Tony Canzoneri – Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame
Born in Slidell, Tony Canzoneri moved to Staten Island with his family when he was a teenager. He is one of the few boxers who held world titles in three or more divisions simultaneously. He won a total of five world titles in three divisions.
Canzoneri fought a total of 175 times, posting a record of 141-24-10 with 44 knockouts.
Herman first dreamed of being a boxer when he met legendary New Orleans pugilist Pete Herman, also a member of the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame, as a youngster.
His first professional fight was July 27, 1925, and he always remembered that fight, telling writer Stanley Weston, “Bob Levy matched me with Jack Gardner, who had a lot of fights. I had Sammy Goldman [who would train him for his full career], Izzy the Painter [Izadore Gatsonfeld] and two others working in the corner.
“I knocked Gardner out with a left hook and right cross in the first round. Sammy said he didn’t have time to see if I could fight or not. Years later I met Gardner on Broadway. We’re still good friends. He told me he bet his whole purse on himself to lick me that night and lost it all. So I bought him a meal and a couple of drinks to make up for it. On December 23 of that year, Sammy got me a preliminary in the new Madison Square Garden. I boxed Danny Terris and knocked him out in four rounds. That was the very first knockout ever scored at the new Garden.”
On February 10, 1928, he won the World Featherweight title with a 15-round decision over Benny Bass.
After winning the title, he moved up to the lightweight division, losing his first title bout to Sammy Mandell. After Mandell lost to Al Singer, Canzoneri flattened Singer in the first round on November 14, 1930, to win the World Lightweight Championship.
In his first title defense, he knocked out World Light Welterweight champion Jack Kid Berg on April 24, 1931 to become a three-division world champion.
He lost his lightweight title in 1933 with a shocking decision to Barney Ross.
In a 1933 fight against legendary fighter Kid Chocolate, Canzoneri knocked out his opponent in the second round. It was the first time the Kid had been KOed in 100 fights, and one of only two times the great Cuban champion had been stopped in 152 bouts.
He would eventually lose the three tiles, but he regained the light welterweight title with a win of Battling Shaw. On May 10, 1935, he re-gained the lightweight title with a win over Lou Ambers to make himself a five-time world champion.
Canzoneri went on boxing professionally until 1939, but he never again challenged for a world title. During his career he fought 18 world champions and six hall of famers. He fought some of the greatest fighters of all time including Chocolate, Ross, Ambers, Jimmy McLarnin, Billy Petrolle, Berg, Bass, Singer and Bud Taylor.
“I often wonder whether it was worth it,” Canzoneri said several years before his death. “But I don’t have to wait long for the answer. Every day strangers stop me in the street and say, ‘Aren’t you Tony Canzoneri?’ Lots of times, little kids who weren’t even a gleam in their father’s eye when I was fighting, ask for autographs or just to shake my hand. It’s a wonderful feeling to be remembered after all these years. Sure it was worth it, every drop of blood and every stitch of it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Born November 6, 1908, Canzoneri died on December 9, 1959 in Manhattan at age 51. He is also a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
MORE READING: From New Orleans to New York: The Unforgettable Tony Canzoneri by Mike Casey