Tony Anthony is a 22-year-old, cigar-colored prizefighter of admirable, almost final skills who last week, in a few stunning moments, brought both present order and promise to the dolorous light heavyweight division. Until that time Anthony was comparatively unknown, lightly regarded. Indeed, a betting man who once innocently speculated on Anthony was filled with rue when he first saw him—tall, sedate, even ascetic—in his corner. "Oh, he's an intellectual," he moaned. "All night long, I'm stuck with intellectuals." A brief show of Anthony's lovely talents, however, finished his remorse and established an identity. "You know," the bettor told a companion, "Anthony ain't no intellectual. He's an artist."
The artistry of Tony Anthony, like the mystic light which burns beneath the bushel basket, remained all but hidden until last week, when, before 8,651 at the Detroit Olympia and millions on television, the basket was lifted.
Anthony was there to fight Chuck Spieser in a 12-round elimination bout to determine a proper challenger for Champion Archie Moore. Because Spieser, 27 and partially bald, was a home-town boy and had a reputation as a punishing and durable fellow, and because Anthony carried the stigma of a glass jaw, Spieser was a 13-5 favorite.
From the opening bell, Anthony's artistry was overwhelmingly evident, the odds a fanciful joke. He moved lightly and positively, whether coming in or backing off, and pushed a jab in Spieser's face, kept it there until the face was red and puffed, thoroughly frustrating any intentions Spieser had of mounting an offensive. The major part of the second round was of much the same cut—Spieser gamely, fitfully charging the imperturbable Anthony, but bewildered, off balance and displaying hardly enough speed to catch a bear in a phone booth. Some four seconds before the end of the round Anthony suckered Spieser into a left jab and crossed over with his right. Spieser went down. He would surely have been counted out but for the grace of the bell. A second had to push him off the stool for the third round. He fought with vigor once he got his bearings, but the end was inevitable. He eventually stepped into a startling combination and was counted out as Anthony marched to a neutral corner.
"I was so soo-prized," said Spieser later, holding ice on his eyes. "He's just a whole lot more fighter than everyone figured he was."
So he was, this tall (6 feet 1 inch), 173-pounder from Harlem who wears four-button Ivy League sport jackets and knife-crease flannels and plays a passable hot trumpet; a little debonair, a little self-possessed as he drank orange juice at a postfight party in Paradise Valley, Detroit's Negro district. Life there and then was "crazy, man, crazy"; he talked of buying a sport car but "not one I can get killed in, man," and the young lady he sweet-talked on the phone he complimented by calling "grandmother."
Anthony first gained his measure of repute and confidence in 1952, when he won, under his rightful name Ernest, the National AAU 156-pound title. He was an alternate on the Olympic team along with Spieser that year, a team which, of course, boasted Heavyweight Champion Floyd Patterson. He turned pro after the Games and has won 30 of 34 fights, 23 by knockouts. His four losses, however, have also been by knockout, all when he was fighting, as his camp puts it, "as a weakened middleweight." Anthony further clarifies what well may be a fussy prejudice about his chin. "I've been knocked out once in my life," he says. "Bobby Boyd caught me right on the button. That could have happened to anybody. Three of those fights were stopped because I had cut eyes. I was winning every one, and I could have kept going."
Anthony will certainly keep going, but where and when? First is a June 7 date with Archie Moore, also in Detroit, but there has been speculation that it may take place later and in another city. Moore was flying the dark Atlantic to Germany for several tune-up bouts and some rigorous reducing while Anthony was knocking out Spieser, and missed the few minutes of enlightenment. He will certainly have to show more speed and craft than he did against Patterson last November if he has hopes of retaining his title. If Anthony does get by the Old Artificer, however, the light heavyweight class—that doldrums in which float those who never grew enough to make a living as heavyweights—may have little charm or profit for him. Like so many before him, he may then try the move up. In that remote place and time waits his old Olympic buddy, Floyd Patterson. Patterson, training now at his favorite watering place, Greenwood Lake, N.Y., did not watch the fight on television. But his manager and surrogate, Cus D'Amato, had this to say: "If he had seen him, he'd have to say, 'There's a pretty good fellow, wouldn't you say?' "
Anthony wisely would not comment on what he could do to Patterson in the ring if they ever met, but he said he was not afraid of him. "I just grew up," he said. "Maybe I had growing pains, but I feel a lot stronger. I'm a man now. I took Spieser's best punch and he didn't take mine. That's all I needed."