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Every Joe Gans Lightweight Title Fight – Part 6: Charley Sieger and Gus Gardner

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Where did you get this fellow? – Joe Gans, November 14 1902.

I have embarked upon some difficult projects over the past thirteen years writing about boxing but nothing as challenging as this. Joe Gans was popular in his own time but sourcing information about him is difficult. He was, after all, a sportsman and not a president and he stopped boxing well over a hundred years ago.

Fortunately, Sergei Yurchenko has done a great deal of good work in the area of making understanding Joe Gans less difficult. Sergei isn’t my writing partner in any traditional sense and English is not even his first language, but I am very happy to say that there is no Russian anywhere who knows more about Joe Gans than he. It might be that there is nobody of any nationality than knows more about Joe Gans than he.

If I have questions, he has been able to answer them, and then I have done my best to bring those answers to you. Any failure to do so is mine and not his. So, give his website a click here; this is a site aimed directly at boxing obsessives with an interest in the history, and if you are reading part six of this series, you are that.

So let me take you back once more, this time to Autumn of 1902. Theodore Roosevelt had just become the first American President to ride in a car; Mount Pelée again erupts in Martinique, killing a thousand people; the first ever science-fiction film was released to stunned audiences in Paris, France; and Joe Gans took a month off.

When he returned to the ring it was to defend his title against contender Charley “The Iron Man” Sieger. Prior to October of 1902, Sieger would have been a fighter with no right to occupy a ring holding Joe Gans for any reason other than to provide sparring, but on the third of that month, Sieger beat out a fading George McFadden over twenty rounds and in Baltimore no less, where Gans still made his base. McFadden, perhaps still reeling from the three-round pasting he received at the hands of Gans, started so slowly as to cede the first five rounds and clawing the deficit back was clearly beyond him. Repeatedly slashes to the neck and upper torso left McFadden’s skin red-raw and although Sieger lacked power, he appeared quick-handed and accurate.

More than this he was at that time known for durability and although McFadden made the occasional impression upon him with uppercuts and right hands, he was never turned away.

Sieger stated his intention at the outset to make a match with Joe Gans should he beat McFadden and although Buddy King, a lightweight who was making waves out in Denver seemed to be in the frame, it was soon clear that it would be Sieger. McFadden tried to insert himself into the conversation with talk of a bad training camp and the poor climate disagreeing with him, but his time as a contender was over.

Gans began his training in Baltimore with Herman Miller and Raymond Coates, arriving at the gym in fair shape, impressing when he performed before an audience in the Eureka Athletic Club and finished his training in Leiperville, Pennsylvania where no less a figure than Young Peter Jackson arrived to provide serious opposition in sparring. No detailed account of their spars seems to have survived, such occurrences commonplace to those who witnessed them, such nonchalance almost beyond belief to those with an interest in such things now – suffice to say there was as much skill and guile on display in those spars as would be present in most fight-rings for the first half of the twentieth century. Jackson would meet the immortal Joe Walcott twice after these spars and lost neither contest.

Gans believed he would win, according to The Baltimore Sun, “but as usual, he did not boast.”  Sieger, meanwhile, was training in Baltimore’s Maryland Gym aided by several fighters including featherweight Tommy Daly. “[He] is working hard,” reported The Baltimore American, “as he realizes that this is the chance of his life.”

Sieger has the appearance, now, of an unsatisfactory defence, but this was not so in the moment.  New Yorkers began hunting tickets, some of them through the Broadway Athletic Club, which took notice. A short piece in The Baltimore Morning Herald described Sieger’s status in New York that of a valid contender. He was regarded in New York as “the coming lightweight champion”. New York letters began to arrive in Baltimore seeking odds. Sieger was himself was reportedly confident, although early in fight week he spoke only of “lasting the distance” a target that he perhaps felt might afford him opportunities to score the knockout blow as the fight came down the straight.

This was arguably valid strategy and a notion explored by too few Gans opponents at this time.  A strange tussle at the halfway point of his first fight with Frank Erne had seen Gans quit; he had been stopped very late in a twenty-five-round contest with McFadden; Gans certainly had his successes over the longer distance, but he had two longform draws, too. Extending him may have seemed a reasonable strategic choice in late 1902.

