Panama Al Brown

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Panama Al Brown
Panama Al Brown Portrait BNF.jpg
Statistics
Real nameAlfonso Teofilo Brown
Nickname(s)Panama Al Brown
Kid Theophilo
Weight(s)
Height5 ft 11 in (180 cm)[1]
Reach76 in (193 cm)[1]
NationalityPanama Panamanian
BornJuly 5, 1902
Colón, Panama
DiedApril 11, 1951(1951-04-11) (aged 48)
New York City, United States
StanceOrthodox
Boxing record
Total fights161
Wins129
Wins by KO59
Losses19
Draws13

Alfonso Teofilo Brown (July 5, 1902 – April 11, 1951), better known as Panama Al Brown, was a Panamanian professional boxer. He made history by becoming boxing's first Latin American world champion, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest bantamweight boxers in history.[2][3]

Brown won the NYSAC bantamweight title in 1929 after defeating Gregorio Vidal. In 1930 he won both the NBA and IBU bantamweight titles, after defeating Johnny Erickson and Eugène Huat. After relocating to Paris, France, Brown became known for his flamboyant lifestyle and interest in the arts, performing as a cabaret man. He faced racial barriers throughout his career,[4] and had been stripped of the NYSAC and NBA titles by 1934. He held the IBU title until 1935, when he lost it to Baltasar Sangchili.

In 1938, Brown fought for the IBU bantamweight title again in a rematch with Sangchili, winning on points. He continued to box until 1942, but failed to achieve the same level of success he had previously enjoyed. In 2002, Brown was named one of the 80 best fighters of the past 80 years by The Ring magazine.[5] He currently ranks #5 in BoxRec's ranking of the greatest bantamweight boxers in history.[6] He has been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.[7]

Early life[edit]

Alfonso Teofilo Brown was born on July 5, 1902, in the City of Colón, Panama.[8] His father, Horace Brown, died when Brown was 13, and his mother, Esther Lashley, worked as a cleaner.[9][10] His first exposure to boxing came while working as a young adult clerk for the United States Shipping Board, at the Panama Canal Zone, witnessing American soldiers boxing.[8]

Professional career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Brown turned professional in 1922 under the guidance of manager Dave Lumiansky. His first fight took place on March 19, 1922, when he beat Jose Moreno by a decision in six at Colon. By his seventh fight, December 13 of that same year, he beat Sailor Patchett by a fifteen round decision, to earn the Panamanian 'Isthmus' flyweight title.[2]

On September 22, 1923, he had his first fight abroad, drawing in four rounds with Johnny Breslin, in New York. He very quickly established a presence upon relocating to the city in 1923. His rise was rapid; a year after his move to New York, The Ring magazine rated him the third best flyweight in the world; two years later, the sixth best bantamweight.[7]

Brown began campaigning extensively across the United States before he suffered his first loss, at the hands of Jimmy Russo on December 6, 1924, by decision in twelve. He would later avenge that defeat, and he beat Davey Abad and Willie LaMorte before being disqualified in the first round against Frankie Murray on June 11, 1925. Despite that setback, he kept on campaigning successfully, fighting for the first time in his career at Madison Square Garden on May 21, 1926, against Teddy Silva. Brown achieving a third round knockout.[1] On November 10 of that year, he knocked out Antoine Merlo in his Paris debut, at the Salle Wagram.[11]

He enjoyed Paris so much that he decided to stay there for the rest of his life. He became a hugely popular boxer in France, and fought on the European continent 40 times between 1929 and 1934. Over the next three years, he beat several fighters there, including former world champion Eugene Criqui.

