Death of a Champion, Birth of a Rule: The Tony Marino Story
19
October

By Stevie Adams / in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , /


I never liked boxing. I think it’s silly to be beating
on each other. Maybe it’s because of what
happened to my brother Tony. I don’t know, but it was very sad. Usually it takes some type
of tragic event that gains widespread media
attention for a policy change to take place. Tony Marino’s legacy to boxing is the three-knockdown rule. Tony Marino was born
in Duquesne, southeast of Pittsburgh, on May 18, 1910. His parents,
Anthony and Felice, had emigrated from Italy
at the turn of the century. They lived in Naples, Italy, and my dad came over
to the States first and got a job at Fairchance. He got established there and then sent for my mother. At the time,
she had two little ones. She came over by herself
with the two little kids. She couldn’t speak a word of English. And my dad worked in the mill
in Fairchance and then he moved to Duquesne. Marino was one of thirteen children, six boys and seven girls. One of the girls died in infancy. One of the boys died from scarlet
fever at the age of fourteen. As Marino neared adulthood, in the late 1920s, the country found itself in the grip of
The Great Depression. The stock market crashed. Banks closed. People lost their homes. And one-quarter of the nation
was out of work. Like many of his relatives, Marino spent some time
working at the area steel mills. The work was tough and it could be scarce. The alternatives for improving
one’s financial condition in western
Pennsylvania were limited. But, for many young males, the art of pugilism offered the hope of achieving
something better than a mundane existence. There were fights every night in the clubs
and in places like Duquesne Gardens and
Motor Square Garden. And with Duquesne Gardens as a venue, that gave boxing a big place for indoor
fights that would hold
five or six thousand people. In the summertime, there were fights
at Forbes Field, which was built in 1909. And later, places like Hickey Park in Millvale and the Heidelberg Arena in Heidelberg. Marino’s older brother,
Charles Marino, was the first in the family to pursue prizefighting as a career. He turned professional in 1919
at the age of 16. He had difficulty finding fights so before the year was up he decided to change his name, paying homage to Tommy Ryan, a turn-of-the-century fighter
who had held both the welterweight and middleweight titles. Fighters back in those days
— many fighters — took Irish names because
the promoters thought that the Irish fighters pulled
in the crowds. Under his new moniker,
he fought his way into contention. He received a shot at the
bantamweight title on September 8th, 1924, losing a fifteen-round decision to champion Abe Goldstein. Tommy Ryan retired from
the ring in 1929 after ten years in boxing. The next year, Tony Marino decided to follow
in his brother’s footsteps despite his mother’s wishes
to the contrary. Having established a successful
amateur career, becoming the flyweight champion
of Pennsylvania, he decided that prizefighting
would provide a better way of life than
the steel mills. On July 2nd, 1930, just past his twentieth birthday, he made his professional debut. He won his first twelve fights, including impressive victories over
veteran fighters Joey Ross and Marty Gold, a former flyweight contender. In March 1932, he decided to step up
in competition, and suffered his first defeat at the hands of Wee Willie Davies, a bantamweight contender
with over 150 fights to his credit. Marino took a tumble
after the Davies fight, losing three of his next four bouts. He was defeated by flyweight champion
Midget Wolgast, Canada’s
bantamweight
champion
Bobby Leitham. and contender
Ernie Maurer. Disillusioned by this series of losses, Marino took six months off
before he fought again. It became harder and harder
for him to get fights because of the scarcity
of fighters his own size. He was 5 feet, 3 inches, and the bantamweight limit
was 118 pounds. So, he hopped a freight
out to California where there were small fighters who were
from the Phillipines, from Mexico — he could get more fights out there. Over the next year and a half, he fought a dozen times, facing several contenders
and future champions, like Young Tommy Small Montana, and Pablo Dano. And he had a rematch with Midget Wolgast. Ironically, he lost most of these fights, winning only four,
losing six, and
scoring two draws. But his time on the west coast enabled him to hone his
skills as a boxer and build up a reputation
as a crowd-pleaser
that was tough to beat. After fighting contender
Speedy Dado to a draw
in late 1935, Marino returned east, this time with his eye on
New York City. Light heavyweight contender
Irish Jimmy Webb, who was Marino’s roommate, recalled the first time he met him in 1936. “He was a little guy five feet three with a high forehead, wild brown hair, squinting eyes, a Roman nose, and a sallow complexion. Unlike many fighters, he still had his own front teeth
after five years of first-rate competition, but he had the usual deviated septum,
and it was hard for him to breathe
through his nose. He had a high-pitched voice and his right ear was slightly cauliflowered, so I knew he had a flaw in his defense
against left hooks. But, he had a fine pair of shoulders, and the challenging way he stood, his quick, energetic walk, and the way he talked
— crisp and staccato — made him a personality
you couldn’t forget. He looked like some small, sculptured
statue by some master artist, and whenever I hear the word
‘effervescent,’ I think of Tony. Tony effervesced.” Marino was as rough and tough
inside the ring as he was gentle
and kind outside of it. “Tony always said his prayers. There was never a night
he missed his devotions. He didn’t drink or smoke. And he was mighty emphatic about the way he expected a
roommate to conduct himself. But don’t get the idea that
Tony was unfriendly. He made a friend of everybody he met. And he was always grinning
and cracking wise. Things like
‘Many a true word is said in a joke,’ and ‘Anybody fools with me,
they get burned.’ Every Sunday, he would take
a bunch of the neighborhood
kids out to Coney Island. And he was a pushover for every
hard luck story he heard —
always giving away his money.” Although Marino’s family didn’t get
to see a lot of him due to his frequent
time fighting on the road, they were always happy on the rare
occasions when he could get back
for a visit. Oh, I can remember him coming home
and — we were real young then — he brought those little white mice
with red eyes, and (laughs) —
they were pets, you know, for the younger kids,
me and my sisters Ann and Edna. I never liked those things. (laughs) We always was glad to see
him come home. Despite his generous nature, Marino also had a bit of
a sadistic streak. “Times when I was in
training and he wasn’t, he’d cook up a mess of the
most wonderful-smelling
spaghetti, just to tempt me. You can’t eat spaghetti in training, you know, and I think Tony did it just to toughen up
my willpower. He was a real sentimentalist, though. I remember once we went to a
Shirley Temple movie, and when we came out of the theater,
Tony was crying into his handkerchief.” His first fight back east was at
Ridgewood Grove, a venue in Queens. Marino took a decision against
Richard LiBrandi, who had won New York’s Golden Gloves
flyweight championship in 1934. On April 11th, 1936,
he suffered his first knockout loss when he was stopped in three rounds
by Willie Felice. They fought again exactly three weeks later. Marino handily won the decision. At this point, Marino had grown
disillusioned with his career,
which he felt was stagnating. He was disappointed that the lighter weight
fighters didn’t make much money unless
they were champions. And since it didn’t look like he would
get a title shot any time soon, he seriously considered hanging
up the gloves. However, following a knockout win over
little known Santos Hugo, Marino received the opportunity
he longed for. The bantamweight divison was in flux
in the early 1930s. There was a good champion named
Panama Al Brown. For some reason, in about 1932, he left the United States
and started fighting in Europe. He had a lot of fights over there. but he was outside of the jurisdiction
of the two sanctioning bodies, the National Boxing Association
and the more prestigious
New York State Athletic Commission. More prestigious because New York,
at that time,
was the world capital of boxing. And they vacated the championship. Panama Al Brown’s wanderings
took him to Valencia, Spain, where on June 1, 1935,
he fought Baltasar Sangchili for the European version of the
world bantamweight title. Since it was viewed as a
championship fight, it was scheduled for fifteen rounds. Brown lost the decision, prompting Nat Fleischer,
founder of The Ring boxing magazine, to declare Sangchili the world’s new
bantamweight champ. Well, Nat Fleischer was sort of a
sanctioning body unto himself. He was probably the first boxing
historian of any note. He was the editor of The Ring magazine, which at that time was about the only
organization or publication that, uh — The Ring Record Book — that collected the
records of boxers from all over the world. Up until then it had been a very
haphazard sort of thing. So, Nat Fleischer’s recognition
carried a lot of weight. On June 2, 1936, Marino was matched
against Lou Salica, who briefly held the world championship
a year earlier. Salica was the 2-to-1 favorite to beat
Marino in the crossroads bout; however, Salica, considered
by most boxing historians
as one of the Top 20
bantamweights of all time, was taken to school by Marino, and the 2,000 fans in the Queensboro Arena
couldn’t dispute the unanimous decision, which earned Marino a shot at
Baltasar Sangchili. Twenty-seven days later, Marino found himself at
New York’s Dyckman Oval
in front of 5,000 enthusiastic spectators. And for thirteen rounds,
Tony Marino took a terrific
beating from Sangchili. But, in the fourteenth round,
he landed a one-two combination, a left hook and a right cross, and Sangchili had to be carried
from the ring. He knocked him cold. Marino didn’t have much time to enjoy
his newfound stature as
king of the bantamweights. Although he was the world champion in the eyes of Nat Fleischer and The Ring boxing magazine, the fight had taken place in New York, a state that embraced Sixto Escobar
as the top bantamweight. This conflict made a meeting
between the claimants inevitable. They squared off on August 31st
at Dyckman Oval. Marino, a 2-to-1 underdog, endured a horrendous thrashing at
the hands of the Puerto Rican battler. He tasted the canvas a total of
five times, all in the second round. Each time,
he got up and fought on, and in the sixth, he brought his small
legion of supporters to their feet by
landing a series of solid left hooks. Having scored two upsets in a row, Marino’s prospects for a third triumph
weren’t altogether inconceivable, but his rally was short-lived. Despite applying continual pressure, he received much more
punishment than he returned, and by the end of the eleventh —
the only other round he won — his eyes were badly cut and swollen. His handlers were unable to stop the
flow of blood from a severe gash
over his right eye, And after the thirteenth round, the ringside physician ordered the referee
to halt the proceedings. True to form,
Marino protested the decision, honestly believing he would rally
late and stop Escobar just as
he had stopped Sangchili. Those close to Marino
noticed changes in him
after his loss to Escobar. His brother, Tommy Ryan,
believed the punishment he
endured in that fight had taken too much out of him, and he recommended that
his little brother should
hang up the gloves. However, at the urging of his
manager, Charley Cook,
Marino soldiered onward. Not long after his defeat
at the hands of Escobar, he came to Pittsburgh for his
only fight here since he had
left for the west coast. It was a return bout with Sangchili. Regis Welsh, who was a great boxing
writer for The Pittsburgh Press, said that only “the gamest of the game”
could have absorbed the beating that
Marino took. The fight went ten rounds to a decision. Following this loss to Sangchili, Marino returned to New York, where he fought — and won — four
eight-round fights, all by decision. That Christmas,
he returned home, accompanied by a guest. He was gonna get married. He brought his girlfriend from New York
to introduce to the family. On January 30, 1937, he climbed through the ropes at
Ridgewood Grove to face Carlos “Indian” Quintana. Quintana, the former
flyweight champion of Panama, made an international name for
himself the previous July when
he beat Escobar in a non-title bout. The win earned Quintana a shot at
Escobar’s title four months later. Quintana was knocked out
in the first round. It was a loss he was anxious to vindicate. Twenty-five hundred fans
turned out to see the fight
between the two contenders. Marino was heavily outclassed,
