PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                              July 01, 2010


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Through the years, boxing has been filled with numerous disputes and rivalries. Although most of these have been settled in the squared circle, I am happy to report that the sport's latest impasse has apparently been put to rest without a single punch being thrown. No one is really sure how this one started. But after at least one year of frosty relations, it seems that boxing scribe and notorious buttinski Ken Hissner and promoter extraordinaire J Russell Peltz have called a halt to their feud. Being friends of both men, it was a relief to hear that they have decided to give it another try. The detente was reached when Hissner stopped by the Peltz Boxing office to purchase his tickets for the upcoming all-Philly mega-fight between Ennis and Rosado. By chance, Peltz happened to be in the office and the two managed to talk it out and reach an understanding. The proof of this relationship redux comes in the form of another Hissner Q&A. We never thought we'd see this one! So without further adieu, we present the Ken Hissner Q&A with Russell Peltz.

-The Editor

J Russell Peltz – The Philadelphia Promoter
by Ken Hissner

I once interviewed “Rockin” Rodney Moore of Philadelphia and he asked to be referred to as “one of the greatest fighters out of Philadelphia”. I reminded him that he was already known as “Mr. Blue Horizon” because of his record number of appearances at the legendary venue.

J Russell Peltz can be called “the Hall of Fame Promoter” (IBHOF in 2004), but a more fitting label may be “the Philadelphia Promoter.” He earned the nickname by promoting out of the City of Brotherly Love since 1969, starting at the Blue Horizon as a 22-year-old. Prior to that, he wrote for the Evening Bulletin sports department.  He and I have had our differences over the years but one thing I must admit is that Peltz has always been a fan’s promoter!

Everyone has a right-hand man in the promotional business. In Peltz' case, he has a right-hand woman in Maureen Sacks, his Vice President. Everyone loves Maureen. She can calm a storm with her mannerism and with her professionalism. She seems to never loose her cool.

Peltz has promoted at least a dozen world champions in the forty plus years in the business. He has promoted mostly in Philadelphia while doing his share in Atlantic City, where today he is most active and seems to have found a home at Bally’s.

He is promoting his first show Philadelphia show of the year on July 30th at the Arena in South Philly.  The main event is a USBA light middleweight title bout between Germantown's Derek “Pooh” Ennis, the champion, and North Philadelphia challenger Gabe “King” Rosado. Though this writer has been a long-time critic of Philly boxers fighting each other, it is clear that this one will pack them in. 

“I hope the Ennis-Rosado fight will help jumpstart other potential matches which can help Philadelphia reclaim its place among the best boxing towns in the country”, said Peltz.

Peltz will stage his third Atlantic City show of 2010 on July 9th at Boardwalk Hall, when his top star, unbeaten Mike “MJ” Jones, rated number two by the WBO, defends his NABA and NABO welterweight titles against Irving Garcia. 

Other top Peltz boxers with real drawing power include unbeaten Teon “The Technician” Kennedy, a former National Golden Gloves champion and the current USBA super bantamweight champion as well as Rogers “Tiger” Mtagwa, who fought for both the WBO super bantamweight and the WBA featherweight titles in October of 2009 and January of 2010, respectively. 

If you visit you will see a list of his boxers. Unbeaten prospects like super middleweight Dennis Hasson, heavyweight Bryant Jennings, welterweight Ronald Cruz and lightweight Angel Ocasio are on the list.  Another is once-beaten junior lightweight Anthony Flores. Two real road-warriors are also in his stable, junior middleweight Jamaal “Truth” Davis and cruiserweight Garrett Wilson. Also listed are Peltz’ former champions like Charles “Hatchet” Brewer, Charlie “Choo Choo” Brown, Jeff Chandler (IBHOF), Marvin Johnson, Marvin Hagler (IBHOF), Rob “Bam Bam” Hines, Gary Hinton, Dwight Muhammad Qawi (IBHOF), Mike Rossman, Matthew Saad Muhammad (IBHOF), Antonio Tarver and “Prince” Charles Williams.

