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The Cyber Boxing Zone Encyclopedia -- Lineal Champion

"Rocky" Kansas
(Rocco Tozzo)

BORN   April 21 1895; Buffalo, New York
DIED January 10 1954; Buffalo, New York
HEIGHT.. 5-2
WEIGHT 130-135 lbs
MANAGER.. Dan Rogers

Kansas was a short, powerful, scrappy battler with a solid build; He was a prime example of relentless determination; After years of hard work, he won the Lightweight Championship of the World in his 160th bout; Four fights later, Rocky took on the great ringsman, Sammy Mandell, and lost his title; In 165 fights, he was stopped only twice

Rocky defeated such men as Lew Tendler, Jimmy Goodrich, Johnny Dundee, Charley White, Jack Bernstein, Joe Tiplitz, Frankie Schoell, Frankie Britt, George "K.O." Chaney, Willie Jackson, "Lockport" Jimmy Duffy, Richie Mitchell, Pete Hartley, Teddy Meyers and Barney Adair

Rocky was a brother of Joe "Kid" Kansas and Tony Tozzo, also boxers; He was inducted into the Buffalo Ring No. 44 Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997

"He whipped me, he whipped me, and oh, how can he hit!!"
--Kansas after Benny Leonard kayoed him in 8

With the multitudinous amounts of world titles around today a good fighter can find a "title" held by some hobo champion to get around facing the dominant fighter at the top of the division. Rocky Kansas didn't have a promoter go out and create or find a worthless title for him. Instead he went after the great Benny Leonard in two losing title efforts. Fortunately Rocky was able to land a third opportunity, and on the third try he finally succeeded.

The fighter better known as Rocky Kansas, was born Rocco Tozzo on April 21, 1895 in Buffalo, NY, though it is widely believed that he may have been born as early as 1890. Kansas's introduction to the squared circle came through a run-in local promoter Joe Murphy, best known for promoting the Joe Gans vs. Frank Erne Lightweight title fight. Kansas's older brother Joe was a local fighter in the Buffalo area, and the promoter approached Rocky (at the time working as a newsie), and urged him to take up fighting like his brother Joe.

Thus, Kansas turned pro in 1911, earning a $1 purse in for a 3d-round kayo win. Fighting mostly out of his home base of Buffalo, Kansas only lost just two official decisions in his first 75 fights. He met his first contender in 1914, losing a Newspaper Decision to Johnny Dundee. He then faced Featherweight Champion Johnny Kilbane in a non-title match. Kansas
held his own for the first seven rounds, before Kilbane rallied down the stretch to earn a Newspaper Decision over Kansas.

After another No Decision "defeat" against Johnny Dundee, Kansas was given the opportunity to face former Lightweight champion Ad Wolgast. It was a sad site, as Wolgast already suffering from the dementia that would later drive him to train for a bout with Battling Nelson while in a insane asylum, was hammered unmercifully for 10 rounds by Kansas.

Now entrenched as a contender, Kansas with his stocky 5-2 frame was now facing the cream of the Featherweight and Lightweight divisions. Kansas had a scrappy and some times dirty, brawler style that was annoying to his opponents. While Kansas' wild swings were easy to counter, opponents quickly found that Rocky possessed a granite chin that allowed him to walk through his opponents best shots and attempt to land his potent right hand.

On February 28, 1916, Kansas got to face for the first time the man who would become his nemesis. Across from him was Benny Leonard, a top contender for the Lightweight Title. Leonard dazzled Kansas with his quick feet and fast hands, giving him a paint job. At one point, Leonard dropped in a big right hand that shook Kansas and left him on queer street, yet Kansas managed to stay up and last the full 10 for a No-Decision.

Between 1916 and 1921, Kansas faced many of the top fighters around his weight. Among his opponents were guys such as "K.O." Chaney, Gene Delmont, Johnny Dundee, and Willie Jackson. With World War I taking up the world's attention there were no lightweight title fights for almost a 2 1/2 year period, between 1917 and 1920. With Leonard giving out very few title shots, Kansas needed to make a statement, and early in 1921 he found just the right opponent to make it against.