Gans appeared ready when he arrived in Baltimore from his camp in Leiperville on the very day of the contest. Sieger met him at three that afternoon for the weigh-in where they both hit the 133lb mark whereupon Sieger decamped for the Germania Maennerchor Hall where he set out to survive for the distance of twenty rounds with the new championship edition of Joe Gans.

It was a fool’s errand; but such was the bravery and determination with which he set himself forth to achieve the unachievable that he emerged with his reputation enhanced. “In Sieger’s dictionary,” reported The Baltimore American, “there is not written the word quit.” The same paper noted that for Gans, Sieger represented little more than “an animated punching bag.”

Gans did take the first two rounds to feel Sieger out but in the third he let loose with a violent attack and in essence, he never let up. “These blows seemed to take all the steam out of Sieger,” according to The New York Evening World, “for he weakened fast after that and was merely a punching ball for Gans.”

Keep in mind Sieger’s defeat of McFadden, just five weeks before.

“In the fourth round,” continued The American, “Gans made Seiger’s mouth bleed, and the hemorrhage [sic] was profuse for the balance of the fight, giving the scene that lurid glare of blood that adds to the aspect of the terrible.”

After the fourth, the fight took on the character of a mere slaughter as Gans battered Sieger around the ring mercilessly upon learning what would be the key characteristic of the fight: Sieger could not hurt him. He was gamely throwing punches but even the ones that breached the Gans defence did no harm. Gans was able to go about his work with a bloodless cool that is rarely seen in the prize ring, sure in his invincibility, able to bring forward his killing offence earlier than may otherwise have been the case. Keeping track of the knockdowns is not possible as the frequency with which Sieger was dropped confused eyewitnesses. Even Gans was astonished by Sieger’s performance, turning to Sieger’s manager Billy Roche and asking, “where did you get this fellow?”

“Gans sent his opponent to the mat a dozen times, landed over two-score of terrific right-hand blows on the jaw, yet Sieger always came to his feet ready and eager for the fray,” reported The Baltimore Morning Herald. “In fact, Gans became disgusted with himself several times. Once, when a right-hand hook on the jaw failed to send Sieger down, he scrutinized his glove as if to see if something was the matter.”

Gans set out showing a preference for the short left-hook that had got work done for him in so many fights but soon he added a long, lashing right-hand, his usual fondness for bodywork departed. In the tenth, Gans sent Sieger to the canvas three times and in the eleventh, the Kansas City Star counted “fourteen right swings on Sieger’s jaw.” The brutality of the assault almost beggared belief but Sieger, to his enormous credit, managed to mount some offence in the twelfth and thirteenth, for all that he was soundly beaten in both. Gans finally put him out of his misery in the fourteenth.

“His face smeared with blood,” testified The American, “trembling with faintness and yet the very personification of brute courage and pluck” Sieger finally found himself crawling upon his hands and knees, “feebly waving his arms and trying desperately to stagger to his feet to meet that awful mauling that Gans was giving him.”

Sieger’s corner belatedly threw up the sponge, protecting their charge from himself. Gans, as impressed as he had been during his short time as champion, “rushed” to Sieger’s corner and named him the gamest man he had ever met. Storied referee Charley White named Sieger the gamest fighter he had ever seen; a series of men with neither the courage nor the sufferance to draw the best from Gans had been supplanted by a challenger with neither the power nor the skill to compete, but the heart and the jaw and the sheer bloody-mindedness to force Gans to work.

Gans mercilessness impressed, but in truth Sieger’s gameness impressed more and as it was so shall it ever be. More than anything, his astonishing effort was a foil for Joe’s next title defence.

Game, too, was his next non-title opponent, Howard Wilson, who pulled himself repeatedly from the canvas before being rescued by his seconds in the third, just one month later. On New Year’s Eve Gans met Sieger again, over ten rounds and for the most part left him alone until the final third of the fight when he tried once more to put him away and failed, Sieger as determined in December as he had been a few weeks before. Gans had to settle for a draw, as agreed in the event of Sieger reaching the end. He leaves our story now; it is fitting that he does so having heard the final bell he had dreamed of, even if it was not in his one and only title-fight.