being dropped no fewer than
four times throughout the fray. Some of the spectators shouted
at the referee to stop the contest,
but to no avail. Not surprisingly,
the tough Italian finished
the eight-rounder on his feet. But, as Quintana’s arm was raised
in victory, Marino collapsed and
had to be assisted to his dressing room. Shortly thereafter, he was rushed to
Wyckoff Heights Hospital in Brooklyn. He never regained consciousness, succumbing to a subdural hemorrhage
on the right side of the brain
at 2:30 a.m., February 1, 1937. My recollection was whenever we got
the phone call that he was in the hospital. My dad had to go on a train. I don’t remember if he went by himself,
or if somebody was with him,
but he went by train. But, by the time Dad got to New York,
he was gone. He was gone by that time. And, the funeral,
he was laid out in our home. We had a living room and
a big dining room. And the place was just bombarded
with flowers. In those days, the paperboys
would come around with “Extra! Extra!” And there was the extra papers
about Tony dying and getting killed. Ironically, Marino had written his mother
a letter shortly before his final bout,
telling her he had a surprise for her when
he returned home. The fight that he got killed in, that was the fight he told my mother
that he would — that was the last fight
he was gonna have. He was gonna quit and get married. And he died. Two other ring fatalities had
occurred in the New York area
within the previous year. Tony Scarpati, a welterweight,
was fatally injured in a bout against future lightweight champion
Lou Ambers in March 1936. William Peartree, an Albany fighter
known as Willie Pal, died following a six-round loss to
Pete DeRuzza three months later. Despite these two tragedies,
it was Marino’s death that sparked an investigation that
captured the concern of the state’s
boxing promoters. Eventually, Quintana,
referee Al Reich,
Marino’s handlers,
and the owners of
the Ridgewood Grove were deemed innocent
of any wrongdoing in
the tragedy. Dr. Eugene Kenney,
who examined Marino
prior to the fight, and found him to be in
good health, stated that the boxer’s
death was “one of those
things — it is absolutely
unaccountable.” Unaccountable, perhaps. But, in an effort to prove it
wasn’t entirely in vain, the New York State Athletic
Commission convened on
February 3rd to frame a new rule. Citing Marino’s death, the Commission empowered referees to stop a contest in which a figher has been knocked down three times in a single round. As far as the establishment of the
three-knockdown rule, or, virtually, any major rule change
in the sport of boxing, they typically tend to occur after
some type of tragic event has occurred. After the death of Duk Koo Kim
at the hands of Ray Mancini in a world lightweight championship
bout in the early 1980s, that’s where you saw the
beginning of the reduction from 15 rounds to 12 rounds for
world championship fights. Now it’s almost forgotten that
championship bouts were actually
15 rounds 25 years ago or so. And, the example of Tony Marino’s death brought attention to this idea that, perhaps,
boxing authorities should make it a rule to have fighters that have been
knocked down multiple times — to have the fight stopped,
regardless of the nature of those knockdowns. Initially, this rule only applied to
non-championship matches
in the state of New York. As the years progressed, the
three-knockdown rule gained momentum. Eventually, it was adopted by several states
and countries, and it was even applied to
some championship matches. As it became a more popular rule, it also became subjected to criticism
regarding its supposed necessity. In fact, of the four major sanctioning
boxing organizations — the World Boxing Association, the World Boxing Council, the World Boxing Organization, and the International Boxing Federation — only the WBA uses the rule in
championship fights. It does rob the referee of his discretion
as to stopping a fight. The 1990 fight between
Iran “The Blade” Barkley
and Nigel Benn, which was a dramatic slugfest
for as long as it lasted. It was three minutes of warfare. Barkley was knocked down
three times in that fight. The three-knockdown rule,
when the WBO was established, was indeed in effect for
championship fights. I was at that fight. And it was met with a chorus
of boos because it was clear that
these were flash knockdowns and it robbed us — the fans, the reporters,
anyone who was watching the fight on
television at that time — was robbed from the ability to see
even more rounds of a
tremendously exciting fight. Another fight that comes to mind
is the first
Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez fight. Marquez was knocked down three times
in the initial round and battled back
for an official draw. Some would say he even won that fight. Had the three-knockdown rule been in effect, that would have robbed the fans,
the reporters, the viewers, the media,
everyone from being able to see
that dramatic comeback. Despite examples that support
the rule’s critics, it has managed to endure for
three-quarters of a century in
various professional boxing circles. Perhaps, more significantly, it has
gained a foothold in the world of
amateur boxing. In terms of amateur boxing,
perhaps there’s a little bit more
of a justification for it because they are amateurs, they do not
tend to have the same kind of experience
that professionals do, there’s not a lot of leeway given to fighters
who are hurt in amateur boxing. Also, there isn’t money on the line, there aren’t necessarily careers on the line, so you can perhaps make a little bit more
of a justification for it at the amateur level
than the professional level. Because his overall accomplishments
in the ring were not very dynamic, Tony Marino’s place in boxing history
has been largely overlooked. Well, Tony Marino’s
reputation consists
pretty much of his win over Lou Salica and
his knockout of Sangchili
after having taken a terrible
beating for thirteen rounds. You can’t really say that he’s as prestigious
a champion as some of the others. Conn . . . . . . Zivic . . . . . . certainly Greb . . . . . . Billy Soose . . . . . . Teddy Yarosz . . . They were really great fighters over
a long period of time, whereas Tony Marino’s reputation
pretty much rests on those two fights,
and on his gameness. There was probably never a
gamer fighter than Tony Marino. The staying power of the
three-knockdown rule
is a testament to its worth. Back in 1999 . . . Kabary Salem, a very little known
Egyptian boxer, came to Kansas City to fight a local fighter who was rather popular
at that time. His name was Randie Carver. And, in that fight, it was filled with fouls
and it was a very rough fight, and Carver, by the end of it, ended up getting knocked out, and was eventually taken by
ambulance to a hospital and he died a few days later. And I was at that fight. Once you see that kind of situation, it does cause you to wonder if boxing regulators are doing
everything that they can in
order to make the sport
as safe as possible, understanding that there are always
inherent risks in a sport such as boxing. And, so, to relate this back to
Tony Marino, his significance can not be
underestimated because, it was through his death
in the ring that they established this
well-intentioned rule in order to, hopefully,
prevent future ring deaths, as well. And, even though it has its flaws, and there are certainly examples
to the contrary, I think we can say that the
three-knockdown rule,
in many instances, perhaps, is something that is not only justified,
but has been able to save some lives. Although he is not a
well-remembered champion, Tony Marino had an impact that
reached further than most. Thanks, in part, to his rueful demise, the three-knockdown rule
eventually became a staple
in the sport of boxing, and, in turn, many fighters
have been spared
an “absolutely unaccountable” end. I never liked boxing. I think it’s silly to be beating
on each other. Maybe it’s because of what
happened to my brother Tony. I don’t know, but it was very sad. Usually it takes some type
of tragic event that gains widespread media
attention for a policy change to take place. Tony Marino’s legacy to boxing is the three-knockdown rule. Tony Marino was born
in Duquesne, southeast of Pittsburgh, on May 18, 1910. His parents,
Anthony and Felice, had emigrated from Italy
at the turn of the century. They lived in Naples, Italy, and my dad came over
to the States first and got a job at Fairchance. He got established there and then sent for my mother. At the time,
she had two little ones. She came over by herself
with the two little kids. She couldn’t speak a word of English. And my dad worked in the mill
in Fairchance and then he moved to Duquesne. Marino was one of thirteen children, six boys and seven girls. One of the girls died in infancy. One of the boys died from scarlet
fever at the age of fourteen. As Marino neared adulthood, in the late 1920s, the country found itself in the grip of
The Great Depression. The stock market crashed. Banks closed. People lost their homes. And one-quarter of the nation
was out of work. Like many of his relatives, Marino spent some time
working at the area steel mills. The work was tough and it could be scarce. The alternatives for improving
one’s financial condition in western
Pennsylvania were limited. But, for many young males, the art of pugilism offered the hope of achieving
something better than a mundane existence. There were fights every night in the clubs
and in places like Duquesne Gardens and
Motor Square Garden. And with Duquesne Gardens as a venue, that gave boxing a big place for indoor
fights that would hold
five or six thousand people. In the summertime, there were fights
at Forbes Field, which was built in 1909. And later, places like Hickey Park in Millvale and the Heidelberg Arena in Heidelberg. Marino’s older brother,
Charles Marino, was the first in the family to pursue prizefighting as a career. He turned professional in 1919
at the age of 16. He had difficulty finding fights so before the year was up he decided to change his name, paying homage to Tommy Ryan, a turn-of-the-century fighter
who had held both the welterweight and middleweight titles. Fighters back in those days
— many fighters — took Irish names because
the promoters thought that the Irish fighters pulled
in the crowds. Under his new moniker,
he fought his way into contention. He received a shot at the
bantamweight title on September 8th, 1924, losing a fifteen-round decision to champion Abe Goldstein. Tommy Ryan retired from
the ring in 1929 after ten years in boxing. The next year, Tony Marino decided to follow
in his brother’s footsteps despite his mother’s wishes
to the contrary. Having established a successful
amateur career, becoming the flyweight champion
of Pennsylvania, he decided that prizefighting
would provide a better way of life than
the steel mills. On July 2nd, 1930, just past his twentieth birthday, he made his professional debut. He won his first twelve fights, including impressive victories over
veteran fighters Joey Ross and Marty Gold, a former flyweight contender. In March 1932, he decided to step up
in competition, and suffered his first defeat at the hands of Wee Willie Davies, a bantamweight contender
with over 150 fights to his credit. Marino took a tumble
after the Davies fight, losing three of his next four bouts. He was defeated by flyweight champion
Midget Wolgast, Canada’s
bantamweight
champion
Bobby Leitham. and contender
Ernie Maurer. Disillusioned by this series of losses, Marino took six months off
before he fought again. It became harder and harder
for him to get fights because of the scarcity
of fighters his own size. He was 5 feet, 3 inches, and the bantamweight limit
was 118 pounds. So, he hopped a freight
out to California where there were small fighters who were
from the Phillipines, from Mexico — he could get more fights out there. Over the next year and a half, he fought a dozen times, facing several contenders
and future champions, like Young Tommy Small Montana, and Pablo Dano. And he had a rematch with Midget Wolgast. Ironically, he lost most of these fights, winning only four,
losing six, and
scoring two draws. But his time on the west coast enabled him to hone his
skills as a boxer and build up a reputation
as a crowd-pleaser
that was tough to beat. After fighting contender
Speedy Dado to a draw
in late 1935, Marino returned east, this time with his eye on
New York City. Light heavyweight contender
Irish Jimmy Webb, who was Marino’s roommate, recalled the first time he met him in 1936. “He was a little guy five feet three with a high forehead, wild brown hair, squinting eyes, a Roman nose, and a sallow complexion. Unlike many fighters, he still had his own front teeth
after five years of first-rate competition, but he had the usual deviated septum,
and it was hard for him to breathe
through his nose. He had a high-pitched voice and his right ear was slightly cauliflowered, so I knew he had a flaw in his defense