Richie Mitchell was a highly regarded Lightweight out of Milwaukee, whose brother Pinkey would later become the first Junior Welterweight Champion. He had been a contender for years like Kansas, on January 14, 1921 he got his big shot at the title. Leonard in a rare state of urgency came out blazing and floored Mitchell three times in the first round. Right before the bell though, Leonard walked into a huge Mitchell right hand that sent him down for a nine count. Leonard was saved by the bell, and later recovered to stop Mitchell in the sixth round.

Mitchell had all of a sudden become a sensation for almost knocking out the great Leonard. A little over a month later on February 18th he was put in against Kansas. In the first round Kansas pinned Mitchell against the ropes and drove a left hook to Mitchell's ribs and then followed up with a monster right cross that knocked Mitchell down for nine. Kansas then tore into Mitchell, driving him through the ropes to knock out Mitchell at 2:36 of the first round.

The huge upset had spoiled the plans of Tex Rickard and Madison Square Garden who had hoped to use Mitchell as a headliner. Since there were no automatic suspensions for being kayoed back then, Mitchell was immediately rematched with Kansas 19 days later in Mitchell's hometown. Kansas proceeded to eliminate Mitchell from further consideration as a title threat, taking a easy Newspaper Decision from Mitchell. With the win Kansas landed the 1920's equivalent of an HBO contract when Tex Rickard announced that he would headline at the Garden against Willie Jackson in his next bout. Jackson had secured his fame with a first-round knockout of unstoppable Johnny Dundee in 1917.

After beating Jackson and losing a Newspaper Decision to Johnny Dundee, Kansas finally landed a non-title shot against Benny Leonard. Back in those days the champion often took a non-title fight with a contender before giving him an actual title shot. For 12 rounds Leonard danced circles around Kansas, who swung for the fences trying to land his sledgehammer right. Nothing seemed to work so Kansas resorted to low blows, this only angered Leonard more, as he struck Kansas with vicious right hand counters. After twelve rounds the best anyone could say for Kansas was that he might have won two rounds.

Having failed to impress fight fans with his performance against Leonard, Kansas needed to come up with another big performance. Madison Square Garden brought in Philly Southpaw Lew Tendler in a crossroads battle for Kansas. Tendler was no slouch having only lost once on a foul at that point in 107 bouts. Tendler presented a difficult style of clever boxing skills, quick hands, and a punch that could knock you out at anytime. For five rounds Kansas didn't have a clue as Tendler dominated. In the sixth round though Rocky came boaring in headfirst and collided with Tendler's head, opening up a gash over Tendler's right eye. With blood pouring down his eye, Tendler became a much easier and less mobile target. In the ninth round Kansas swayed the momentum even further when he knocked Tendler down with a right. His face drenched in blood now, Tendler could only muster a few uppercuts inside as Kansas took a close decision.

Having defeated Tendler, Kansas was awarded his first title shot on February 10, 1922. In the first round Kansas jumped all over Leonard, messing up his hair in the process. Leonard's hair was always slicked back and he took great pride in the fact that it usually never got ruffled. Like another Leonard 58 years later would be, he was drawn into a macho struggle with a fighter who was accustomed to that kind of fight. Refusing to use his edge in speed, Leonard stood toe-to-toe with Kansas. The action was grueling, and in the fourth round Kansas staggered Leonard with a right uppercut that drew blood from Benny's nose. Leonard was still a brilliant fighter nonetheless and he could still hold his own fighting this way. Despite this Leonard's face became covered with blood as he was staggered again in the eighth. After ten rounds the fight was dead even. In the eleventh Kansas tried a wild right that missed, he then attempted to backhand Leonard off the miss. Leonard neatly slipped it and came overtop with a smashing overhand right that sent Kansas down for the first time in his career. Kansas staggered up at nine, and Leonard tried unsuccessfully for the finish. Leonard then proceeded to go back to dancing and swept the remaining rounds to take the unanimous decision.

