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  1. #1


    A tough, tough guy named Mustafa Hamsho

    by Robert Mladinich from Sweet Science

    Mustafa Hamsho was only 19 years old when he arrived in New York as a stowaway aboard a Greek freighter in 1973. All he had in his possession was a crumpled piece of paper with the name of a distant relative who owned a diner in Brooklyn, a fierce work ethic, and an immeasurable desire to succeed.

    It did not take him long to grow disheartened as he sweated over a kitchen sink, washing dishes for 12 to 15 hours a day. He had come to America with a grand scheme, but not a grand plan, and it didn’t take him long to realize the golden goose was nowhere in sight.

    Mostly he daydreamed about his amateur boxing career. Fighting for his native country of Syria, he had beaten a Bavarian in Bavaria, a Russian in Russia, and several Greeks in Greece.

    Before long, Hamsho made his way to the now defunct Gramercy Gym on East 14th Street in Manhattan. On his first day there he asked to spar and wound up in the ring with “Irish” Bobby Cassidy, a light heavyweight contender who was perennially rated in the top-ten.

    “Mustafa was a tough, tough guy,” said Cassidy. “Crude but tough. We were all experienced professionals and we still had difficulty slowing him up. He never stopped coming forward. He could take the punishment and really had a will to win and get better. It was obvious he wasn’t a quitter. Once he showed up, he never left.”

    “I was never afraid of any man,” said Hamsho, who after getting out from under the thumb of his first manager would come within punching distance of the middleweight championship *

    Former champion Alan Minter, who Hamsho beat by a 10-round split decision in June 1981, said Hamsho was the strongest man he ever faced – and that includes Marvin Hagler.

    And Hagler, who twice beat Hamsho in world title fights, has consistently stated that if he had not been around it was Hamsho who would have reigned supreme for many years.

    During a career that spanned from 1975-89, Hamsho compiled a 43-6-2 (27 KOs) against the best fighters the division had to offer. As a 7-1 underdog, he beat Wilfred Benitez (W 12), as well as the previously undefeated Bobby Czyz (W 10) and Wilford Scypion (W DQ 10), and Curtis Parker (W 10).

    Hamsho, now 52, can’t even begin to guess who his toughest opponent was. “They were all tough,” he said while having dinner at a midtown Manhattan café on Christmas evening. “No one was really tougher than any other.”

    And no one was tougher than Hamsho. Considering the fact that he took inordinate amounts of punishment and received well over 100 stitches during his career, his handsome face is relatively unmarked, his nose is straight, his speech pattern is clear and concise, his thought process is sharp, and his memory is nothing short of amazing.

    “I guess I have good genes, and maybe I had better defense than people think,” he joked. “After fights when I got cut, I would go to Florida, put this special oil on my face, and stay in the sun and the salt water. I think that helped me heal.”

    In the early days of Hamsho’s pro career, he could not even have imagined going to Florida after a fight. For his pro debut, a six-round loss to Pat Cuillo in Binghamton, New York, in August 1975, he didn’t even get paid. *

    For his second bout, a four-round draw with Danny McNevin exactly two months later at the same venue, he received all of $75. There was little he could do about it.

    Like so many other illegal aliens, he was convinced that immigration agents were lurking behind every ring post, so he fought with pseudonyms like Mike Estafire and Rocky Estafire. Depending on where and whom he was fighting, he usually passed himself off as either Italian or Greek.

    After several years of mismanagement, the extraordinarily colorful Paddy Flood took over the reins and Hamsho’s career blossomed. Hollywood couldn’t have created a better character than Flood.

    The only thing Flood liked more than boxing was the horses. Every day after the gym the young and impressionable Hamsho would accompany his mentor to Yonkers Raceway to bet on them.

    There was no shortage of schemes that Flood employed in order to make Hamsho into a bonafide contender. The hard-punching and well-regarded Philadelphia middleweight Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts would not fight Hamsho because he heard he was a southpaw. Flood had Hamsho pose for photos in an orthodox manner. Watts took the bait, accepted the fight, and got stopped in six rounds in September 1978.

    When young hotshot Czyz’s management was looking for the first big name to put on his record, Flood made clear that Hamsho – who two fights earlier had been stopped by Hagler in 11 rounds due to severe facial cuts – was so disheartened with the sport he was drinking and carousing with abandon.

    Flood said he didn’t know if he even had the heart to put Hamsho in with a young lion like Czyz, whose people accepted the primetime televised bout. Czyz was beaten decisively by a rock-hard Hamsho.

