|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY||
The Pride of Tacony
by Chuck Hasson
It has long been the perception that the typical Philadelphia fighter is a fearless, all action warrior who must be carried out on his shield before he will concede defeat. Indeed, Philly has had more than its share of this type of battler. But, generally overlooked is the fact that the city has produced legions of highly skilled craftsmen, experts in the art of boxing.
Tommy Loughran, Philadelphia Jack O’Brien, Midget Wolgast, Harold Johnson, Jeff Chandler, and Joey Giardello all won world titles due largely to their boxing technique. Of course, other top Philly men like Tyrone Everett, Johnny Hutchinson, Georgie Benton, Boogaloo Watts, Wesley Mouzon, Jimmy Young, Dick Welsh, Willie Monroe, Tyrone Crawley and many others were known primarily for their boxing skills. But, perhaps the best of them all was a cocky, undisciplined Irishman from the Tacony section of Northeast Philadelphia named Eddie Cool.
During the height of his career, Eddie was a drunk – not an alcoholic, but a "passed out in the gutter" drunk, which he freely admitted. His escapades were legendary and he totally exasperated three of Philadelphia’s all-time greatest trainers – Jimmy Coster, Jack Brady, and Jimmy Wilson, each of whom took turns trying to keep Eddie in harness and take advantage of his superlative talent.
Cool was born on February 16, 1912 and the sudden death of his father at age 15 forced him to become the sole support of his mother. Eddie, who loved to fight, figured boxing was the best (and only) way for him to succeed. After a short amateur career, he turned pro on Thanksgiving Day 1928, winning a four rounder from Mike Palmer at the Cambria where he would build a rabid following. Managed by a neighborhood iceman named Joe Bradley, Cool was virtually self-taught in the nuances of the fight game by facing unusually stiff competition at the beginning of his career. Suffering eight losses and three draws in his first 34 matches, Eddie learned his trade the hard way. He developed a swift counter-punching style that when properly trained was beautiful to watch.
By 1932, Eddie had become a constant winner. But, it was his victory over flashy Jackie Willis, the pride of the 20th and Federal, that really made people sit up and take notice. Eddie snapped Willis’ 32 bout unbeaten streak with a magnificent display of precision punching on April 22, 1932 at the Cambria, winning 9 out of 10 rounds.
Two upset victories over long time lightweight contender Lew Massey in November and December at the Arena put Eddie in the ratings. His second win over the downtowner was particularly impressive as he picked himself up off the floor being badly hurt in the second round to stage a spectacular rally to nip Lew at the wire.
Philadelphia, at this time, was a lightweight hotbed that included Cool, Massey, Willis, Tony Falco, Johnny Jadick, Tony Morgano, Georgie Gibbs, Young Firpo, and the top dog, Benny Bass, that provided the city’s boxing fans with an exciting local round-robin of cross-town rivalries and neighborhood feuds, as all of the above faced each other in hectic matches. When the smoke cleared, Cool and Bass had licked all the others and become their own chief rivals.
On September 9, 1933, Cool scored a brilliant victory over Frankie Klick after ten torrid rounds at the Arena and issued challenges to Junior Lightweight Champion Kid Chocolate, who had dethroned Bass in July of 1931, and Barney Ross, recent winner of the lightweight crown from Tony Canzoneri. The Klick match was promoted by Morris Fried and Rudy Fishman, rivals of the top Philly promoters Herman Taylor and Bobby Gunnis, who now offered Cool the big money shot with Benny Bass on December 28, 1933 at Convention Hall. Fried and Fishman had tried to match Cool against Chocolate and after being outmaneuvered by Taylor-Gunnis, they countered by persuading "the Keed" to defend against Klick at the Arena on December 26. Klick scored a sensational seventh round upset knockout to win the championship.
Meanwhile, on the 28th, Cool seemed in awe of the legendary Bass and gave him a little too much respect in front of 8,500 fans who braved a monstrous snowstorm to witness a fast paced action match. Disappointed by losing both the Bass bout and the title shot, Eddie reportedly went on a long binge.
Now under the management of Sam Weinberg, after Cool replaced Joe Bradley whom he considered "too strict", Eddie would look great some nights and unmotivated on other nights and it was no secret that his conditioning and life style left much to be desired.
Matinee idol, handsome, and impeccably dressed, Eddie was hotly
pursued by the young ladies and liked to step out on the town but
after marrying in the summer of 1934, he seemed for a while to
re-dedicate himself to boxing and wowed them at Madison Square
Garden with a couple of outstanding performances, beating Al Roth
and Teddy Loder. The New York press wrote "Cool was a brilliant
boxer who landed with the precision of a fencer, stabbing and
jabbing his opponent at will" after the Roth bout.
still managed to remain highly ranked in spite of it all. Although
he would drop a decision here and there, usually on the road, he was
still able to score big victories over such top fighters as Benny
Bass, Harry Dublinsky, Fritzie Zivic, Red Cochrane, Chino Alvarez
and, in his greatest performance, outpoint Lightweight Champion Lou
Ambers on October 28, 1936 at the Arena. Ambers in his previous
match six weeks earlier had taken the crown from Tony Canzoneri.
This victory catapulted Cool to the number one contender in his
division where he remained for over a year hoping in vain for a shot
at Ambers with the title on the line. But, Al Weill (Ambers’
manager) considered Eddie too much of a risk with too little
financial inducement to even consider.
discussing Cool with those who saw him perform, their descriptions
of him could best be described as "shoulda, woulda, coulda." Willie
O’Neill, former trainer of Jeff Chandler, said Cool was "when in
shape, the second greatest boxer ever to come out of Philly" (rating
Midget Wolgast as the best).
In 1947 while walking horses at Liberty Bell Park in Philadelphia, where he worked, Eddie collapsed and died from liver disease brought on by alcohol abuse. He was 35 years old and tragically fulfilled his earlier prediction of an early death from drinking, like his father.
Chuck Hasson is a boxing historian, a writer and the Assistant Editor of PhillyBoxingHistory.com.
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