JUNE 2005

Poem of the Month
By Tom Smario

Cinderella Man
Book Excerpt by Mike DeLisa

Entertaining Fighters and Prospects
By Adam Pollack

Fatty Langtry: Pudgy
Pugilist of the Past

By Robert Carson

John Klein: 19th-Century
Trainer Extraordinaire

By Pete Ehrmann

Ring Leader
By Ron Lipton

Incentives in Professional
Boxing Contracts

By Rafael Tenorio

Fight Town
Book Excerpt by Tim Dahlberg

The Regulation of Boxing
on Tribal Lands:
Towards a Pan-Indian
Boxing Commission

By James Alexander

Spotlight on Cut Man Lenny DeJesus
By Sam Gregory

Dick Wipperman
by Pete Ehrmann

Jack Johnson: The Dates,
the Events, the Sources

by Stuart Templeton

Touching Gloves with...
"Irish" Art Hafey

by Dan Hanley


By Dan Hanley

In the early 1970s there was a nasty rumble detected, emanating out of Canada, which made its way to the west coast in the form of a 5-foot-2-inch, 126-pound package of seismic trouble calling itself "Irish" Art Hafey. Resplendent in shamrock-laden trunks, this "Toy Tiger" stuck out like a sore thumb amongst the Hispanic-heavy featherweight division. But this was one tremor that wasn't about to subside and go meekly into the night.

HANLEY: Art, where are you from originally?
Stellarton, just outside New Glasgow in Nova Scotia.

When did you get started in boxing?
Well, my dad always enjoyed the sport and got my brother Lawrence and me started when I was 12. We were taught by Donnie MacIsaac at the Archie Moore Boxing Club in Trenton, Nova Scotia.

You turned pro in '68. Were you in contention in any way for a spot on the Canadian Olympic team?
Oh, no! I had had about 37 amateur fights by this time, all out of the New Brunswick area, but I was strictly a brawler.

Who were you handled by at this time?
I was managed by Billy Chisum and Al Bachman, but I tell you, Dan, I didn't know a thing about boxing until I went to California. I was just a Marciano-like banger.

At 5-foot-2 you didn't have many options. You had to get inside.
Absolutely! But, the thing was, I was never taught how to get inside, just go at it.

What prompted you to hit the coast?
Well, I wanted to get somewhere in the sport, so after the Tommy Grant fight, Al Bachman hooked me up with a great old guy in Suey Welch down in San Diego. As a matter of fact, Bachman was once the manager of Burke Emery, who would become my trainer.

I saw your first fight when you hit the coast. You stopped Eliseo Castillo in five rounds on cuts and...it was nothing special. However, you ran off about eight straight wins and were obviously picking up the business. In your breakout fight you were matched up with another hotshot, knockout sensation Valente Vera. Tell me about that fight.
Well, that was fought in the San Diego Sports Arena, and we were fighting on the undercard of the first Muhammad Ali vs. Ken Norton fight. My brother Lawrence also fought on that card, and I believe Hedgemon Lewis fought as well. Anyway, Vera was a very hard puncher, but I was learning with Suey and Burke in my corner and I knocked him out in four rounds.

Your first world-rated opponent was right around the corner after that fight. You fought one slick opponent in Octavio "Famoso" Gomez. I heard you caused a mini-riot in the Forum that night.
Well, I was still learning, but he was very good. He dropped me twice but I kept plugging away, caught up to him and stopped him on cuts in six rounds.

I heard the Mexican fans didn't like that too much.
[laughs] No, they did not!

That was a nice scalp, which put you in the thick of things. But I have to ask you: The coast was alive with talent at this time; who were you working with in the gym?
Well, primarily with Bobby Chacon.

I heard you and him were pretty tight. Good friends.
Oh, we were, but you wouldn't know it from the way we were going at it in the gym. Incidentally, we actually had a signed contract to fight each other, but his manager Joe Ponce decided to pull him out of it. We took them to court but the judge ruled in Ponce's favor.

On the subject of Chacon, you were known as the guy who would shy away from the bright lights, whereas guys like Chacon, Frankie Crawford, and Mando Ramos enjoyed the nightlife. Is that true?
Absolutely! You can't abuse yourself as a fighter. Your body is what's going to take care of you in the ring.