against left hooks. But, he had a fine pair of shoulders, and the challenging way he stood, his quick, energetic walk, and the way he talked
— crisp and staccato — made him a personality
you couldn’t forget. He looked like some small, sculptured
statue by some master artist, and whenever I hear the word
‘effervescent,’ I think of Tony. Tony effervesced.” Marino was as rough and tough
inside the ring as he was gentle
and kind outside of it. “Tony always said his prayers. There was never a night
he missed his devotions. He didn’t drink or smoke. And he was mighty emphatic about the way he expected a
roommate to conduct himself. But don’t get the idea that
Tony was unfriendly. He made a friend of everybody he met. And he was always grinning
and cracking wise. Things like
‘Many a true word is said in a joke,’ and ‘Anybody fools with me,
they get burned.’ Every Sunday, he would take
a bunch of the neighborhood
kids out to Coney Island. And he was a pushover for every
hard luck story he heard —
always giving away his money.” Although Marino’s family didn’t get
to see a lot of him due to his frequent
time fighting on the road, they were always happy on the rare
occasions when he could get back
for a visit. Oh, I can remember him coming home
and — we were real young then — he brought those little white mice
with red eyes, and (laughs) —
they were pets, you know, for the younger kids,
me and my sisters Ann and Edna. I never liked those things. (laughs) We always was glad to see
him come home. Despite his generous nature, Marino also had a bit of
a sadistic streak. “Times when I was in
training and he wasn’t, he’d cook up a mess of the
most wonderful-smelling
spaghetti, just to tempt me. You can’t eat spaghetti in training, you know, and I think Tony did it just to toughen up
my willpower. He was a real sentimentalist, though. I remember once we went to a
Shirley Temple movie, and when we came out of the theater,
Tony was crying into his handkerchief.” His first fight back east was at
Ridgewood Grove, a venue in Queens. Marino took a decision against
Richard LiBrandi, who had won New York’s Golden Gloves
flyweight championship in 1934. On April 11th, 1936,
he suffered his first knockout loss when he was stopped in three rounds
by Willie Felice. They fought again exactly three weeks later. Marino handily won the decision. At this point, Marino had grown
disillusioned with his career,
which he felt was stagnating. He was disappointed that the lighter weight
fighters didn’t make much money unless
they were champions. And since it didn’t look like he would
get a title shot any time soon, he seriously considered hanging
up the gloves. However, following a knockout win over
little known Santos Hugo, Marino received the opportunity
he longed for. The bantamweight divison was in flux
in the early 1930s. There was a good champion named
Panama Al Brown. For some reason, in about 1932, he left the United States
and started fighting in Europe. He had a lot of fights over there. but he was outside of the jurisdiction
of the two sanctioning bodies, the National Boxing Association
and the more prestigious
New York State Athletic Commission. More prestigious because New York,
at that time,
was the world capital of boxing. And they vacated the championship. Panama Al Brown’s wanderings
took him to Valencia, Spain, where on June 1, 1935,
he fought Baltasar Sangchili for the European version of the
world bantamweight title. Since it was viewed as a
championship fight, it was scheduled for fifteen rounds. Brown lost the decision, prompting Nat Fleischer,
founder of The Ring boxing magazine, to declare Sangchili the world’s new
bantamweight champ. Well, Nat Fleischer was sort of a
sanctioning body unto himself. He was probably the first boxing
historian of any note. He was the editor of The Ring magazine, which at that time was about the only
organization or publication that, uh — The Ring Record Book — that collected the
records of boxers from all over the world. Up until then it had been a very
haphazard sort of thing. So, Nat Fleischer’s recognition
carried a lot of weight. On June 2, 1936, Marino was matched
against Lou Salica, who briefly held the world championship
a year earlier. Salica was the 2-to-1 favorite to beat
Marino in the crossroads bout; however, Salica, considered
by most boxing historians
as one of the Top 20
bantamweights of all time, was taken to school by Marino, and the 2,000 fans in the Queensboro Arena
couldn’t dispute the unanimous decision, which earned Marino a shot at
Baltasar Sangchili. Twenty-seven days later, Marino found himself at
New York’s Dyckman Oval
in front of 5,000 enthusiastic spectators. And for thirteen rounds,
Tony Marino took a terrific
beating from Sangchili. But, in the fourteenth round,
he landed a one-two combination, a left hook and a right cross, and Sangchili had to be carried
from the ring. He knocked him cold. Marino didn’t have much time to enjoy
his newfound stature as
king of the bantamweights. Although he was the world champion in the eyes of Nat Fleischer and The Ring boxing magazine, the fight had taken place in New York, a state that embraced Sixto Escobar
as the top bantamweight. This conflict made a meeting
between the claimants inevitable. They squared off on August 31st
at Dyckman Oval. Marino, a 2-to-1 underdog, endured a horrendous thrashing at
the hands of the Puerto Rican battler. He tasted the canvas a total of
five times, all in the second round. Each time,
he got up and fought on, and in the sixth, he brought his small
legion of supporters to their feet by
landing a series of solid left hooks. Having scored two upsets in a row, Marino’s prospects for a third triumph
weren’t altogether inconceivable, but his rally was short-lived. Despite applying continual pressure, he received much more
punishment than he returned, and by the end of the eleventh —
the only other round he won — his eyes were badly cut and swollen. His handlers were unable to stop the
flow of blood from a severe gash
over his right eye, And after the thirteenth round, the ringside physician ordered the referee
to halt the proceedings. True to form,
Marino protested the decision, honestly believing he would rally
late and stop Escobar just as
he had stopped Sangchili. Those close to Marino
noticed changes in him
after his loss to Escobar. His brother, Tommy Ryan,
believed the punishment he
endured in that fight had taken too much out of him, and he recommended that
his little brother should
hang up the gloves. However, at the urging of his
manager, Charley Cook,
Marino soldiered onward. Not long after his defeat
at the hands of Escobar, he came to Pittsburgh for his
only fight here since he had
left for the west coast. It was a return bout with Sangchili. Regis Welsh, who was a great boxing
writer for The Pittsburgh Press, said that only “the gamest of the game”
could have absorbed the beating that
Marino took. The fight went ten rounds to a decision. Following this loss to Sangchili, Marino returned to New York, where he fought — and won — four
eight-round fights, all by decision. That Christmas,
he returned home, accompanied by a guest. He was gonna get married. He brought his girlfriend from New York
to introduce to the family. On January 30, 1937, he climbed through the ropes at
Ridgewood Grove to face Carlos “Indian” Quintana. Quintana, the former
flyweight champion of Panama, made an international name for
himself the previous July when
he beat Escobar in a non-title bout. The win earned Quintana a shot at
Escobar’s title four months later. Quintana was knocked out
in the first round. It was a loss he was anxious to vindicate. Twenty-five hundred fans
turned out to see the fight
between the two contenders. Marino was heavily outclassed,
being dropped no fewer than
four times throughout the fray. Some of the spectators shouted
at the referee to stop the contest,
but to no avail. Not surprisingly,
the tough Italian finished
the eight-rounder on his feet. But, as Quintana’s arm was raised
in victory, Marino collapsed and
had to be assisted to his dressing room. Shortly thereafter, he was rushed to
Wyckoff Heights Hospital in Brooklyn. He never regained consciousness, succumbing to a subdural hemorrhage
on the right side of the brain
at 2:30 a.m., February 1, 1937. My recollection was whenever we got
the phone call that he was in the hospital. My dad had to go on a train. I don’t remember if he went by himself,
or if somebody was with him,
but he went by train. But, by the time Dad got to New York,
he was gone. He was gone by that time. And, the funeral,
he was laid out in our home. We had a living room and
a big dining room. And the place was just bombarded
with flowers. In those days, the paperboys
would come around with “Extra! Extra!” And there was the extra papers
about Tony dying and getting killed. Ironically, Marino had written his mother
a letter shortly before his final bout,
telling her he had a surprise for her when
he returned home. The fight that he got killed in, that was the fight he told my mother
that he would — that was the last fight
he was gonna have. He was gonna quit and get married. And he died. Two other ring fatalities had
occurred in the New York area
within the previous year. Tony Scarpati, a welterweight,
was fatally injured in a bout against future lightweight champion
Lou Ambers in March 1936. William Peartree, an Albany fighter
known as Willie Pal, died following a six-round loss to
Pete DeRuzza three months later. Despite these two tragedies,
it was Marino’s death that sparked an investigation that
captured the concern of the state’s
boxing promoters. Eventually, Quintana,
referee Al Reich,
Marino’s handlers,
and the owners of
the Ridgewood Grove were deemed innocent
of any wrongdoing in
the tragedy. Dr. Eugene Kenney,
who examined Marino
prior to the fight, and found him to be in
good health, stated that the boxer’s
death was “one of those
things — it is absolutely
unaccountable.” Unaccountable, perhaps. But, in an effort to prove it
wasn’t entirely in vain, the New York State Athletic
Commission convened on
February 3rd to frame a new rule. Citing Marino’s death, the Commission empowered referees to stop a contest in which a figher has been knocked down three times in a single round. As far as the establishment of the
three-knockdown rule, or, virtually, any major rule change
in the sport of boxing, they typically tend to occur after
some type of tragic event has occurred. After the death of Duk Koo Kim
at the hands of Ray Mancini in a world lightweight championship
bout in the early 1980s, that’s where you saw the
beginning of the reduction from 15 rounds to 12 rounds for
world championship fights. Now it’s almost forgotten that
championship bouts were actually
15 rounds 25 years ago or so. And, the example of Tony Marino’s death brought attention to this idea that, perhaps,
boxing authorities should make it a rule to have fighters that have been
knocked down multiple times — to have the fight stopped,
regardless of the nature of those knockdowns. Initially, this rule only applied to
non-championship matches
in the state of New York. As the years progressed, the
three-knockdown rule gained momentum. Eventually, it was adopted by several states
and countries, and it was even applied to
some championship matches. As it became a more popular rule, it also became subjected to criticism
regarding its supposed necessity. In fact, of the four major sanctioning
boxing organizations — the World Boxing Association, the World Boxing Council, the World Boxing Organization, and the International Boxing Federation — only the WBA uses the rule in
championship fights. It does rob the referee of his discretion
as to stopping a fight. The 1990 fight between
Iran “The Blade” Barkley
and Nigel Benn, which was a dramatic slugfest
for as long as it lasted. It was three minutes of warfare. Barkley was knocked down
three times in that fight. The three-knockdown rule,
when the WBO was established, was indeed in effect for
championship fights. I was at that fight. And it was met with a chorus
of boos because it was clear that
these were flash knockdowns and it robbed us — the fans, the reporters,
anyone who was watching the fight on
television at that time — was robbed from the ability to see
even more rounds of a
tremendously exciting fight. Another fight that comes to mind
is the first
Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez fight. Marquez was knocked down three times
in the initial round and battled back
for an official draw. Some would say he even won that fight. Had the three-knockdown rule been in effect, that would have robbed the fans,
the reporters, the viewers, the media,
everyone from being able to see
that dramatic comeback. Despite examples that support
the rule’s critics, it has managed to endure for
three-quarters of a century in
various professional boxing circles. Perhaps, more significantly, it has
gained a foothold in the world of
amateur boxing. In terms of amateur boxing,
