The Galento Files

By Clarence George on April 4, 2018
The Galento Files
Following the bout, Bimstein observed that Galento "thought he was John L. Sullivan.”

“What happened to fighters with class, like Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, or my old friend, Rocky Graziano? The fighters today are a bunch of cream puffs…”

“The truth is out there.”—The X-Files

The Schutte/Powell Boxing Archives constitute files on 5,000 boxers, from Barney Aaron to Dave Zyglewicz (25,000 lesser-known fighters are filed under “Miscellaneous”). Each file features photos and news articles. The bigger the name, the fatter the file. Seventy-three files are devoted to Muhammad Ali, for instance, while Joe Louis has 69 and Jack Dempsey 39.

I’m the proud owner of Tony Galento’s seven file folders—122 pages pasted with 325 clippings.

Born on March 12, 1910, in Orange, New Jersey, “Two Ton” fought out of his hometown from 1928 to 1944 (though out of the ring in ‘42), winding up with a record of 80 wins, 57 by knockout, 26 losses, six by knockout, five draws, and one no contest. His most famous fight took place at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx on June 28, 1939, when he challenged Louis for the heavyweight crown. Following 11 straight wins, all by KO or TKO (he’d last lost to Arturo Godoy, who won on points at Chicago’s Comiskey Park on June 22, 1937), Galento paid for impertinently knocking “The Brown Bomber” down in the third with a no-quarter-asked-no-quarter-given shellacking, losing by fourth-round TKO (and requiring 23 stitches). One of the most colorful men to ever enter the squared circle, Galento died on July 22, 1979, age 69, in Livingston, New Jersey, and is buried at St. John’s Catholic Cemetery in Orange.

That thumbnail sketch is richly expanded upon in the files. So richly, in fact, that I’ll just mention a few items that may not be known, even to Tony’s most ardent fans.

Galento’s stunningly dirty fight with Lou Nova at Philly’s Municipal Stadium on September 15, 1939 (Tony winning by 14th-round TKO), for example, has been well and truly covered over the years. But the files revealed a couple of quotes I’d never come across before. “Galento fought the foulest, dirtiest, meanest fight in history,” spluttered Nova’s manager, Ray Carlen. “He ought never be allowed to fight again. He’s a brute and a menace and a disgrace to the whole human race!” Echoed Ray Arcel, who had worked Nova’s corner, “Look at the poor kid. He’s been butted and gouged to pieces. This boy was fouled into defeat.”

I never got a whiff that Galento was at one time “self-appointed adviser and guardian” to Frank Zamaris, “a husky, powerful guy, something like Tony, tips 185 and can punch.” According to an Associated Press report from late 1946, the notoriously self-indulgent Two Ton insisted on “rigid training standards for his charge.” Once, when Zamaris joined Galento for lunch, the fat man “put away a bowl of chowder, a dozen or more clams, box of oysterettes, full order of roast beef, and washed it down with seven bottles of beer.” Although Zamaris stuck to steak and salad, he asked Galento if he could have a short beer. “Nope,” said Tony. “You drink milk.”

On January 21, 1947, Zamaris took on Prentiss Hall at Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium. “Zamaris drank up punishment for nine straight rounds,” wrote Young Van in the February 8, 1947, issue of Knockout, until Galento shouted at the start of the 10th, “Flatten da bum and I’ll buy all the beer you can drink.” That did the trick, as Zamaris stopped Hall by 10th-round TKO, Prentiss’ first defeat after scoring 11 victories in a row, five by KO or TKO (he’d last lost to Lee Oma, who won by fifth-round KO at the same venue on December 11, 1945).

Was Tony in Frank’s corner in his next, and last, fight? Probably not, as he lost to unheralded Newton Smith by fifth-round TKO at Allentown’s Little Palestra on February 10, 1947.

Although familiar with trainer Whitey Bimstein’s observation, following the Louis bout, that Galento “thought he was John L. Sullivan and came up straight to slug, and you just can’t do that with Louis,” I wasn’t aware that the comparison was actually pretty prevalent.

In an unidentified newspaper illustration of July 8, 1938, for instance, the unnamed artist has Two Ton sporting what’s supposed to be a Sullivanesque mustache (though it makes him look more like a member of the Oprichniki, Ivan the Terrible’s infamous enforcement arm, all black-robed and black-horsed). In one of the captions, the illustrator wrote that “The likeness continues into the fields of the ‘free-for-all,’ where legend declares Galento once galvanized six detectives in a Coney Island brawl that would have warmed the heart of that Boston Strong Boy.” Really? That sounds more like Chuck Wiggins than either Galento or Sullivan (“Just getting a little training, that’s all,” as Wiggins liked to put it after roughing up the boys in blue).

Not everyone was pleased or impressed by the comparison, which would cause Sullivan “to revolve in his grave like a feeding alligator,” wrote Dan Parker in a savage June 1940 profile of Two Ton, following the death of his manager, Joe Jacobs. (On another occasion, Parker wrote that “Galento has never given boxing anything except black eyes in return for the fortune it brought him.” The comment followed Tony’s arguably suspicious first-round KO of Herbie Katz at Phillips Field in Tampa on June 1, 1943.)

“Joe Jacobs, my manager, he was trying to get Louis again, so he signs for a Max Baer fight,” growled Galento. “I don’t want to fight Baer but Jacobs tells me, ‘Look, we take the advance and then we get sick and we back out and if they want to get the money out of us, they got to give us Louis.’ So I don’t train and I’m having fun and I think about how I’m going to get sick for Baer and what does that lousy Joe Jacobs do to me? He goes and dies on me and I got to go through with the fight ‘cause I don’t know how to duck it. Geez, if you can’t trust your manager, who can you trust?”

