Friday, June 17, 2022

Carlos Ortiz, the Last of a Breed

By Gene Pantalone, NJBHOF (Class of 2022) Writer/Historian

For me, the death of Carlos Ortiz on June 13, 2022, represents the end of an era. An era when many boxers trained with other boxers in remote training camps. Carlos Ortiz was the last in a long line of champions that trained at a boxing camp in the small, idyllic town of Chatham Township, New Jersey. It was a camp that was started by a woman, Madame Bey, in 1923, and continued by Ehsan Karadag after her death in 1942. There is no telling how many champions passed through this camp; however, we do know that there were no fewer than 14 heavyweight champions and 80 International Boxing Hall of Fame inductees that came to this camp from 1923 to 1969.

When Ortiz first came to the camp, he was following in the footsteps of a pantheon of great boxers. From the first to train here in 1923, middleweight world champion Johnny Wilson, to the last, Carlos Ortiz. Others in the forty-seven-year history that trained here were Gene Tunney, Max Schmeling, Mickey Walker, Henry Armstrong, Lou Ambers, Tony Canzoneri, Floyd Patterson (the last heavyweight champion to train here in 1959), and many other world champions. Other greats that had retired just came to the camp to watch their successors. Greats like Rocky Marciano, James J. Corbett, Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Benny Leonard, James Braddock, were among them. Along with the fighters, many great trainers, managers, and promoters accompanied them, like Cus D’Amato, Ray Arcel, Whitey Bimstein, Chris Dundee, Joe Jacobs, Mike Jacobs, Jimmy Jacobs (Mike Tyson’s co-manager), etc.

In 1966 and 1967, the last world champion came to use Ehsan’s camp as a base for his training. Like Freddie Welsh, who had brought boxing to Chatham Township in 1917, he held the world lightweight championship. His name was Carlos Ortiz, born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on September 9, 1936. He came to mainland America in 1947. Ortiz had eyes that lit his face, even white teeth, tightly curling brown hair, and thick eyebrows dominating his tiny features. His face remained unmarked after eighteen years of fighting as an amateur and professional. 

Ortiz held the world junior welterweight championship from 1959 to 1962, followed by two reigns as the world lightweight champion, from 1962 to 1965 and from 1965 to 1968. Most champions were training elsewhere. Some were in hotels like those in the Catskill Mountains. Muhammad Ali, world heavyweight champion, preferred to do his work in a midtown gymnasium, where the “people can come to see me,” thought later is his career he, too, would train in a remote camp in Pennsylvania.

“The Garden wanted to put me up there somewhere, too,” Ortiz said, “but there’s too many people there. I don’t like to be bothered when I’m training.” 

Ortiz was to defend his world lightweight title against Gabriel “Flash” Elorde from the Philippines at Madison Square Garden. It would be the first lightweight title bout at the Garden in almost thirteen years—since Paddy DeMarco, the Brooklyn Billy Goat, dethroned Jimmy Carter on March 5, 1954. 

The camp owner, Ehsan, was seventy-seven years old. He used to have many fighters training, sometimes over thirty, but now he was lucky to have three—Ortiz and two sparring partners. Ortiz also spent a few weeks at Ehsan’s earlier that year prior to his title bouts with Sugar Ramos and Johnny Bizzarro. Other than that, Ehsan’s Camp had been quiet.

The white, clapboard farmhouse at the camp that had housed a great many champions was weather-beaten. Inside, you could find Carlos Ortiz playing cards, which had been a tradition through the years. It was time to relax and forget about boxing for a while. Their game of choice that day was Hearts.

“Carlos is leading,” said Teddy Bentham, his trainer, looking up from the score pad.

“You've got to lead the spades to me,” Roger Gerson, a friend of Ortiz, said across the table to Willie Munoz, one of the sparring partners. “Then I can lead the spades to Carlos, and he can’t get off the hook.”

“I'm a good counter puncher,” Ortiz said, seriously, referring to the card game and not his boxing skills.

“Carlos wins a ten-dollar,” Bentham said, after the game concluded.

“Another big purse,” Carlos said, smiling.

At the conclusion of the game, Ortiz’s manager reminded him it was time to get back to work.

“I love this place,” Ortiz said. “I don’t want to train at those resorts. Too many people. That’s like going to Coney Island.”

