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Tony Canzoneri

Louisiana' Tony Canzoneri secured his place among the boxing elite when he became the second fighter in history to win world championships in three different weight classes.

Tony Canzoneri

Courtesy of The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

Tony Canzoneri. Unidentified

Tony Canzoneri secured his place among boxing’s elite when he became only the second fighter in history to win world championships in three different weight classes: featherweight (126 pounds), lightweight (135 pounds), and light welterweight (140 pounds). He is probably the most successful boxer ever to hail from the New Orleans area, winning eighty percent of his 171 bouts.

Born on November 6, 1908, in Slidell, Canzoneri and his family relocated to Staten Island, New York, when he was a teenager. It was there that he refined his boxing skills and fought most of his bouts, including two of his three title victories.

His first title, the World Featherweight crown, was the result of a fifteen-round split decision over Benny Bass on February 10, 1928, at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Canzoneri broke Bass’s right collarbone during the third round, but Bass struggled to go the distance.

Canzoneri moved up in weight to vie for his second title against World Lightweight champion Al Singer on November 14, 1930, at Madison Square Garden. The fight was over before many patrons reached their seats: Canzoneri delivered a devastating left hook that sent Singer to the canvas fifty-six seconds into the match.

The following year Canzoneri once again moved up in weight to face World Light Welterweight champion Jack “Kid” Berg on April 24, 1931, at Chicago Stadium. Canzoneri won the first two rounds easily and knocked out Berg in the third round with a series of blistering right hooks.

Typical of the boxers of the time, Canzoneri fought frequently, often as many as four times per month. During his career he had 137 wins, 24 losses, and 10 draws.

Canzoneri, who rose from shoeshine boy to one of the best lightweights of all time, was ranked thirty-fourth on The Ring magazine’s 2002 list, “The 80 Best Fighters Between 1922 and 2002,” and twenty-first on ESPN’s 2007 list of the 50 greatest boxers of all time. The Associated Press ranked Canzoneri as the fourth-best featherweight, the third-best lightweight, and the third-greatest light welterweight of all time. Boxing writer Bert Sugar ranked Canzoneri as the twelfth-greatest fighter of all time.

Canzoneri is a member of The Ring magazine’s Boxing Hall of Fame (1956), the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame (1959), the World Boxing Hall of Fame (1981), the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame (1984), and the International Boxing Hall of Fame (1990). He died in New York City on December 9, 1959, at the age of fifty-one.