The very next day, in an arrangement we can scarcely believe in more modern times, Joe Gans was scheduled for a second fight, this one over the longer distance of twenty rounds against one Gus Gardner. Gardner, you may remember, was guilty of fighting scared in a confusion of a fight for which he weighed in at 138lbs. Fearful, and a failure in that he was blasted out in five, six round wins over the likes of Erne and McFadden helped keep him in position for a title shot against a Gans, who was bound to be at least slightly fatigued after ten rounds of tough sparring the day before. The draw, the dollar was everything in this era. If Gans could spin some quick cash matching a fighter who was chanceless in his ring, he would unashamedly take it, and somewhere there were trainers, managers and seconds who believed Gardner could somehow get the job done.

He could not get the job done.

“Gardner,” reported The New York World, “resorted to almost every foul trick he knew, except biting.” The Philadelphia man fought with no more bravery than he had in 1902, less, if that was possible. Gans, who was aided in his corner by Herford and by old foe Jack McCue, was clinched by Gardner “at every opportunity” and drew repeated warnings from the referee. By the eighth he was throwing himself to the canvas to avoid punishment. In the eleventh, having three times driven his knee into the lightweight champion, Gardner perpetrated upon Gans what can only be described as a rugby tackle, seizing him around the waist and throwing him forcibly to the floor. The thoroughly disgusted referee immediately awarded the fight to Gans.

“Cool and self-contained as an oyster the lightweight champion defended his title with the masterly skill of a champion ring general,” summarised the Baltimore Morning Herald. “There was no round of his battle with Gardner, in which Gans took the lesser honors, although he did not get strongly under way till after the fourth round…during the last four rounds Gardner took the count five times and landed barely a blow.”

Despite this miserable showing, Gardner was actually given an ovation as the tenth round ended and the eleventh began. Gardner was overwhelmingly expected to capitulate before the tenth was over and despite the fact that he tripped, pushed, grabbed and ran from Gans without trying to mount any offence, he was admired for making the eleventh. He was, at least, hissed and booed by the sixteen hundred in attendance as his clear plan to get himself disqualified once the eleventh was sighted was revealed.

Such were the trials and travails of the lightweight champion as 1903 dawned. In November of the previous year, Frank Erne had finally been eliminated by Jimmy Britt and all talk of a third fight between he and Gans was forestalled. Britt, meanwhile, in a strange and perverse twist, named himself the first “White Lightweight Champion.”

This was troublesome for Gans. First, Britt had stated publicly that he would not break the colour line under any circumstances, that he would not find occasion to match a fighter of African descent regardless of which title he might hold. This meant that he had a top contender who was not only actively avoiding him but who was also naming himself “champion.” Gans would have been only too aware that America of the early 1900s might find Britt the more palatable of the two champions, resulting in dollars being siphoned away from Gans and towards Britt as the two staged “defences.”  As modern fans beguiled by as many as six champions in each division, we can sympathise.

In a wider sense though, Gans was on the rise-and-rise. Terry McGovern, with whom Gans had created so much confusion in 1900, was on the slide and for company at the very top of the fistic tree, Gans had only James J Jeffries, the rampant heavyweight champion who was approaching the peak of his powers and had eliminated pound-for-pound Mount Rushmore candidate Bob Fitzsimmons; the wonderful middleweight champion Tommy Ryan, who had suffered but one loss in the past six years, and that by disqualification; and The Barbados Demon Joe Walcott, who had started to lose but only to much larger men.

It was Gans though who stood atop what had been the best division at the end of the nineteenth century. While James Jeffries was every bit as imperious as Gans, he showed but a sliver of the skill the lightweight champion commanded, little of the defensive genius or gliding grace and while Jeffries was a superb general in the sense that he was able to impress himself and his fight upon almost any opponent, he did not have Joe’s brilliance in strategy.

My fondness for Gans may be causing me to call it early and those arguing for Jeffries or Ryan will get no strong opposition from me, but my guess is that in the same way Pernell Whitaker was considered pound-for-pound number one in 1993 and Roy Jones was considered pound-for-pound number one in 1996, Gans should be considered pound-for-pound number one in 1903. His genius in talent and thought gets him over the line.

Soon, welterweight and certain proof of his pound-for-pound credentials would call him, but for the moment Joe Gans remained a lightweight.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 274: Yeritsyan vs Randall at Chumash Casino, Japan and More

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Violence of an organized nature begins in the rustic and peaceful surroundings of Santa Inez, California as welterweights Gor Yeritsyan and Quinton Randall headline a 360 Boxing Promotions card at Chumash Casino on Friday.