Ortiz dominated the fight against Elorde at the Garden on November 28, 1966. He scored a knockout at two minutes, one second in round fourteen of fifteen. All scorecards showed Ortiz ahead before the knockout. Referee Jimmy Devlin eleven to two, Judge Joe Armstrong thirteen to zero, and Judge Artie Aidala twelve to one. The unofficial Associated Press scorecard was twelve to one, and the unofficial United Press International scorecard was eleven to zero with two even.

Arriving back at Ehsan’s in 1967, Ortiz came to prepare for another lightweight title defense. He would defend against the tall Panamanian, Ismael Laguna, a future lightweight champion.

“When I was a kid,” Carlos Ortiz said, “I promised myself I would make this title worth more money than it ever was worth before.”

With this fight, Ortiz would be able to fulfill his promise to himself. He was to fight for a guarantee of $83,000. When added to his lifetime earnings, it would eclipse by $500 the record for money earned by a lightweight, still held by Lou Ambers, who frequently used the camp to train for his fights thirty years before.

“But the money hasn’t changed Ortiz, said journalist Dave Anderson who was at the camp. “He trains the way champions used to, in seclusion and in simplicity. Other champions like their luxury these days.”

When asked what he would do with his purse, Ortiz said he would buy Ehsan’s Camp, and appeared serious.

“… I got to like it. I enjoy walking around here and the little town down the road, New Providence, is a nice place.”

On August 16th, Ortiz won a unanimous fifteen-round decision over Laguna at Shea Stadium in New York City, retaining his world lightweight title.

Ortiz would lose his title in his next fight against Carlos Teo Cruz in a fifteen-round split decision. He did not train at Ehsan’s for it. It took place on June 28, 1968, in Estadio Quisqueya, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Ortiz would go on to win his next ten fights after that loss. In 1972, he was scheduled to fight Roberto Duran, who was the lightweight champion, but Duran withdrew ten days before the fight. Ortiz fought Ken Buchanan instead.

“I had trained for a completely different fighter and was very frustrated. I felt I had nothing to gain and everything to lose,” Ortiz said.

On September 20, 1972, thirty-five-year-old Ortiz fought Buchanan at Madison Square Garden. Ortiz did not get up from his stool after the sixth round. He lost by a technical knockout. For the first time in his career, he did not finish a fight.

“I knew this was going to be my last fight,” Ortiz said. 

It would be his last fight. One month later, Ehsan Karadag died at the age of eighty-two. 

Carlos Ortiz finished his career with a record of 61-7-1 and one no contest. Ortiz is considered among the best Puerto Rican boxers of all time by sports journalists and analysts. He holds the record for the most wins in unified lightweight title bouts in boxing history at ten. In 1991, Ortiz was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. In 2002, Ortiz was voted by The Ring magazine as the 60th greatest fighter of the last 80 years. He held 21st place in BoxRec ranking of the greatest pound-for-pound boxers of all time.

In 1969, Willie Ratner, the journalist who coaxed Madame Bey into assuming Freddie Welsh’s business forty-six years before, came to visit the camp. Where the sign that used to hang for a passerby to read “Training To-Day” was a new sign— “For Sale.” 

During its existence, the camp was the best known in the world. Time, economics, suburban sprawl, and a changed world of boxing took their toll. Its past popularity was undeniable. The once sparsely populated farmland was now surrounded by suburban homes and a large apartment complex down the street.

In 1972, the farmhouse on the grounds was razed, and the gymnasium was remodeled into a ranch-style house to blend with the surroundings. The extraordinary events that occurred at the camp live on because of fighters and sportswriters of the past, like Carlos Ortiz.


Gene Pantalone and his three brothers visited the historic camp in the mid-60s to see the likes of boxers Carlos Ortiz, Rubin Hurricane Carter, Jose Torres, Benny Kid Paret (he trained for his fatal fight there), Issac Logart, and Doug Jones. His books include Madame Bey’s: Home to Boxing Legends and From Boxing Ring to Battlefield: The Life off War Hero Lew Jenkins.

