Poem of the Month
By Tom Smario
Book Excerpt by Mike DeLisa
Entertaining Fighters and Prospects
Fatty Langtry: Pudgy
Pugilist of the Past
By Robert Carson
John Klein: 19th-Century
By Pete Ehrmann
By Ron Lipton
Incentives in Professional
By Rafael Tenorio
Book Excerpt by Tim Dahlberg
The Regulation of Boxing
Towards a Pan-Indian
Spotlight on Cut Man Lenny DeJesus
by Pete Ehrmann
Jack Johnson: The Dates,
the Events, the Sources
by Stuart Templeton
Touching Gloves with...
"Irish" Art Hafey
TOUCHING GLOVES WITH..."IRISH"
By Dan Hanley
In the early 1970s there was a nasty rumble detected, emanating out of Canada, which made
its way to the west coast in the form of a 5-foot-2-inch, 126-pound package of seismic
trouble calling itself "Irish" Art Hafey. Resplendent in shamrock-laden trunks, this "Toy
Tiger" stuck out like a sore thumb amongst the Hispanic-heavy featherweight division. But
this was one tremor that wasn't about to subside and go meekly into the night.
HANLEY: Art, where are you from originally?
HAFEY: Stellarton, just outside
New Glasgow in Nova Scotia.
When did you get started in boxing?
Well, my dad always enjoyed the sport and
got my brother Lawrence and me started when I was 12. We were taught by Donnie MacIsaac at
the Archie Moore Boxing Club in Trenton, Nova Scotia.
You turned pro in '68. Were you in contention in any way for a spot on the Canadian
Oh, no! I had had about 37 amateur fights by this time, all out of
the New Brunswick area, but I was strictly a brawler.
Who were you handled by at this time?
I was managed by Billy Chisum and Al
Bachman, but I tell you, Dan, I didn't know a thing about boxing until I went to
California. I was just a Marciano-like banger.
At 5-foot-2 you didn't have many options. You had to get inside.
But, the thing was, I was never taught how to get inside, just go at it.
What prompted you to hit the coast?
Well, I wanted to get somewhere in the
sport, so after the Tommy Grant fight, Al Bachman hooked me up with a great old guy in
Suey Welch down in San Diego. As a matter of fact, Bachman was once the manager of Burke
Emery, who would become my trainer.
I saw your first fight when you hit the coast. You stopped Eliseo Castillo in five
rounds on cuts and...it was nothing special. However, you ran off about eight straight
wins and were obviously picking up the business. In your breakout fight you were matched
up with another hotshot, knockout sensation Valente Vera. Tell me about that fight.
Well, that was fought in the San Diego Sports Arena, and we were fighting on the
undercard of the first Muhammad Ali vs. Ken Norton fight. My brother Lawrence also fought
on that card, and I believe Hedgemon Lewis fought as well. Anyway, Vera was a very hard
puncher, but I was learning with Suey and Burke in my corner and I knocked him out in four
Your first world-rated opponent was right around the corner after that fight. You
fought one slick opponent in Octavio "Famoso" Gomez. I heard you caused a mini-riot in the
Forum that night.
Well, I was still learning, but he was very good. He dropped me
twice but I kept plugging away, caught up to him and stopped him on cuts in six rounds.
I heard the Mexican fans didn't like that too much.
[laughs] No, they
That was a nice scalp, which put you in the thick of things. But I have to ask you: The
coast was alive with talent at this time; who were you working with in the gym?
Well, primarily with Bobby Chacon.
I heard you and him were pretty tight. Good friends.
Oh, we were, but you
wouldn't know it from the way we were going at it in the gym. Incidentally, we actually
had a signed contract to fight each other, but his manager Joe Ponce decided to pull him
out of it. We took them to court but the judge ruled in Ponce's favor.
On the subject of Chacon, you were known as the guy who would shy away from the bright
lights, whereas guys like Chacon, Frankie Crawford, and Mando Ramos enjoyed the nightlife.
Is that true?
Absolutely! You can't abuse yourself as a fighter. Your body is
what's going to take care of you in the ring.