Hours later, three world championship fights erupt in Japan. And hours after that, super middleweights tangle in Florida.

All will be streamed.

Undefeated Yeritsyan (17-0, 14 KOs) meets Randall (13-1-1, 3 KOs) for the WBC Continental Americas title on Friday, Feb. 23, at Chumash Casino. UFC Fight Pass will stream the 360 Boxing Promotions card.

Others on the card include undefeated super lightweight Cain Sandoval (11-0, 11 KOs) meeting Javier Molina (22-5, 9 KOs) in a battle set for 10 rounds. It’s a stronger test for Sandoval who has blasted out every opponent. Molina is one of the fighting twin brothers who both were Olympians.

Javier was an Olympian in 2008 for the USA and Oscar Molina an Olympian for Mexico in 2012.

“I’ve been hearing about Cain for a while, but I know my skills and experience will give me the victory,” said Molina who fights out of Los Angeles.

Sandoval, 21, last November won by knockout in Madison Square Garden in New York City.

“Javier is a very good veteran who has had many more fights than me, but he’s never felt my power before,” said Sandoval who fights out of Sacramento.

Chumash Casino is located near one of the old California missions and built by the Spaniards in 1804. You can see open land for miles with the next nearest town of Solvang a short driving distance away.

Over the decades I’ve seen some memorable fights including Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley’s wild victory over Manuel Garnica in 2007 and Seniesa “Super Bad’ Estrada’s pro debut win in 2011 against Maria Ruiz.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Tokyo Hosts Three World Title Fights

It’s a triple-header in Tokyo for real fight lovers.

Early Saturday morning at 1 a.m. (Pacific Time) three world title matches headed by WBC bantamweight titlist Alexandro Santiago (28-3-5, 14 KOs) of Mexico defending against Japan’s Junto Nakatani (26-0, 19 KOs) take place.

Santiago defeated legendary champion Nonito Donaire last July in Las Vegas in an upset. He also fought to a draw against Filipino slugger Jerwin Ancajas who is also on this card.

Nakatani is a big hitter and two-division world champion. He is very familiar with Mexican fighters and often trains in Southern California. I saw him in Maywood, California a year ago. He’s quite a fighter.

In the other co-main event WBA bantamweight titlist Takuma Inoue (18-1, 4 KOs) defends against former super flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas (34-3-2, 23 KOs) of the Philippines. Its speed against power.

A third co-main features WBO super flyweight titlist Kosei Tanaka (19-1, 11 KOs) defending against Mexico’s Christian Bacasegua (22-4-2, 9 KOs).

ESPN+ will stream the card live on Saturday.

Matchroom in Orlando

It’s a showcase for contenders.

Brooklyn native Edgar Berlanga (21-0, 16 KOs) “the Chosen One” meets United Kingdom’s Padraig “the Hammer” McCrory (18-0, 9 KOs) in the super middleweight main event on Saturday, Feb. 24. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing card from Orlando, Florida.

Berlanga, of Puerto Rican descent, burst on the pro boxing scene by knocking out 16 consecutive foes. But ever since 2021 he has been unable to win by knockout. Five consecutive opponents went the distance.

Can Berlanga still punch?

Facing the Boricua slugger will be McCrory a 35-year-old from Northern Ireland who remains undefeated. To put it into perspective, the United Kingdom is filled with very good super middleweights and none have beaten McCrory so far.

Also on the card is Cuban Olympic gold medalist Andy Cruz (2-0) defending a regional lightweight title against Mexican southpaw Brayan Zamarripa (14-2, 9 KOs). Cruz has blistering speed and an aggressive style as a pro.

Other interesting fights feature bantamweight prospects Antonio Vargas (17-1) and Jonathan Rodriguez (17-1-1). Both can punch but each lost via knockout. Whose chin will prove sturdier in this clash?

Fights to Watch (all times Pacific Time)

Fri. UFC Fight Pass 7 p.m. Gor Yeritsyan (17-0) vs Quinton Randall (13-1-1)

Sat. ESPN+ 1 a.m. Alexandro Santiago (28-3-5) vs Junto Nakatani (26-0).

