Inducted on November 8, 2001
Anyone who knows Ml.lstafa Hamsho’s career well remembers him as a warrior in the ring who fought, and usually beat, the leading middleweight boxers of the 1980’s.
Some critics will remember how Hamsho was loose with his elbows and sometimes charged head-first toward his opponent.
The lore of the one-time Bayonne resident, who remains one of the greatest sports heroes in his native Syria, will be relived Nov. 8 when Hamsho is inducted into the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame at the Venetian in Garfield. Michael Spinks, Johnny Bumphus, Alex Ramos, Jimmy Young and Bobby Cassidy are among the inductees along with Sal Belloise posthumously.
“I remember coming up and fighting every tough fighter in the world. Every one of them could be a champion,” said Hamsho, 48.
Hamsho (624-1) stepped in against great fighters in various venues around the east like Madison Square Garden, Embassy Hall in North Bergen and in Secaucus, great fighters like Vito
Antuofermo, Alan Minter, Wilfred Benitez, Wilford Scypion and tough-as-nails Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts of Philadelphia at the Jersey . City Armory on Sept. 21, 1978.
“People laughed at the name and thought it was some kind of joke but he was one tough guy,” said AI Certo of Secaucus, who trained Hamsho later in his career.
Hamsho walked into the ring wearing an Arabian headdress as part of a promotional stunt by his manager – Paddy Flood. Some Hudson County fans who had embraced Hamsho as an adopted hometown hero now were throwing things at him.
“Bad idea by Paddy,” reflected Certo. “Nobody said anything to him but they threw things. Paddy wanted Mustafa to come into the Armory on a camel but the ‘Friends of Animals’ would not allow it. We never had another problem like that.”
Hamsho knocked out Watts in the sixth-round The tough road led Hamsho to his defining moment as a boxer – two showdowns with undisputed champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
Hamsho showed undaunted courage as only one fighter put him on the canvas – Hagler – in their second meeting. It sent Hamsho into retirement.
“When I went back to Damascus after the Hagler fight, I came in a car with the top down and people were lined up on the streets in Syria 30· miles from my hometown’ waving to me. That’s what I remember from my career.”
Hamsho, who began his was made harder because he is an – Arab.
“Everything was good. I did good for myself,” said Hamsho, who nowadays owns a mini-supermarket, a laundromat and a chauffeur business in Brooklyn. “1 came up in the world and was very happy with what I did. I had nobody to back me up except Al Certo and Paddy Flood. Now I : . stay away from boxing. I lost interest.”
“He doesn’t even think about boxing any more,” said Certo, who keeps in regular touch with Hamsho. “To Mustafa, there was a lot of politics and a lot of jerks.
If this happened today. it would have been easy for him because he was exciting. He never dogged a fight and always gave the fans their money’s worth.”
What this columnist remembers most about Hamsho is his commanding decision over highly touted Benitez in Las Vegas in July of 1983 on network television. Benitez had gone the distance in a victory over Roberto Duran and a loss to Tommy Hearns just a year before.
Hamsho’s very popular manager – Paddy Flood – died of an aneurysm just three months before the fight and Hamsho was fighting for amemory and for a rematch with Hagler. As his hand. was raised after the scorecards ‘were read with Benitez suffering only his eighth loss in 72 fights, Harnsho walked over to the ring apron, sat down and wept openly.
“I was crying, too, because I was thinking about Paddy,” said Certo, who had accepted Ham, sho’s offer to be his new manager after Flood’s death. But when Hamsho Signed a half-million dollar contract to fight Hagler, over twice as much as he got for the first fight three years earlier on October 3, of 1981 when Hagler scored an nth-round TKO, he was not the same fighter,
“His legs were shot,” said Certo, “I saw it in the tuneup fight he had against (Rocky) Shakespeare, but I thought he could handle it with his experience. I was putting him together with spit and glue, . Some bums he was sparring with at that time wobbled him, He had no balance.
“Al Silvani, who was (Frank) Sinatra’s bodyguard for many years and helped us get ready for that Hagler fight, told me he thought Mustafa looked shot And when we trained in the mountains, he couldn’t run,”
It was a quick turnaround from just a few fights earlier when Hamsho had beaten Benitez,
“We trained at Grossinger’s and Mustafa ran there,” recailed Certo. “I’d get in thecarat5 in the morning and he’d run and, say to just follow him and put 011 some music on the car radio, So I just put on my Sinatra tapes and he said to put on his Arab music, He’d run 14′ miles and I said “Mustafa, you’re overdoing it. Please, get in the car.’ He was in super shape,”
It got so tough getting Hamsho ready for the Hagler rematch that Certo took him away to a training camp in Florida, Certo said at the time it was mainly because the salt water of the ocean would toughen his skin on his face but it actually was meant to get Hamsho away from distractions,
This columnist remembers when Hamsho entered the Madison Square Garden ring in an exciting scene as his country’s anthem was played and many Syrian flags were waved by vocal fans in a peaceful setting, Hagler, who was known’ to dislike Hamsho, had his answer when he knocked Hamsho down in the second round. Hamsho wobbled so badly
in the third round from a right to the head that somefans thought it was a hokey act.
Certo threw in the towel and jumped into the ring, signaling an end to the fight, “Some people yelled that it was fixed hut I knew in the second round I was going to stop it,” said Certo.
Some critics complained that Certo acted rashly but Certo had seen another one of his fightersGino Perez – sent into a fatal coma from a hard shot in the ring and then get taken offlife support a few days later.
“1 was at Mustafa’s first fight against Hagler and I thought that should have been. stopped earlier,” said Celio. “But Al Braverman (who worked Hamsho’s corner at the time), pulled him back into the corner at the end of one of the rounds and he was able to continue.”
“He.(Hagler) caught me going backward and split my legs and I fell but Al didn’t want to keep it going,” said Hamsho, “One day you have it and. another day you don’t” .
But for a few electrifying years in the early 1980s, Mustafa Hamsho had it and created an unforgettable brand of excitement.
- Fought early in his career under a number of different names.
- His early fight record was a subject of debate as to some of his wins and a possible early defeat.
- Another photo
- He boxed an exhibition in a charity event following the terrorist attacks on September 11th.
- As of 2006, he is working with Syrian-born Middleweight Mohammad Said, along with Al Certo.
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