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Thread: RIP Johnny Gonsalves

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    RIP Johnny Gonsalves

    JOHNNY GONSALVES
    January 17, 2007 - Johnny Gonsalves, the great counter-puncher from Oakland of the 1950s and early '60s, died January 16th at his home in Castro Valley. He was 76. Gonsalves used his skill and footwork to become the No. 1 lightweight contender in the early 1950s, but he never got a title shot. "I got to travel all over the world and had a lot of good times,'' he told an interviewer in 1981. "Sure, it disappointed me never to get a chance at the title, but I got no complaints.'' Gonsalves had a record of 57-21-3 as a pro, scoring nine knockouts, before retiring in 1962. He was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1995. He recently was troubled with circulation problems in his legs and with pneumonia. Friends and relatives remembered him not only as a talented boxer but as a man of uncommon generosity."He had a heart of gold,'' said Ted Such, a former amateur welterweight who was part-owner with Gonsalves of the Marina Lounge in San Leandro. "I used to get mad at him because if somebody said he needed something or had a problem, Johnny would give him all his money." At testimonial dinners for former fighters around California, Gonsalves invariably would get the biggest applause, Such said. "I never saw anybody who was loved like Johnny Gonsalves." "He had a true passion for people,'' his son John Jr. said. Gonsalves -- his family name is Gonzalves but he changed the spelling when he turned pro -- met his longtime manager, Jack "Curley'' Mendonca, when Mendonca opened a gym in Oakland across the street from St. Elizabeth's Junior High, where Gonsalves was a student. Mendonca had a lot of boxing knowledge to impart, and Gonsalves was a willing student. At 12, although under age, he entered a Golden Gloves tournament and won it. In 1947, at 16, he won a national Golden Gloves title. He was a favorite for the Olympic team in 1948 but was beaten in the semifinals of the trials by Wallace Smith, who won a bronze medal. Gonsalves turned pro in 1949 and eventually beat Smith, who eventually became lightweight champ. So would Paddy DeMarco, who twice lost to Gonsalves. Still, Gonsalves could not get a title shot. When he was the No. 1 contender, champion Jimmy Carter wouldn't fight him. "He was disappointed the other managers didn't give him a title shot,'' Gonsalves' son, Jeff, said. "They would tell him, 'Johnny, you would beat him.' And that was that. Plus, he would have had to go with disreputable people (as his manager and promoters).'' At least one mob figure offered him a championship fight, Jeff said, but that would have meant repaying a debt to the underworld, probably by taking a dive at some point. "He wouldn't do that,'' Jeff said. Gonsalves was not a power puncher; he won with his quickness and skill. "He was a like a scientist in the ring,'' John Jr. said. "He didn't want to get hit. It took him six rounds to get his hair messed up.'' His speed was still there after he retired and was tending bar in Oakland one night when a patron and pal, former heavyweight contender Eddie Machen, got out of line. In an interview with the Oakland Tribune years later, Gonsalves said Machen jumped over the bar and threatened to slug him. "I faked one way, grabbed him the other, turned him around and threw him down,'' Gonsalves said. "And that was all there was to it. ... We never had any trouble after that. Till he died, we were the best of friends.'' According to Such, Rocky Marciano, the only undefeated/untied heavyweight champion in boxing history, once walked into the bar and announced, "I can beat anybody in this bar -- but Johnny Gonsalves.'' Source: Tom Fitzgerald, San Francisco Chronicle

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    Re: RIP Johnny Gonsalves

    I seen Gonsalves fight Art Aragon at the Olympic Aud. in 1951, just like Willie Pep he was a pure boxer, it was a joy watching him move around the ring and boxes the ears off his opponents.

    He did lose that fight to Aragon.

    R.I.P. Johnny

    Frank


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    Re: RIP Johnny Gonsalves

    A terrific human being and the classic, by the book, pure boxing stylist. We had Johnny box for us at Hollywood a few times, as a member of the Mendonca brothers stable that included the California lightheavyweight champ Esau Ferdinand.

    During the Aragon fight, Johnny was boxing beautifully when Art stung him against the ring ropes and began to rough him up. Gonsalves lost it for a moment and pushed him away to begin flailing at the body and head with both fists.. It kinda took Art by surprise so Johnny won that exchange.

    This boxing master went into the army in those days but was soon released due to some allergic reaction he had, according to Jack Mendonca.

    RIP true master.

    hap navarro

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