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Tony Zale, born Anthony Florian Zaleski (May 29, 1913 – March 20, 1997), was an American boxer.[2] Zale was born and raised in Gary, Indiana, a steel town, which gave him his nickname, "Man of Steel".[3] In addition, he had the reputation of being able to take fearsome punishment and still rally to win, reinforcing that nickname. Zale, who held the World Middleweight title multiple times,[4] was known as a crafty boxer and strong body puncher who punished his opponents and steadily wore them down before knocking them out.[5]

Tony Zale
Tony Zale 1940.jpg
Tony Zale in 1940
Real nameAnthony Florian Zaleski
Nickname(s)Man of Steel[1]
Height5 ft 7 12 in (1.71 m)
Reach69 in (175 cm)
NationalityUnited States American
Born(1913-05-29)May 29, 1913
Gary, Indiana, U.S.
DiedMarch 20, 1997(1997-03-20) (aged 83)
Boxing record
Total fights87
Wins by KO45
No contests0

World Middleweight Title match against Georgie Abrams, November 1941Edit

Tony Zale in 1941
Tony Zale is getting married, March 1942

Zale met Georgie Abrams in Madison Square Garden in a World Middleweight Championship match on November 28, 1941 before a crowd of nearly 10,000. Despite knocking Zale down in the first round, a poke in the eye from Zale's glove left him with pain and blurred vision. From the fourth round on, Abrams fought with his left eye nearly closed. Blood from a cut opened above his right eye in the third from an accidental head butt from Zale caused additional vision problems from blood that dripped from the wound. Despite fighting half blind, Abrams fought courageously for fifteen rounds. The Associated Press actually placed Abrams with the win at eight rounds to Zale's seven. Abrams lost in a close match, due to the incessant body attacks of Zale in the late rounds, particularly the ninth where he received a severe two handed attack to the midsection.[6][7]

Bouts against Rocky Graziano, 1946–48Edit

Zale was a 2-time world middleweight champion and made the Ring Magazine's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time. Zale is best remembered for his three bouts over a 21-month period with Rocky Graziano for the middleweight crown. These three bouts were among the most brutal and exciting middleweight championship matches of all time. The first match took place in Yankee Stadium, New York City. Zale had served in World War II, was thirty-three years old, and had been inactive for about four years. Graziano was on a winning knockout streak and seemed to be in his prime. In their first match (September 27, 1946), after flooring Graziano in the first round, Zale took a savage beating from Graziano, and was on the verge of losing the fight by TKO. However, he rallied and knocked out Graziano in the sixth round to retain his title. The rematch, a year later in Chicago (July 16, 1947), was a mirror image of their first fight. Graziano was battered around the ring, suffered a closed eye and appeared ready to lose by a knockout, then rallied and knocked Zale out in the sixth round, becoming middleweight champion of the world.

Their last fight was held in New Jersey the following year (June 10, 1948). Zale regained his crown, winning the match by a knockout in the third round. The knockout blows consisted of a perfect combination of a right to Graziano's body, then a left hook to Graziano's jaw. Graziano was knocked unconscious. This fight was Zale's last hurrah. His age and the many ring wars he fought seemed to catch up with him in his next fight against European Champion Marcel Cerdan later that year, who stopped him in the eleventh round to win the middleweight championship of the world (September 21, 1948). Graziano commented that years later he would wake up in a cold sweat having had the recurring nightmare of being back in the ring with Zale, who he said really was a man of steel.

Edith Piaf, who at the time was having an affair with Cerdan, was in the audience, praying to Saint Therese for his victory. Two of the three Graziano fights and the Cerdan fight were named Ring Magazine fights of the year.

Zale was a 1991 inductee to the International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF). In November 2015, his championship belts were stolen[8] from the IBHOF. The belts were on loan from Zale's family, and have yet to be returned.

Zale was originally cast to play himself in the movie Somebody Up There Likes Me. According to director Robert Wise, Paul Newman (playing Graziano) was hesitant to fully engage Zale during rehearsal, fearing that Zale might reflexively knock him out if Newman inadvertently hit him too hard. As Newman had to appear aggressive against Zale in the film, Wise felt it was necessary to replace Zale with actor Courtland Shepard for the final fight scene.[9]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Tony Zale, Boxing's 'Man Of Steel,' Dies At 82 – tribunedigital-chicagotribune". March 21, 1997. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  2. ^ Zale Is Still A Quiet Worker. (August 4, 1982). Retrieved on September 11, 2017.
  3. ^ Bob Mee (March 24, 1997). "Obituary: Tony Zale | Obituaries | News". The Independent. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  4. ^ "The Lineal Middleweight Champions". The Cyber Boxing Zone Encyclopedia.
  5. ^ Effect of War On Tony Zale. (August 15, 1982). Retrieved on September 11, 2017.
  6. ^ Silver, Mike (2016). Stars in the Ring, Jewish Champions. Rowman and Littlefield, Guilford, Connecticut. pp. 103–105. ISBN 1630761397.
  7. ^ Abrams came close to winning the fight according to the AP in "Zale, King of 160 pounders Licks Abrams", The Des Moines Register, Des Moines, Iowa, p. 63, November 30, 1941
  8. ^ Stein, Jeff (November 14, 2015). "Theft of a Boxer's Championship Belts Devastates His Upstate Hometown". New York Times. Retrieved January 22, 2016.
  9. ^ Wise, Robert. "Somebody Up There Likes Me". Retrieved January 14, 2018.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Al Hostak
NBA Middleweight Champion
July 19, 1940 – July 16, 1947
Succeeded by
Rocky Graziano
Preceded by
Billy Soose
NYSAC World Middleweight Champion
November 28, 1941 – July 16, 1947
Title last held by
Freddie Steele
The Ring Middleweight Champion
November 28, 1941 – July 16, 1947
Title last held by
Mickey Walker
World Middleweight Champion
November 28, 1941 – July 16, 1947
Preceded by
Rocky Graziano
The Ring Middleweight Champion
June 10, 1948 – September 21, 1948
Succeeded by
Marcel Cerdan
World Middleweight Champion
June 10, 1948 – September 21, 1948