Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Gillette’s Friday Night Fights and Boxing in the 1950's

Chico Vejar
By Randy De La O

I still remember watching the Friday Night Fights with my father back in the 1950’s. It was a ritual for my father. I remember the old beer commercials and the company that my father had at the house when we watched the fights, usually my uncle Gilbert and uncle Jimmy. I was young but I clearly remember. I didn’t know who was fighting but I just loved being there with my dad. I would ask my father “Who are you voting for?” he would laugh and say “You don’t vote for the fighters, son”. I didn’t quite get it yet. Sometimes I would see what appeared to be an opening and yell out to my father “How come he didn’t throw a punch” His answer was almost always. “It’s a lot harder to see those things when you’re in the ring”. I would run around the house throwing punches at imaginary opponents. I wanted to be a boxer. My father had some old leather boxing gloves and a speed bag in the garage. I would punch away at the bag without any real knowledge of what I was doing. I just wanted to feel like a boxer.

When I was older I came to understand that the 1950’s was one of the greatest era in boxing and some of the best fighters of that time would appear on Friday nights. Guys like Sugar Ray Robinson and Carmen Basilio, Chuck Davey, Chico Vejar, Kid Gavilan, Gene Fullmer, Johnny Saxton, Tony DeMarco, Charlie Powell and so many more that I would never be able to mention them all. It was a “Golden Age” for boxing. I was lucky enough to be born at a time when I can still remember it. A little fuzzy perhaps because I was so young but still I remember those nights in our small front room in Santa Fe Springs, California, watching the fights, my father and uncles standing and yelling at the television, their hands swinging away, beer cans in their hands, hoping to be heard by their favorite fighter. Those were special days.

Charlie Powell vs Mike DeJohn, November 6, 1959, Syracuse, New York
DeJohn KO's Powell in the first round

Sugar Ray Robinson vs Carmen Baslio, September 23, 1957, Yankee Stadium, NY

I’m not a 100% sure if this fight between Sugar Ray Robinson and Carmen Basilio was shown on the Friday Night Fights but I’m reasonably sure it was, either way it fits in perfectly with what I’m trying to say, the 1950’s was an unmatchable and remarkable era for boxing. The above video shows highlights of their September 23, 1957 fight at the Yankee Stadium, a fight won by Basilio via a 15 round hard fought split decision. Both men were still doing their best to win the fight when the final bell sounded. I can’t think of a more difficult fight to judge.

This Rocky Marciano-Hamm’s beer commercial is vintage 1950’s and early 1960’s and I can remember the Hamm’s commercial with the native drumbeats, to this day.


Anonymous said...

No, neither of the two Robinson-Basilio fights was shown on the Friday night fights. I, too, sat with my father and watched the TV bouts regularly. However, I distinctly remember listening to both Robinson-Basilio fights on the radio with my dad as they were not shown on television.

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