View Full Version : RIP LEN MATTHEWS
08-31-2005, 04:05 PM
LENWOOD "Len" Matthews was a classy Philadelphia boxer.He had a distinct style of holding his right hand up to his head and bobbing and weaving, which made it tough for opponents to hit him."You mention his name in the boxing community and they know who he is," said Don Andrews, a former boxing referee who worked Las Vegas bouts."I saw him fight many times at the old Arena and the Blue Horizon. He was awesome and definitely a one-of-a-kind boxer. There were guys who tried to imitate him."Although he was a finesse fighter, Matthews also had power. In his seven-year career as a featherweight and lightweight, he compiled a record of 42-10-3 with 29 knockouts. He battled many of the city's popular boxers, like Jimmy Soo."My father was very proud of his career," said a daughter, Desiree Ganier.Matthews died Monday of complications from pneumonia. He was 66 and was living at the Fountains at Logan Square, a nursing home in Center City, but he lived most of his life in North Philadelphia.Born in Strawberry Mansion, he graduated from Simon Gratz High School.According to boxrec.com, Matthews largely fought in the Philadelphia region but also had four bouts in Madison Square Garden, a couple on the West Coast and two each in London and in Venezuela.Mostly he fought at the Arena, the Blue Horizon, the Cambria Athletic Club and Convention Hall."They called him the "Philadelphia Prospect," because he was the Number 1 prospect back then," Ganier said.He fought from 1957 to 1964, and within six months of his first fight he had nine knockouts. In less than a year, he was the talk of boxing.He was featured in Ring magazine as the "New Lightweight Sensation." Boxing Illustrated headlined its article on him as "Boxing's Million Dollar Baby." The press labeled him as "can't miss" and the "Philly Phenom."But his career ended on a sour note. He lost his last fight and insisted afterward that he had been drugged, Ganier said."It was not uncommon back then for a fighters' mouthpieces to be drugged, and my father believed that was what happened during his last fight," Ganier said.After he retired from the ring because of eye problems, he became a custodian for the Philadelphia School District and worked for many years at West Philadelphia High School. He retired on disability in the mid-1980s.He also is survived by his wife, Delores; two other daughters, Lolita Matthews and Tammy Brown; a sister, Shirley Matthews; 14 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.Services:11 a.m. Friday at Sharon Baptist Church, 3955 Conshohocken Rd. Friends may call at 9 a.m. Burial will be private.
08-31-2005, 04:54 PM
Well we all know he took one of the most brutal beatings I've ever seen from the punishing fists of Carlos Ortiz.
Matthews was a real good fighter who went up against a Great Fighter and fought with bravery.
I could almost feel those punches he was getting nailed with up against the ropes. Len took a terrible battering and was very fortunate he wasn't seriously injured.
Condolences to the Matthews family.
09-08-2005, 04:14 PM
Saw Len fight many times. He knew how to box and was dead game. Championship caliber today without a doubt. Rest in Peace brave warrior. I feel just a little older.....
09-08-2005, 05:35 PM
Championship caliber today without a doubt ?
I agree with you 100 %
09-08-2005, 08:55 PM
Its sort of sad in a way the life, hardship and so little money that many good fighters had to put up with compared with a good fighter in today's world.
Rest in Peace Mr Matthews and my condolences to all his friends and family.
09-09-2005, 05:02 PM
Born: May 12, 1939, Philadelphia, Pa
Height: 5 ft. 8 in.
