1951 Fight for Life
By Frank “kiki” Baltazar
In 1951 when I was a fifteen year old kid I used to ride the bus and streetcar from the Simons Brickyard to the Teamsters Gym in downtown L.A. to spar with Keeny Teran as he was getting ready for his fight with Gil Cadilli. Keeny and Gil were two hot prospects at the time. Back then prospects didn’t shy away from fighting each other as they were coming up the ranks. Keeny who was two or three years older than me and a way better fighter than me didn’t try to hurt me in our sparring sessions. He would use our sparring sessions to sharpen-up his boxing skills. Move, jab, move, jab, is what he did in our sparring sessions. I, of course was just thrill to be in the same ring with Keeny Teran. Keeny and I only sparred a few times; as there were times when he would have to go to the Main Street Gym to get some heavy sparring with some of the local pros.
Keeny was a small guy who at the age of 18 looked like he was fourteen years old or younger. But, if you tried to take advantage of his youthful looks in the ring he would make sure you paid for it.
The Teran v Cadilli fight was between two cross-town rivals. Cadilli had an eight and one record; whereas Keeny was undefeated in six fights. It was a fight that on its own merits would have sold out the Legion. The main-event was Enrique Bolanos and Eddie Chavez in a twelve rounder. The Bolanos v Chavez fight was the 1951 “Fight for Life” where some of the gate proceeds would go to the City of Hope Cancer Hospital. “Fight for Life” was a big yearly event and it was decided by matchmaker, Hap Navarro, to make this the, 1951 Fight for Life card, the greatest card in the history of the yearly event, which in my opinion it was.
On fight night, June 22, 1951. My uncles, Tony Ramos, Ray Gonzalez and I jumped in Uncle Ray’s 1948 Chevy coupe to drive to the Hollywood Legion Stadium to see Keeny and Gil fight the six round semi main. As we walked into the sold-out; smoke-filled arena you could feel the electricity in the air. It felt so heavy that it seemed like you could have sliced it with a knife. And I felt proud to have been close to Keeny Teran who played a big part in creating the electricity the fans were feeling that night in the Golden Age of Southern California boxing.
The Teran/Cadilli fight started fast with Keeny having the upper hand in the first four rounds. Cadilli came on strong in the last two rounds to make it a close fight, but not strong enough to win the fight in my opinion. I thought keeny won, but the fight was called a draw. Maybe I was bias.
The Bolanos v Chavez match; which was a California state lightweight title fight, was an action pack fight, with first one than the other having the upper hand. In the end Enrique Bolanos walked out of the ring with a unanimous decision.
June 22, 1951 was a great night for me.