After the grueling struggle with Kansas, Leonard who had been struggling to make 135, attempted to go for the Welterweight Title. While dominating Jack Britton, Leonard mysteriously fouled out after knocking Britton down. Stuck with the Lightweight title, Leonard's people elected to give Rocky a rematch.

Rocky came into the rematch with the same old plan as before, rough Benny up and hopefully knock him out. Unfortunately for Kansas, Leonard brought back the old style that had made him a legend. For seven rounds the fight was completely lopsided as Leonard countered Rocky's bull charges with overhand rights. Sometime during the fight Kansas broke his wrist, somewhere around that time Rocky quit trying as well. In the seventh resorting to wrestling and fouling inside, Kansas was nailed with two flush uppercuts that left him in bad shape at the bell. Coming out for the eighth, Leonard sensed his opponents demise and poured it on. He finally nailed Kansas with a right hand that caused him to stumble aimlessly to a neutral corner. Leonard quickly jumped all over him, and as he did Kansas' corner threw in the towel.

Now 0 for 2 in title shots and probably as old as 33, Kansas was faced with a very dim outlook. He continued fighting and winning, but with Leonard entrenched as champion he would have to wait, unfortunately time wasn't on his side. In 1924 he took on Chilean Lightweight Luis Vicentini. The crude Chilean was easy pickings as he did next to nothing, often staring out into the crowd instead of fighting. In the 10th, Kansas dug a left hook to the body and landed an overhand right that floored Vicentini. With two rounds to go Vicentini needed a miracle, somehow he got one. Midway through the eleventh, Vicentini threw a tremendous right that detonated on Kansas' chin. He crumpled to the canvas and rose at the count of three. Kansas was out on his feet though and Vicentini teed off on him before landing another big right that laid Kansas out for the count.

Kansas came back though and avenged the loss to Vicentini and followed it up with a win over Jack Bernstein. Meanwhile Leonard had retired and the title was about to be decided between Jimmy Goodrich and Stanislau Loayza, who had surged to the front of a large group after a gruelling elimination tournament. One of the fighters that had lost out on the bid to fight for the vacant Lightweight title was Jewish stringbean Sid Terris. Kansas was matched with Terris on April 27, 1925. It was a total mismatch as Terris equipped with a 8 inch height advantage poked away at a hopeless Kansas. A frustrated Rocky landed a crushing shot to the groin that finished Terris. The referee promptly disqualified Kansas.

Despite the loss, after three minor wins Kansas was given his third title shot against Jimmy Goodrich, who had beaten Loayza. The againg Kansas put on a great performance. He managed to work his way inside from the start, winning all but one of the first 13 rounds. Goodrich sensing he needed a knockout to win, went all-out in last two rounds. Goodrich though didn't have the punch needed to dent Kansas. Kansas gave away the two final rounds, and still took a unanimous decision. After over 14 years of professional fighting, Rocky Kansas was finally a champion.

Rocky Kansas wouldn't be a champion for long though. He was lured to Chicago for a July 3, 1926 bout with 22-year-old rising star Sammy Mandell. The fight was fought during a mild rain, and Kansas never got going. Having gotten old finally Mandell outboxed Kansas in a snoozer, where neither man showed much movement due to the rain.

Kansas retired after the loss, having saved over 200,000 dollars during his career. Unfortunately he lost it all in the Crash of '29. Forced to make a living, Rocky Kansas took up working on construction jobs and later working for the city of Buffalo. A one-fight comeback in 1932 resulted in a loss that convinced him to stay out of the ring.

Rocky Kansas died at the age of 59 (or 64) on January 10, 1954 of cancer.