An interesting case happened when he fought Gustav Humery, on January 29, 1929. Brown and Humery had previously agreed that they would not salute by touching gloves before the fight, and when the bell rang, Brown struck quickly, breaking Humery's jaw with his first punch and sending him to the floor. With the referee's count of ten seconds, the fight lasted a total of fifteen seconds, one of the quickest knockouts in boxing history.[12]

World bantamweight champion[edit]

On June 18, 1929, Brown made history by becoming the world's first Latin American world champion. He beat Gregorio Vidal by a fifteen round decision to win the vacant NYSAC bantamweight title, at the Queensboro Stadium, Long Island.[13] He became a national idol in Panama, and an instant celebrity almost everywhere else in Latin America. Magazines such as Ring En Español were still talking about his achievement sixty years later. Soon after he lost a ten round, non-title fight to Battling Battalino. On February 8, 1930, Brown beat Johnny Erickson by disqualification to claim the NBA bantamweight title.[13] On October 4, 1930, he beat Eugène Huat by unanimous decision to claim the IBU bantamweight title.[13]

On July 30, 1933, Brown defended his IBU title against British bantamweight champion Johnny King, at Kings Hall, Manchester. Brown knocked King down several times during the early rounds, though King fought on. During the seventh round King caught Brown with a right, almost knocking him out, but Brown managed to hold on for a points decision.[14]

On February 19, 1934, Brown defended his IBU title against Young Perez at the Palais des Sports, Paris, in what would be the first of three encounters between the two boxers. Brown had a significant height and reach advantage, and proved too much for the Tunisian, who lost on points.[15] Shortly after the NBA stripped Brown of his title for failing to defend it against their leading contender Rodolfo Casanova.[16]

Brown retained his title nine times and had countless other fights before a rematch with Hummey that ended in disaster: on May 17, 1934, Brown was disqualified in round six at Paris for using illegal tactics. A riot started and Brown suffered several broken bones and was sent into semi-unconsciousness by fans before the police could help him. Twenty minutes later, the locale where the rematch was held had almost been entirely destroyed.[10]

For his next title defense, on November 1 of the same year, he travelled to Tunis, Tunisia, for his second encounter with Young Perez. Perez was counted out in round ten while on the floor, claiming that Brown had hit him with an illegal blow.

On June 1, 1935, Brown lost the title to Baltasar Sangchili by a fifteen round decision, at the Plaza de Toros, in Valencia, Spain.[17] After the loss he chose to retire from boxing, instead performing in a cabaret. Suffering from the prolonged effects of drug use, he was persuaided by Jean Cocteau to detox, receiving treatment at the Sainte-Anne Asylum,[18] and begin training for a comeback to boxing.[17] His first fight was against former French bantamweight champion Andre Regis, at the Salle Wagram, Paris, on September 21, 1937. Brown achieving a first round knockout.[19] He had a rematch with Sangchili on March 4, 1938, avenging his earlier loss with a fifteen round decision to win the vacant IBU bantamweight title,[17] but by this time the International Boxing Union was no longer recognized in the United States.[9] His rematch win over Sangchili is believed to be his last great night, and, bowing to Cocteau's wishes, Brown vowed to retire after one more fight. That came in 1939 against Valentin Angelmann in Paris, Brown stopped him in eight rounds.

Later career[edit]

With the advent of the Second World War, Brown moved to the United States, settled in Harlem and tried to find work of the cabaret sort he performed in Paris when not fighting. There was none and before long he was fighting again, but not well.[9]

Brown went on fighting until 1942, challenging unsuccessfully for the Panamanian Featherweight title on September 30, 1942, when he drew with Leocadio Torres, but retiring as a winner, defeating Kid Fortune by a decision in ten rounds on December 4 of the same year.

Not long after, he was arrested for using cocaine and deported for a year.[2] He went back to New York afterward and, in his late 40s, took a lot of beatings while serving as a sparring partner for up-and-comers at a gym in Harlem, making a dollar a round.

Brown died penniless of tuberculosis in New York City in 1951. He had fainted on 42nd Street. The police thought he was drunk and took him to the station. Eventually he was transferred to Sea View Hospital. He died there on April 11,[2] unaware that not long before, one of the newspapers in Paris had begun talks about organizing a fund drive to pay for his trip home.