(Was the “I’m a bad boy” act just that? Quite possibly, given that a visibly shaken Galento told the press immediately after Jacobs’ death—on April 24, 1940, age 43—“I’ve lost the best pal I ever had. He was like a father to me and a very understanding manager. He gave me the helping hand I’d been looking for for years.”)

Speaking of the Baer fight, Tony came up with a right-hand punch to terrify the man he disdainfully referred to as “Peanut Heart”—the “Jumbo Jolt,” intended to surprise Max, who “will be on the alert for Tony’s portside flipper” (Galento’s left hook was considered “one of the most fearsome punches in ring history,” according to an article that appeared in the December 1994 issue of Boxing). “If Tony lands the Jumbo he’ll stiffen Baer with one punch,” said a member of Team Galento. “He might even send him to the hospital.”

It didn’t work out that way.

The bout, which took place at Jersey City’s Roosevelt Stadium on July 2, 1940, didn’t go at all well for Two Ton, who was retired in the seventh.

“If the sight of a man disintegrating before your eyes is funny, then the Max Baer-Tony Galento fight was the comedy of the year,” wrote Henry McLemore in a United Press report. “If watching a sodden, sickly fat, and stupid man get hammered to a pulp is humorous, then you would have rolled in the aisles at Galento,” continued the unpleasant McLemore, who proceeded to priggishly rant about how “at last all his sins had found him out.” (Yes, yes, we all know that Tony enjoyed “swigging tankards of ale,” you acetic ascetic.)

“As for Baer,” continued McLemore, an equal-opportunity hater, “if there be any honor in defeating the shambles of a man, then his boasts of today are justified. Actually, Baer was almost as pathetic as Galento. His once great punch is gone. He tired badly. He was slow. Thrown in against Louis again, and that is the present plan, Baer will be fortunate to last a round [the Bomber had kayoed the “Livermore Larruper” in the fourth at Yankee Stadium on September 24, 1935; there was never a rematch]. He, too, has wasted his talents, ravaged the superb physique that was his 10 years ago. All in all, the fight in Jersey City was between two tired old workmen.”

(Following Pearl Harbor, McLemore was “for the immediate removal of every Japanese on the West Coast to a point deep in the interior. I don’t mean a nice part of the interior either. Herd ‘em up, pack ‘em off and give ‘em the inside room in the badlands. Personally, I hate the Japanese. And that goes for all of them.”)

Not that Galento himself was known for his graciousness, referring to Floyd Patterson in January 1963 as a “stiff I would knock out with one punch” and wondering in 1977, “Where did they dig these guys up? What happened to fighters with class, like Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, or my old friend, Rocky Graziano? The fighters today are a bunch of cream puffs. Why, Jimmy Young—he’s a big joke.” Unduly harsh, to be sure, especially as iron-chinned, if feather-fisted, Young beat George Foreman that March 17 by unanimous decision at Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan, retiring him for 10 years.

Still, as Jerry Izenberg wrote shortly after Two Ton died, in the November 1979 issue of The Ring, “It is said too often, but this time it is so. His death does, indeed, end an era.”

No doubt, but an era magnificently captured by Schutte-Powell. For boxing writers, historians, and fans, these archives are of incomparable value and interest. Be on the lookout for the file on your favorite fighter. I picked up the one on Tony for a song. Plays a nice tune.

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  1. Tom Meyers 12:31pm, 08/10/2018

    Great article about one of the most interesting characters to come out of a state with a boatload of interesting characters…any chance we can talk in the future as myself and a fighter from Jersey are trying to put together a history of Tony and love to get a peek at the files…again fantastic piece!

  2. Kid Blast 07:20am, 05/16/2018

    Another very good one, Clarence. Thanks

  3. Clarence George 02:00am, 04/09/2018

    Thanks very much, Bruce.  Glad you liked it.

    I have that photo in my collection.

  4. Bruce Kielty 06:50pm, 04/08/2018

    Fascinating article about Two Ton.  Years ago, the Diner’s Club magazine ran a piece on Galento’s manager Joe Jacobs.  The article actually had a photo of Jacobs helping out behind the bar at Galento’s tavern just hours before Jacobs’ death.

  5. Clarence George 04:15am, 04/06/2018

    Glad you liked it, Mr. Deacon, and thanks for the kind words.

    A mixed bag, I would say.  Some people in the business hated him.  Max Baer was one.  Joe Louis another, though they eventually became quite close.  For many everyday folk who met him, it was one of the highlights of their life.

    There’s a photo of Tony from 1938, juggling a couple of bottles of Chianti, where he looks remarkably svelte.  Relatively speaking, of course.


    Luther Adler

  6. Richard Deacon 03:53am, 04/06/2018

    Excellent story on one of boxing’s true characters, although my guess is being around him was no day at the beach. I never saw a somewhat slim Galento until the photo accompanying this article, and he actually looks quite dashing with the mustache.  Thank you for the fun read.

  7. Clarence George 02:05pm, 04/05/2018

    Thanks very much indeed, Pete.

  8. Pete The Sneak 12:31pm, 04/05/2018

    Great read on a true life boxing character in two ton Tony and yes, I would agree with Mr. Izenberg’s take on the ‘end of an era’ when Galento passed. Great stuff Clarence and definitely good to see you back on…Peace.

  9. Clarence George 05:20am, 04/05/2018

    Delighted you liked it, Don.  Thanks very much.

  10. don from prov 04:33am, 04/05/2018

    Good article—I enjoyed the read.  Thanks.

  11. Clarence George 06:50pm, 04/04/2018

    I think so too.  But to me it looks more 16th than 19th century.

  12. Ollie Downtown Brown 04:41pm, 04/04/2018

    The moustache is a good look for Galento. I remember Galento had a beard in the movie, “Wind Across The Everglades,” another good look for him.

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