Bennie Briscoe, a Philadelphia legend passes on


Bennie Briscoe's toughest opponent was Marvelous Marvin Hagler.

If you grew up in the Philadelphia area during the ‘60s and ‘70s like I did, you have to be familiar with the name, Bennie Briscoe. Not only was he a well respected fighter, he was a tremendous human being who like so many boxers had to make his way the hard way. Unlike other sports where you have some wealthy benefactor or a school footing the bill for your equipment and training, boxers often work second jobs to meet their expenses in order to entertain the fans.


Throughout Briscoe’s pro career, he worked as a city of Philadelphia sanitation worker. “Fighters had to work in those days,” recalls J. Russell Peltz, Briscoe’s former promoter. “He once told me a story about killing rats in abandoned buildings. I asked if he used poison. He laughed and told me he used a baseball bat.”

Bennie Briscoe, RIP

Peltz should know all about Briscoe and his career after promoting 45 of his fights during the ‘70s, plus he’s also Arnold Weiss’ brother-in-law, Briscoe’s former manager. On September 30, 1969, Briscoe headlined Peltz’s first-ever boxing show at the Blue Horizon. That night Briscoe was awarded a first-round KO victory after Tito Marshall could not come out for the second round.

As an amateur Briscoe won all but three of his 73 amateur bouts and in his pro-career, spanning 16 years and almost 100 professional fights, Peltz and Weiss had him face the best available talent. Only four of Briscoe’s 96 professional opponents had a losing record.

Briscoe scored victories over such notables as: Charley Scott, George Benton, Vicente Rondon, Kitten Hayward, Tom Bethea, Juarez DeLima, Carlos Marks, Rafael Gutierrez, Art Hernandez (for the NABF title), Billy “Dynamite” Douglas, Tony Mundine, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, Jean Mateo and Tony Chiaverini. He also had one draw and one loss to Emile Griffith.

Briscoe fought for the world middleweight title three times. In his first fight against Carlos Monzon in Argentina, Briscoe came away with a draw. At the time, everyone felt that getting that draw in Argentina was like getting a victory in the United States. In their rematch, also on Argentine soil, this time for the world title, Briscoe stunned the champion in the 9th round, but failed to score the knockout. End result, after 15 hard fought rounds, Briscoe lost by decision. Monzon never forgot those two battles and always had the highest respect for Briscoe.

The second and third title fights were against Rodrigo Valdez. The first, on May 25, 1974, resulted in the only knockout of Briscoe’s career in the seventh round of a 15-rounder in Monte Carlo. Valdez won the rematch on May 11, 1977, in Lombardia, Italy, an unanimous decision over 15 rounds.

Odd as it may sound, Briscoe was always prepared to take a couple of blows to devise his strategy to defeat you. His notoriety grew even more after he’d challenge an opponent to take the first punch and then he’d give them a wide grin. It was one of those scenarios where he was asking a rival, “Is that all you got?” The tactic often cowered opponents who then got on their bicycle. And, why not run for your life? In The Ring Magazine 2003 Yearbook, Briscoe was listed as #34 on their list of all time greatest punchers, just ahead of the Marvelous One, Marvin Hagler.

By the early ‘80s Briscoe had become the litmus test, the final stepping stone for all the talented, upcoming fighters. He was 39 when he fought his last fight against a youngster by the name of Jimmy Sykes. Legend has it, after Briscoe beat Sykes up for the first two rounds, he came back to his corner and told them he no longer wanted to hurt his opponent for the remainder of the fight. In essence, he was signaling, “My career is over!”

After that fight he did hang up the gloves and ended his career with a record of 66 wins, 24 losses, 5 draws, 1 no contest, with 53 KOs. Amazingly, Briscoe had only been stopped once in his career. Without a doubt, he had a remarkable career, one of the best ever, and surely one of the best for someone who never held the title.

The man who presided over the last Golden Age of Boxing in Philadelphia passed away Tuesday at 5.52 p.m. EST. He was 67 years old. He had been in the Temple University hospital for about a week before being moved to a local hospice.

In 2007, the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame named its annual Philly Boxing History awards the “Briscoes” to honor the great Philadelphia middleweight. The boxing community is surely saddened by the news of his passing.

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