perhaps there’s a little bit more
of a justification for it because they are amateurs, they do not
tend to have the same kind of experience
that professionals do, there’s not a lot of leeway given to fighters
who are hurt in amateur boxing. Also, there isn’t money on the line, there aren’t necessarily careers on the line, so you can perhaps make a little bit more
of a justification for it at the amateur level
than the professional level. Because his overall accomplishments
in the ring were not very dynamic, Tony Marino’s place in boxing history
has been largely overlooked. Well, Tony Marino’s
reputation consists
pretty much of his win over Lou Salica and
his knockout of Sangchili
after having taken a terrible
beating for thirteen rounds. You can’t really say that he’s as prestigious
a champion as some of the others. Conn . . . . . . Zivic . . . . . . certainly Greb . . . . . . Billy Soose . . . . . . Teddy Yarosz . . . They were really great fighters over
a long period of time, whereas Tony Marino’s reputation
pretty much rests on those two fights,
and on his gameness. There was probably never a
gamer fighter than Tony Marino. The staying power of the
three-knockdown rule
is a testament to its worth. Back in 1999 . . . Kabary Salem, a very little known
Egyptian boxer, came to Kansas City to fight a local fighter who was rather popular
at that time. His name was Randie Carver. And, in that fight, it was filled with fouls
and it was a very rough fight, and Carver, by the end of it, ended up getting knocked out, and was eventually taken by
ambulance to a hospital and he died a few days later. And I was at that fight. Once you see that kind of situation, it does cause you to wonder if boxing regulators are doing
everything that they can in
order to make the sport
as safe as possible, understanding that there are always
inherent risks in a sport such as boxing. And, so, to relate this back to
Tony Marino, his significance can not be
underestimated because, it was through his death
in the ring that they established this
well-intentioned rule in order to, hopefully,
prevent future ring deaths, as well. And, even though it has its flaws, and there are certainly examples
to the contrary, I think we can say that the
three-knockdown rule,
in many instances, perhaps, is something that is not only justified,
but has been able to save some lives. Although he is not a
well-remembered champion, Tony Marino had an impact that
reached further than most. Thanks, in part, to his rueful demise, the three-knockdown rule
eventually became a staple
in the sport of boxing, and, in turn, many fighters
have been spared
an “absolutely unaccountable” end. I never liked boxing. I think it’s silly to be beating
on each other. Maybe it’s because of what
happened to my brother Tony. I don’t know, but it was very sad. Usually it takes some type
of tragic event that gains widespread media
attention for a policy change to take place. Tony Marino’s legacy to boxing is the three-knockdown rule. Tony Marino was born
in Duquesne, southeast of Pittsburgh, on May 18, 1910. His parents,
Anthony and Felice, had emigrated from Italy
at the turn of the century. They lived in Naples, Italy, and my dad came over
to the States first and got a job at Fairchance. He got established there and then sent for my mother. At the time,
she had two little ones. She came over by herself
with the two little kids. She couldn’t speak a word of English. And my dad worked in the mill
in Fairchance and then he moved to Duquesne. Marino was one of thirteen children, six boys and seven girls. One of the girls died in infancy. One of the boys died from scarlet
fever at the age of fourteen. As Marino neared adulthood, in the late 1920s, the country found itself in the grip of
The Great Depression. The stock market crashed. Banks closed. People lost their homes. And one-quarter of the nation
was out of work. Like many of his relatives, Marino spent some time
working at the area steel mills. The work was tough and it could be scarce. The alternatives for improving
one’s financial condition in western
Pennsylvania were limited. But, for many young males, the art of pugilism offered the hope of achieving
something better than a mundane existence. There were fights every night in the clubs
and in places like Duquesne Gardens and
Motor Square Garden. And with Duquesne Gardens as a venue, that gave boxing a big place for indoor
fights that would hold
five or six thousand people. In the summertime, there were fights
at Forbes Field, which was built in 1909. And later, places like Hickey Park in Millvale and the Heidelberg Arena in Heidelberg. Marino’s older brother,
Charles Marino, was the first in the family to pursue prizefighting as a career. He turned professional in 1919
at the age of 16. He had difficulty finding fights so before the year was up he decided to change his name, paying homage to Tommy Ryan, a turn-of-the-century fighter
who had held both the welterweight and middleweight titles. Fighters back in those days
— many fighters — took Irish names because
the promoters thought that the Irish fighters pulled
in the crowds. Under his new moniker,
he fought his way into contention. He received a shot at the
bantamweight title on September 8th, 1924, losing a fifteen-round decision to champion Abe Goldstein. Tommy Ryan retired from
the ring in 1929 after ten years in boxing. The next year, Tony Marino decided to follow
in his brother’s footsteps despite his mother’s wishes
to the contrary. Having established a successful
amateur career, becoming the flyweight champion
of Pennsylvania, he decided that prizefighting
would provide a better way of life than
the steel mills. On July 2nd, 1930, just past his twentieth birthday, he made his professional debut. He won his first twelve fights, including impressive victories over
veteran fighters Joey Ross and Marty Gold, a former flyweight contender. In March 1932, he decided to step up
in competition, and suffered his first defeat at the hands of Wee Willie Davies, a bantamweight contender
with over 150 fights to his credit. Marino took a tumble
after the Davies fight, losing three of his next four bouts. He was defeated by flyweight champion
Midget Wolgast, Canada’s
bantamweight
champion
Bobby Leitham. and contender
Ernie Maurer. Disillusioned by this series of losses, Marino took six months off
before he fought again. It became harder and harder
for him to get fights because of the scarcity
of fighters his own size. He was 5 feet, 3 inches, and the bantamweight limit
was 118 pounds. So, he hopped a freight
out to California where there were small fighters who were
from the Phillipines, from Mexico — he could get more fights out there. Over the next year and a half, he fought a dozen times, facing several contenders
and future champions, like Young Tommy Small Montana, and Pablo Dano. And he had a rematch with Midget Wolgast. Ironically, he lost most of these fights, winning only four,
losing six, and
scoring two draws. But his time on the west coast enabled him to hone his
skills as a boxer and build up a reputation
as a crowd-pleaser
that was tough to beat. After fighting contender
Speedy Dado to a draw
in late 1935, Marino returned east, this time with his eye on
New York City. Light heavyweight contender
Irish Jimmy Webb, who was Marino’s roommate, recalled the first time he met him in 1936. “He was a little guy five feet three with a high forehead, wild brown hair, squinting eyes, a Roman nose, and a sallow complexion. Unlike many fighters, he still had his own front teeth
after five years of first-rate competition, but he had the usual deviated septum,
and it was hard for him to breathe
through his nose. He had a high-pitched voice and his right ear was slightly cauliflowered, so I knew he had a flaw in his defense
against left hooks. But, he had a fine pair of shoulders, and the challenging way he stood, his quick, energetic walk, and the way he talked
— crisp and staccato — made him a personality
you couldn’t forget. He looked like some small, sculptured
statue by some master artist, and whenever I hear the word
‘effervescent,’ I think of Tony. Tony effervesced.” Marino was as rough and tough
inside the ring as he was gentle
and kind outside of it. “Tony always said his prayers. There was never a night
he missed his devotions. He didn’t drink or smoke. And he was mighty emphatic about the way he expected a
roommate to conduct himself. But don’t get the idea that
Tony was unfriendly. He made a friend of everybody he met. And he was always grinning
and cracking wise. Things like
‘Many a true word is said in a joke,’ and ‘Anybody fools with me,
they get burned.’ Every Sunday, he would take
a bunch of the neighborhood
kids out to Coney Island. And he was a pushover for every
hard luck story he heard —
always giving away his money.” Although Marino’s family didn’t get
to see a lot of him due to his frequent
time fighting on the road, they were always happy on the rare
occasions when he could get back
for a visit. Oh, I can remember him coming home
and — we were real young then — he brought those little white mice
with red eyes, and (laughs) —
they were pets, you know, for the younger kids,
me and my sisters Ann and Edna. I never liked those things. (laughs) We always was glad to see
him come home. Despite his generous nature, Marino also had a bit of
a sadistic streak. “Times when I was in
training and he wasn’t, he’d cook up a mess of the
most wonderful-smelling
spaghetti, just to tempt me. You can’t eat spaghetti in training, you know, and I think Tony did it just to toughen up
my willpower. He was a real sentimentalist, though. I remember once we went to a
Shirley Temple movie, and when we came out of the theater,
Tony was crying into his handkerchief.” His first fight back east was at
Ridgewood Grove, a venue in Queens. Marino took a decision against
Richard LiBrandi, who had won New York’s Golden Gloves
flyweight championship in 1934. On April 11th, 1936,
he suffered his first knockout loss when he was stopped in three rounds
by Willie Felice. They fought again exactly three weeks later. Marino handily won the decision. At this point, Marino had grown
disillusioned with his career,
which he felt was stagnating. He was disappointed that the lighter weight
fighters didn’t make much money unless
they were champions. And since it didn’t look like he would
get a title shot any time soon, he seriously considered hanging
up the gloves. However, following a knockout win over
little known Santos Hugo, Marino received the opportunity
he longed for. The bantamweight divison was in flux
in the early 1930s. There was a good champion named
Panama Al Brown. For some reason, in about 1932, he left the United States
and started fighting in Europe. He had a lot of fights over there. but he was outside of the jurisdiction
of the two sanctioning bodies, the National Boxing Association
and the more prestigious
New York State Athletic Commission. More prestigious because New York,
at that time,
was the world capital of boxing. And they vacated the championship. Panama Al Brown’s wanderings
took him to Valencia, Spain, where on June 1, 1935,
he fought Baltasar Sangchili for the European version of the
world bantamweight title. Since it was viewed as a
championship fight, it was scheduled for fifteen rounds. Brown lost the decision, prompting Nat Fleischer,
founder of The Ring boxing magazine, to declare Sangchili the world’s new
bantamweight champ. Well, Nat Fleischer was sort of a
sanctioning body unto himself. He was probably the first boxing
historian of any note. He was the editor of The Ring magazine, which at that time was about the only
organization or publication that, uh — The Ring Record Book — that collected the
records of boxers from all over the world. Up until then it had been a very
haphazard sort of thing. So, Nat Fleischer’s recognition
carried a lot of weight. On June 2, 1936, Marino was matched
against Lou Salica, who briefly held the world championship
a year earlier. Salica was the 2-to-1 favorite to beat
Marino in the crossroads bout; however, Salica, considered
by most boxing historians
as one of the Top 20
bantamweights of all time, was taken to school by Marino, and the 2,000 fans in the Queensboro Arena
couldn’t dispute the unanimous decision, which earned Marino a shot at
Baltasar Sangchili. Twenty-seven days later, Marino found himself at
New York’s Dyckman Oval
in front of 5,000 enthusiastic spectators. And for thirteen rounds,
Tony Marino took a terrific
beating from Sangchili. But, in the fourteenth round,
he landed a one-two combination, a left hook and a right cross, and Sangchili had to be carried
from the ring. He knocked him cold. Marino didn’t have much time to enjoy
his newfound stature as
king of the bantamweights. Although he was the world champion in the eyes of Nat Fleischer and The Ring boxing magazine, the fight had taken place in New York, a state that embraced Sixto Escobar
as the top bantamweight. This conflict made a meeting