Gene Pantalone has compiled the following alphabetical list of known boxers, trainers, managers, promoters, and celebrities that attended the camp based on photograph and newspaper archival evidence. The following is an alphabetic list of people associated with boxing that were in Chatham Township, New Jersey, where Madame Bey's camp resided:

Georgie Abrams, Lou Ambers, Fred Apostoli, Red Applegate, Ray Arcel, Freddie Archer, Henry Armstrong, Buddy Baer, Max Baer, Joe Baksi, Sam Baroudi, Billy Beauhuld, Tommy Bell, Steve Belloise, Paul Berlenbach, Melio Bettina, Carmine Bilotti, Whitey Bimstein, Jimmy Bivins, James Braddock, Jorge Brescia, Jack Britton, Freddy Brown, Al Buck, Red Burman, Mushy Callahan, Victor Campolo, Tony Canzoneri, Primo Carnera, Georges Carpentier, Jimmy Carter, Rubin Carter, Ezzard Charles, Kid Chocolate, Gil Clancy, Freddie Cochrane, Jimmy Carrollo, James J. Corbett, Lulu Costantino, Cus D’Amato, Jack Delaney, Al Davis, Red Top Davis, James P. Dawson, Jack Dempsey, Gus Dorazio, Carl Duane, Chris Dundee, Johnny Dundee, Vince Dundee, Sixto Escobar, Tommy Farr, Abe Feldman, Freddie Fiducia, Jackie Fields, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Billy Fox, Humbert Fugazy, Charley Fusari , Tony Galento, Kid Gavil├ín, Frankie Genaro, Billy Gibson, Joey Giardello, George Godfrey, Arturo Godoy, Charley Goldman, Ruby Goldstein, Bud Gorman, Billy Graham, Frank Graham, Rocky Graziano, Abe Greene, Gus Greenlee, Emile Griffith, Babe Herman, Steve Hostak, Ace Hudkins, Herbert Hype Igoe, Beau Jack, Tommy Hurricane Jackson, Jimmy Jacobs, Joe Jacobs, Mike Jacobs, Joe Jeanette, Ben Jeby, Lew Jenkins, Jack Johnson, James Johnston, Doug Jones, Ralph Tiger Jones, Phil Kaplan, Jack Kearns, Frankie Klick, Johnny Kilbane, Solly Krieger, Jake LaMotta, Tippy Larkin, Benny Leonard, Gus Lesnevich, King Levinsky, John Henry Lewis, Isaac Logart, Tommy Loughran, Joe Louis, Joe Lynch, Eddie Mader, Nathan Mann, Rocky Marciano, Lloyd Marshall, Eddie Martin, Bat Masterson, Joey Maxim, Jimmy McLarnin, Mike McTigue, Jack Miley, Bob Montgomery, Archie Moore, Tod Morgan, Dan Morgan, Walter Neusel, Kid Norfolk, Lou Nova, Jack O’Brien, Bob Olin, Lee Oma, Carlos Ortiz, Ken Overlin, Benny Kid Paret, Floyd Patterson, Willie Pep, Billy Petrolle, Willie Ratner, Grantland Rice, Gilbert Rogin, Maxie Rosenbloom, Al Roth, Andre Routis, Irving Rudd, Bobby Ruffin, Damon Runyon, Sandy Saddler, Lou Salica, Johnny Saxton, Max Schmeling, Flashy Sebastian, Marty Servo, Jack Sharkey, Battling Siki, Eric Seelig, Freddie Steele, Allie Stolz, Young Stribling, Herman Taylor, Lew Tendler, Sid Terris, Young Terry, Jack Thompson, Jose Torres, Gene Tunney, Pancho Villa, Mickey Walker, Max Waxman, Al Weill, Charlie Weinert, Freddie Welsh, Harry Wills, Charley White, Johnny Wilson, Chalky Wright, Paulino Uzcudun, Jersey Joe Walcott, Ike Williams, Teddy Yarosz.


Sources:

Anderson, Dave. Ortiz Prefers Simple and Secluded Training. New York Times. November 27, 1966.

Hissner, Ken. Carlos Ortiz the Hall of Fame Junior Welterweight and Lightweight Champion! Doghouse Boxing. April 28, 2009.

Ratner, Willie. Ehsan’s Training Camp on the Ropes. Newark Evening News. April 23, 1969.

Norton, Mark. Letter to the Summit Historical Society. Summit: 2008.

Smith, Red. Carlos Comes High. Binghamton Press. August 11, 1967.

Monday, June 6, 2022

WWE Hell In A Cell 2022

By Steve Ward

WWE Hell In A Cell emanated from the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Illinois and would have a lot to live up to after AEW put forth an incredible show in Las Vegas last weekend with Double Or Nothing. This evening’s card featured only two title bouts and was headlined by Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins waging war inside the visceral Hell In A Cell, however, it was notable that many major names were not present on the card including, Roman Reigns, Drew McIntyre, Charlotte Flair, Ronda Rousey, and The Usos - to name a few.


