Inducted on November 8, 2001
I began my boxing career as a freshman at West Chester University, Pennsylvania, in the 1978 fall intramural boxing program. With no formal boxing experience, I entered the tournament and won the championship by scoring three consecutive knockouts and dethroning the previous year’s champion, a former Marine, Mike Buccelli, with a first round knockout.
Al McChesney was the head coach of the traveling squad that fought schools all over the United States. Al asked if I would be interested in fighting for a position on his team. I fought and earned the 156-pound spot. I won two regional and two National Collegiate Boxing Championships in 1979 and 1980. My amateur career began and ended at West Chester with a record of 16-1, with 11 knockouts. I quit boxing for a few years when a friend and former boxer “Jamming” Johnny Miller asked me to make a comeback and join him and consider becoming a pro. I started training with Carmen Graciano and Ritchie Kates at B&W Sports in Vineland. My first pro fight was at the Playboy Hotel and Casino on June 15, 1983; the fight lasted a total of 20 seconds, which included the ten count. I won my first 17 fights, 16 by knockout before suffering my first loss to Doug Dewitt for the USBA Middleweight title in November of 1987 in a 13 round sudden death overtime fight. In January 1989, I fought again for the title winning it in 12 rounds over Mike Tinley, only to lose it again in March 1989 to Kevin Watts. The IBF called that
fight against Watts the upset of the year; and sent me an engraved plaque so I will always remember that loss. My son Tony Jr. was born a couple days before the fight and i really wasn’t focused. If that setback wasn’t enough, I got another shot at that title against then undefeated Steve Collins. I woke up sick that morning and the fight was being televised on CBS Sports Sunday, so I fought anyway losing a 12-round decision. I left Steve with a lovely gift of 40 stitches in his face. After losing that fight, my trainer Lou Clendaniel retired. I was so disgusted that I considered retiring also. But my manager Joe Gramby provided me with another trainer Wes Mouson. Wes worked with numerous fighters and champions from Dwight Qauwi to Simon Brown. After fighting with serious pain for a couple of years, I decided to have surgery on my hand, a bone graft from my hip to repair the break in my right hand from 1991. After having the surgery, I fought my way back to regain my status as the number one challenger for the WBO Super Middleweight Title. I fought that fight in Glasgow, Scotland, in September 1992 against Chris Eubank, 32-0. I clearly won the fight, but came home empty; I was robbed on foreign soil by a 12-round decision loss. I continued to fight and gained a shot at the IBF title against James Toney (40-0) in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in October 1993, for his title, but again I lost a 12-round decision. After that fight, I took a break and had surgery to repair my damaged elbow in July 1994. When I thought it was healed, and it wasn’t, I took another fight in December winning a lackluster decision. That win gained me a shot at the USBA Super Middleweight title in January 1995 against Darren Zenner. Winning the fight by a second round TKO got me a shot at Roy Jones for his IBF Super Middleweight title at Pensacola, Fla. I lost that fight by a third round stoppage, and that’s when I decided to call it quits. I was only kidding myself by thinking I could continue to fight with my ailing elbow at 35 years old. I retired gracefully, fading into the sunset with a record of 37-7-1 with 26 knockouts. I now supervise for the US Postal Service in Bellmawr, NJ, teach exercise classes, and watch my kids, Ashley (14) and Tony Jr, (12), compete in sports. My son doesn’t box, but he loves to put on the gloves and bang with me.
Former middleweight contender Tony Thornton died of injuries resulting from an August 30 2009 motorcycle accident.
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