A championship match-up between Italian-American boxer Tony Galento and legend Joe Louis is the focus here, but also the lens through which this brisk and entertaining history looks at the state of the nation in the 1930s.
The pride of Orange, NJ, “Two Ton Tony” Galento was never the glamorous sort. Squat, hairy, balding, Galento brawled more than he boxed, sporting a crushing left hook that earned him 56 knockouts in 110 career matches. Heavyweight Galento was also a media darling: Beer, cigars, late nights and large meals formed the bulk of his training regimen. He could yodel like Tarzan, and, when asked how he thought he’d do against an opponent, he answered, “I’ll moida da bum.” His nickname came not from his impressive girth, but from his first regular day job, hauling ice. Joe Louis—elegant and in his prime, already the undisputed champ for two years and successful six-time defender—fought Galento one June night in 1939 at Yankees Stadium. Although Galento lost in the fourth round to the fast-hitting, technically flawless Louis, Galento was “champion of the world for two seconds,” having knocked Louis down in round three. Monninger traces the rise to fame of Galento and Louis, the despair and hope of the nation during the Great Depression and the impact of big money and the media on sports-as-entertainment. Most compelling throughout, however, is Monninger’s presentation of the gluttonous, fun-loving Galento, who rode his two seconds of glory into a follow-up career as a professional wrestler (fighting everything from bears to, once, an octopus) and, more successfully, as a saloon owner.
Monninger artfully revives “Two Ton Tony.” You’ll never be able to say you never hoid uh da bum.