|Eugene ‘Cyclone’ Hart: Philly KO artist - Boxing
By Ken Hissner (Feb 22, 2008) Doghouse Boxing
As a young kid at the 23rd PAL he would study “Smokin” Joe Frazier’s left hook. Little did he know that one day his kayo percentage would be higher than that of his hero, Frazier. Eugene “Cyclone” Hart was well named. He went through his first 19 opponents with not one lasting 5 rounds. The last one was former title challenger Stanley “Kitten” Hayward (28-8-4). “I took him out in 60 seconds” said the former boxer.
He now fights a different battle in the streets of Philadelphia. “I am part of War on Guns and Stop the Violence along
with Jackie “Sister Smoke” Frazier, now a Philadelphia municipal judge, and politician Jannie Blackwell,” said Hart. “We have to keep our kids off the streets and busy” he added. He now trains his 18 year old son Jesse at the Martin Luther King gym at 22nd and Cecil B. Moore in the City of Brotherly Love. The younger Hart just qualified in Maryland this past week-end in the 165 pound division to earn a trip to Colorado Springs next month in an attempt to make the Olympic trials. The kid can fight. The senior Hart had won 73 of 76 amateur bouts including 2 of 3 from Vineland’s Richie Kates who would become a world title challenger as a pro. Sam Solomon was Hart’s trainer for most of his career. Upon turning pro at 18, J. Russell Peltz became his promoter for his first 19 fights before Herman Taylor took over until Taylor’s death.
Hart’s record (30-9-1, 27 KOs) was mostly in Philly. He only fought outside the city on three occasions. One was at the Convention Hall, in Atlantic City in August of 1975. He met 1972 Gold medalist Sugar Ray Seales (26-1-1), a crafty southpaw. Seales only blemishes were 2 fights with then future world champion Marvin Hagler. “He couldn’t get past my left hook or right lead,” said Hart, who won a decision. “It was probably his best win,” said Peltz.
After the Hayward fight his kayo streak ended with a decision over Don Fullmer (48-17-5), another title challenger. Fullmer had then champion Nino Benvenuti on the canvas in a losing effort. Fullmer went through 79 fights in his career without ever being knocked out. “Though I won, he was a tough opponent,” said Hart. “Hart ran out of gas at the end but won enough earlier rounds for the decision. This was the first sign of a stamina problem,” said Peltz. Hart had polio as a kid.
Two fights later he was matched with the former WBA/WBC light middleweight champion Denny Moyer (80-22-4) at Philly’s Spectrum arena in September of 1971. Though Moyer held the NABF title, it was not at stake for this fight. In the 6th round Hart missed throwing a left hook with both fighters entangled into a clinch and falling through the ropes and out of the ring. “The ropes were loose from a previous bout,” said Peltz. The bout was declared a no-contest with Moyer injuring his ankle and Hart knocked unconscious for several seconds after Moyer had fallen on top of him. Hart got back into the ring and was ready to resume the fight which was stopped due to Moyer’s injury. “He knew I had beaten him up and didn’t want to continue,” said Hart.
Hart said the next three fights were a blur to his memory. He won the first one and dropped the next two. His first loss came at the hands of Nate Collins (22-14) who had won 8 of his 9 previous bouts. His only loss was to former champion Emile Griffith. Hart suffered his first loss when the bout was stopped in the 7th round. He was still having problems from the head injury and took a year off. Upon his return he was stopped again by Jose Gonzalez (41-17-2) who had held the WBA American middleweight title. This was a minor title he had won from Fullmer. “That fight was a war,” said Peltz.
He had two more fights in 1973 scoring two quick knockouts and was then matched with local rival Willie “The Worm” Monroe (26-2-1), a recent victor over Gonzalez. “I had signed a contract with Jim Jacobs (later Mike Tyson’s manager) and spent two years in the Catskills under the guidance of Cus D’Amato,” said Hart. Having the fortune of meeting both Jacobs and D’Amato I asked what it was like being with D’Amato. “Cus once held up a blade of grass and gave me a 20 minute theory on it,” said Hart. D’Amato was known for his work with mind control. He lost the decision to Monroe and was matched with another top Philly fighter Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts (23-3-1). Watt’s was several fights away from dealing Hagler his first loss. “I was ducking a right hand with my back against the ropes when my foot slipped off the outside ring apron and down I went. With my legs hanging outside the ring I was unable to continue due to the fall,” said Hart.
In his next fight he went to the Felt Forum in New York City to fight future WBA light heavyweight champion Eddie Mustafa Muhammad (8-1-1). “Hart was knocked out twice in this bout,” said Peltz. “Today, it would never have been allowed, but he was knocked out after the bell. He was allowed to continue and was again knocked out in the 4th round. It would be his last fight under Jacobs and D’Amato.
Upon his return to Philly he stopped Radames Cabrera (16-1) who was coming off a year’s lay-off. Cabrera had won a decision over Mustafa Muhammad in his previous fight. Peltz was back in the picture for this fight. A couple of more knockouts and he met and defeated Seales.
His next fight drew 11,021 fans to the Spectrum. “This fight against (Bad) Bennie Briscoe (52-14-20) was the toughest opponent I ever fought,” said Hart. This fight is still talked about today, though it happened back in November of 1975. The final decision was called a draw. It would be five months before the rematch. In between them Hart scored a knockout in the third over Mel Dennis (21-7-2) who had won 13 of his last 15 fights. His two losses were against former European and future WBA/WBC middleweight champion Vito Antuofermo (23-1-1) in Italy and the future WBA light middleweight champion Miguel Angel Castellini (53-4-9) in Argentina.
The rematch with Briscoe was short lived by a Briscoe right hand at 1:49 of the first round. Hart would go from the large crowd of the Spectrum to the small Wagner Ballroom in Philly in his next fight. He knocked out Matt Donovan (20-18-2), a former world title challenger, for the second time. It would be the last win for Hart.
In his next fight he would retire in the 8th round against Hagler (28-2-1). “I was having problems with my trainer (Solomon) who I felt was not giving me proper instructions,” said Hart. “There was an argument in the corner between Hart and Solomon and the fighter would not continue. “He was losing the fight and he wasn’t the same fighter by then,” said Peltz. “This guy was a great champ,” said Hart. “Everything I did in the game I have no regrets except for that fight,” said Hart.
In his next fight he was matched with Antuofermo (37-3-1). He was stopped in the 5th round. “This guy was a brawler,” said Hart. He retired after this fight in March of 1977. At least that is what everyone thought he did. Almost 5 years later he came out for one more fight in Atlantic City against young “Tough” Tony Suero (8-3-2) and was stopped in the 4th round. Suero was coming off a draw with future WBO middleweight champ Doug DeWitt (11-1). This was February of 1982.
In the same division you had Briscoe, Watts, Monroe and Hart who are all Pennsylvania Hall of Fame boxers. Hart attends most Philly fights and is always ready to greet you with a smile and a handshake. I have to admit when I shake hands with him I have my eye on that left hook by his side in case of a sudden flashback. In Hart and “Smokin” Joe Frazier, you had two of the deadliest left hooks in the history of Philadelphia that we may never again see the likes of. Oh, how we’d love for those days again!
e-mail Ken at: email@example.com
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