Unbeaten welterweight Jim Connelly, 17-0-2 (9) was born in Bryn Mawr, PA, just outside of Philadelphia on the Main Line, on January 4th, 1959, then moved to Berne, Switzerland with his mother. He served in the Swiss Army like every citizen of the “fully armed country”!
Connelly’s trainer in Switzerland was Alfous Beutler. His mother took him back to Switzerland when Connelly was 3. “I still stay in contact with him. He is 85 years old. Where my mother Nony Connelly raised us on her own I credit her with my work ethic and drive to succeed,” said Connelly.
Connelly was an amateur champion in Switzerland with 44 bouts. “I came back to the US in 1980 and my father who was not promoting yet had me train at Joe Frazier’s Gym,” said Connelly. He had George Benton working with him and together they returned in September of 1980 where Connelly won a decision in six rounds over Benedicto dos Santos of Italy who was coming off a loss to Nino La Rocca, 17-0, who in time would pass Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 record at 56-0 before tasting defeat.
Connelly was coming off a draw with France’s Maurice Renaud who had previously fought to a draw with unbeaten Patrick Babouram of France. Connelly would defeat Babouram six months later stopping him in six rounds. Connelly turned professional in October of 1978 started in a six round bout.
“George was working with a lot of other boxers so (Sidney) “Sweetpea” Adams took over as my trainer,” said Connelly. Adams would later be inducted into the PA HOF. Connelly’s first eleven fights (9-0-2) were in Switzerland with all but one in Berne. That one was in Zurich just after the dos Santos fight with another boxer from Italy Luigi Dal Santo who Connelly knocked out in the first round in November of 1980. “I was training in Philly but still fighting in Switzerland (for his first eleven fights),” said Connelly.
Like Connelly’s father, Bob Connelly, neither would take a back step to anyone. I can personally say Bob Connelly would give you the shirt off his back if he liked you and I was fortunate enough to be one of them. I remember seeing Jim Connelly sparring with none other than “Smokin” Joe Frazier. Do I have to say anything more?
Legendary matchmaker DON ELBAUM was also brought into the picture: Jim could box and was one tough guy. When his father told me the Blunt fight would be his last and bring him into his business as a partner I thought “this kid could have gone all the way to the top!” His father was one of the greatest people I have ever met.
After defeating Babouram in December of 1980 Connelly would return to the ring in March though only having eight fights defeated the former European welterweight champion Joseph Pachler, 33-5-1, a German fighting out of Austria who five months later would win the Austrian title over Otto Zinoeder, 15-1, over twelve rounds. This was Connelly’s first eight rounder.
Next up in May for Connelly would be a veteran of thirty-six fights Sylvester Gordon, of the UK, who three weeks prior to this fight defeated Hugh Smith 27-10-1, and after the Connelly fight stop Tim Moloney, 15-2-2. His luck wasn’t as good between fights against Connelly losing in over eight rounds.
In Connelly’s next fight in September he defeated Morocco born Mohamed Bouziani, 9-8-1, out of Belgium, who was coming off a win over eight rounds. A month later Bouziani would defeat Giovanni Chirra, 6-0-2, in France.
It would be in late November of 1981 when Connelly would have his first fight in the US at Philly’s Convention Center, defeating New England’s Glenn Burnett, 3-1, stopping him in six rounds. Burnett had won his last three fights and would win his next four fights after losing to Connelly.
Connelly would return to Switzerland for the last time defeating Belgium’s welterweight champion Frankie Decaestecker, 25-7-2, stopping him in the eighth round. Decaestecker had won the Belgium title the previous month. In March of 1982 Connelly would fight on his father’s promotion at Villanova University’s Field House, near where he was born. Gary Hegyi would do the matchmaking. “Jim was one gutsy fighter with a lot of heart. You would have to kill him to beat him. I was surprised when his father retired him,” said Hegyi.
Though Orlando Montalvo was only 2-7, he had two of his defeats by future world champions Gary Hinton, 10-1-1 and Billy Costello, 12-0. He also lost to Kevin Rooney, 15-1. He was coming off losing a split decision to Bob Harvey, 10-2, whom he beat in their first fight when Harvey was 9-0. Connelly would score a second round knockout over Montalvo in his first ten rounder.
Just seventeen days later Connelly would fight in Atlantic City, NJ, stopping Allentown, PA’s Sam Hailstock, 10-10-1, at the Claridge Hotel & Casino, in the fourth round of a scheduled eight. Hailstock had gone nine rounds with then former WBA welterweight champion Angel Espada. “I was getting cut’s on the top of my head too much,” said Connelly. He was fortunate enough to have the best cut man I’ve ever seen in Philly’s Eddie “The Clot” Aliano.
Just two months later on another one of his father’s promotions Connelly would scoring a fourth round knockout over Jimmy Longo, 7-8-1, of New Paltz, NY, at the McDonald Labor Lyceum, in Conshohocken, PA, where this writer grew up. Longo would retire after this fight.
Walking before fight in
Just five weeks later Connelly would be back in Villanova on his father’s promotion knocking out Paul Gentry, 3-12, in two rounds. Not one of Gentry’s losses was to a fighter with a losing record. Connelly could sense he may be nearing the end of his career due to cut’s when just four months later he finished his career defeating Dayton, OH’s, Mike “Bumble Bee” Blunt, 14-8, over eight rounds at the McDonald Labor Lyceum, on his father’s promotion. Blunt was coming off losses to a pair of unbeaten boxers in Tommy Ayres and future world champion Joe Manley.
“I’ve been married over 25 years to Lisa Staley and we have 3 children, James 24, Carena 22, and Katherine 18. My family is very precious to me. My brother Ronnie is a chef in Switzerland and my sister Nannette who lives in the US/Costa Rica were my biggest fans,” said Connelly.
Finishing Connelly’s career at 16-0-2 (8) wasn’t bad for a kid who left the US at age three and moved to Switzerland where he was 10-0-2 only to return to the US at age twenty-one and go unbeaten in his six fights. There’s no telling how far he would have gone if it were not for those cuts! His father passed away in 2002 but will be remembered by the many people he helped while alive. His son Jim made him very proud in and out of the ring!
Please send all questions and comments to Ken Hissner at: Kenhissner@gmail.com