between the claimants inevitable. They squared off on August 31st
at Dyckman Oval. Marino, a 2-to-1 underdog, endured a horrendous thrashing at
the hands of the Puerto Rican battler. He tasted the canvas a total of
five times, all in the second round. Each time,
he got up and fought on, and in the sixth, he brought his small
legion of supporters to their feet by
landing a series of solid left hooks. Having scored two upsets in a row, Marino’s prospects for a third triumph
weren’t altogether inconceivable, but his rally was short-lived. Despite applying continual pressure, he received much more
punishment than he returned, and by the end of the eleventh —
the only other round he won — his eyes were badly cut and swollen. His handlers were unable to stop the
flow of blood from a severe gash
over his right eye, And after the thirteenth round, the ringside physician ordered the referee
to halt the proceedings. True to form,
Marino protested the decision, honestly believing he would rally
late and stop Escobar just as
he had stopped Sangchili. Those close to Marino
noticed changes in him
after his loss to Escobar. His brother, Tommy Ryan,
believed the punishment he
endured in that fight had taken too much out of him, and he recommended that
his little brother should
hang up the gloves. However, at the urging of his
manager, Charley Cook,
Marino soldiered onward. Not long after his defeat
at the hands of Escobar, he came to Pittsburgh for his
only fight here since he had
left for the west coast. It was a return bout with Sangchili. Regis Welsh, who was a great boxing
writer for The Pittsburgh Press, said that only “the gamest of the game”
could have absorbed the beating that
Marino took. The fight went ten rounds to a decision. Following this loss to Sangchili, Marino returned to New York, where he fought — and won — four
eight-round fights, all by decision. That Christmas,
he returned home, accompanied by a guest. He was gonna get married. He brought his girlfriend from New York
to introduce to the family. On January 30, 1937, he climbed through the ropes at
Ridgewood Grove to face Carlos “Indian” Quintana. Quintana, the former
flyweight champion of Panama, made an international name for
himself the previous July when
he beat Escobar in a non-title bout. The win earned Quintana a shot at
Escobar’s title four months later. Quintana was knocked out
in the first round. It was a loss he was anxious to vindicate. Twenty-five hundred fans
turned out to see the fight
between the two contenders. Marino was heavily outclassed,
being dropped no fewer than
four times throughout the fray. Some of the spectators shouted
at the referee to stop the contest,
but to no avail. Not surprisingly,
the tough Italian finished
the eight-rounder on his feet. But, as Quintana’s arm was raised
in victory, Marino collapsed and
had to be assisted to his dressing room. Shortly thereafter, he was rushed to
Wyckoff Heights Hospital in Brooklyn. He never regained consciousness, succumbing to a subdural hemorrhage
on the right side of the brain
at 2:30 a.m., February 1, 1937. My recollection was whenever we got
the phone call that he was in the hospital. My dad had to go on a train. I don’t remember if he went by himself,
or if somebody was with him,
but he went by train. But, by the time Dad got to New York,
he was gone. He was gone by that time. And, the funeral,
he was laid out in our home. We had a living room and
a big dining room. And the place was just bombarded
with flowers. In those days, the paperboys
would come around with “Extra! Extra!” And there was the extra papers
about Tony dying and getting killed. Ironically, Marino had written his mother
a letter shortly before his final bout,
telling her he had a surprise for her when
he returned home. The fight that he got killed in, that was the fight he told my mother
that he would — that was the last fight
he was gonna have. He was gonna quit and get married. And he died. Two other ring fatalities had
occurred in the New York area
within the previous year. Tony Scarpati, a welterweight,
was fatally injured in a bout against future lightweight champion
Lou Ambers in March 1936. William Peartree, an Albany fighter
known as Willie Pal, died following a six-round loss to
Pete DeRuzza three months later. Despite these two tragedies,
it was Marino’s death that sparked an investigation that
captured the concern of the state’s
boxing promoters. Eventually, Quintana,
referee Al Reich,
Marino’s handlers,
and the owners of
the Ridgewood Grove were deemed innocent
of any wrongdoing in
the tragedy. Dr. Eugene Kenney,
who examined Marino
prior to the fight, and found him to be in
good health, stated that the boxer’s
death was “one of those
things — it is absolutely
unaccountable.” Unaccountable, perhaps. But, in an effort to prove it
wasn’t entirely in vain, the New York State Athletic
Commission convened on
February 3rd to frame a new rule. Citing Marino’s death, the Commission empowered referees to stop a contest in which a figher has been knocked down three times in a single round. As far as the establishment of the
three-knockdown rule, or, virtually, any major rule change
in the sport of boxing, they typically tend to occur after
some type of tragic event has occurred. After the death of Duk Koo Kim
at the hands of Ray Mancini in a world lightweight championship
bout in the early 1980s, that’s where you saw the
beginning of the reduction from 15 rounds to 12 rounds for
world championship fights. Now it’s almost forgotten that
championship bouts were actually
15 rounds 25 years ago or so. And, the example of Tony Marino’s death brought attention to this idea that, perhaps,
boxing authorities should make it a rule to have fighters that have been
knocked down multiple times — to have the fight stopped,
regardless of the nature of those knockdowns. Initially, this rule only applied to
non-championship matches
in the state of New York. As the years progressed, the
three-knockdown rule gained momentum. Eventually, it was adopted by several states
and countries, and it was even applied to
some championship matches. As it became a more popular rule, it also became subjected to criticism
regarding its supposed necessity. In fact, of the four major sanctioning
boxing organizations — the World Boxing Association, the World Boxing Council, the World Boxing Organization, and the International Boxing Federation — only the WBA uses the rule in
championship fights. It does rob the referee of his discretion
as to stopping a fight. The 1990 fight between
Iran “The Blade” Barkley
and Nigel Benn, which was a dramatic slugfest
for as long as it lasted. It was three minutes of warfare. Barkley was knocked down
three times in that fight. The three-knockdown rule,
when the WBO was established, was indeed in effect for
championship fights. I was at that fight. And it was met with a chorus
of boos because it was clear that
these were flash knockdowns and it robbed us — the fans, the reporters,
anyone who was watching the fight on
television at that time — was robbed from the ability to see
even more rounds of a
tremendously exciting fight. Another fight that comes to mind
is the first
Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez fight. Marquez was knocked down three times
in the initial round and battled back
for an official draw. Some would say he even won that fight. Had the three-knockdown rule been in effect, that would have robbed the fans,
the reporters, the viewers, the media,
everyone from being able to see
that dramatic comeback. Despite examples that support
the rule’s critics, it has managed to endure for
three-quarters of a century in
various professional boxing circles. Perhaps, more significantly, it has
gained a foothold in the world of
amateur boxing. In terms of amateur boxing,
perhaps there’s a little bit more
of a justification for it because they are amateurs, they do not
tend to have the same kind of experience
that professionals do, there’s not a lot of leeway given to fighters
who are hurt in amateur boxing. Also, there isn’t money on the line, there aren’t necessarily careers on the line, so you can perhaps make a little bit more
of a justification for it at the amateur level
than the professional level. Because his overall accomplishments
in the ring were not very dynamic, Tony Marino’s place in boxing history
has been largely overlooked. Well, Tony Marino’s
reputation consists
pretty much of his win over Lou Salica and
his knockout of Sangchili
after having taken a terrible
beating for thirteen rounds. You can’t really say that he’s as prestigious
a champion as some of the others. Conn . . . . . . Zivic . . . . . . certainly Greb . . . . . . Billy Soose . . . . . . Teddy Yarosz . . . They were really great fighters over
a long period of time, whereas Tony Marino’s reputation
pretty much rests on those two fights,
and on his gameness. There was probably never a
gamer fighter than Tony Marino. The staying power of the
three-knockdown rule
is a testament to its worth. Back in 1999 . . . Kabary Salem, a very little known
Egyptian boxer, came to Kansas City to fight a local fighter who was rather popular
at that time. His name was Randie Carver. And, in that fight, it was filled with fouls
and it was a very rough fight, and Carver, by the end of it, ended up getting knocked out, and was eventually taken by
ambulance to a hospital and he died a few days later. And I was at that fight. Once you see that kind of situation, it does cause you to wonder if boxing regulators are doing
everything that they can in
order to make the sport
as safe as possible, understanding that there are always
inherent risks in a sport such as boxing. And, so, to relate this back to
Tony Marino, his significance can not be
underestimated because, it was through his death
in the ring that they established this
well-intentioned rule in order to, hopefully,
prevent future ring deaths, as well. And, even though it has its flaws, and there are certainly examples
to the contrary, I think we can say that the
three-knockdown rule,
in many instances, perhaps, is something that is not only justified,
but has been able to save some lives. Although he is not a
well-remembered champion, Tony Marino had an impact that
reached further than most. Thanks, in part, to his rueful demise, the three-knockdown rule
eventually became a staple
in the sport of boxing, and, in turn, many fighters
have been spared
an “absolutely unaccountable” end. I never liked boxing. I think it’s silly to be beating
on each other. Maybe it’s because of what
happened to my brother Tony. I don’t know, but it was very sad. Usually it takes some type
of tragic event that gains widespread media
attention for a policy change to take place. Tony Marino’s legacy to boxing is the three-knockdown rule. Tony Marino was born
in Duquesne, southeast of Pittsburgh, on May 18, 1910. His parents,
Anthony and Felice, had emigrated from Italy
at the turn of the century. They lived in Naples, Italy, and my dad came over
to the States first and got a job at Fairchance. He got established there and then sent for my mother. At the time,
she had two little ones. She came over by herself
with the two little kids. She couldn’t speak a word of English. And my dad worked in the mill
in Fairchance and then he moved to Duquesne. Marino was one of thirteen children, six boys and seven girls. One of the girls died in infancy. One of the boys died from scarlet
fever at the age of fourteen. As Marino neared adulthood, in the late 1920s, the country found itself in the grip of
The Great Depression. The stock market crashed. Banks closed. People lost their homes. And one-quarter of the nation
was out of work. Like many of his relatives, Marino spent some time
working at the area steel mills. The work was tough and it could be scarce. The alternatives for improving
one’s financial condition in western
Pennsylvania were limited. But, for many young males, the art of pugilism offered the hope of achieving
something better than a mundane existence. There were fights every night in the clubs
and in places like Duquesne Gardens and
Motor Square Garden. And with Duquesne Gardens as a venue, that gave boxing a big place for indoor
fights that would hold
five or six thousand people. In the summertime, there were fights
at Forbes Field, which was built in 1909. And later, places like Hickey Park in Millvale and the Heidelberg Arena in Heidelberg. Marino’s older brother,
Charles Marino, was the first in the family to pursue prizefighting as a career. He turned professional in 1919
at the age of 16. He had difficulty finding fights so before the year was up he decided to change his name, paying homage to Tommy Ryan, a turn-of-the-century fighter
who had held both the welterweight and middleweight titles. Fighters back in those days
— many fighters — took Irish names because
the promoters thought that the Irish fighters pulled
in the crowds. Under his new moniker,
he fought his way into contention. He received a shot at the