Others boxers Peltz promoted who were worthy of being champions were Bennie Briscoe, George Benton (IBHOF), Billy “Dynamite Douglas”, Tyrone Everett, Frank Fletcher, Arturo “Thunder” Gatti, Sammy Goss, Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, Stanley “Kitten” Hayward, Richie Kates, Jerry “The Bull” Martin, Willie “The Worm” Monroe, Augie Pantellas, Curtis Parker, Tony “The Punching Postman” Thornton and Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts.  Besides these boxers, Peltz promoted many of the “tough” Upper Darby PAL fighters like Richie “The Bandit” Bennett, Kenny Carpenter, Victor Pappas and Mike Picciotti, and Delaware’s uncrowned champion Dave “TNT” Tiberi.

Peltz has a large memorabilia and fight tape collection. He has promoted over 500 fights and was given the James J. Walker Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing by the Boxing Writers Association in 1999.  He also served as director of boxing at the Philadelphia Spectrum from 1973-1980.

Years ago, he once tried stumping me at a weigh-in. He asked me who the fighter was standing next to him. Since the famously bald-headed Doyle Baird, from Akron, OH, was wearing a hat at the time, he figured I would be stumped. But Baird's freckled face was a give away.

On his first promotion in 1969, Peltz had Briscoe, Boogaloo Watts and Cyclone Hart on all the card at the Blue Horizon. There had been no boxing at the Blue for more than three years. Still his initial show broke the venue's attendance record with 1,606 paying fans.

When you hear Peltz talk about his fighters three come to mind. Briscoe, Chandler and Hart, who Peltz claimed was “perhaps the best one-punch knockout artist I ever saw in person.”

Peltz has also been inducted into the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Hall of Fames. In 2008, he received the Briscoe Award from John DiSanto, founder of Philly Boxing History. Peltz once described the Philly fighter as “inner-city tough, left hook, win or lose makes great fights, and never, ever quits, you have to carry them out.”  

A Temple University graduate, Peltz once stated “Jewish fighters were as tough as they come but they were afraid of their mothers which is why so many changed their names.”  To prove his point, one of the best welterweights ever was Ted “Kid” Lewis, whose real name was Gershon Mendeloff. 

Peltz once referred to Gypsy Joe Harris, one of Philadelphia’s most popular boxers by saying “he did things in the ring that had not been done before or since. Gypsy Joe was a magician, very tough to hit. He was a very big attraction in Philadelphia”, said Peltz. Harris, blind in one eye, won a non-title bout over then-welterweight champion Curtis Cokes at Madison Square Garden, but could never get a rematch for the crown.

Peltz agreed to answer some questions with this writer.

KEN HISSNER: You know I have always admired the stories you've written in your boxing programs. As a matter of fact, you lent me several when I was doing a story on some Philly boxers. Was journalism your major at Temple?

J RUSSELL PELTZ:  Glad you asked! I was a journalism major at Temple University I and worked for the daily student newspaper, the Temple News. I became assistant sports editor as a freshman, sports editor as a sophomore, and makeup editor and city editor as a junior. Then I began working the night shift at the Evening Bulletin during my senior year. I worked from 11pm to 7am, doing re-writes, editing stories, writing headlines and doing page layout. I went to school from 9am to 1pm; then I went home to sleep. When I graduated in June, 1968, I received the Sigma Delta Chi award as the Outstanding Male Graduate in Journalism.

KH:  Speaking of Temple, I attended a fund-raiser held by former heavyweight title challenger Randall “Tex” Cobb when he was attending a class there. I heard from another Temple grad, Kurt Wolfheimer, of Fight News, that you are a basketball season-ticket holder there. Cus D’Amato once told me a basketball player could make the transition better than any other athlete. How do you feel about that? 

JRP:  I saw my first Temple basketball game in 1961 at the Palestra in Philadelphia and I have been hooked ever since. I don’t know of any similarities but I am a firm believer in Cus so I’ll go along with him.

KH:  Back in November of 1976 I attended your promotion of the WBC super featherweight bout between champion Alfredo Escalera and Philly’s Tyrone Everett. I had it scored 13-2 in rounds for Everett. Given that Escalera retained his title that night by split decision, would you say it was the worst decision you have ever promoted?

JRP:  Not possibly—definitely! It was a disgrace! We knew the judge from Puerto Rico would vote for Escalera if he was still standing at the end of 15 rounds. We figured the Pennsylvania judge would be fair so we spent all our time researching the voting referee from Mexico, who scored it for Everett. Never did we think we were going to get hosed by the Philly guy, who had ties to Puerto Rico and a few unsavory characters as acquaintances. When Ed Derian read the first score from the judge from Philly, I thought he had read the score backwards. It felt like having your pants pulled down in front of 16,000 people in your own town. What a terrible memory! We were so naïve.

