Panama Al Brown

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Panama Al Brown
Panama Al Brown Portrait BNF.jpg
Real name Alfonso Teofilo Brown
Nickname(s) Panama Al Brown; Kid Theophilo
Weight(s) Flyweight, Bantamweight
Height 5 ft 9 in (175 cm)[1]
Reach 72 12 in (184 cm)[1]
Nationality Panama Panamanian
Born July 5, 1902
Colón, Panama
Died April 11, 1951(1951-04-11) (aged 48)
New York City, United States
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 161
Wins 129
Wins by KO 59
Losses 19
Draws 13

Alfonso Teofilo Brown (July 5, 1902 – April 11, 1951), better known as Panama Al Brown, was a bantamweight boxer from Panama who made history by becoming boxing's first Hispanic world champion. Brown was a native of the city of Colón.[2]

Brown fought during the early 20th century, a period in which boxing records were not well kept. He is said to have fought professionally 164 times. He stood about six feet tall, an extraordinary height for a bantamweight/featherweight. His long arms contributed greatly to his success in the ring.

Early life[edit]

Alfonso Teofilo Brown was born on July 5, 1902, in the City of Colón, Panama. His father died when he was 13, and his mother worked as a cleaner.[3] 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.

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 Isthmus Flyweight title.

On September 22, 1923, he had his first fight abroad, drawing (tying) in four rounds with Johnny Breslin, at New York. He very quickly established a presence upon relocating to New York 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.[4]

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 July 11, 1926. Despite that setback, he kept on campaigning successfully and, on November 10 of that year, he knocked out Antoine Merlo in his Paris debut.

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.

World bantamweight champion[edit]

On June 18, 1929, Brown made history by becoming the world's first Hispanic world champion. He beat Gregorio Vidal by a fifteen round decision to win the vacant NYSAC bantamweight title, at the Queensboro Stadium, Long Island.[5] 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.[5] On October 4, 1930, he beat Eugène Huat by unanimous decision to claim the IBU bantamweight title.[5]

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.[6]

In 1934 the NBA stripped Brown of his title for failing to defend it against their leading contender Rodolfo Casanova.[7]

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.

For his next title defense, on November 1 of the same year, he travelled to Tunis, Tunisia, where his opponent, Victor Perez, was counted out in round ten while on the floor, claiming that Panama Al had hit him with an illegal blow.

On June 1, 1935, he lost the title to Baltasar 'Sangchili' of Spain, by a fifteen round decision, at Valencia, Spain. They had a rematch on March 4, 1938, with Brown avenging his earlier loss with a fifteen round decision, but by then, Sixto Escobar of Puerto Rico had already taken the world Bantamweight championship. 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 Valentine 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.

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. 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, 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.

Forty-one years later, Brown was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.[4]

After his death, writer Eduardo Arroyo wrote a biography of Panama Al, titled Panama Al Brown, 1902-1951.

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. He joined Josephine Baker's La Revue Nègre as a tap-dancer. His lover Jean Cocteau helped him.[8][9] He made his cabaret debut as a song-and-dance man at the Caprice Viennoise.[10]

During the early 1930s Brown contracted Syphilis, and sufferd from sores on his back. He recoverd well enough to continue his boxing career, though without antibiotics it remains unknown as to what extent he overcame the infection.[3]

Notable bouts[edit]

Result Opponent Type Rd., Time Date Location Notes
Draw Panama Leocadio Torres PTS 15 1942-08-30 Panama Estadio Olimpico, Panama City For Panamanian featherweight title
Win Spain Baltasar Sangchili SD 15 1938-03-04 France Palais des Sports, Paris Won IBU bantamweight title
Loss Spain Baltasar Sangchili PTS 15 1935-06-01 Spain Plaza de Toros, Valencia Lost IBU bantamweight title
Win Tunisia Young Perez KO 10 (15) 1934-11-01 Tunisia Parc du Belvedere, Tunis Retained IBU bantamweight title
Win Tunisia Young Perez UD 15 1934-02-19 France Palais des Sports, Paris Retained IBU bantamweight title
Win United Kingdom Johnny King PTS 15 1933-07-03 United Kingdom Kings Hall, Manchester Retained IBU bantamweight title
Win Italy Domenico Bernasconi UD 15 1933-03-19 Italy Palazzo Dello Sport, Milan Retained IBU bantamweight title
Win France Kid Francis SD 15 1932-07-10 France Arènes du Rond-Point du Prado, Marseille Retained IBU bantamweight title
Win France Eugène Huat UD 15 1931-10-27 Canada Forum, Montreal Retained NBA bantamweight title
Win Norway Pete Sanstol SD 15 1931-08-25 Canada Forum, Montreal Retained NBA and NYSAC bantamweight titles
Win France Eugène Huat UD 15 1930-10-04 France Vélodrome d'Hiver, Paris Won IBU bantamweight title
Win Italy Johnny Erickson DQ 15 1930-02-08 United States Olympia Boxing Club, New York Retained NYSAC bantamweight title;
Won NBA bantamweight title
Win Spain Gregorio Vidal UD 15 1929-06-18 United States Queensboro Stadium, Long Island, New York Won vacant NYSAC bantamweight title
Win United States Sailor Patchett PTS 15 1922-12-19 Panama Central American Stadium, Colón Won Panamanian 'Isthmus' flyweight title
Win Panama Jose Moreno PTS 6 1922-03-19 Panama Colón Professional debut

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Professional boxing record for Panama Al Brown from BoxRec. Retrieved October 19, 2018.
  2. ^ IBHOF/Panama Al Brown Archived 2007-12-31 at the Wayback Machine.,, Retrieved on 1-6-08
  3. ^ a b "The Secret Story of the Groundbreaking Boxing Champ Who Lost His Title — Because He Was Gay". June 15, 2017. Retrieved October 5, 2018.
  4. ^ a b William Dettloff, "The first Hispanic world boxing champion," ESPN September 15, 2008.
  5. ^ a b c "Panamá Al Brown, the one who opened the doors". May 7, 2018. Retrieved October 5, 2018.
  6. ^ Harding, John (2016). Lonsdale’s Belt: Boxings Most Coveted Prize, p. 142. Durrington, UK. ISBN 978-1-78531-195-6.
  7. ^ Mullan, Harry (1987). The Great Book of Boxing, p. 403. Rh Value Publishing, New York. ISBN 0517629534.
  8. ^ Mara Rosenbloom pt1, Harber's History, The Jazz Intersection (video)
  9. ^ The first Hispanic world boxing champion. Sep 15, 2008. Retrieved March 3, 2018
  10. ^ Shack, William (2001). Harlem in Montmarte: A Paris Jazz Story Between the Great Wars, p. 39. University of California Press Ltd, California. ISBN 0520225376.

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
World boxing titles
Title last held by
Bushy Graham
NYSAC bantamweight champion
25 June 18, 1929 – 1934
Succeeded by
Lou Salica
Preceded by
Johnny Erickson
NBA bantamweight champion
February 8, 1930 – 1934
Succeeded by
Sixto Escobar
Preceded by
Eugène Huat
IBU bantamweight champion
October 4, 1930 – June 1, 1935
Succeeded by
Baltasar Sangchili