RAW Women’s Championship Triple Threat Match

Asuka vs. Becky Lynch vs. Bianca Belair (c)

Winner: Bianca Belair via pinfall

Bianca Belair found herself in the crosshairs of not only the woman whose title she took at Wrestlemania, Becky Lynch, but also the returning Asuka. Belair was originally set to square of with the Empress of Tomorrow one on one until Lynch pinned Asuka recently on Monday Night RAW to insert herself into the bout. In a surprisingly fast-paced and entertaining opening contest, the closing moments saw Lynch execute the Manhandle Slam seemingly leaving her poised to win the title. Belair then reemerged from the arena floor and dragged Lynch from the ring stealing the pinfall on the stunned Asuka to retain her title.


2-on-1 Handicap Match

Bobby Lashley vs. Omos & MVP

Winner: Bobby Lashley via submission

Tonight offered a continuation in the ongoing rivalry between Lashley and Omos that began at Wrestlemania and was further ignited as MVP betrayed Lashley upon his return from injury.  In the closing moments of the contest, Cedric Alexander provided just enough of a distraction to allow Lashley to spear Omos leaving MVP alone with The Almighty who cinched in the Hurt Lock to earn the submission victory.


Ezekiel vs. Kevin Owens

Winner: Kevin Owens via pinfall

Since the night following Wrestlemania, the wrestler once know as Elias,  has been monopolizing his time with convincing Kevin Owens that he is Elias’ younger brother Ezekiel - even though it’s clearly the same wrestler with no beard, no guitar, a haircut, and different ring attire. Ezekiel showed some flashes of offense early but a cannonball delivered to a vulnerable Ezekiel followed by the Stunner was too much for him to overcome as Owens easily pinned him for the three count.


A.J. Styles, Finn Balor, & Liv Morgan vs. The Judgement Day (Edge, Damian Priest, & Rhea Ripley)

Winners: The Judgement Day via pinfall

This bout held several underlying plot lines heading into this evening. Edge and Styles have had their ongoing rivalry since prior to Wrestlemania, Morgan and Ripley were former tag team partners, and Styles and Balor are both Bullet Club alumni from their time in New Japan Pro Wrestling and Ring of Honor which brings us to the tag team affair tonight. In the final moments of the bout, Edge appeared to be in dire straits as Balor ascended to the top rope to attempt the Coup de Grace. Ripley then stood in his way thwarting the attempt and as Balor came back down to the canvas, he was greeted with a devastating spear from Edge to seal the victory for The Judgement Day.


No Hold Barred Match

Happy Corbin vs. Madcap Moss

Winner: Madcap Moss via pinfall

The rivalry between Moss and Corbin, one time friends turned bitter enemies, that was sparked out of jealousy following Moss’ win in the Andre The Giant Battle Royal and Corbin’s loss on The Showcase of the Immortals, continued this evening in a No Holds Barred match. In what essentially evolved into a watered down hardcore match, Moss finally earned a measure of revenge on Corbin as he wrapped a steel chair around his head and dropped the steel ring stairs on him before covering Happy for the pinfall


United States Championship

Austin Theory (c) vs. Mustafa Ali

Winner: Austin Theory via pinfall

The youngest United States Champion in history stood toe to toe with Chicago’s own Mustafa Ali with his championship gold on the line in a match that came to fruition on Monday night. Mr. McMahon had Adam Pearce establish the bout after Theory gave Ali a “title shot” following his match with Ciampa in the interest of fairness. Late in the match, Ali missed a 450 attempt that allowed Theory to capitalize and retain his title after he put Ali away with the A-Town Down.


Hell In A Cell Match

Cody Rhodes vs. Seth Rollins

Winner: Cody Rhodes via pinfall

Seth Rollins obsession over his loss to Cody Rhodes at Wrestlemania has continued to linger while seemingly plunging him deeper into self-manifested madness. Tonight could be the final chapter in this rivalry as the two stepped into the ominous Hell In A Cell. Prior to the match, it was reported that Cody had sustained a torn pectoral muscle while training earlier in the week and needless to say, it was accurate. After Cody removed his ring jacket, the crowd was left in utter silence as his right pectoral and bicep were grotesquely black and blue. To add to the drama of this encounter, Rollins elected to don black ring attire with yellow polka dots - a jab at Cody’s father, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. Give Cody Rhodes a lot of credit as he was clearly limited in his arsenal tonight yet still managed to put forth the best match of the evening with Seth Rollins. In the closing moments, Rhodes executed multiple Cross Rhodes before he put Rollins down with a sledgehammer shot to the head.