Pro Record: 42-10-3 (29 kayos)
Nov 7 Charles Carter Philadelphia, Pa KO 3
Nov 21 Lee Mann Philadelphia, Pa KO 2
Dec 5 Bernie Bibbs Philadelphia, Pa KO 3
Dec 19 Bill Goodman Philadelphia, Pa KO 2
Jan 15 Milton Ferguson Philadelphia, Pa KO 3
Feb 12 Norman Young Philadelphia, Pa KO 4
Mar 13 Buck Earnhardt Philadelphia, Pa KO 1
Mar 26 Charlie Slaughter Philadelphia, Pa KO 3
Apr 4 Iggy Maldonaldo Philadelphia, Pa KO 2
May 13 Pappy Gault Philadelphia, Pa W 8
Jun 12 Henry Brown Philadelphia, Pa KO 4
Jul 11 Bobby Rodgers New York, NY KO 3
Aug 4 Steve Ward New York, NY KO 9
Sep 12 Tommy Tibbs Philadelphia, Pa W 10
Oct 21 Orlando Zulueta Philadelphia, Pa W 10
Dec 22 Ray Lancaster Philadelphia, Pa D 8
Jan 15 Paul Armstead Hollywood, Ca L 10
Feb 16 Ray Lancaster Philadelphia, Pa KO 2
Apr 13 Carlos Ortiz Philadelphia, Pa KOBY 6
Jun 8 Roger Harvey Philadelphia, Pa W 10
Jul 3 Johnny Gonsalves Atlantic City, NJ W 10
Jul 31 Candy McFarland New York, NY W 10
Sep 4 Chico Morales Atlantic City, NJ W 10
Sep 28 Paul Armstead Philadelphia, Pa W 10
Nov 20 Willie Toweel New York, NY L 10
Feb 1 Johnny Busso Philadelphia, Pa KO 1
Feb 19 Lahouari Godih New York, NY W 10
Mar 15 Lahouari Godih Philadelphia, Pa W 10
Apr 22 Doug Vaillant Miami Beach, Fl D 10
May 12 Arthur Persley Philadelphia, Pa KO 4
Aug 5 Jorge Quintero Atlantic City, NJ KO 10
Sep 27 Jorge Quintero Philadelphia, Pa KO 6
Oct 8 Kenny Lane Los Angeles, Ca KO 3
Nov 14 Alfredo Urbina Philadelphia, Pa W 10
Dec 6 Doug Vaillant Philadelphia, Pa L 10
Feb 6 J.D. Ellis Philadelphia, Pa KO 10
Mar 27 Carlos Hernandez Caracas, Venezuela L 10
Apr 6 Eddie Armstrong Camden, NJ W 10
May 27 Paolo Rosi New York, NY L 10
Sep 5 Dave Charnley London, Eng L 10
Oct 2 Jimmy Soo Philadelphia, Pa KO 8
Nov 20 Alfredo Urbina Philadelphia, Pa W 10
Jan 4 Eddie Armstrong Philadelphia, Pa D 10
Feb 20 Louis Molina San Jose, Ca KOBY 1
Apr 26 Johnny Palmer Philadelphia, Pa KO 1
May 28 Johnny Palmer Philadelphia, Pa KO 3
Jul 17 Jimmy McMillan Reading, Pa KO 3
Sep 15 Kenny Lane Philadelphia, Pa KOBY 9
May 16 Freddy Jackson Philadelphia, Pa KO 4
Jun 12 Wayman Dawson Philadelphia, Pa KO 3
Jun 17 Dick French Boston, Ma KO 3
Aug 13 Manuel Alvarez Philadelphia, Pa KO 8
Sep 16 J.D. Ellis Philadelphia, Pa KO 10
Dec 2 Chico Veliz Philadelphia, Pa KO 8
Apr 20 Chico Veliz Philadelphia, Pa L 10
09-09-2005, 05:05 PM
This is an article that IBRO & CBZ historian wrote on Mathews for our Aprill 2000 isue.
LEN MATTHEWS … "PHILADELPHIA’S CAN’T MISS PROSPECT"
By Chuck Hasson
Back during the 1950s, the most fertile breeding ground in boxing had to be a section of North Philadelphia known as Strawberry Mansion. Gil Turner, Jimmy Hackney, Sugar Hart, Charley Scott, Von Clay, Bob Cofer, Stanley "Kitten" Hayward, and Len Matthews were all products of this neighborhood.
Len Matthews was born on May 12, 1939. Tall and lean, trigger-fisted with terrific power in both hands, he had already been wowing boxing people and fans long before he turned pro. Signing with Anthony Graziano and his surrogate father, Quenzell McCall (another Strawberry Mansion legend as proprietor of Champs Gym), he launched his pro career with much fanfare as a six round co-feature with Jake Josato on November 7, 1957 at the Cambria. Len stopped Charles Carter in the third round and became a big attraction for Al Lewis. Within six months he had scored nine straight knockouts and was such a sensation that he headlined the Deborah Hospital Show at the Arena in May, administering a terrific beating to the veteran Henry "Pappy" Gault, who barely managed to last the eight round limit.
Len next encountered hard punching North Philly rival Henry "Toothpick" Brown at Connie Mack Stadium as a supporting bout to Sugar Hart and Gil Turner. Matthews stole the show as he blasted out Brown in spectacular fashion in the fourth round, even overshadowing Georgie Benton’s sensational knockout of "Slim" Jim Robinson on the same card. Now the whole town was talking about this new phenom who seemed to have it all.
The following month he was showcased in New York in a semi-final of a Madison Square Garden show by destroying the rugged Bobby Rodgers in three rounds, breaking his jaw in the process. Teddy Brenner now wanted Len to headline at St. Nicholas Arena, on the Dumont Television Network, against the tough New Englander, Steve Ward, whom he flattened in the ninth round with a performance that had the New Yorkers’ tongues wagging.
The Friday Night Fights were next for Len and he impressed a national audience with his skill and firepower easily beating Tommy Tibbs (a recent victor over Willie Pep). His next assignment was the cute Cuban warhorse Orlando Zulueta at Convention Hall.
Showing great determination after receiving a gaping wound on the left eyelid in the fourth round, Len blazed away with both hands at the former title challenger, dropping him in the sixth and seventh rounds and, having his man in full retreat, drubbing him the rest of the way.