Your body kept you in good stead a couple of months after the Gomez fight when you cruised down to Monterrey to fight Ruben Olivares. He was so hot at that point, coming off a KO of Bobby Chacon. Tell me about the fight.
Y'know, I fought such a good fight. I came in under his jab, dropped him a couple of times and stopped him in five rounds.

How were the fans after knocking out their boxing god down there?
They were absolutely terrific! I got nervous because they were coming after me, but they put me up on their shoulders, parading me around. Not what I expected.

In early '74, 12,000 fans crowded into the Forum for the Olivares rematch, with the NABF title on the line for good measure. What's your view on the split-decision loss?
Well, we had just lost Suey Welch before the fight, and he was missed in the corner. But I thought I had done enough to win. However, in this fight he ran and kept the jab moving. I kept the pressure on him and dropped him in the 10th, but lost a 12-round split decision. Funny thing about fighting runners, I would experience muscle cramping. I was diagnosed by Dr. David King, a neurologist, with Thompson's disease. Apparently I've had it my whole life and can control it today with medication. But when fighting a runner or if I was overtrained, I would tighten up.

Was anyone aware of it then?
Oh, no! If I divulged that they never would have allowed me to fight.

With Suey's passing, who took over your management? Suey was just a great old guy and a great manager, but Burke Emery, my trainer, took over. Burke was an excellent trainer, but as a manager...!

Can you explain?
Well, here I am, a top contender coming off a hard fight with Ruben Olivares, and he sends me down to Nicaragua to fight Alexis Arguello. That was the worst experience of my career.

What happened?
Burke had no idea what he weighed, and I can tell you from experience with featherweights that Arguello was not 126. We fought on a soggy canvas and the referee would not allow me to fight inside. And with me 5-foot-2 and him 5-foot-10, where else am I going to fight him? It was terrible, but I was still standing when it was stopped in the fifth.

What was the crowd like?
Awful! They were spitting on us, rocking our car back and forth.

Really trying to rattle you before the fight, huh?
[laughs] No, this was after the fight! I tell you, they hate Americans. We had to keep telling them we're Canadians. I don't get it, because they owe everything to America. The only good thing that came out of my trip to Nicaragua was learning how to throw an uppercut.

I take it you had a lot of luck catching Arguello with it?
[laughs] No, he was catching me. I just sort of picked it up.

If it's any consolation, I heard Arguello named you as the hardest puncher he ever faced.
I heard that too, and I must say that's quite a compliment.

By the end of '74, you were back down in the lion's den in Tijuana for a rematch with Famoso Gomez. Funny thing I have to tell you, if it wasn't for the fact that I remembered the result of this fight at the time, I would have been misled as most people are today. Because no matter what record book or record site you look at, it states you won the rematch by a third-round knockout.
Really? I wish it was so, but he won a 10-round decision.

A friend of mine, Rudy Ramirez, who runs Project KO out of Long Beach, California, corroborated my memory of this, because he was there in the bullring for that fight and said Gomez got off to a fast start, but you came on strong in the second half of the fight. He also said no matter what you did, you probably never would have got the decision down there.
Well, that's kind of him, but in this instance I think he deserved the decision in the rematch.

You didn't let things get you down, by early '75 you were down in Caracas fighting former 130-pound champ Alfredo Marcano, who was, relatively speaking, coming off the world title fight with Bobby Chacon.
Oh, I felt really sharp for that fight. I knocked him out in four rounds. But I felt really bad, his dad was there crying his eyes out. I mean, who wants to see his own son getting knocked out?

You filled the Forum in mid-'75 against another Nicaraguan. One who didn't have his own referee. Vicente "Yambito" Blanco was coming off wins over Famoso Gomez, Chucho Castillo, and Bernardo Carraballo. This appeared to be you at your sharpest.
Oh, it was. After five rounds he went straight from the Forum to Centinella Hospital. I think I was the No. 1 contender after this fight.

