May in NYS Boxing History

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On May 9, 1960, Iran “The Blade” Barkley was born in The Bronx, NY. Barkley held titles in the middleweight, super-middleweight and light-heavyweight divisions. Career highlights included his two victories over Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns, with the first in 1988 voted as the “Upset of the Year” by Ring Magazine. Barkley, finished his career with a record of 43 wins (27 by KO), 19 losses and one draw.

On May 11, 1963, Mark Breland was born in Brooklyn, NY. Breland won five New York Golden Glove titles before winning the gold medal at the 1984 Olympic Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. In his professional career, he twice won the WBA World Welterwieght title. He finished his career with 35 wins (25 by KO) against three losses and a draw. He became a professional training after his fighting days were over.

On May 19, 1977, Ken “The Fighting Marine” Norton defeated unbeaten heavyweight prospect Duane Bobick via TKO in the very first round of their scheduled 12-round bout at Madison Square Garden. Norton pummeled his opponent with right hands before the referee stopped the bout with only 58 seconds gone by. For Norton, this bout followed a unanimous decision loss to Muhammad Ali at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx the previous year in the grudge match of their great trilogy in which he also lost the NABF Heavyweight title. In their first match in 1973, Norton famously broke Ali’s jaw before Ali won the rematch later that year. Norton was known for fighting the very best heavyweights of his day, including Larry Holmes and George Foreman, on top of Ali, and fought a total of four times in the Empire State, including his last match, a one-round knockout loss at the hands of Gerry Cooney in 1981 at the Garden. Norton finished his professional career with 42 wins (33 by KO), seven defeats and one draw.

On May 22, 1990, Brooklyn-born Rocky Graziano, whose life story was the basis of the 1956 Oscar-winning film “Somebody Up There Likes Me,” passed away at the age of 71 in New York City. Graziano's funeral Mass was held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

On May 26, 2000, President Bill Clinton signed The Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act into law. It is the first federal law passed to reform anti-competitive and corruptive business practices in the professional boxing industry.


On May 28, 1942, the great Sugar Ray Robinson fought Schenectady, NY’s own Marty Servo for the second time at Madison Square Garden in a middleweight clash. Unlike the first fight for these two rivals, in which Robinson won a unanimous decision, it was Servo who improved upon his past performance in a remarkably close fight, but he still narrowly lost an unpopular split decision. Ringside observers thought Servo had won and many fans in the crowd of 15,000 vociferously disapproved of the decision. Robinson fought a whopping 41 times in New York State in locales that also included The Polo Grounds (in Manhattan) and Yankee Stadium (in The Bronx), as well as bouts in Brooklyn, Albany and Buffalo. Robinson made his professional debut at Madison Square Garden in 1940 and finished his illustrious career with a record of 173 wins (108 by KO), 19 losses, six draws and two no contests.