BENNIE BRISCOE, considered by many to be the quintessential Philadelphia fighter, died yesterday at age 67.
A middleweight who fought for the world championship three times in the 1970s, Briscoe was said to have been the best fighter never to have won a world championship title.
"He was the biggest draw in the last golden days of Philadelphia boxing," said J Russell Peltz, who promoted 45 of Briscoe's fights in the 1970s when Briscoe's manager was Arnold Weiss, Peltz' brother-in-law.
The cause of death has not been determined, but Peltz said Briscoe had been in declining health for several years. He died in hospice care after being admitted to Temple University Hospital a week ago. Services have not been announced.
"Bad" Bennie Briscoe headlined Peltz' first-ever card as a promoter at the Blue Horizon on Sept. 30, 1969. He was awarded a first-round knockout victory when Tito Marshall could not come out for the second round.
Briscoe's final record was 66-24-6, with 53 knockouts. His list of opponents included the world's greats of his era - Emile Griffith twice, Marvin Hagler, Vito Antuofermo, Carlos Monzon twice, Rodrigo Valdez three times, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Ike White, Stanley "Kitten" Hayward, Eugene "Cyclone" Hart, and the best Philly had to offer - Georgie Benton, who later became Briscoe's manager. In 2003, Ring magazine named Briscoe one of the 100 greatest punchers of all time.
Throughout his professional career, Briscoe worked as a city sanitation worker.
"Fighters had to work in those days," Peltz recalled. "He once told me a story about killing rats in abandoned buildings. I asked him if he used poison. He laughed and told me he used a baseball bat."
Bobby "Boogaloo" Watts was one of the up-and-coming middleweights in Philadelphia in the late 1960s and 1970s.
"I first met Bennie in 1963, '64 at the 23rd PAL [at 22nd and Cecil B. Moore]," Watts said. "He was the first pro fight I went to. We did road work together, ran 4, 5 miles, then we'd go to a diner and have some tea.
"He was one of the guys I didn't want to fight. All of us wanted to be champions, but I didn't want to fight him because of our relationship."
Briscoe fought for the world's middleweight championship three times.
The first was against Monzon in Monzon's native Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Nov. 11, 1972; Monzon won a unanimous decision in 15 rounds, which was then the standard distance for world championship fights.
The second and third were with Valdez. The first, on May 25, 1974, resulted in the only knockout of Briscoe's career, in the seventh round of a 15-rounder in Monte Carlo. Valdez won the second bout on a unanimous decision over 15 rounds on May 11, 1977, in Lombardia, Italy.
In 2007, the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame named its annual Philly Boxing History awards the "Briscoes" in tribute to "Bad" Bennie.
While many of today's fighters are recognized by their tattoos, Briscoe had his own recognizable mark. He fought with the Star of David on his trunks in tribute to his managers, first Jimmy Iselin, whose father Phil owned the New York Jets, and then Weiss.