Starting in 1895 with Gentleman Jim Corbett (first “gloved” champion) through a 1983 title fight between Larry Holmes and Lucien Rodriguez at the Watres Armory, the list of boxers who passed through the Electric City is long. Many early fights were fought at Town Hall. In 1920, The Scranton Open Air Boxing Associaiton formed and leased the Athletic Park baseball field and planned to have bouts for up to 5,000 fans.
On July 25, 1940 Billy Soose, of Farrell, Pa., scored the year’s major boxing upset by pounding out a 10 round non-title decision over Middleweight Champion Ken Overlin, of Washington, D.C., before 7,000 wildly-cheering fans at Scranton Stadium. This event was held outdoors in the rain. Soose was a former College Champion at Penn State and was described as a ” smooth boxer and sharp puncher.”
“Sugar” Ray Robinson knocked out Jose Basora in the first round on August 25th, 1950 Scranton, Pa. He won the Middleweight Championship of Pennsylvania. Robinson ended the fight 52 seconds after it started. I am not sure if there is still a Pennsylvania Middleweight championship. Basora had made the bold prediction that he would be wearing Robinson’s belt. He had fought Robinson to a draw earlier in his career.
Before he started hawking Lean, Mean fat reducing grills and car care products 2 -time Heavyweight Champion George Foreman fought in Scranton. In 1969, George Foreman Knocked out Leo Peterson in the fourth round at the Scranton CYC.
In 1974, in a light heavyweight bout Bob Foster knocked out Harold Carroll in the fourth round at the Scranton CYC to retain what was left of his title. The WBA had stripped him of his title but PA, NY and seven other states sanctioned the fight. Foster raised his record to 41-5 with 32 knockouts. He received $12,860 for his fight and over 4,000 fans witnessed it. Foster had been kocked out by Joe Fraizer the previous year in a heavyweight title fight.
On August 16th, 1975 Jimmy Young KO’ed Robert Lloyd in the 7th round. Jimmy Young was a Heavyweight contender in the 1970’s, unfortunately for him the division was loaded at the time with George Foreman, Joe Fraizer,Larry Holmes and Muhammad Ali.
Larry Holmes started his professional career on March 21, 1973 with a decision over Rodell Dupree in Scranton, Pa. Holmes fought a total of 10 times in Scranton. Larry reportedly made $63 for his first professional fight at the Scranton CYC. No attendance reports are available for his first fight.
Larry had always promised that he would return to fight here if ever won the Championship. Holmes made good on that promise on March 27, 1983 at Scranton’s Watress Armory. Holmes fought Lucien Rodrigues for the WBC title. Holmes won the fight in a 12 round decision.
Holmes first 2 professional years.
Mar 21 Rodell Dupree Scranton, Pa W 4
May 2 Art Savage Scranton, Pa TK 3
Jun 20 Curtis Whitner Scranton, Pa TK 1
Aug 22 Don Branch Scranton, Pa W 6
Sep 10 Bob Bozic New York, NY W 6
Nov 14 Jerry Judge Scranton, Pa W 6
Nov 28 Kevin Isaac Cleveland, Oh TK 3
Apr 24 Howard Darlington Scranton, Pa TK 4
May 29 Bob Mashburn Scranton, Pa TK 7
Dec 11 Joe Hathaway Scranton, Pa TK 1
Holmes fought French boxer Lucien Rodriguez on March 27th at Scranton Watres Armory. He won a uanimous decision. Rodriguez became only the third fighter to go the distance with Holmes. Holmes weighed in at 221, the heaviest of his career. The crowd booed during the fight in the 10th and 11th rounds as Rodriguez tried to go the distance with the undefeated champ. The action was reportedly dull. Holmes said he was using this fight as tune-up for his fight in Las Vegas against Tim Witherspoon.
I remember Scranton’s Mayor at the time, James Barrett McNulty having his 15 minutes of fame on NBC. McNulty was largely known in West Scranton High as Mayor McCheese for his uncanny resemblance to the McDonald’s Character. I can’t really remember what he said. I do remember he was dressed in a boxing robe for the promo leading into NBC’s television coverage of the fight. McNulty put on a show of his own for the press. McNulty likened fighting in Scranton to making love to an old lady, ” it’s like making love to an old woman. She’s grateful.” (March 28,1983 Rich Hoffman, Knight Ridder Newspapers) Mc Nulty was described as “Scranton’s Roly Poly Mayor” by Ed Schuyler of the Associated Press.