• The San Juan Daily Star

Tony DeMarco, slugging welterweight champion, is dead at 89

By Richard Goldstein

Tony DeMarco, the slugging welterweight of the 1950s and the pride of Boston’s largely Italian North End although he held a world championship for only 70 days, died on Monday in Boston. He was 89.

His death was announced by the International Boxing Hall of Fame, which inducted him in 2019.

Sometimes called the Miniature Marciano, for the undefeated heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano, DeMarco was always sure to unleash a furious barrage of punches, win or lose.

“The boy drips courage and determination,” the Boston sports columnist Dave Egan wrote. “Like the Marines at Iwo Jima and the doughboys at Verdun. He’s so remarkably popular not because he’s the greatest prizefighter in the world, which he isn’t, but because he’s so damned courageous.”

DeMarco took the world welterweight championship away from Johnny Saxton on April 1, 1955, at Boston Garden, when the referee stopped the bout in the 14th round with a dazed Saxton on the ropes after DeMarco had knocked him down with a two-handed attack.

“As far as true boxing went, Tony showed no finesse,” The New York Times reported. “It is doubtful whether he used a left jab. He merely moved forward, hooking his left to the head and body and trying to pound the body in close.”

But DeMarco’s most well-remembered fights were his brawls with Carmen Basilio.

Basilio captured DeMarco’s championship on June 10, 1955, stopping him in round 12 of a furious fight at the War Memorial Auditorium in Syracuse, New York. He defeated DeMarco again that November in a title defense at Boston Garden, before a crowd of more than 13,000 in what Ring magazine called the Fight of the Year.

DeMarco was ahead on all three cards after the eighth round of that second fight, and Basilio had broken his left hand. But DeMarco was worn out by the flurry of punches he had delivered, and the referee stopped the bout after DeMarco was knocked down in Round 12 and was unable to get back up.

DeMarco scored victories over leading welterweights like Chico Vejar, Kid Gavilán, Gaspar Ortega (who also beat him twice) and Don Jordan. He retired in 1962 with 58 victories (33 by knockout), 12 losses and one draw.

Tony DeMarco was born Leonardo Liotta on Jan. 14, 1932, in Boston. His father, James, who had a shoe repair shop in the North End, and his mother, Giacomina, were Italian immigrants.

When he was 11, he began boxing for a Boston boys’ club and won the state boys’ championship for 100-pounders. At 15, he was sparring with pros, but he was three years too young to obtain a professional license. He solved that problem with help from a priest and an 18-year-old friend whose identity he took.

“I went down to the parish to see Father Mario, who gave me a fake baptismal certificate and I ‘borrowed’ the name of another kid named Tony DeMarco for the certificate,” he told the Cyber Boxing Zone website in a 2011 interview.

His idol as a teenager had been the middleweight champion Jake La Motta.

“I tried to fight like him, just bullying and crowding,” DeMarco was quoted as saying by “I’m not a boxer. Never was and never will be. I just don’t feel right jabbing and countering and trying to be fancy. I tried it when I first started and nearly got killed.”

DeMarco’s survivors include his wife, Dorothy, Boston Boxing Promotions said.

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