Sat. DAZN 4 p.m. Edgar Berlanga (21-0) vs Padraig McCrory (18-0).

Photo: Tom Loeffler is flanked by Javier Molina and Cain Sandoval. Photo credit: Lina Baker

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Fighters from Tijuana are on a Roll; Can Alexandro Santiago Keep Up the Momentum?

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Fighters from Tijuana are on a Roll; Can Alexandro Santiago Keep Up the Momentum?

Last Thursday, a Golden Boy Promotions card in California produced an early entrant for Upset of the Year. In the main event, unsung Jesus “Ricky” Perez out-pointed former U.S. Olympian and former two-division title-holder Joseph “Jojo” Diaz.

Perez hails from Tijuana. Heading in, he had lost five of his last nine and had never won a match slated for more than eight rounds. He started fast and held on to win a split nod (ancient ringside judge Lou Moret awarded Perez nine of the 10 rounds).

The fast-growing, hardscrabble city of Tijuana, which sits at the northwest tip of the Baja peninsula, has produced a steady stream of good boxers over the years (Erik Morales, a Hall of Famer, and Antonio Margarito, a two-time world welterweight champion, come quickly to mind), but is currently enjoying arguably the best run in the city’s boxing history. And the distaff side is sharing in the prosperity. Flyweight Kenia Enriquez (28-1, 11 KOs) and her younger sister Tania Rodriguez (21-1, 10 KOs), a light flyweight, are knocking on the door of world title fights (Kenia holds an interim belt).

Last December, when pundits at the leading U.S. boxing websites brainstormed to come up with the 2023 Fight of the Year, two bouts stood out above all others: the Feb. 18 match between super bantamweights Luis Nery and Azat Hovhannisyan and the June 10 super middleweight contest between Jaime Munguia and Sergiy Derevyanchenko.

The Nery-Hovhannisyan match was a riveting, see-saw rumble that ended with Nery winning by TKO in the 11th round. Munguia scored a knockdown in the 12th to overcome Derevyanchenko, eking out a razor-thin but unanimous decision. Both victors have since added another “W” to their respective ledgers. Nery (35-1, 27 KOs) KOed Filipino veteran Froilan Saludar. Munguia (43-0, 34 KOs) dominated and stopped England’s John Ryder.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Luis Nery and Jaime Munguia were both born and raised in Tijuana. And we will be hearing a lot more about them. Although unofficial, Nery has an agreement in place to fight superstar Naoya Inoue in Tokyo in May and, according to various reports, Munguia is now the frontrunner to be Canelo Alvarez’s next opponent.

The month after Munguia-Derevyanchenko, Tijuana’s Alexandro Santiago (pictured) scored his signature win and won the vacant WBC world bantamweight title with an upset of the great Filipino fighter Nonito Donaire. Santiago won a clear-cut decision on the card topped by the mega-fight between Terence Crawford and Errol Spence.

Santiago (28-3-5, 14 KOs) has a formidable challenge for his first title defense which comes on Saturday in Tokyo. In the opposite corner will be undefeated Junto Nakatani (26-0, 19 KOs) who is moving up in weight after winning world titles at 112 and 115. Nakatani can really crack as he showed with his brutal, one-punch knockout of Andrew Moloney.

There are two other title fights on the card which will air in the U.S. on ESPN+. Needless to say, one will have to get out of bed early to catch all the action. The first bell is slated for 4 am ET, 1 pm PT.

Santiago will be a heavy underdog against his Japanese opponent who will have a 5-inch height advantage. However, if recent history is any guide, one should not be too quick to dismiss his chances.

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Who Murdered Peter Bufala? A ‘Whodunit’ with a Boxing Backdrop

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On Friday, Oct. 8, 1976, Peter Bufala returned home from work just as a new day was dawning. The Las Vegas baccarat dealer pulled his Cadillac into his circular driveway, exited his car, walked toward his front door, and was felled by two bullets from a 9 mm handgun, one entering his chest and the other his brain. A neighbor fetching his morning newspaper found him lying in a pool of blood on his front lawn. He was dead when the police arrived. He was 33 years old and left behind a wife and two young daughters.

A 12-year resident of the fast-growing southern Nevada gambling mecca, Bufala grew up in Chester, Pennsylvania, a blue collar suburb of Philadelphia. He had come here to rekindle his boxing career.