By Matt Tegen

1911
       Young Thomas               Buffalo, NY                        KO  3
       Kid Ramp                   Buffalo, NY                        ND  4
       Kid George                 Buffalo, NY                        ND  4
       Young Thomas               Buffalo, NY                        KO  2
       Young Green                Buffalo, NY                        KO  2
       Young Knall                Buffalo, NY                        ND  6
       Battling Kline             Buffalo, NY                        KO  2
Jun 23 Willie O'Neil              Buffalo, NY                        KO  1
Jul 14 Young Tuttle               Buffalo, NY                        KO  1
Oct 28 George Ross                Welland, Ont, Can                  ND  6
Nov 24 Jack Dexter                Buffalo, NY                        LT  3
          -Some sources report "LF 3"

1912
       Young Nelson               Buffalo, NY                        KO  2
       Jack Harris                Buffalo, NY                        KO  1
       Young Green                Buffalo, NY                        ND  6
Feb 17 Jack White                 Welland, Ont, Can                  KO  3
          -Some sources report "Buffalo, NY"
       Dewey Devine               Buffalo, NY                        ND  6
       Jack Joynt                 Buffalo, NY                        KO  1
Sep  2 Dick Clancy                Buffalo, NY                        KO  1
Sep 13 Jack Dexter                Buffalo, NY                        ND  6
Sep 24 Joe Stein                  Buffalo, NY                        TK  8
Nov 11 Jack Dexter                Buffalo, NY                        ND  6
Nov 21 Joe Clark                  Buffalo, NY                        ND  6
       Sammy Baker                Buffalo, NY                        ND  6

1913
Jan  1 Stanley Sculley            Philadelphia, Pa                   ND  6
Mar 25 Oscar Williams             Buffalo, NY                        TK 10
Apr 28 Danny McCabe               Philadelphia, Pa                   ND  6
May  2 Jack Dexter                Buffalo, NY                        ND  6
Jun    Oscar Williams             Paducah, Ky                         D 10
Jul  3 Jack Dexter                Buffalo, NY                        TK  4
Sep 12 Johnny Daly                Erie, Pa                           KO  6
Sep 29 Johnny Harris              Buffalo, NY                        ND  6
Oct 17 Harry Boyle                Buffalo, NY                        KO  3
          -Some sources repor "KO 1"
Oct 27 Young Joey                 Syracuse, NY                       ND 10
Nov 13 Jack Dexter                Buffalo, NY                        TK  5
          -Some sources report 11/14/13
Nov 28 Johnny Sokol               Buffalo, NY                        TK  9
Dec 22 Eddie Sentry               Youngstown, Oh                     TK  4
          -Some sources report "TK 3"
Dec 26 Eddie Wallace              Buffalo, NY                        ND 10

1914
Feb  3 Jimmy Cavanaugh            Buffalo, NY                        KO  3
Feb  6 Joe Goldberg               Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Feb 24 Johnny Dundee              Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Apr  6 Tommy Bresnahan            Buffalo, NY                        KO  2
May 11 Harry Condon               New York, NY                       ND 10
May 25 Bobby Reynolds             Bridgeport, Ct                      W 12
Jun  8 Kid Julian                 Syracuse, NY                       ND 10

1915
Jan 11 Harry Boyle                Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Feb  1 Johnny Kilbane             Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Feb 22 Eddie Morgan               Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Mar 24 Eddie Morgan               Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Apr 12 Joe Goldberg               Rochester, NY                      ND 10
May  3 Johnny Dundee              Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Jun  8 Frankie Dailey             Erie, Pa                           ND 10
Jul  5 Young Frank                Erie, Pa                           ND 10
Jul 23 Ad Wolgast                 Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Sep  6 Joe Mandot                 Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Oct  6 Joe Mandot                 Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Oct 25 Frankie Russell            New Orleans, La                     W 15
Nov 15 Frankie Russell            New Orleans, La                     L 15