    “I could tell he was scared,” said Hamsho. “He was still young and not ready for me. I knew I would beat him the minute I saw his face.”

    Flood not only made a much better fighter out of Hamsho, he became his best friend in the process. Hamsho cried unabashedly at Flood’s wake after he died of a cerebral hemorrhage shortly after the Czyz fight. *

    “Paddy would spill his last drop of blood for you,” said Hamsho. “We would train, go to the track, and eat dinner together every night together. I still think of him everyday and laugh at the things we did. He was a great friend.”

    Al Certo, another one of boxing’s more colorful characters, offered a guiding hand to Hamsho immediately after Flood’s passing. To this day, Hamsho is grateful to him for doing so.

    “Al never tried to move on me, he never asked for anything,” said Hamsho. “He treated me right, and I’ll never forget that.”

    Certo was in Hamsho’s corner when he was stopped in three rounds by Hagler in their rematch at Madison Square Garden in October 1984. Although Hamsho fought on for five more years, his heart was no longer in the game and he lost a 12-round decision to Donnie Lalonde and was stopped in the first round by Graciano Rocchigiani in Germany in December 1987.

    He hung up the gloves for good in November 1989, after stopping Wesley Reid in five rounds in upstate New York. Not long afterwards he became a citizen of the United States, which was one of the happiest days of his life.

    “I was told by my trainer in Syria that in America, when you get off the plane you will see a dollar on the ground,” said Hamsho, the married father of six children with another on the way. Four of his sons accompanied him to the Hall of Fame induction weekend in Canastota, New York, in June 2005.

    “That’s bull,” he continued. “I never had an easy day or an easy fight in my life. But where else could a grocer’s son jump off a boat and become the number one middleweight contender in the world?”

  2. #2


    Mustafa Hamsho
    Born: October 10, 1953 Latakia, Syria
    Fought out of Brooklyn
    Height: 5-8 (Southpaw)
    Manager: Al Certo
    Professional Record: 42-6-2 (26 kayos)

    Early bouts fought using monikers Rocky Estafire, Mike Estafire, and Mike Estaire
    Aug 23 Pat Cuillo Binghampton, NY L 6
    Oct 23 Danny McNevin Binghampton, NY D 4
    Nov 21 Joey Houston Providence KO 3

    Apr 14 Richie Villanueva New York KO 3
    Apr 28 Carlos Novotny New York KO 4
    May 8 Chuck Small Utica, NY W 6
    Jun 26 Roger Phillips Proivdence KO by 2
    Aug 16 Reggie Jones Newark, NJ D 8
    Sep 11 Cove Green Utica, NY KO 4
    Oct 1 Benji Goldstone Utica, NY W 4
    Oct 29 Bernard McClean New York W 6

    Apr 29 Lester Camper Baltimore W 8
    May 20 Lorenzo Howard Binghampton, NY KO 1
    Jun 23 Archie Andrews Newark, NJ W 6
    Sep 27 Gil Rosario New York W 6
    Nov 9 Antonio Adame Las Vegas W 10

    Jan 21 Rocky Mosley Las Vegas W 8
    Jun 28 Frank Moore Providence TKO 2
    Sep 21 Bobby "Boogaloo" Watts Jersey City, NJ KO 6
    Oct 28 Eddie Parks Jersey City, NJ KO 2
    Dec 1 Donald Johnson Jersey City, NJ KO 6

    Jan 27 Pat Murphy Jersey City, NJ KO 3
    Mar 15 Winston Noel North Bergen, NJ KO 2
    Apr 11 Tyrone Freeman White Plains, NY TKO 1
    Apr 26 Domingo Ortiz North Bergen, NJ TKO 8
    Jun 27 Domingo Ortiz Secaucus, NJ TKO 7
    Jul 17 Leo Saenz Atlantic City KO 6
    Sep 19 Fermin Guzman New York KO 7
    Oct 4 Barry Hill North Bergen, NJ TKO 1

    Mar 29 Reggie Jones Atlantic City TKO 6
    Jun 15 Wilford Scypion Clarkson, WV WDQ 10
    Sep 24 Bob Patterson Elizabeth, NJ KO 4
    Nov 25 Rudy Robles New York W 10

    Feb 15 Curtis Parker Atlantic City W 10
    Jun 6 Alan Minter Las Vegas W 10
    Oct 3 Marvin Hagler Rosemont, IL TKO by 11
    (For World Middleweight Title)