A Middle Atlantic amateur featherweight champion, he had begun his pro career on a high note, winning a 4-round decision over a fellow novice on a show at New York’s St. Nicholas Arena that included Rubin “Hurricane” Carter who would go on to fight for the world middleweight title but would be best remembered for the many years he spent behind prison walls for his alleged involvement in a triple homicide.

Following his New York engagement, Bufala fought in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Virginia. As a pro, he never fought in his home state and there was a reason for it. In 1961, while undergoing a routine medical examination at an amateur show, he was diagnosed with a heart murmur. The Pennsylvania Boxing Commission rescinded his license. He subsequently underwent a series of tests at Temple University Medical Hospital and was given a clean bill of health, but the Pennsylvania authorities were unyielding and, bit by bit, in a day when news traveled slowly, other jurisdictions fell into line.

Nevada was the Wild West. The regulators there had looser standards and Bufala resumed his career on Sept. 2, 1964 at the Castaways, out-pointing his opponent in a 5-round match to improve his ledger to 7-3. The publicity man misspelled his name, adding an extra “f”, and he would remain Pete Buffala whenever his name appeared in the sports section of the local papers.

Fifty years ago, in 1964, approximately 165,000 people resided in all of sprawling Clark County, home to Las Vegas. The thought that Vegas would someday host a Formula 1 Grand Prix or a Super Bowl, two of the grandest sports spectacles in the world, was preposterous. The only local sport that ever made the national news wire was boxing.

The fulcrum was Bill Miller, a hot-headed boxing junkie from Elmira, New York, who owned a saloon on the Las Vegas Strip that he out-fitted with a boxing gym in the basement. Miller’s “Strip Fight of the Week,” which bounced from one little casino to another during a run that lasted well over a decade, bucked the national trend. Small fight clubs, with very few exceptions, had fallen by the wayside, a development triggered by the mass production of televisions.

Miller was hardly immune to all the little hassles that plague a grass-roots boxing promoter. Matches were constantly falling out. But he had several things working in his favor. As opportunities dried up elsewhere, journeymen boxers were drawn here by the promise of steady work. And although Miller couldn’t afford to pay enough to make boxing a full-time profession, good-paying jobs were plentiful in the construction and hospitality industries.

To be certain, there were also push factors. Chester, Pennsylvania, a shipbuilding hub during World War II, had fallen on hard times, plagued by unemployment and racial strife. Lowell, Massachusetts, a city known for its vibrant amateur boxing culture, was likewise hurting with row after row of textile factories sitting vacant. Lowell produced Eddie Andrews, a hard-hitting middleweight who would be the first fighter to make promoter Miller any significant money without having to take him on the road to a larger precinct or overseas.

Andrews supplemented his ring earnings dealing blackjack at Caesars Palace. For a time, Ralph Dupas was a co-worker. A former world title-holder at 154 pounds, Dupas settled in Las Vegas in the mid-1960s as his career was winding down and remained here until his encroaching dementia passed the tipping point and family members brought him home to his native New Orleans to live out his final days.

Returning to Peter Bufala, he worked his way up the ladder on Miller’s promotions, eventually topping the marquee for a fight with Johnny Brooks. They fought at the Hacienda, a grind joint at the south end of the Strip (where Mandalay Bay now sits) on April 13, 1965. Brooks was nothing special, but he was better than his 17-6-3 record. He would go on to last the distance in 10-round fights with future Hall of Famers Emile Griffith and Carlos Monzon.

Bufala was bloodied in the third round and knocked down in the fourth, but mounted a furious rally and at the end of the 10 rounds the judges could not pick a winner and the match went into the books as a draw. Working on the “5-point-must” system, the scores were 46-44 Bufala, 46-45 Brooks, and 46-46. (Trivia time: The 46-46 tally was turned in by ringside judge Harry Reid who would go on to become the most powerful man in the U.S. Senate. Nowadays, visitors flying in to Las Vegas arrive at Harry Reid International Airport.)

Had Bufala won the bout, his next fight would have been a 12-rounder against Reno’s Dave Patterson, the Nevada Lightweight Champion. But when he returned to the ring the following month, it was in a 6-rounder against an unsung fighter from Los Angeles named Davey White and, in a shocker, White blasted him out in the second round.