bantamweight title on September 8th, 1924, losing a fifteen-round decision to champion Abe Goldstein. Tommy Ryan retired from
the ring in 1929 after ten years in boxing. The next year, Tony Marino decided to follow
in his brother’s footsteps despite his mother’s wishes
to the contrary. Having established a successful
amateur career, becoming the flyweight champion
of Pennsylvania, he decided that prizefighting
would provide a better way of life than
the steel mills. On July 2nd, 1930, just past his twentieth birthday, he made his professional debut. He won his first twelve fights, including impressive victories over
veteran fighters Joey Ross and Marty Gold, a former flyweight contender. In March 1932, he decided to step up
in competition, and suffered his first defeat at the hands of Wee Willie Davies, a bantamweight contender
with over 150 fights to his credit. Marino took a tumble
after the Davies fight, losing three of his next four bouts. He was defeated by flyweight champion
Midget Wolgast, Canada’s
bantamweight
champion
Bobby Leitham. and contender
Ernie Maurer. Disillusioned by this series of losses, Marino took six months off
before he fought again. It became harder and harder
for him to get fights because of the scarcity
of fighters his own size. He was 5 feet, 3 inches, and the bantamweight limit
was 118 pounds. So, he hopped a freight
out to California where there were small fighters who were
from the Phillipines, from Mexico — he could get more fights out there. Over the next year and a half, he fought a dozen times, facing several contenders
and future champions, like Young Tommy Small Montana, and Pablo Dano. And he had a rematch with Midget Wolgast. Ironically, he lost most of these fights, winning only four,
losing six, and
scoring two draws. But his time on the west coast enabled him to hone his
skills as a boxer and build up a reputation
as a crowd-pleaser
that was tough to beat. After fighting contender
Speedy Dado to a draw
in late 1935, Marino returned east, this time with his eye on
New York City. Light heavyweight contender
Irish Jimmy Webb, who was Marino’s roommate, recalled the first time he met him in 1936. “He was a little guy five feet three with a high forehead, wild brown hair, squinting eyes, a Roman nose, and a sallow complexion. Unlike many fighters, he still had his own front teeth
after five years of first-rate competition, but he had the usual deviated septum,
and it was hard for him to breathe
through his nose. He had a high-pitched voice and his right ear was slightly cauliflowered, so I knew he had a flaw in his defense
against left hooks. But, he had a fine pair of shoulders, and the challenging way he stood, his quick, energetic walk, and the way he talked
— crisp and staccato — made him a personality
you couldn’t forget. He looked like some small, sculptured
statue by some master artist, and whenever I hear the word
‘effervescent,’ I think of Tony. Tony effervesced.” Marino was as rough and tough
inside the ring as he was gentle
and kind outside of it. “Tony always said his prayers. There was never a night
he missed his devotions. He didn’t drink or smoke. And he was mighty emphatic about the way he expected a
roommate to conduct himself. But don’t get the idea that
Tony was unfriendly. He made a friend of everybody he met. And he was always grinning
and cracking wise. Things like
‘Many a true word is said in a joke,’ and ‘Anybody fools with me,
they get burned.’ Every Sunday, he would take
a bunch of the neighborhood
kids out to Coney Island. And he was a pushover for every
hard luck story he heard —
always giving away his money.” Although Marino’s family didn’t get
to see a lot of him due to his frequent
time fighting on the road, they were always happy on the rare
occasions when he could get back
for a visit. Oh, I can remember him coming home
and — we were real young then — he brought those little white mice
with red eyes, and (laughs) —
they were pets, you know, for the younger kids,
me and my sisters Ann and Edna. I never liked those things. (laughs) We always was glad to see
him come home. Despite his generous nature, Marino also had a bit of
a sadistic streak. “Times when I was in
training and he wasn’t, he’d cook up a mess of the
most wonderful-smelling
spaghetti, just to tempt me. You can’t eat spaghetti in training, you know, and I think Tony did it just to toughen up
my willpower. He was a real sentimentalist, though. I remember once we went to a
Shirley Temple movie, and when we came out of the theater,
Tony was crying into his handkerchief.” His first fight back east was at
Ridgewood Grove, a venue in Queens. Marino took a decision against
Richard LiBrandi, who had won New York’s Golden Gloves
flyweight championship in 1934. On April 11th, 1936,
he suffered his first knockout loss when he was stopped in three rounds
by Willie Felice. They fought again exactly three weeks later. Marino handily won the decision. At this point, Marino had grown
disillusioned with his career,
which he felt was stagnating. He was disappointed that the lighter weight
fighters didn’t make much money unless
they were champions. And since it didn’t look like he would
get a title shot any time soon, he seriously considered hanging
up the gloves. However, following a knockout win over
little known Santos Hugo, Marino received the opportunity
he longed for. The bantamweight divison was in flux
in the early 1930s. There was a good champion named
Panama Al Brown. For some reason, in about 1932, he left the United States
and started fighting in Europe. He had a lot of fights over there. but he was outside of the jurisdiction
of the two sanctioning bodies, the National Boxing Association
and the more prestigious
New York State Athletic Commission. More prestigious because New York,
at that time,
was the world capital of boxing. And they vacated the championship. Panama Al Brown’s wanderings
took him to Valencia, Spain, where on June 1, 1935,
he fought Baltasar Sangchili for the European version of the
world bantamweight title. Since it was viewed as a
championship fight, it was scheduled for fifteen rounds. Brown lost the decision, prompting Nat Fleischer,
founder of The Ring boxing magazine, to declare Sangchili the world’s new
bantamweight champ. Well, Nat Fleischer was sort of a
sanctioning body unto himself. He was probably the first boxing
historian of any note. He was the editor of The Ring magazine, which at that time was about the only
organization or publication that, uh — The Ring Record Book — that collected the
records of boxers from all over the world. Up until then it had been a very
haphazard sort of thing. So, Nat Fleischer’s recognition
carried a lot of weight. On June 2, 1936, Marino was matched
against Lou Salica, who briefly held the world championship
a year earlier. Salica was the 2-to-1 favorite to beat
Marino in the crossroads bout; however, Salica, considered
by most boxing historians
as one of the Top 20
bantamweights of all time, was taken to school by Marino, and the 2,000 fans in the Queensboro Arena
couldn’t dispute the unanimous decision, which earned Marino a shot at
Baltasar Sangchili. Twenty-seven days later, Marino found himself at
New York’s Dyckman Oval
in front of 5,000 enthusiastic spectators. And for thirteen rounds,
Tony Marino took a terrific
beating from Sangchili. But, in the fourteenth round,
he landed a one-two combination, a left hook and a right cross, and Sangchili had to be carried
from the ring. He knocked him cold. Marino didn’t have much time to enjoy
his newfound stature as
king of the bantamweights. Although he was the world champion in the eyes of Nat Fleischer and The Ring boxing magazine, the fight had taken place in New York, a state that embraced Sixto Escobar
as the top bantamweight. This conflict made a meeting
between the claimants inevitable. They squared off on August 31st
at Dyckman Oval. Marino, a 2-to-1 underdog, endured a horrendous thrashing at
the hands of the Puerto Rican battler. He tasted the canvas a total of
five times, all in the second round. Each time,
he got up and fought on, and in the sixth, he brought his small
legion of supporters to their feet by
landing a series of solid left hooks. Having scored two upsets in a row, Marino’s prospects for a third triumph
weren’t altogether inconceivable, but his rally was short-lived. Despite applying continual pressure, he received much more
punishment than he returned, and by the end of the eleventh —
the only other round he won — his eyes were badly cut and swollen. His handlers were unable to stop the
flow of blood from a severe gash
over his right eye, And after the thirteenth round, the ringside physician ordered the referee
to halt the proceedings. True to form,
Marino protested the decision, honestly believing he would rally
late and stop Escobar just as
he had stopped Sangchili. Those close to Marino
noticed changes in him
after his loss to Escobar. His brother, Tommy Ryan,
believed the punishment he
endured in that fight had taken too much out of him, and he recommended that
his little brother should
hang up the gloves. However, at the urging of his
manager, Charley Cook,
Marino soldiered onward. Not long after his defeat
at the hands of Escobar, he came to Pittsburgh for his
only fight here since he had
left for the west coast. It was a return bout with Sangchili. Regis Welsh, who was a great boxing
writer for The Pittsburgh Press, said that only “the gamest of the game”
could have absorbed the beating that
Marino took. The fight went ten rounds to a decision. Following this loss to Sangchili, Marino returned to New York, where he fought — and won — four
eight-round fights, all by decision. That Christmas,
he returned home, accompanied by a guest. He was gonna get married. He brought his girlfriend from New York
to introduce to the family. On January 30, 1937, he climbed through the ropes at
Ridgewood Grove to face Carlos “Indian” Quintana. Quintana, the former
flyweight champion of Panama, made an international name for
himself the previous July when
he beat Escobar in a non-title bout. The win earned Quintana a shot at
Escobar’s title four months later. Quintana was knocked out
in the first round. It was a loss he was anxious to vindicate. Twenty-five hundred fans
turned out to see the fight
between the two contenders. Marino was heavily outclassed,
being dropped no fewer than
four times throughout the fray. Some of the spectators shouted
at the referee to stop the contest,
but to no avail. Not surprisingly,
the tough Italian finished
the eight-rounder on his feet. But, as Quintana’s arm was raised
in victory, Marino collapsed and
had to be assisted to his dressing room. Shortly thereafter, he was rushed to
Wyckoff Heights Hospital in Brooklyn. He never regained consciousness, succumbing to a subdural hemorrhage
on the right side of the brain
at 2:30 a.m., February 1, 1937. My recollection was whenever we got
the phone call that he was in the hospital. My dad had to go on a train. I don’t remember if he went by himself,
or if somebody was with him,
but he went by train. But, by the time Dad got to New York,
he was gone. He was gone by that time. And, the funeral,
he was laid out in our home. We had a living room and
a big dining room. And the place was just bombarded
with flowers. In those days, the paperboys
would come around with “Extra! Extra!” And there was the extra papers
about Tony dying and getting killed. Ironically, Marino had written his mother
a letter shortly before his final bout,
telling her he had a surprise for her when
he returned home. The fight that he got killed in, that was the fight he told my mother
that he would — that was the last fight
he was gonna have. He was gonna quit and get married. And he died. Two other ring fatalities had
occurred in the New York area
within the previous year. Tony Scarpati, a welterweight,
was fatally injured in a bout against future lightweight champion
Lou Ambers in March 1936. William Peartree, an Albany fighter
known as Willie Pal, died following a six-round loss to
Pete DeRuzza three months later. Despite these two tragedies,
it was Marino’s death that sparked an investigation that
captured the concern of the state’s
boxing promoters. Eventually, Quintana,
referee Al Reich,
Marino’s handlers,
and the owners of
the Ridgewood Grove were deemed innocent
of any wrongdoing in
the tragedy. Dr. Eugene Kenney,
who examined Marino
prior to the fight, and found him to be in
good health, stated that the boxer’s
death was “one of those
things — it is absolutely
unaccountable.” Unaccountable, perhaps. But, in an effort to prove it
wasn’t entirely in vain, the New York State Athletic
Commission convened on
February 3rd to frame a new rule. Citing Marino’s death, the Commission empowered referees to stop a contest in which a figher has been knocked down three times in a single round. As far as the establishment of the
three-knockdown rule, or, virtually, any major rule change
in the sport of boxing, they typically tend to occur after
some type of tragic event has occurred. After the death of Duk Koo Kim
