am, 04/10/2015

    Nicolas, you could say It was just as much Eddie’s fault for never getting a title shot. His drinking and lack of dependability was well known throughout the fight game. Every time he maneuvered himself in position in the ratings he would go and blow it by a bad performance due to his unpredictability and drinking. Thanks for your interest.

  2. nicolas 07:34pm, 04/09/2015

    Intersting article on a fighter that I really knew nothing about. Sad that he also never got the deserved title shot from Ambers.

  3. Eric 03:04pm, 04/08/2015

    Don’t pass up the Burlesque Hall Of Fame. Maybe enjoy a Snickers while taking a gander at Candy Barr, Bettie Paige, Blaze Starr and other hoochie coochie women of the past.

  4. Kid Blast 02:03pm, 04/08/2015

    Yeah, or maybe to the Windy City Softball Hall of Fame. That’s the 16’ variety. Only in Chicago. then I could have a famous Chicago hot dog with accordion fries, belch loudly after drinking copious amounts of A &W Root Beer and sit back and die happilyr.

  5. ch. 01:33pm, 04/08/2015

    kid blast, on your tour, after your steak at Mike Ditka’s, you could make it over to Taylor Street to the Italian-American Sports HOF as well.

  6. Kid Blast 12:56pm, 04/08/2015

    John DiSanto is like John Scully, Bob Duffy, Henry Hascup, Steve Canton, every metro area has a go-to guy and these guys among many others stand out for me. No political garbage. They just do their stuff.

  7. Kid Blast 12:52pm, 04/08/2015

    ch, come to think of it, you are right, Canastota makes sense. And now with Turning Stone, it’s better than ever. Golf, upstate country air, Lake Oneida, boxing venues, gambling, the Museum. Yep. It makes sense. 

    Some day, I’ll do the Hall trip starting with Basketball in Springfield, MA,  Boxing in Canastota, baseball in Cooperstown, Pro football in Canton, Ohio, Rock and Roll in Cleveland, College Football in South Bend and then go to Chicago for a steak at Mike Dika’s Steak House.

  8. Eric 10:30am, 04/08/2015

    ch…Understood. New York would definitely rank highly, and of course Vega$ became THE place for championship boxing. I would also throw in Baltimore, New Orleans, and San Francisco, these cities are at least on a 2nd tier level for historical boxing cities.

  9. ch. 10:21am, 04/08/2015

    Kid Blast, thanks for your input…..Mike Silver, Thanks for your comments, and JOHN DiSANTO is an unsung, very generous man of high integrity, who has done much for the Philadelphia boxing scene in recent years.

  10. ch. 10:13am, 04/08/2015

    Eric, being a Philly guy, I think it would be nice with the HOF but there are a lot of towns with a great boxing tradition: Pittsburgh, Los Angeles. New York, Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, Vegas etc. Maybe Canastota is the best choice, it gives many of us old urban dwellers a chance to reminisce and enjoy comradery for a weekend with fresh country air in our lungs.

  11. Kid Blast 08:47am, 04/08/2015

    Eric, great point

  12. Mike Silver 08:12am, 04/08/2015

    To be rated the # 1 lightweight challenger for over a year in the mid 1930s is an amazing accomplishment. A prime Eddie Cool would have given a prime Roberto Duran all he could handle and very likely outboxed him. Thank you Mr. Hasson for this wonderfully informative and detailed article on a forgotten ring great. And we should all be grateful for the wonderful work of John DiSanto. I find it incredible that no stone markers had previously existed for some of Philadelphia’s greatest boxers.

  13. Eric 05:34am, 04/08/2015

    They really need to move the boxing hall of fame to Philadelphia. It seems only fitting that the hall of fame for boxing should be in boxing’s greatest city.

  14. ch. 07:48pm, 04/07/2015

    Irish Frankie, thanks for your comments. All the old Philly “rail birds” I talked to said Cool was beautiful to watch in action, sometimes even when they had to sober him up a day before a fight.

  15. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 07:00pm, 04/07/2015

    Sembello C. Hasson-It doesn’t get any better than this on…..after reading your article and learning of the fighters he fought and beat….going the distance just about every time out….it boggles the mind to think just what “superlative boxing ability” he must have possessed. You nailed it when you cited Joey Giardello’s “superior boxing technique”.....he could slip punches that literally raked his whiskers but didn’t touch his chin…..over and over and over again.

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