By Roger Zotti
Yes, it was a silent auction and I couldn’t resist bidding on Micky Ward’s autographed boxing glove. Yes, three days later the glove was mine. Don’t fret: I’ll tie all this together later, but first let’s look back to October 30, 2010, the night Micky’s glove was up for bid.
The place: Mohegan Sun Casino. The event: The 6th annual CT Boxing Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Before over 500 hundred people Troy Wortham, Joe Tessitore, Desi Clark, Sean Malone, Bob Steele, D. Mac Buckley, and Micky Ward were this year’s inductees.
The only non-Connecticut inductee, Ward’s connection to Connecticut took place on May 12, 2002, when he and Arturo Gatti fought at Mohegan Sun Arena. Ring Magazine called it the Fight of the Year.
I’ve attended the Induction Ceremony four times and it’s always exciting seeing up close many fighters I recall watching—while growing up in New Haven—on the Friday and Wednesday Night Fights. Of course, back then the fights were televised in black and white, on a twelve inch screen. Gillette Blue Blades sponsored the Friday bouts; Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, the Wednesday battles.
One of those fighters, the great and affable Gaspar Ortega, 75, was at the Ceremony. Looking in top condition, he told us, “I weigh the same now as when I was fighting. When I was in training I never ate much—and I still don’t eat much today.”
Inducted into the CT Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006, Gaspar holds the distinction of fighting more times on national television than any other professional prizefighter. Also, he fought the best fighters of his time—like Carmen Basilio, Emile Griffith, and Nino Benvenutti—and retired with a record of 131-39-6, with 69 knockouts.
Born in Mexico, Gaspar fought twenty-three fights there before coming to America and eventually settling in New Haven.
Speaking of New Haven brought to mind 2009’s Induction Ceremony and Elm City lightweight Julie Kogon’s induction. Kogon, whose boxing career began in 1937, retired in 1950. He compiled an impressive 81-38-18 record (38 knockouts), fought several world champions, and at one time was ranked tenth in the world by Ring Magazine.
That night Stu Rosen, originally from New Haven and now living in South Windsor, spoke and then presented the induction plaque to Kogon’s nephew Mel Zeidenberg.
One of Stu’s fondest memories was when his father, close friends with Kogon, took him to see the fighter in action at the New Haven Arena. “Julie was in white trunks trimmed in black,” Stu recalled. “His opponent, Henry Schlizzi, was in black trunks, trimmed in white. I remember the boxers exchanging punches, no knockdowns, and a constant loud voice coming from a nearby Schlizzi fan: ‘Schdink. Schdink. Schdink.’ I suppose that means jab, jab, jab.”
Kogon lost the decision (though a short time later he decisioned Schlizzi in their rematch). He and his father, Stu continued, “were the only ones to walk [Julie] back to his dressing room. I think I felt more badly about his loss than he did.”
Both Stu and I lived on Norton Street in New Haven and Kogon owned a luncheonette—Kogon’s Korner—located a block away on Whalley Avenue. The day after the Schlizzi fight, Stu visited Kogon at the luncheonette. “I couldn’t believe it,” Stu said. “Julie’s face looked like someone had taken sandpaper to it. It hit me that boxers can be so beat up.”
Back to Micky Ward’s autographed boxing glove—which is mine, readers, all mine. And don’t ask me how much it cost. Sure, I’ll tell you but it’d be a juicy lie. This much is true, though: It’s prominently displayed in the Zotti household in Preston and well worth what I paid for it.