Your body kept you in good stead a couple of months after the Gomez fight when you
cruised down to Monterrey to fight Ruben Olivares. He was so hot at that point, coming off
a KO of Bobby Chacon. Tell me about the fight.
Y'know, I fought such a good fight.
I came in under his jab, dropped him a couple of times and stopped him in five rounds.
How were the fans after knocking out their boxing god down there?
absolutely terrific! I got nervous because they were coming after me, but they put me up
on their shoulders, parading me around. Not what I expected.
In early '74, 12,000 fans crowded into the Forum for the Olivares rematch, with the
NABF title on the line for good measure. What's your view on the split-decision
Well, we had just lost Suey Welch before the fight, and he was missed in the
corner. But I thought I had done enough to win. However, in this fight he ran and kept the
jab moving. I kept the pressure on him and dropped him in the 10th, but lost a 12-round
split decision. Funny thing about fighting runners, I would experience muscle cramping. I
was diagnosed by Dr. David King, a neurologist, with Thompson's disease. Apparently I've
had it my whole life and can control it today with medication. But when fighting a runner
or if I was overtrained, I would tighten up.
Was anyone aware of it then?
Oh, no! If I divulged that they never would have
allowed me to fight.
With Suey's passing, who took over your management? Suey was just a great old guy
and a great manager, but Burke Emery, my trainer, took over. Burke was an excellent
trainer, but as a manager...!
Can you explain?
Well, here I am, a top contender coming off a hard fight with
Ruben Olivares, and he sends me down to Nicaragua to fight Alexis Arguello. That was the
worst experience of my career.
Burke had no idea what he weighed, and I can tell you from
experience with featherweights that Arguello was not 126. We fought on a soggy canvas and
the referee would not allow me to fight inside. And with me 5-foot-2 and him 5-foot-10,
where else am I going to fight him? It was terrible, but I was still standing when it was
stopped in the fifth.
What was the crowd like?
Awful! They were spitting on us, rocking our car back
Really trying to rattle you before the fight, huh?
[laughs] No, this was
after the fight! I tell you, they hate Americans. We had to keep telling them we're
Canadians. I don't get it, because they owe everything to America. The only good thing
that came out of my trip to Nicaragua was learning how to throw an uppercut.
I take it you had a lot of luck catching Arguello with it?
he was catching me. I just sort of picked it up.
If it's any consolation, I heard Arguello named you as the hardest puncher he ever
I heard that too, and I must say that's quite a compliment.
By the end of '74, you were back down in the lion's den in Tijuana for a rematch with
Famoso Gomez. Funny thing I have to tell you, if it wasn't for the fact that I remembered
the result of this fight at the time, I would have been misled as most people are today.
Because no matter what record book or record site you look at, it states you won the
rematch by a third-round knockout.
Really? I wish it was so, but he won a 10-round
A friend of mine, Rudy Ramirez, who runs Project KO out of Long Beach, California, corroborated my
memory of this, because he was there in the bullring for that fight and said Gomez got off
to a fast start, but you came on strong in the second half of the fight. He also said no
matter what you did, you probably never would have got the decision down there.
Well, that's kind of him, but in this instance I think he deserved the decision in the
You didn't let things get you down, by early '75 you were down in Caracas fighting
former 130-pound champ Alfredo Marcano, who was, relatively speaking, coming off the
world title fight with Bobby Chacon.
Oh, I felt really sharp for that fight. I
knocked him out in four rounds. But I felt really bad, his dad was there crying his eyes
out. I mean, who wants to see his own son getting knocked out?
You filled the Forum in mid-'75 against another Nicaraguan. One who didn't have his own
referee. Vicente "Yambito" Blanco was coming off wins over Famoso Gomez, Chucho Castillo,
and Bernardo Carraballo. This appeared to be you at your sharpest.
Oh, it was.
After five rounds he went straight from the Forum to Centinella Hospital. I think I was
the No. 1 contender after this fight.
Two months later you were in the ring with another hotshot in Salvador Torres. I bring
this up because you pound out a 10-round win, are rated No. 1 in the world, and in less
than a year Torres is fighting Alexis Arguello for the world title. There's a true irony
to this sport.