KH:  I did a story called “Who Was Philadelphia’s Greatest Fighter” using Philly Boxing History’s John DiSanto, historian Chuck Hasson, you and myself rating the fighters. You were the only one not to put their list in order of ability. Do you have someone you would give that title to?

JRP:  If I had to, I would vote for Tommy Loughran, the light-heavyweight champ from the 1920s who had more than 200 fights, never lost his title, and beat three heavyweight champs—Jack Sharkey, Max Baer, Jimmy Braddock. Loughran was not a big puncher, which makes his record even more impressive since he had to be better than his opponents over the entire course of each fight. 

KH:  When Bennie Briscoe was inducted into the Pennsylvania Hall of Fame you stated he could have beaten Bernard Hopkins. Do you still hold to that?

JRP:  Bernard Hopkins is a sure-fire first-ballot Hall-of-Famer and his record speaks for itself. Having said that, if you have the best Bernard Hopkins in one corner, and in the other corner you have the best George Benton or the best Bennie Briscoe or the best Boogaloo Watts or the best Joey Giardello, I could not bet the bank either way.

KH:  Not trying to put you on the spot but you seem to talk about Briscoe, Harold Johnson and Jeff Chandler more than most of Philly’s boxers. Do you have a favorite boxer?

JRP:  Bennie Briscoe was my favorite because he was my first and you always fall in love with your first. Jeff Chandler was the most talented fighter I ever had under contract. Harold Johnson never boxed for me—he retired in 1970, less than one year into my career—but he was my boyhood idol when I was a teenager. I saw him fight Von Clay and Doug Jones and Johnny Persol in person and I used to have my hair cut really short in high school—like him—and my friends used to joke that I was wearing my Harold Johnson haircut. In fact, the first story I ever wrote from the Evening Bulletin in 1968 was about Harold. If the judges hadn’t stolen his title in Las Vegas in 1963 against Willie Pastrano, he’d still be champ today.

KH:  What is your schedule for Mike “MJ” Jones fighting for the welterweight title?

JRP:  Whenever he gets the opportunity. Fighters today are in a hurry.

KH:  Since Jones fought at 152 in the amateurs do you think he will someday at least fight in the light middleweight division?

JRP:  Mike has never had a problem making 147 and a few times recently he was around 144 or 145. I don’t see him moving up any time soon.

KH:  I am not a fan of MMA, UFC or whatever you want to call it. What are your feelings about it?

JRP:  I have a real problem with someone on his back on the floor getting punched in the head by a guy sitting on top of him.

KH:  We in the fight game have nothing but good things to say about your V.P. How long has Maureen Sacks been working with you and what does she mean to Peltz Boxing?  

JRP:  When I went to work at The Spectrum late in 1972, Maureen was working there as a teenager. That’s when I met her. She was a secretary to the guys who were in charge of all the unions at The Spectrum—electricians, stagehands, carpenters, ushers, security, etc.  I left The Spectrum in 1980 and she left sometime in the mid-1980s. She began working with me on a part-time basis around 1984. Then she became full-time. I couldn’t make it without her. She does everything but make matches. She rents the arenas, orders the ushers, security, ambulance, tickets, postcards, postage. She gets the tickets printed and sells them and she writes the checks and she does just about everything. She’s also the pleasant voice on the other end of the phone, unlike me.

KH:  You are sixty-three now with over forty years in the business. Do you have any plans to retire?

JRP:  I would like to retire in my 60s, perhaps become an advisor.

KH:  If there is one thing you could change in boxing today what would it be?

JRP:  I would like to see one universally recognized world champion and one universally recognized set of rankings but it’s a pipe dream because there are too many people in the business who enjoy the status quo.

KH:  My final question is did you ever think in a million years you’d have this much fun being interviewed by me?

JRP:  Teddy Brenner, the greatest matchmaker in boxing history, once told Bruce Trampler: “I don’t mind if you have a grudge against someone, just don’t make it a life-time sentence. There should always be room for parole.”




Ken Hissner - July 01, 2010