During five years of investigation, Spanish painter Eduardo Arroyo wrote a biography of Panama Al Brown, titled Panama Al Brown, 1902-1951, first published by Edition Jean-Claude Lattès, Paris, in 1982.

Panama Al Brown's final record is believed to have been 123 wins, 18 defeats and 10 draws, with 55 knockouts, placing him in the exclusive list of boxers who have won 50 or more wins by knockout. He was the recognized bantamweight world champion for six years and over that time made 11 title defenses against the best bantamweights and featherweights of his era.

Personal life[edit]

Brown quickly fell in love with Paris, and as a result spent much of his life there. He was noted for dressing elegantly, and enjoyed the night life of the city, frequenting bars and jazz clubs. Brown was gay and was involved in a long-term romantic relationship with Jean Cocteau.[10][20][21] He owned a number of cars including a 1929 Packard 645 Sport, and several Bugatti's.[22] He joined Josephine Baker's La Revue Nègre as a tap-dancer, and made his cabaret debut as a song-and-dance man at the Caprice Viennoise.[23]

During the early 1930s Brown contracted syphilis, and suffered from sores on his back. He recovered well enough to continue his boxing career, though without antibiotics it remains unknown as to what extent he overcame the infection.[10]

Notable bouts[edit]

Result Opponent Type Rd., Time Date Location Notes
Win Panama Kid Fortune PTS 10 1942-12-04 Panama Club Tropical, Colón, Panama
Draw Panama Leocadio Torres PTS 15 1942-08-30 Panama Estadio Olimpico, Panama City, Panama For Panamanian featherweight title
Win France Valentin Angelmann KO 8 (15) 1938-04-13 France Palais des Sports, Paris, France
Win Spain Baltasar Sangchili SD 15 1938-03-04 France Palais des Sports, Paris, France Won vacant IBU bantamweight title
Win Algeria Andre Regis KO 1 (15), 0:65 1937-09-21 France Salle Wagram, Paris, France
Loss Norway Pete Sanstol UD 10 1935-09-13 Norway Bislett Stadium, Oslo, Norway
Loss Spain Baltasar Sangchili PTS 15 1935-06-01 Spain Plaza de Toros, Valencia, Spain Lost IBU and The Ring bantamweight titles
Win Tunisia Young Perez KO 10 (15) 1934-11-01 Tunisia Parc du Belvedere, Tunis, Tunisia Retained IBU bantamweight title
Win Tunisia Young Perez UD 15 1934-02-19 France Palais des Sports, Paris, France Retained IBU bantamweight title
Win United Kingdom Johnny King PTS 15 1933-07-03 United Kingdom Kings Hall, Manchester, England Retained IBU bantamweight title
Win Italy Domenico Bernasconi UD 15 1933-03-19 Italy Palazzo Dello Sport, Milan, Italy Retained IBU bantamweight title
Win France Émile Pladner KO (1) 15 1932-09-19 Canada Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Canada Retained NBA bantamweight title
Win France Kid Francis SD 15 1932-07-10 France Arènes du Rond-Point du Prado, Marseille, France Retained IBU bantamweight title
Win France Eugène Huat UD 15 1931-10-27 Canada Forum, Montreal, Canada Retained NBA bantamweight title
Win Norway Pete Sanstol SD 15 1931-08-25 Canada Forum, Montreal, Canada Retained NBA and NYSAC bantamweight titles;
Won The Ring bantamweight title
Win France Eugène Huat UD 15 1930-10-04 France Vélodrome d'Hiver, Paris, France Won IBU bantamweight title
Win Italy Johnny Erickson DQ 15 1930-02-08 United States Olympia Boxing Club, New York City, U.S. Retained NYSAC bantamweight title;
Won NBA bantamweight title
Win Spain Gregorio Vidal UD 15 1929-06-18 United States Queensboro Stadium, New York City, U.S. Won vacant NYSAC bantamweight title
Win France Gustav Humery KO 1 (15), 0:15 1929-01-29 France Cirque des Paris, Paris, France
Win France Antoine Merlo KO 3 (10) 1926-10-11 France Salle Wagram, Paris, France
Win United States Teddy Silva KO 3 (10) 1926-09-21 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, U.S.
Win United States Sailor Patchett PTS 15 1922-12-19 Panama Central American Stadium, Colón, Panama Won Panamanian 'Isthmus' flyweight title
Win Panama Jose Moreno PTS 6 1922-03-19 Panama Colón, Panama Professional debut