1916
Feb  4 Frankie Callahan           Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Feb 23 Patsy Drouillard           Windsor, Ont, Can                  ND 10
          -Some sources report 3/23/16
Feb 28 Benny Leonard              Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Mar 16 Tickle Sanders             Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Apr  3 Frankie Nelson             Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
May 29 Jake Schiffer              Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Jun 30 Jack White                 Welland, Ont, Can                  TK  2
Jul  8 Pete Hartley               Rochester, NY                      ND 10
Sep  1 Gene Delmont               Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Sep 11 Shamus O'Brien             Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Nov  6 Harry Condon               Rochester, NY                      ND 10
Nov 10 Johnny O'Leary             Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Nov 22 Gene Delmont               Windsor, Ont, Can                  ND 10
          -Some sources report 11/23/16 in "Buffalo, NY"
Nov 30 Henry Cherry               Buffalo, NY                        TK  8

1917
Jan  9 Jake Schiffer              Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Jan 29 Pete Hartley               Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Feb  8 Cal Delaney                Cleveland, Oh                      ND 10
Feb 26 Johnny Kilbane             Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Mar 28 Phil Virgets               Cleveland, Oh                      ND 10
Apr 12 Red Dolan                  Racine, Wi                         ND 10
Apr 20 Freddie Welsh              Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
May 29 Johnny Dundee              Boston, Ma                          L 12
Jun 11 Babe Picato                New Castle, Pa                     ND 10
Jul 23 George "K.O." Chaney       Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Sep 10 George "K.O." Chaney       Philadelphia, Pa                   ND  6
Oct  8 Willie Jackson             Philadelphia, Pa                   ND  6
Oct 18 Frankie Callahan           Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Oct 29 Lew Tendler                Philadelphia, Pa                   ND  6

1918
Jan 18 Clonie Tait                Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Feb 18 Willie Jackson             Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Mar 11 Willie Jackson             Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Apr  2 Young McGovern             Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
          -Some sources report "ND 6"
Apr 10 "Irish" Patsy Cline        Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Apr 27 Artie O'Leary              Philadelphia, Pa                   TK  5
May  3 "Lockport" Jimmy Duffy     Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
May 27 Fighting Zunner            Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Jun  6 Kid Black                  Buffalo, NY                        KO  2
Jun 24 Jake Schiffer              Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Jul  8 "Irish" Patsy Cline        Toledo, Oh                         ND 12
Jul 24 Phil Bloom                 Wrightstown, NJ                    ND  8
Aug 23 Joe Thomas                 Buffalo, NY                        ND  4
Sep 10 Johnny Dundee              Boston, Ma                          D 12
Nov  5 Frankie Britt              Boston, Ma                          D 12
Nov  9 Benny Valger               Philadelphia, Pa                   ND  6
Dec 17 Frankie Britt              Boston, Ma                          L 12

1919
Jan  1 Lew Tendler                Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Apr    Eddie Dorsey               Syracuse, NY                       KO  8
Sep 22 Artie O'Leary              Philadelphia, Pa                   ND  6
Nov  3 K.O. Mars                  Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Nov  6 Eddie Dorsey               Toronto, Ont, Can                  TK  9
Nov 15 Joe Tiplitz                Philadelphia, Pa                   ND  6
Nov 18 Ralph Brady                Syracuse, NY                       ND 10
Dec  1 Frankie Britt              Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Dec  9 Benny Valger               Syracuse, NY                        ND 10
          -Some sources report "Buffalo, NY"
Dec 26 Pete Hartley               Baltimore, Md                       D 12

1920
Mar 17 "Westside" Jimmy Duffy     Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Mar 19 Babe Picato                Rochester, NY                      ND 10
Apr 16 Babe Picato                Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Apr 23 Ralph Brady                Baltimore, Md                       W 12
Apr 28 Frankie Bull               Toronto, Ont, Can                  KO  5
          -Some sources report "KO 6"
May 24 Joe Welling                Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Jun  9 Matt Brock                 Detroit, NY                        ND 10
          -Some sources report "Buffalo, NY"
Jun 14 Allentown Dundee           Buffalo, NY                        ND 10
Jun 30 Myron "Pinkey" Mitchell    Detroit, Mi                        ND 10
Aug 23 George "K.O." Chaney       Baltimore, Md                       W 12
Nov 20 Larry Hansen               Buffalo, NY                        TK 10