at the hands of Ray Mancini in a world lightweight championship
bout in the early 1980s, that’s where you saw the
beginning of the reduction from 15 rounds to 12 rounds for
world championship fights. Now it’s almost forgotten that
championship bouts were actually
15 rounds 25 years ago or so. And, the example of Tony Marino’s death brought attention to this idea that, perhaps,
boxing authorities should make it a rule to have fighters that have been
knocked down multiple times — to have the fight stopped,
regardless of the nature of those knockdowns. Initially, this rule only applied to
non-championship matches
in the state of New York. As the years progressed, the
three-knockdown rule gained momentum. Eventually, it was adopted by several states
and countries, and it was even applied to
some championship matches. As it became a more popular rule, it also became subjected to criticism
regarding its supposed necessity. In fact, of the four major sanctioning
boxing organizations — the World Boxing Association, the World Boxing Council, the World Boxing Organization, and the International Boxing Federation — only the WBA uses the rule in
championship fights. It does rob the referee of his discretion
as to stopping a fight. The 1990 fight between
Iran “The Blade” Barkley
and Nigel Benn, which was a dramatic slugfest
for as long as it lasted. It was three minutes of warfare. Barkley was knocked down
three times in that fight. The three-knockdown rule,
when the WBO was established, was indeed in effect for
championship fights. I was at that fight. And it was met with a chorus
of boos because it was clear that
these were flash knockdowns and it robbed us — the fans, the reporters,
anyone who was watching the fight on
television at that time — was robbed from the ability to see
even more rounds of a
tremendously exciting fight. Another fight that comes to mind
is the first
Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez fight. Marquez was knocked down three times
in the initial round and battled back
for an official draw. Some would say he even won that fight. Had the three-knockdown rule been in effect, that would have robbed the fans,
the reporters, the viewers, the media,
everyone from being able to see
that dramatic comeback. Despite examples that support
the rule’s critics, it has managed to endure for
three-quarters of a century in
various professional boxing circles. Perhaps, more significantly, it has
gained a foothold in the world of
amateur boxing. In terms of amateur boxing,
perhaps there’s a little bit more
of a justification for it because they are amateurs, they do not
tend to have the same kind of experience
that professionals do, there’s not a lot of leeway given to fighters
who are hurt in amateur boxing. Also, there isn’t money on the line, there aren’t necessarily careers on the line, so you can perhaps make a little bit more
of a justification for it at the amateur level
than the professional level. Because his overall accomplishments
in the ring were not very dynamic, Tony Marino’s place in boxing history
has been largely overlooked. Well, Tony Marino’s
reputation consists
pretty much of his win over Lou Salica and
his knockout of Sangchili
after having taken a terrible
beating for thirteen rounds. You can’t really say that he’s as prestigious
a champion as some of the others. Conn . . . . . . Zivic . . . . . . certainly Greb . . . . . . Billy Soose . . . . . . Teddy Yarosz . . . They were really great fighters over
a long period of time, whereas Tony Marino’s reputation
pretty much rests on those two fights,
and on his gameness. There was probably never a
gamer fighter than Tony Marino. The staying power of the
three-knockdown rule
is a testament to its worth. Back in 1999 . . . Kabary Salem, a very little known
Egyptian boxer, came to Kansas City to fight a local fighter who was rather popular
at that time. His name was Randie Carver. And, in that fight, it was filled with fouls
and it was a very rough fight, and Carver, by the end of it, ended up getting knocked out, and was eventually taken by
ambulance to a hospital and he died a few days later. And I was at that fight. Once you see that kind of situation, it does cause you to wonder if boxing regulators are doing
everything that they can in
order to make the sport
as safe as possible, understanding that there are always
inherent risks in a sport such as boxing. And, so, to relate this back to
Tony Marino, his significance can not be
underestimated because, it was through his death
in the ring that they established this
well-intentioned rule in order to, hopefully,
prevent future ring deaths, as well. And, even though it has its flaws, and there are certainly examples
to the contrary, I think we can say that the
three-knockdown rule,
in many instances, perhaps, is something that is not only justified,
but has been able to save some lives. Although he is not a
well-remembered champion, Tony Marino had an impact that
reached further than most. Thanks, in part, to his rueful demise, the three-knockdown rule
eventually became a staple
in the sport of boxing, and, in turn, many fighters
have been spared
an “absolutely unaccountable” end. I never liked boxing. I think it’s silly to be beating
on each other. Maybe it’s because of what
happened to my brother Tony. I don’t know, but it was very sad. Usually it takes some type
of tragic event that gains widespread media
attention for a policy change to take place. Tony Marino’s legacy to boxing is the three-knockdown rule. Tony Marino was born
in Duquesne, southeast of Pittsburgh, on May 18, 1910. His parents,
Anthony and Felice, had emigrated from Italy
at the turn of the century. They lived in Naples, Italy, and my dad came over
to the States first and got a job at Fairchance. He got established there and then sent for my mother. At the time,
she had two little ones. She came over by herself
with the two little kids. She couldn’t speak a word of English. And my dad worked in the mill
in Fairchance and then he moved to Duquesne. Marino was one of thirteen children, six boys and seven girls. One of the girls died in infancy. One of the boys died from scarlet
fever at the age of fourteen. As Marino neared adulthood, in the late 1920s, the country found itself in the grip of
The Great Depression. The stock market crashed. Banks closed. People lost their homes. And one-quarter of the nation
was out of work. Like many of his relatives, Marino spent some time
working at the area steel mills. The work was tough and it could be scarce. The alternatives for improving
one’s financial condition in western
Pennsylvania were limited. But, for many young males, the art of pugilism offered the hope of achieving
something better than a mundane existence. There were fights every night in the clubs
and in places like Duquesne Gardens and
Motor Square Garden. And with Duquesne Gardens as a venue, that gave boxing a big place for indoor
fights that would hold
five or six thousand people. In the summertime, there were fights
at Forbes Field, which was built in 1909. And later, places like Hickey Park in Millvale and the Heidelberg Arena in Heidelberg. Marino’s older brother,
Charles Marino, was the first in the family to pursue prizefighting as a career. He turned professional in 1919
at the age of 16. He had difficulty finding fights so before the year was up he decided to change his name, paying homage to Tommy Ryan, a turn-of-the-century fighter
who had held both the welterweight and middleweight titles. Fighters back in those days
— many fighters — took Irish names because
the promoters thought that the Irish fighters pulled
in the crowds. Under his new moniker,
he fought his way into contention. He received a shot at the
bantamweight title on September 8th, 1924, losing a fifteen-round decision to champion Abe Goldstein. Tommy Ryan retired from
the ring in 1929 after ten years in boxing. The next year, Tony Marino decided to follow
in his brother’s footsteps despite his mother’s wishes
to the contrary. Having established a successful
amateur career, becoming the flyweight champion
of Pennsylvania, he decided that prizefighting
would provide a better way of life than
the steel mills. On July 2nd, 1930, just past his twentieth birthday, he made his professional debut. He won his first twelve fights, including impressive victories over
veteran fighters Joey Ross and Marty Gold, a former flyweight contender. In March 1932, he decided to step up
in competition, and suffered his first defeat at the hands of Wee Willie Davies, a bantamweight contender
with over 150 fights to his credit. Marino took a tumble
after the Davies fight, losing three of his next four bouts. He was defeated by flyweight champion
Midget Wolgast, Canada’s
bantamweight
champion
Bobby Leitham. and contender
Ernie Maurer. Disillusioned by this series of losses, Marino took six months off
before he fought again. It became harder and harder
for him to get fights because of the scarcity
of fighters his own size. He was 5 feet, 3 inches, and the bantamweight limit
was 118 pounds. So, he hopped a freight
out to California where there were small fighters who were
from the Phillipines, from Mexico — he could get more fights out there. Over the next year and a half, he fought a dozen times, facing several contenders
and future champions, like Young Tommy Small Montana, and Pablo Dano. And he had a rematch with Midget Wolgast. Ironically, he lost most of these fights, winning only four,
losing six, and
scoring two draws. But his time on the west coast enabled him to hone his
skills as a boxer and build up a reputation
as a crowd-pleaser
that was tough to beat. After fighting contender
Speedy Dado to a draw
in late 1935, Marino returned east, this time with his eye on
New York City. Light heavyweight contender
Irish Jimmy Webb, who was Marino’s roommate, recalled the first time he met him in 1936. “He was a little guy five feet three with a high forehead, wild brown hair, squinting eyes, a Roman nose, and a sallow complexion. Unlike many fighters, he still had his own front teeth
after five years of first-rate competition, but he had the usual deviated septum,
and it was hard for him to breathe
through his nose. He had a high-pitched voice and his right ear was slightly cauliflowered, so I knew he had a flaw in his defense
against left hooks. But, he had a fine pair of shoulders, and the challenging way he stood, his quick, energetic walk, and the way he talked
— crisp and staccato — made him a personality
you couldn’t forget. He looked like some small, sculptured
statue by some master artist, and whenever I hear the word
‘effervescent,’ I think of Tony. Tony effervesced.” Marino was as rough and tough
inside the ring as he was gentle
and kind outside of it. “Tony always said his prayers. There was never a night
he missed his devotions. He didn’t drink or smoke. And he was mighty emphatic about the way he expected a
roommate to conduct himself. But don’t get the idea that
Tony was unfriendly. He made a friend of everybody he met. And he was always grinning
and cracking wise. Things like
‘Many a true word is said in a joke,’ and ‘Anybody fools with me,
they get burned.’ Every Sunday, he would take
a bunch of the neighborhood
kids out to Coney Island. And he was a pushover for every
hard luck story he heard —
always giving away his money.” Although Marino’s family didn’t get
to see a lot of him due to his frequent
time fighting on the road, they were always happy on the rare
occasions when he could get back
for a visit. Oh, I can remember him coming home
and — we were real young then — he brought those little white mice
with red eyes, and (laughs) —
they were pets, you know, for the younger kids,
me and my sisters Ann and Edna. I never liked those things. (laughs) We always was glad to see
him come home. Despite his generous nature, Marino also had a bit of
a sadistic streak. “Times when I was in
training and he wasn’t, he’d cook up a mess of the
most wonderful-smelling
spaghetti, just to tempt me. You can’t eat spaghetti in training, you know, and I think Tony did it just to toughen up
my willpower. He was a real sentimentalist, though. I remember once we went to a
Shirley Temple movie, and when we came out of the theater,
Tony was crying into his handkerchief.” His first fight back east was at
Ridgewood Grove, a venue in Queens. Marino took a decision against
Richard LiBrandi, who had won New York’s Golden Gloves
flyweight championship in 1934. On April 11th, 1936,
he suffered his first knockout loss when he was stopped in three rounds
by Willie Felice. They fought again exactly three weeks later. Marino handily won the decision. At this point, Marino had grown
disillusioned with his career,
which he felt was stagnating. He was disappointed that the lighter weight
fighters didn’t make much money unless
they were champions. And since it didn’t look like he would
get a title shot any time soon, he seriously considered hanging
up the gloves. However, following a knockout win over