On the surface, everything seemed great. In less than a year, Len was the talk of boxing. He was featured in The Ring magazine as the "New Lightweight Sensation." Boxing Illustrated headlined its article on Len as "Boxing’s Million Dollar Baby." He was labeled "can’t miss" and the "Philly Phenom" in the press. But, some wise old railbirds cautioned of too much too soon.
Crusty disciplinarian Quenzell McCall and Anthony Graziano had been partners since 1955 and had enjoyed a good working relationship. Tony took care of the business end and McCall made all the boxing decisions. Now, with the prospect of huge money, there appeared to be a crack in the foundation as reports of encroachment into each other’s expertise by both was leaked.
On December 22, 1958 fighting in a tune-up for Al Lewis at the Cambria against club-fighting journeyman Ray Lancaster, Len was hard-pressed to get a draw from the officials. Only a desperation last second knockdown saved his undefeated string, now at sixteen.
Three weeks later, Len was again on national television meeting top west coast lightweight Paulie Armstead at the Hollywood Legion Stadium. Fighting well, Len’s unbeaten streak was ended by what Boxing Illustrated called "probably the worst decision of the year."
Some unfinished business with Ray Lancaster the following month at Convention Hall lured 6,930 fans as Len seemed to regain his old fire demolishing the opponent in the second round.
After this bout, Matthews purchased a brand new car over the objections of McCall, who believed automobiles made a fighter lazy. Of course, Tony approved saying the kid deserved some rewards for his achievements.
Some 6,881 fans were on hand on April 13, 1959 at the Arena to witness the most anticipated lightweight match in years as Matthews faced New York wonder boy Carlos Ortiz. After a terrific "give and take" battle for five rounds, Len was hurt with a screeching left hook in the sixth round. Ortiz opened a blistering assault, trapping him on the ropes. Len was unable to defend himself and referee Pete Pantaleo jumped in to stop it.
Tension between McCall and Graziano increased and many thought that Len would never be the same after taking such a terrible beating. Daily News boxing writer, Jack McKinney, disagreed, comparing Matthews’ defeat to that of Ike Williams’ loss to Bob Montgomery, and predicting that Len might come back better than ever and maybe whip Ortiz somewhere on down the line just as Williams had done to Montgomery.
Looking better than ever, Matthews went on a brilliant fifteen-bout run that was to establish him as the "Number One" challenger for the Lightweight Championship. Only a highly disputed loss to South African welter Willie Toweel, after decking him twice at Madison Square Garden, and a Miami Beach "hometown" draw with Doug Vaillant (that the press and a national audience thought Len won decisively) marred the string. Impressive television wins over contenders Johnny Gonsalves, Candy McFarland, and Paulie Armstead and sensational knockouts over Johnny Busso in one round (at the Arena with 7,648 looking on), longtime contender Arthur Persley at the Cambria in four, and a three round stoppage of top-rated Kenny Lane, screened from the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, highlighted the skein.
During this stretch, Graziano replaced McCall with Johnny Hutchinson. Hutch, like McCall, was a top-notch teacher but he was not the disciplinarian the former trainer was and rumors of Len’s flashy lifestyle were reported.
The break-up with McCall was ironic since he and his wife had welcomed Len to live in their home for a few years before he married. They considered him a son. Tony, who had genuine affection for Len as well, seemed to indulge his every whim and his preparation for a rematch with Doug Vaillant on December 6, 1960 at Convention Hall seemed to lack the intensity needed against such a talented opponent.
Bringing back memories of the Carlos Ortiz debacle twenty months before, Vaillant caught Len with a vicious barrage of head shots on the ropes in the opening round that he somewhat survived. But, he took a battering throughout the bout and lost his chance for the title shot.
A savage beating by Paolo Rosi the following May in Madison Square Garden forced Matthews’ suspension by the New York Commission which requested that Len undergo electric brainwave tests before he be allowed to box in New York again.
Although never the same, he still had enough to knockout cross-town rival Jimmy Soo in the eighth round of one of the most sensational battles in local Philadelphia boxing history. But, when Kenny Lane exacted full revenge on Lenny at the Arena on September 15, 1962, dishing out such a frightful beating that referee Sweeney was forced to stop the slaughter in the ninth round, Tony Graziano and the Pennsylvania Commission requested that Len retire. Taking a nine-month layoff, Len returned to the ring for one last drive. Hooking back up with Quenzell McCall and adhering to strict training laws, Len scored six straight knockouts and returned to the ratings.
Eye problems finally forced Len to call it a career after losing a ten round decision to Chico Veliz (whom he had previously knocked out) at the Arena three weeks shy of his 25th birthday. A won-lost log of 42-10-3 with 29 knockouts and a "can’t miss" prospect who just did miss, he was one of Philadelphia’s boxing legends.
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