    Mar 13 Curtis Parker Atlantic City W 10
    May 22 Gil Rosario Atlantic City TKO 3
    Nov 20 Bobby Czyz Atlantic City W 10

    Mar 30 Gil Rosario Fort Lauderdale, FL KO 3
    Jul 16 Wilfred Benitez Las Vegas W 12

    Mar 30 Alexis Shakespeare Las Vegas TKO 5
    Oct 19 Marvin Hagler New York KO by 3
    (For World Middleweight Title)

    Jun 28 Miguel Rosa Poosic, NJ TKO 8

    May 20 Ernie White New York KO 4
    Aug 11 Richard Burton New York TKO 7
    Nov 13 Jimmy Shavers New York W 10

    May 7 Don Lalonde New York L 12
    Aug 10 Reggie Barnes Secaucus, NJ TKO 3
    Dec 5 Graciano Rocchigiani Dusseldorf, Germany TKO by 1

  3. #3


    good article and a good outlook...how many kid's? and another on the way?? he needs to get back to the gym.

  4. #4


    He was probably the dirtiest fighter I have seen, but I liked him nontheless.
    Boy did he get it from Hagler second time around.

  5. #5

    Re: Hamsho

    I always thought that Hamsho did so poorly in the Hagler rematch because he tried to become a "boxer." The first time around, he was his typical shoving, wrestling. muscling self, and he remained somewhat competitive until his face finally fell apart. But prior to the second bout, it was released to the press that Hamsho would be utilizing newly-developed boxing skills. These tactics kept him a step and a half back from Marvin -- and right in Hagler's wheelhouse. While trying to protect his jaded facial tissues, Mustafa instead gave Hagler the perfect target at the perfect distance, and Marvin teed off, with predictable results.
    I'm not saying Hamsho would have won had he stayed with his streetfighting and mauling style, but I'll bet it would have been another grind-it-out showdown that would have lasted into the last third of the scheduled rounds. It's generally a positive thing to try to keep improving, but when those "improvements" alter the style that got you to the dance, the results can be quick and painful. PeteLeo.

  6. #6


    Did he ever fight the Argentian middleweight
    Juan Domingo Roldan?
    That would have been a good fight.
    Two rough and tumble guys.

  7. #7

    Re: fight

    No he didn't. That would have been a blood bath!!! I posted his complete record about 4 posts above this.


  8. #8

    Re: fight

    Hamsho did nothing different, style wise, in the second Hagler fight. Marvin simply made the innovations necessary to blast him out and did so. It was one of Marvin's greatest peformances.

    Mustafa was a very tough guy. His skills were his heart, stamina, iron-like chin and strength. He was not a big puncher. He was not very fast. He got hit hard often. However, he was a super tough pro that became a top contender by making the most of the less than flashy skills he had and winning ulgy. Many of his big wins were long, grueling grind them out decisions over some pretty tough guys.

  9. #9

    Re: fight

    I'm a litte surprised the article doesn't mention Hamsho's relationship with Braverman. Braverman's exhortations in the first Hagler fight are legendary.

    The thing that sticks with me regarding the first Hamsho-Hagler fight is how much slower Hamsho was than Hagler. His punches look like they were thrown underwater compared to Hagler's crisp punches.

  10. #10

    Re: fight

    Hagler completely outclassed him...Hagler ruled a pretty damn tough group of middleweights, far tougher than anyone Hopkins fought other than Jones...

  11. #11

    Re: fight

    Hamsho ran and perhaps still runs a restaurant on Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn. He was at the Hall of Fame last year with his entire family.

    Here's a bit of scuttlebut, not independantly confirmed by me -- I was having a drink at the Waldorf Astoria about a year ago and a lawyer there told me he had settled a massive accident case for his client, a former boxer -- Mustafa Hamsho, who stood to make more in the lawsuit than his entire boxing career.

    Oh yeah, Hamsho showed up a the Hall of Fame in a brand new HUMMER!

  12. #12

    Re: fight

    I had a hummer once -- oh, you mean the car!

    Who was the suit against? The guy who convinced him to "box" in the Hagler rematch? PeteLeo.

  13. #13

    Re: fight

    I know it for a fact that Hamsho was the one fighter that the Tommy Hearns braintrust avoided like the death. Hamsho was a guy to really muscle and push Tommy around.

  14. #14

    12 steps.