Dan, being No. 1 contender doesn't mean a thing unless you have
influence. I would have loved to fight Arguello for the title, this time in L.A., but it
just wasn't happening.
You rounded out the year with a jump to the Olympic Auditorium. How did this go down
with the Forum?
Not too good. Don Fraser was pretty mad at us. But this was the
beginning of the end to my career anyway.
How is that?
Well, I knocked out Rolando Pastor in December of '75 and returned
to Nova Scotia for Christmas. In January I had a hernia operation, but Burke had me back
in the ring two months later against Rodolfo Moreno. Now, a lot of people think the Danny
"Little Red" Lopez fight ruined my career, but it was the Rodolfo Moreno fight. My
mobility after the operation was limited and, although I knocked him out in the 10th
round, my left eye was swollen shut, my head was swollen. The ringside physician didn't
even give me an icepack. I should have gone to the hospital, instead they took me out to a
party. I ended up with impaired vision after that fight. Blind areas in my field of
Oh, man, and I see they had you back in the ring a month later.
killing me! David Sotelo nearly knocked out Bobby Chacon and was one of my toughest
fights. He almost knocked me out in the third round. I didn't know where I was, but
managed to get back in the fight and win a decision.
How ready were you for the Lopez fight?
I could have used a bit of a rest after
those two hard fights, but they had me back in the ring a month later up in Canada. They
then promised me no more fights until the Lopez fight, which was already signed. But the
next thing I know I'm down in El Paso in another fight. They tried to sign one more fight
but I had to insist on a break to prepare for Lopez, which was only two months
Y'know, that fight in El Paso didn't even make it into your record. And some records
show the Sotelo fight as a draw even though you won a unanimous decision. Between those
results and the Gomez rematch, which we've discussed, I'd say it was hard keeping
track of you.
[laughs] It was easy to know where I was leading up to the
Lopez fight. In the gym going to war with Bobby Chacon every day. I'm afraid we left a lot
in the gym.
Is that what you attribute to your loss?
Oh, yeah, I always felt Lopez's style
was made for me, but it just didn't click that night. He stopped me in seven and it was
time to get out.
How is your eyesight today?
It's exactly as it was after the Rodolfo Moreno
fight. No better, no worse. I get around fine, I can drive but have to stay focused.
What did you get into after retirement?
Well, I'm embarrassed to say the
$25,000 I made for the Lopez fight was the biggest purse of my career. But I returned to
Nova Scotia and with what I had I invested in a three-unit building, which I eventually
built into a seven-unit. I have another piece of rental property not far from that one and
of course have my own home in Trenton where my wife and I, who have been happily married
for almost 18 years, now live.
In reference to your highest purse, what do you think of the millions Barrera and
Morales have made, and if you were fighting today?
Y'know, fighters today don't
fight like I did. They don't fight very often. When I got out I had only reached about 75
percent of my full potential. I had no time to mentally digest everything that was taught
to me. Throughout my amateur career and my first twenty-something pro fights, I had no
idea what I was doing. But if I had Suey Welch as a manager, Burke Emery as a trainer and
Mickey Davies as an adviser from the very beginning, you would have seen a finished
Tell me how you met up with Brad Little.
Brad Little is a film producer. He
came to me wanting to film a documentary on my career. He did a lot of filming in Canada
and on the west coast for this project, but filming has been completed to my knowledge.
What's the documentary called?
The Toy Tiger. Due for release in 2006.
In an era where title shots are distributed like pool towels, a fighter from a bygone era
like Art Hafey must wonder what he did wrong. How, as No. 1 contender in an era that saw
Ruben Olivares, Alexis Arguello, Bobby Chacon, and Danny Lopez swapping leather, he was no
closer to a title shot then, than we are to world peace today. Different times, different
Although his shot at the crown never materialized, Art was successful nonetheless, for he
knew when to get out. And that makes him a very rich man. The 2006 date for "The Toy
Tiger" gives me a chance to kick back and reminisce. And, man, I can just feel that tremor
See ya next round,
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