Two months later you were in the ring with another hotshot in Salvador Torres. I bring this up because you pound out a 10-round win, are rated No. 1 in the world, and in less than a year Torres is fighting Alexis Arguello for the world title. There's a true irony to this sport.

Dan, being No. 1 contender doesn't mean a thing unless you have influence. I would have loved to fight Arguello for the title, this time in L.A., but it just wasn't happening.

You rounded out the year with a jump to the Olympic Auditorium. How did this go down with the Forum?
Not too good. Don Fraser was pretty mad at us. But this was the beginning of the end to my career anyway.

How is that?
Well, I knocked out Rolando Pastor in December of '75 and returned to Nova Scotia for Christmas. In January I had a hernia operation, but Burke had me back in the ring two months later against Rodolfo Moreno. Now, a lot of people think the Danny "Little Red" Lopez fight ruined my career, but it was the Rodolfo Moreno fight. My mobility after the operation was limited and, although I knocked him out in the 10th round, my left eye was swollen shut, my head was swollen. The ringside physician didn't even give me an icepack. I should have gone to the hospital, instead they took me out to a party. I ended up with impaired vision after that fight. Blind areas in my field of vision.

Oh, man, and I see they had you back in the ring a month later.
They were killing me! David Sotelo nearly knocked out Bobby Chacon and was one of my toughest fights. He almost knocked me out in the third round. I didn't know where I was, but managed to get back in the fight and win a decision.

How ready were you for the Lopez fight?
I could have used a bit of a rest after those two hard fights, but they had me back in the ring a month later up in Canada. They then promised me no more fights until the Lopez fight, which was already signed. But the next thing I know I'm down in El Paso in another fight. They tried to sign one more fight but I had to insist on a break to prepare for Lopez, which was only two months away.

Y'know, that fight in El Paso didn't even make it into your record. And some records show the Sotelo fight as a draw even though you won a unanimous decision. Between those results and the Gomez rematch, which we've discussed, I'd say it was hard keeping track of you.
[laughs] It was easy to know where I was leading up to the Lopez fight. In the gym going to war with Bobby Chacon every day. I'm afraid we left a lot in the gym.

Is that what you attribute to your loss?
Oh, yeah, I always felt Lopez's style was made for me, but it just didn't click that night. He stopped me in seven and it was time to get out.

How is your eyesight today?
It's exactly as it was after the Rodolfo Moreno fight. No better, no worse. I get around fine, I can drive but have to stay focused.

What did you get into after retirement?
Well, I'm embarrassed to say the $25,000 I made for the Lopez fight was the biggest purse of my career. But I returned to Nova Scotia and with what I had I invested in a three-unit building, which I eventually built into a seven-unit. I have another piece of rental property not far from that one and of course have my own home in Trenton where my wife and I, who have been happily married for almost 18 years, now live.

In reference to your highest purse, what do you think of the millions Barrera and Morales have made, and if you were fighting today?
Y'know, fighters today don't fight like I did. They don't fight very often. When I got out I had only reached about 75 percent of my full potential. I had no time to mentally digest everything that was taught to me. Throughout my amateur career and my first twenty-something pro fights, I had no idea what I was doing. But if I had Suey Welch as a manager, Burke Emery as a trainer and Mickey Davies as an adviser from the very beginning, you would have seen a finished fighter.

Tell me how you met up with Brad Little.
Brad Little is a film producer. He came to me wanting to film a documentary on my career. He did a lot of filming in Canada and on the west coast for this project, but filming has been completed to my knowledge.

What's the documentary called?
The Toy Tiger. Due for release in 2006.

In an era where title shots are distributed like pool towels, a fighter from a bygone era like Art Hafey must wonder what he did wrong. How, as No. 1 contender in an era that saw Ruben Olivares, Alexis Arguello, Bobby Chacon, and Danny Lopez swapping leather, he was no closer to a title shot then, than we are to world peace today. Different times, different eras.

Although his shot at the crown never materialized, Art was successful nonetheless, for he knew when to get out. And that makes him a very rich man. The 2006 date for "The Toy Tiger" gives me a chance to kick back and reminisce. And, man, I can just feel that tremor once again.

See ya next round,
Dan Hanley

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