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Professional boxing record for Panama Al Brown from BoxRec. Retrieved October 19, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d Friedman, p. 19.
  3. ^ Hudson, David (2009). Combat Sports: An Encyclopedia of Wrestling, Fighting, and Mixed Martial Arts, p. 37. Greenwood Press, Westport. ISBN 978-0-313-34383-4.
  4. ^ Zabel, Barbara (2004). Assembling Art: The Machine and the American Avant-Garde, p. 176. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 157806595X.
  5. ^ "About.com: Boxing". Boxing.about.com. Retrieved October 21, 2018.
  6. ^ "BoxRec". boxrec.com.
  7. ^ a b William Dettloff, "The first Hispanic world boxing champion," ESPN September 15, 2008.
  8. ^ a b IBHOF/Panama Al Brown Archived 2007-12-31 at the Wayback Machine, IBHOF.com, Retrieved on 1-6-08
  9. ^ a b c "Al Brown: Strikes Again". Panorama. 2018. Retrieved October 31, 2018.
  10. ^ a b c d "The Secret Story of the Groundbreaking Boxing Champ Who Lost His Title — Because He Was Gay". narratively.com. June 15, 2017. Retrieved October 5, 2018.
  11. ^ Stovall, p. 67.
  12. ^ Thomas, Leonard (2015). Historical Dictionary of Panama, p. 60. Rowman & Littlefield, Maryland. ISBN 978-0-8108-7834-1.
  13. ^ a b c "Panamá Al Brown, the one who opened the doors". wbaboxing.com. May 7, 2018. Retrieved October 5, 2018.
  14. ^ Harding, John (2016). Lonsdale’s Belt: Boxings Most Coveted Prize, p. 142. Durrington, UK. ISBN 978-1-78531-195-6.
  15. ^ Silver, Mike (2016). Stars in the Ring: Jewish Champions in the Golden Age of Boxing, p. 211. Rowman and Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-63076-139-4.
  16. ^ Mullan, Harry (1987). The Great Book of Boxing, p. 403. Rh Value Publishing, New York. ISBN 0517629534.
  17. ^ a b c Arnaud, p. 579.
  18. ^ Williams, James (2008). Jean Cocteau: Critical Lives, p. 162. Reaktion Books Ltd, London. ISBN 978-1-86189-354-3.
  19. ^ Arnaud, p. 581.
  20. ^ Mara Rosenbloom pt1, Harber's History, The Jazz Intersection (video)
  21. ^ ESPN.com The first Hispanic world boxing champion. Sep 15, 2008. Retrieved March 3, 2018
  22. ^ Stovall, p. 68.
  23. ^ Shack, William (2001). Harlem in Montmarte: A Paris Jazz Story Between the Great Wars, p. 39. University of California Press Ltd, California. ISBN 0520225376.

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Minor world boxing titles
Vacant
Title last held by
Tony Marino
IBU bantamweight champion
March 4, 1938 – April 13, 1938
Vacated
Title discontinued
Major world boxing titles
Vacant
Title last held by
Bushy Graham
NYSAC bantamweight champion
June 18, 1929 – 1934
Stripped
Succeeded by
Lou Salica
Preceded by
Johnny Erickson
NBA bantamweight champion
February 8, 1930 – 1934
Stripped
Succeeded by
Sixto Escobar
Preceded by
Eugène Huat
IBU bantamweight champion
October 4, 1930 – June 1, 1935
Next:
Baltasar Sangchili
Preceded by
Bushy Graham
The Ring bantamweight champion
August 25, 1931 – June 1, 1935