1921
Jan 21 "Lockport" Jimmy Duffy     Buffalo, NY                        KO  1
Feb 18 Richie Mitchell            Buffalo, NY                        KO  1
Mar  9 Richie Mitchell            Milwaukee, Wi                      ND 10
Mar 21 Willie Jackson             New York, NY                        W 15
          -Some sources report "W 12"
Apr  4 Bobby Ward                 St. Paul, Mn                       KO  5
Apr 26 Johnny Dundee              Milwaukee, Wi                      ND 10
May  6 "Harlem" Eddie Kelly       Buffalo, NY                        KO  2
May 30 Gene Delmont               Glendale, NY                        W 12
          -Some sources report "Astoria, NY"
Jun  6 Benny Leonard              Harrison, NJ                       ND 12
Jun 27 Frankie Schoell            Buffalo, NY                         W 12
Sep 12 Mixer Mitchell             Syracuse, NY                       KO  8
Oct  3 Frankie Britt              Boston, Ma                          W 10
Oct 21 Lew Tendler                New York, NY                        W 15
Nov 16 Packey Hommey              Syracuse, NY                       TK  2
Nov 22 Johnny Mendelsohn          Milwaukee, Wi                      ND 10
Dec  9 Barney Adair               Buffalo, NY                         W 10
Dec 17 Sid Barbarian              Windsor, Ont, Can                   D 10
Dec 26 Johnny Ray                 Pittsburgh, Pa                     ND 10

1922
Feb 10 Benny Leonard              New York, NY                        L 15
          -Lightweight Championship of the World
Mar 10 Gene Delmont               Buffalo, NY                         W 10
May 12 Johnny Harvey              Buffalo, NY                        TK  4
Jul  4 Benny Leonard              Michigan City, In                  LT  8
          -Lightweight Championship of the World
Nov 30 Pete Hartley               Buffalo, NY                         W 10
Dec 15 Johnny Donnelly            Erie, Pa                           ND 10

1923
Jan  1 Sammy Berne                Buffalo, NY                         W 10
Jan 26 Chubby Brown               Syracuse, NY                        W 12
Feb  9 Charley White              New York, NY                        W 15
Apr 30 Alex Hart                  Philadelphia, Pa                   ND  8
Jul 11 Johnny Mendelsohn          Milwaukee, Wi                      ND 10
Oct 12 Jack Bernstein             New York, NY                        L 15
Dec 10 Freddie Jacks              Buffalo, NY                         W  6
          -Some sources report 12/11/23

1924
Jan  1 Teddy Meyers               Buffalo, NY                         W 12
          -Some sources report "W 10"
Feb 18 Jack Bernstein             Buffalo, NY                         D 10
Apr 21 Johnny Dundee              Buffalo, NY                         W 10
May 20 Freddie Jacks              Binghamton, NY                      W  6
Jul 14 Luis Vicentini             Long Island City, NY               LK 11
Oct 13 Luis Vicentini             Buffalo, NY                         W 10
Nov 26 Jack Bernstein             Buffalo, NY                         W 12
          -Some sources report "W 10"

1925 Feb 16 Red Cap Wilson Buffalo, NY W 6 Apr 27 Sid Terris Buffalo, NY LF 5 May 11 Joe Jawson Buffalo, NY W 6 Sep 28 Billy Pollock Buffalo, NY KO 2 Nov 2 Fred Kelly Buffalo, NY TK 1 Dec 7 Jimmy Goodrich Buffalo, NY W 15 -Lightweight Championship of the World (As recognized by New York state) 1926 Mar 5 Freddie Jacks Tampa, Fl TK 6 Mar 25 Joe Tiplitz Miami Beach, Fl W 10 Apr 12 Pal Moran New Orleans, La ND 10 Jul 3 Sammy Mandell Chicago, Il L 10 -Lightweight Championship of the World 1932 Mar Joe Trippe Buffalo, NY L 6

Record courtesy of Tracy Callis, Historian, International Boxing Research Organization
 

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