    My name is Sharkey and I used to post at Boxingtalk.

    (you are supposed to be saying to yourself, "Hi Sharkey".)

    I am hopeful that I can contribute to this board in a positive way.

    Mustafa Hamsho was a favorite of mine. He had personality and was of course tough as nails and the dirtiest fighter in the game. The fact he had/has some similar bloodlines as I do served to make my cheering for him more personal.

    I seem to recall Hagler stating at some point that had he not been around, Hamsho would have been the man to beat in the division. I am not sure about that, but for me at least, distance is kind to Hamsho. His career really was top-notch. I think Hamsho wasn't as physical with Marvin the first time because Hagler was much better with his approach to Hamsho. Either that or Mustafa's strength was waning by then...kind of on the fence between the vigor of prime and the canniness good fighters learn to lean on on the slow decline.

    I would have liked to have seen a Sibson-Hamsho match, personally. Hearns avoiding Hamsho brings a smile to my face. It underscores how fine that line is that separates great fighters from those that are not as great, but might be their undoing. Tommy I am sure didn't fear Hamsho. But at 160, Hamsho was a risk no protective cup or kidney would want to be tested against.

    I posted here for my first post because I didn't want to ruin Hawki5ns' first of many McCallum threads.

    Anyway, a fairly tame, weak and tepid first post...hopefully I'll get some courage up soon to create some stimulating discussion about the need to re-evaluate select chalky, slow heavyweights I cheered for as a kid.

    Riding some coat-tails here.

  15. #15

    Re: 12 steps.

    I personally feel Hamsho would have been made to order for Hearns..he was a shorter man, easy to hit and not a big puncher...I feel Hearns dominated those types of guys....someone like Roldan was a much tougher match up for Hearns due to his power...maybe I;m wrong but I see Hearns doing to Hamsho what he did to Cuevas and Duran.

  16. #16

    Re: 12 steps.

    I watched Hamsho vs Minter earlier.A very good fight and a prime example of what Hamsho was all about.

    However, it was dissapointing there was not a rematch as Minter tended to struggle with awkward, aggressive guys(Tonna and Vito)first time around, then thoroughly dominate them once he knew what to expect.

    It would have been interesting to see if he could have repeated that with Hamsho, or if Mustapha was just better than him.

  17. #17
    Dan Gunter

    Re: 12 steps.

    Hi, Sharkey!

    I'm happy to see you and Hawkins (Hawk5ins? Haw5kins? Seven of Nine? I'm confused . . .) here.

    Just a note: I remember watching Hamsho-Czyz on television back in the day. I recall Hamsho dominating the fight. In one round, Czyz did land a fairly decent shot, and Hamsho immediately punished him for his success. Hamsho may even have landed a clean shot or two in the midst of the punishment . . .

  18. #18

    Re: 12 steps.

    Sharkey - Hansho was a favorite of yours, as was Coetzee? How did you feel about Ayala? I'm starting to think you only like guys that were pig-dirty.

    Welcome to the board Shark-man.

  19. #19

    Re: Ayala

    Given my loathing of Ayala, The Campas bout ranks among my faves of all time.


    Hawk didn't take. Neither did Hawkins. I actually mistyped when I came up with Hawk5ins. But heck! It took.

    Given I've used my last name for my previous poster name, I've never been too deep when coming up with something clever.

    Going back to Hamsho, seeing Mustapha's chin collapse during the second Hagler bout was one of the most surprising and alarming occurences that I can ever recall in this sport. NEVER did I think I would ever see his Chin give out like that.


  20. #20

    Re: Ayala

    You make a good point, hawk.
    I agree with PeteLeo in that Hamsho tried to box Hagler in the second fight and gave Marvin plenty of room to open up with his powerful shots. Hamsho did butt him real good once though, but tried to jab a lot more this time out of a crouch to set his left up and Hagler wiped him out. I was extremely surprised Mustafa went out as quick as he did as well. As for Ayala, a real low class punk who will most likely spend his life in prison where he belongs.

  21. #21


    Ayala was a bit hidden from me. I wasn't as aware of him.

    I will say his loss to Campas was not something that broke my heart.

    I didn't limit my rooting to slow white guys exclusively, it should be noted.

    I appreciate it, Dan. I was going to use Sharx(1-y)key.. but there is enough confusion.

  22. #22

    what a way

    to start with an error of laziness in my first post.

    Hamsho wasn't agressive in fight 2 with 'Gler I meant to type.

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