International Boxing Hall of Fame

Tony Zale

"Man of Steel"

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tony Zale
Real name Anthony Florian Zaleski
Nickname(s) Man of Steel
Rated at Middleweight
Nationality Flag of the United States American
Birth date May 29, 1913
Birth place Gary, Indiana
Death date March 20, 1997 (aged 83)
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 87
Wins 67
Wins by KO 45
Losses 18
Draws 2
No contests 0

Anthony Florian Zaleski (May 29, 1913 - March 20, 1997) was an American boxer. Zale was born and raised in Gary, Indiana, a steel town, which gave him his nickname. In addition, he had the reputation of being able to take fearsome punishment and still rally to win, reinforcing that nickname. Zale was known as a strong body puncher, who punished his opponents and steadily wore them down before knocking them out.

Bouts against Rocky Graziano

He was a 2-time world middleweight champion and made the Ring Magazine's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time. Zale is best remembered for his three bouts over a 21 month period with Rocky Graziano for the middleweight crown. These three bouts were among the most brutal and exciting middleweight championship matches of all time. The first match took place in Yankee Stadium, New York. Zale had served in World War II, was thirty-three years old, and had been inactive for about four years. Graziano was on a winning knockout streak and seemed to be in his prime. In their first match (September 27, 1946), after flooring Graziano in the first round, Zale took a savage beating from Graziano, and was on the verge of losing the fight by TKO. However, he rallied and knocked out Graziano in the sixth round to retain his title. The rematch, a year later in Chicago (16 July 1947), was a mirror image of their first fight. Graziano, was battered around the ring, suffered a closed eye and appeared ready to lose by a knockout, when he rallied and knocked Zale out in the sixth round, thereby becoming middleweight champion of the world.

Their last fight was held in New Jersey the following year (10 June, (1948). Zale regained his crown and won the match by a knockout in the third round. The knockout combination consisted of a picture perfect combination of a right to Grazianos's body, then a left hook to Graziano's jaw. Graziano was knocked out cold. This fight was Zale's last hurrah. His age and the many ring wars he fought seemed to catch up with him in his next fight against European Champion Marcel Cerdan later that year, who stopped him in the eleventh round to win the middleweight championship of the world (21 September 1948). Graziano commented that years later he would wake up in a cold sweat having had the recurring nightmare of being back in the ring with Zale, who he said really was a man of steel.

Edith Piaf, who at the time was having an affair with Cerdan, was in the audience, praying to Saint Therese for his victory. Two of the three Graziano fights and the Cerdan fight were awarded Ring Magazine fights of the year.

Zale was originally cast to play himself in the movie Somebody Up There Likes Me When Paul Newman (cast to play Graziano) and he were sparring prior to filming, Newman got rough and Zale knocked him out. Zale was replaced by Courtland Shepard for the final fight scene.

Preceded by
Al Hostak
NBA Middleweight Champion
July 19, 1940 July 16, 1947
Succeeded by
Rocky Graziano
Preceded by
Billy Soose
NYSAC World Middleweight Champion
November 28, 1941 July 16, 1947
Preceded by
Rocky Graziano
World Middleweight Champion
June 10, 1948 September 21, 1948
Succeeded by
Marcel Cerdan