little known Santos Hugo, Marino received the opportunity
he longed for. The bantamweight divison was in flux
in the early 1930s. There was a good champion named
Panama Al Brown. For some reason, in about 1932, he left the United States
and started fighting in Europe. He had a lot of fights over there. but he was outside of the jurisdiction
of the two sanctioning bodies, the National Boxing Association
and the more prestigious
New York State Athletic Commission. More prestigious because New York,
at that time,
was the world capital of boxing. And they vacated the championship. Panama Al Brown’s wanderings
took him to Valencia, Spain, where on June 1, 1935,
he fought Baltasar Sangchili for the European version of the
world bantamweight title. Since it was viewed as a
championship fight, it was scheduled for fifteen rounds. Brown lost the decision, prompting Nat Fleischer,
founder of The Ring boxing magazine, to declare Sangchili the world’s new
bantamweight champ. Well, Nat Fleischer was sort of a
sanctioning body unto himself. He was probably the first boxing
historian of any note. He was the editor of The Ring magazine, which at that time was about the only
organization or publication that, uh — The Ring Record Book — that collected the
records of boxers from all over the world. Up until then it had been a very
haphazard sort of thing. So, Nat Fleischer’s recognition
carried a lot of weight. On June 2, 1936, Marino was matched
against Lou Salica, who briefly held the world championship
a year earlier. Salica was the 2-to-1 favorite to beat
Marino in the crossroads bout; however, Salica, considered
by most boxing historians
as one of the Top 20
bantamweights of all time, was taken to school by Marino, and the 2,000 fans in the Queensboro Arena
couldn’t dispute the unanimous decision, which earned Marino a shot at
Baltasar Sangchili. Twenty-seven days later, Marino found himself at
New York’s Dyckman Oval
in front of 5,000 enthusiastic spectators. And for thirteen rounds,
Tony Marino took a terrific
beating from Sangchili. But, in the fourteenth round,
he landed a one-two combination, a left hook and a right cross, and Sangchili had to be carried
from the ring. He knocked him cold. Marino didn’t have much time to enjoy
his newfound stature as
king of the bantamweights. Although he was the world champion in the eyes of Nat Fleischer and The Ring boxing magazine, the fight had taken place in New York, a state that embraced Sixto Escobar
as the top bantamweight. This conflict made a meeting
between the claimants inevitable. They squared off on August 31st
at Dyckman Oval. Marino, a 2-to-1 underdog, endured a horrendous thrashing at
the hands of the Puerto Rican battler. He tasted the canvas a total of
five times, all in the second round. Each time,
he got up and fought on, and in the sixth, he brought his small
legion of supporters to their feet by
landing a series of solid left hooks. Having scored two upsets in a row, Marino’s prospects for a third triumph
weren’t altogether inconceivable, but his rally was short-lived. Despite applying continual pressure, he received much more
punishment than he returned, and by the end of the eleventh —
the only other round he won — his eyes were badly cut and swollen. His handlers were unable to stop the
flow of blood from a severe gash
over his right eye, And after the thirteenth round, the ringside physician ordered the referee
to halt the proceedings. True to form,
Marino protested the decision, honestly believing he would rally
late and stop Escobar just as
he had stopped Sangchili. Those close to Marino
noticed changes in him
after his loss to Escobar. His brother, Tommy Ryan,
believed the punishment he
endured in that fight had taken too much out of him, and he recommended that
his little brother should
hang up the gloves. However, at the urging of his
manager, Charley Cook,
Marino soldiered onward. Not long after his defeat
at the hands of Escobar, he came to Pittsburgh for his
only fight here since he had
left for the west coast. It was a return bout with Sangchili. Regis Welsh, who was a great boxing
writer for The Pittsburgh Press, said that only “the gamest of the game”
could have absorbed the beating that
Marino took. The fight went ten rounds to a decision. Following this loss to Sangchili, Marino returned to New York, where he fought — and won — four
eight-round fights, all by decision. That Christmas,
he returned home, accompanied by a guest. He was gonna get married. He brought his girlfriend from New York
to introduce to the family. On January 30, 1937, he climbed through the ropes at
Ridgewood Grove to face Carlos “Indian” Quintana. Quintana, the former
flyweight champion of Panama, made an international name for
himself the previous July when
he beat Escobar in a non-title bout. The win earned Quintana a shot at
Escobar’s title four months later. Quintana was knocked out
in the first round. It was a loss he was anxious to vindicate. Twenty-five hundred fans
turned out to see the fight
between the two contenders. Marino was heavily outclassed,
being dropped no fewer than
four times throughout the fray. Some of the spectators shouted
at the referee to stop the contest,
but to no avail. Not surprisingly,
the tough Italian finished
the eight-rounder on his feet. But, as Quintana’s arm was raised
in victory, Marino collapsed and
had to be assisted to his dressing room. Shortly thereafter, he was rushed to
Wyckoff Heights Hospital in Brooklyn. He never regained consciousness, succumbing to a subdural hemorrhage
on the right side of the brain
at 2:30 a.m., February 1, 1937. My recollection was whenever we got
the phone call that he was in the hospital. My dad had to go on a train. I don’t remember if he went by himself,
or if somebody was with him,
but he went by train. But, by the time Dad got to New York,
he was gone. He was gone by that time. And, the funeral,
he was laid out in our home. We had a living room and
a big dining room. And the place was just bombarded
with flowers. In those days, the paperboys
would come around with “Extra! Extra!” And there was the extra papers
about Tony dying and getting killed. Ironically, Marino had written his mother
a letter shortly before his final bout,
telling her he had a surprise for her when
he returned home. The fight that he got killed in, that was the fight he told my mother
that he would — that was the last fight
he was gonna have. He was gonna quit and get married. And he died. Two other ring fatalities had
occurred in the New York area
within the previous year. Tony Scarpati, a welterweight,
was fatally injured in a bout against future lightweight champion
Lou Ambers in March 1936. William Peartree, an Albany fighter
known as Willie Pal, died following a six-round loss to
Pete DeRuzza three months later. Despite these two tragedies,
it was Marino’s death that sparked an investigation that
captured the concern of the state’s
boxing promoters. Eventually, Quintana,
referee Al Reich,
Marino’s handlers,
and the owners of
the Ridgewood Grove were deemed innocent
of any wrongdoing in
the tragedy. Dr. Eugene Kenney,
who examined Marino
prior to the fight, and found him to be in
good health, stated that the boxer’s
death was “one of those
things — it is absolutely
unaccountable.” Unaccountable, perhaps. But, in an effort to prove it
wasn’t entirely in vain, the New York State Athletic
Commission convened on
February 3rd to frame a new rule. Citing Marino’s death, the Commission empowered referees to stop a contest in which a figher has been knocked down three times in a single round. As far as the establishment of the
three-knockdown rule, or, virtually, any major rule change
in the sport of boxing, they typically tend to occur after
some type of tragic event has occurred. After the death of Duk Koo Kim
at the hands of Ray Mancini in a world lightweight championship
bout in the early 1980s, that’s where you saw the
beginning of the reduction from 15 rounds to 12 rounds for
world championship fights. Now it’s almost forgotten that
championship bouts were actually
15 rounds 25 years ago or so. And, the example of Tony Marino’s death brought attention to this idea that, perhaps,
boxing authorities should make it a rule to have fighters that have been
knocked down multiple times — to have the fight stopped,
regardless of the nature of those knockdowns. Initially, this rule only applied to
non-championship matches
in the state of New York. As the years progressed, the
three-knockdown rule gained momentum. Eventually, it was adopted by several states
and countries, and it was even applied to
some championship matches. As it became a more popular rule, it also became subjected to criticism
regarding its supposed necessity. In fact, of the four major sanctioning
boxing organizations — the World Boxing Association, the World Boxing Council, the World Boxing Organization, and the International Boxing Federation — only the WBA uses the rule in
championship fights. It does rob the referee of his discretion
as to stopping a fight. The 1990 fight between
Iran “The Blade” Barkley
and Nigel Benn, which was a dramatic slugfest
for as long as it lasted. It was three minutes of warfare. Barkley was knocked down
three times in that fight. The three-knockdown rule,
when the WBO was established, was indeed in effect for
championship fights. I was at that fight. And it was met with a chorus
of boos because it was clear that
these were flash knockdowns and it robbed us — the fans, the reporters,
anyone who was watching the fight on
television at that time — was robbed from the ability to see
even more rounds of a
tremendously exciting fight. Another fight that comes to mind
is the first
Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez fight. Marquez was knocked down three times
in the initial round and battled back
for an official draw. Some would say he even won that fight. Had the three-knockdown rule been in effect, that would have robbed the fans,
the reporters, the viewers, the media,
everyone from being able to see
that dramatic comeback. Despite examples that support
the rule’s critics, it has managed to endure for
three-quarters of a century in
various professional boxing circles. Perhaps, more significantly, it has
gained a foothold in the world of
amateur boxing. In terms of amateur boxing,
perhaps there’s a little bit more
of a justification for it because they are amateurs, they do not
tend to have the same kind of experience
that professionals do, there’s not a lot of leeway given to fighters
who are hurt in amateur boxing. Also, there isn’t money on the line, there aren’t necessarily careers on the line, so you can perhaps make a little bit more
of a justification for it at the amateur level
than the professional level. Because his overall accomplishments
in the ring were not very dynamic, Tony Marino’s place in boxing history
has been largely overlooked. Well, Tony Marino’s
reputation consists
pretty much of his win over Lou Salica and
his knockout of Sangchili
after having taken a terrible
beating for thirteen rounds. You can’t really say that he’s as prestigious
a champion as some of the others. Conn . . . . . . Zivic . . . . . . certainly Greb . . . . . . Billy Soose . . . . . . Teddy Yarosz . . . They were really great fighters over
a long period of time, whereas Tony Marino’s reputation
pretty much rests on those two fights,
and on his gameness. There was probably never a
gamer fighter than Tony Marino. The staying power of the
three-knockdown rule
is a testament to its worth. Back in 1999 . . . Kabary Salem, a very little known
Egyptian boxer, came to Kansas City to fight a local fighter who was rather popular
at that time. His name was Randie Carver. And, in that fight, it was filled with fouls
and it was a very rough fight, and Carver, by the end of it, ended up getting knocked out, and was eventually taken by
ambulance to a hospital and he died a few days later. And I was at that fight. Once you see that kind of situation, it does cause you to wonder if boxing regulators are doing
everything that they can in
order to make the sport
as safe as possible, understanding that there are always
inherent risks in a sport such as boxing. And, so, to relate this back to
Tony Marino, his significance can not be
underestimated because, it was through his death
in the ring that they established this
well-intentioned rule in order to, hopefully,
prevent future ring deaths, as well. And, even though it has its flaws, and there are certainly examples
to the contrary, I think we can say that the
three-knockdown rule,
in many instances, perhaps, is something that is not only justified,
but has been able to save some lives. Although he is not a
well-remembered champion, Tony Marino had an impact that
reached further than most. Thanks, in part, to his rueful demise, the three-knockdown rule
eventually became a staple
in the sport of boxing, and, in turn, many fighters
have been spared
an “absolutely unaccountable” end.


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