In Milwaukee History

The fearsome "Two Ton" Tony Galento.

Mickey Hayes: The man Tony Galento was afraid to meet

In 50 professional fights he lost 34 times, and in 23 of the losses he didn't go the distance. In the cruel parlance of the fight game, Mickey Hayes was a "tomato can."

But while his chin often let him down, his heart was as stout and upright as they came, which was why 69 years ago the Cudahy heavyweight got a new designation when one of the roughest characters in boxing history wanted nothing to do with him in the ring.

"From this day on," wrote Milwaukee Journal sports editor R.G. Lynch of Hayes on April 19, 1943, "he is 'the man Tony Galento was afraid to meet.'"

The proposition that "Two Ton" Tony Galento was afraid of anything would have started a riot at Galento's tavern in Orange, N.J., where the "New Jersey Nightstick" punched the cash register between fights – if not led by the proprietor himself then by the customers, to whom Galento was a barrel-shaped Superman.

The 5'8", 240-pound Galento was always up for a challenge, whether fighting Joe Louis for the heavyweight title or winning a $10 bet by eating 52 hot dogs minutes before climbing into the ring to fight Arthur DeKuh in 1932. They had to slit the waistband of Galento's boxing trunks to make them fit, and he knocked DeKuh out in four rounds.

Galento's standard boast before every fight is enshrined in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations: "I'll moider da bum!" The 8-1 underdog even said it about Louis before their world championship fight on June 28, 1939.

In a further effort to rile the impassive champion, when the referee called them to the center of the ring before 40,000 fans at Yankee Stadium, Two Ton Tony also bluntly told Louis what he intended to do to Mrs. Louis when he was done with Joe.

Only the most rabid or soused Galento rooters were surprised when the referee had to rescue Tony in the fourth round, but the Nightstick won boxing immortality a round earlier by sending Louis to the deck for two seconds with a left hook.

Ever after, Galento ranted that he'd been hamstrung by the boxing commission's demand that he abide by the Marquis of Queensbury rules in the fight. That injunction deprived the voluble Neanderthal of all the weapons in his arsenal – head butts, groin shots and the thumbs with which Galento massaged his opponents' eyeballs in the clinches – that earned him the No. 4 spot on the list of all-time dirty fighters in the 2004 book "Boxing's Most Wanted."

In his first fight after losing to Louis, Galento released all his pent-up atavism by roughing up contender Lou Nova so badly in a 15-round fight called by The Ring magazine "one of the most disgraceful fights staged since the days of the barroom brawls" that Nova spent several days in the hospital while doctors worked to save the eyesight Galento's thumbs had jeopardized.

That same year, Mickey Hayes had his first fight for pay, and thanks to his wide-open, artless style of mauling after just five of them the Milwaukee Sentinel referred to him as "the Cudahy punch catcher."

As tall but not as wide as Galento, Hayes palookaed around the local and Chicago fight scenes with little to recommend him but his willingness to mix it up.

In 1941, when a Detroit nightclub owner bankrolled a "White Hope" tournament in hopes of finding a worthy Caucasian challenger for Joe Louis, Hayes lost a decision to Charley Roth in the opening round of matches, but with three seconds left in the fight he sent Roth to dreamland with a wild haymaker to the jaw.

A year later, the Cudahy fighter appeared to be on his way to avenging two previous defeats to Frank Greene at Marigold Gardens in Chicago. Greene was knocked down eight times in four rounds, but in doling out such a beating Hayes broke his left hand and elbow and couldn't answer the bell for round five, giving Greene the win by technical knockout.

In April of '43, the big news in boxing was the announcement that Tony Galento was returning to the ring after a two-year hiatus. The big news in Milwaukee was that Galento's comeback would start April 28 at the Auditorium on North 5th Street and West Kilbourn Avenue against Johnny McCarthy, a Chicago heavyweight handpicked by Galento's handlers to get Two Ton's comeback off on the right foot. Page 1 of 2 (view all on one page)

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