Bufala announced his retirement after this fight. It warranted scarcely a mention in the Las Vegas papers, but the folks back in Chester hadn’t forgotten him. “Pete Bufala Quits Boxing for Health,” read the bold headline on the sports page of the June 9, 1965 issue of the Delaware County Daily Times. The accompanying story said that Buffala, “Chester’s most promising professional fighter,” had emerged from his most recent bout with a blot clot in his neck and was troubled by chronic back problems. (Buffala would have one more fight before quitting the sport for good. He won his final fight, a 6-rounder, bringing his final record, per boxrec, to 16-5-2.)

Bufala never returned to Chester. He married a local girl and, in short order, was a father of three, two girls and a boy who tragically died at 16 months when he crawled into a plastic laundry bag and suffocated as his mother was distracted writing checks.

In December of 1973, the MGM Grand opened on the southeast corner of the busiest intersection on the Las Vegas Strip. This was the city’s original MGM Grand that would take the name Bally’s and was recently re-branded the Horseshoe. With 2,100 rooms, a 1,200-seat showroom and a jai alai fronton, the MGM Grand made its competitors look puny by comparison. Peter Bufala was there on opening night, dealing baccarat.

In terms of the money put at risk, baccarat is the crème-de-crème of card games. It attracts the whales, the high-rollers that leave the biggest tips. On a good night at a high-end establishment like the MGM Grand, it wasn’t uncommon for a dealer to rake in $500 in gratuities. Bufala worked the graveyard shift (likely 9 pm to 5 am; it varied by hotel), the most coveted shift for a dealer in a day when visitors to Las Vegas were more nocturnal than they are today.

One didn’t get to be a baccarat dealer in a ritzy joint by working his way up from the bottom. One had to know the right people. In the vernacular, one got juiced into the job. And the juicer might expect a kick-back.

One of the most influential people in Las Vegas was an outsider who tried to keep a low profile, Gaspare “Jasper” Speciale. A transplanted New York bookmaker, Speciale co-owned and managed the Tower of Pizza restaurant which sat a stone’s throw from the MGM Grand on the opposite side of the street. Speciale opened doors for dozens of people seeking employment in the hospitality industry. If one was new in town and needed work in a hurry, Jasper was the man to see.

Until the arrival in Las Vegas of the notorious Tony Spilotro, Speciale was the city’s premier private money lender. He would eventually serve four years in a federal prison for loan-sharking.

Whenever there was a murder in Las Vegas that had the earmarks of a mob hit, speculation always centered on Gaspare Speciale. It mattered not that he was active in his church and donated lavishly to local charities. Moreover, he had a warm spot in his heart for prizefighters. In the spacious backyard of his home, chockablock with mementos of his boyhood in New York City, there was a replica of Stillman’s Gym complete with a punching bag and rubbing tables.

Another theory, although one that acquired less currency, pointed the finger at Bufala’s father-in-law who was the beneficiary of Peter’s life insurance policy. The two were partners in a small sporting goods store where it was rumored that one could purchase an unregistered firearm.

On the day that Peter Bufala was assassinated, the story about it in the Las Vegas Sun, an afternoon paper, said that the former boxer had no bad habits – he didn’t drink, smoke, gamble or chase women — and that he was well-liked by everyone that knew him. But, said a police detective, “Someone wanted him dead and eventually we’re going to find out who that someone is and why.”

Forty-seven years after the fact, the who and the why remain as baffling as ever. If Peter Bufala were alive today, he would be 80 years old. This is a mystery that will likely never be solved.

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Looking Back at Willie Pep Through the Keyhole of a Stormy Night in the Orange Bowl

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Erik Bazinyan Improves to 32-0 on a Flaccid Night of Boxing in Montreal

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Results from Las Vegas where Teofimo Lopez Retained his Title in a Dull Fight

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 271: Tim Tszyu in L.A. and More

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Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Looking Back at Willie Pep Through the Keyhole of a Stormy Night in the Orange Bowl

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Jaime Munguia Scores a Definitive KO Over John Ryder

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Jaime Munguia Hopes for Another Fight of the Year Performance

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Erik Bazinyan Improves to 32-0 on a Flaccid Night of Boxing in Montreal

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