Two-Ton Tony Galento was a bartender and a buffoon but he carried, as biographer Joseph Monninger wrote, "the American Dream" in his left hook.
That is the son of Italian immigrants, who was raised in a tough tenement in Orange City, NJ, could make his dreams come true by the sheer strength of his vicious left hook unleashed upon the chin of the greatest fighter in the world, Joe Louis.
The 5'8" 240-pound tavern keeper almost accomplished the unimaginable when, as a heavy underdog, Galento hurt Joe Louis in the first round of their 1939 Yankee Stadium title fight and actually floored the champ in the third round.
Despite the knockdowns Louis viciously filleted, and bloodied, the brawling challenger with lightening quick, brutal combinations.
In the second round Louis hit Galento with a powerful left knock and knocked the wild swinging brawler down for the first time in his career. in the fourth Louis finished the "New Jersey Night Stick" with 38 straight unanswered, violent punches.
The fight was over but the legend was born. Two-Ton Tony, named not because of his girth but because he once was late for a fight due to having to deliver two tons of ice, was destined to become one of the most colorful fighters in boxing history.
Two-Ton Tony was not a skill-less buffoon, not a depression era Butterbean. His left hook was world class as was his ability to absorb tremendous amounts of punishment just to close with his opponent. Jack Dempsey, who trained him briefly, saw that talent but his lack of desire to train disgusted Dempsey.
His love for beer, hot dogs, and barroom living was also legendary. As was his love of fouls, dirty tactics, racial slurs, and no holds barred fighting and living.
His toughness, chin, and pain tolerance were amazing.
Once, fighting without a mouth-guard, he bit his tongue nearly in half. After he finished the fight he went to a local hospital and received 25 stitches to sew his nearly severed tongue back together.
Despite being ordered to stay overnight because of blood loss Galento sneaked out. When discovered at a bar beside the hospital drinking beer he demanded the Doctor come and repair his loosening stitches at the tavern.
The Doctor, an old fight Doc, came and repaired his tongue at the bar without a painkiller injection. The Doctor said he never saw a man endure so much pain without blinking.
Once his brother, angry over not receiving free tickets to his fight, hit Galento with a beer mug badly cutting his mouth hours before a fight. Times were tough and one had to fight to get bad, and Two-Ton Tony fought that night, his lip stitched and bleeding badly half way through the first round.
Before the Joe Louis fight he called the Champ nightly at his home and unleashed ethnic slurs and slanders upon Louis and his wife. Though the two later became friends, Louis said Galento so angered him that is was the only fight he vowed to make his opponent suffer.
Galento later said he only loss that fight because he did not foul Louis enough.
In one of the the most vicious bout in history Galento thumbed the eye of contender Lou Nova so badly that the fighter, after extensive surgeries, nearly lost it. His bloody, and losing, bouts with the Baer brothers, Max and Buddy, were filled with ugly infighting, fouls and slanders.
Still Two-Ton Tony grabbed a piece of the boxing public heart. He was their guy, if he could win, a chubby tavern owner from Jersey who bragged of eating fifty hot dogs on a wager, then hell they could win too.
In the Depression that counted for something. Hope had to be kept burning. Somehow, someway.
And despite his vicious ring tactics Galento reveled in playing the lovable buffoon outside the ring. His one liners with the press filled the papers. "I'll mouda da bum" was his comment from his bar stool on fighting the great Joe Louis.
He fought three men in one night, he wrestled an octopus, he knocked out Pro Wrestler Classy Freddie Glassie, he boxed a kangaroo, he rode a bucking bronco, he fought a 550 pound Russian bear as a stage attraction, and vowed to fight a gorilla.
Once he made a World War two propaganda showing how to defeat Japanese karate experts with pugilistic skills. Karate did not scare Two Ton, then again not much did.
Two Ton dabbled in Pro Wrestling, entering the ring to a polka beat and used his lethal left hook as his secret wrestling weapon, and he danced and sang on stage smoking a stoogie in a grass hula skirt.
Along with other Joe Louis beaten pugs playing thugs he beat up Brando in the film On the Waterfront and delivered one line while laughing and throwing a man from a roof top.
It was, "The canary could sing but couldn't fly."
Once he mocked Jackie Gleason so badly during his stand up act the comedian, thinking it was just a drunk, overweight, jersey buffoon, demanded he meet him outside.
Galento did and, of course, knocked Gleason unconscious with one punch.
Galento was the crude, balding, fat clown who enjoyed head butting, eye gouging, arm breaking, elbowing, and hitting below the belt. He made B movies, sang and danced like a buffoon, bragged he drank 50 draft beers at night during training, devoured 50 hot dogs on a bet, trained on sausage, meatballs, cigars and craps, and more beer, bar-tended, and went 82-26-6 with 59 KO's.
And with one rushing left hook he shocked the world and almost claimed the crown for all the Depression era guys just like him in stuck in the tenements, just battling to survive, somehow hoping to score a left hook and grab a piece of the American Dream.
If you would like to read more about Two-Ton Tony, I highly recommend an excellently written book by Joseph Monninger: "Two Ton, One Night, One Fight".
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