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The Club Fighters
By George J. Elsasser (June 7, 2004) 
Was the war years of the 1940s, and the new miracle invention of the magic lantern still hadn't as yet found its way into our Brooklyn cold-water flats, and the small fight clubs still remained alive and well.

The championship baubles were frozen what with many of the names and top contenders having volunteered or been conscripted into service, and still today I recall many of those that packed the neighborhood arenas only walking distance from our second floor "mansion" at the corner of Wilson Ave. and Moffat St. in good ol’ Bushwick-Ridgewood, (Brooklyn), USA.

The Ridgewood Grove - we called it "The Grove" - once held them dance marathons where skill had no bearing on who took home the trophy; went to the last twosome on the floor in upright position. It also converted to pro boxing on Saturday nights.

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Many a champ learned the trade at the Grove, but most topping the weekly cards would become career contenders, but entertain they did. Featherweights coming to mind were popular draws Maxie Shapiro, Al Pennino, Lulu Constantino, Teddy "Red Top" Davis and Johnny Dell.

And the Lightweights of the day doing business at the Grove, or on Tuesday nights at the B’way Arena that packed them in with a shoe horn, were such attractions as Terry Young, Bobby Ruffin, Johnny Greco, Allie Stolz, Al "Bummy" Davis and Willie Joyce.

The welters were a breed of if its own with superb talents listed among those never claiming a world title. Joe Miceli, Del Flanagan, Billy Graham, Tony Pellone, Ralph Dupas, Rocco Rossano, Gene Burton, Gil Turner.

Would need a page of its own to list the many middleweights coming to mind but here's a few of my past club-fite favorites: Rocky Castellani, Paddy Young, Steve Belloise, Ralph "Tiger" Jones, Harold Green, Bert Lytell, Joey De John, Sonny Horne and Joey Giambra.

I'll leave out those that followed during the 1950s...Spider Webb, Bobby Boyd, Gene Hairstone, Garth Panter, Robert Villemain, Pete Mead and the like.

As for the 1940s and light heavies, other than the champions such as Conn, Lesnevich, Maxim, and later on Moore and Harold Johnson, the division wasn't all that popular. Only option for good ones at 175 was to test the waters of the heavyweight division, and here's some that never made the cut but gave it an honest shot… Bob Satterfield, Lloyd Marshall, Johnny Colan, Curtis Sheppard, Nate Bolden.

Finally, the big guys, during the 40s some that never made the big hurdle because of some guy named Joe, but were anything but tomato cans and coming to mind: Jimmy Bivins, Elmer Ray, Joe Baksi, Lee Oma, Rex Layne and Lou Nova.

Reflecting on the above mentioned, and countless others, that brought the paying customers to their feet during each outing, I cannot help but feel more than a few of them would have been known today as past champions were there more than one bauble per weight class to shoot for.

Finally, the decade ended; not sure about that chicken in every post-war pot, but come 1950 just about every flat along Wilson and Moffat had itself a black and white TV set to watch them big Friday night fights and the Wednesday Pabst shows.

And in a wam-bam thank you ma'am kinda thing, my old Brooklyn ’hood suddenly had flats heated by radiator and electric fridges, and while we reveled over the new, out went the old, and with it went the grade schools of pugilistic learning.
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