On April 5, 1983, the Daily News' Elmer Smith covered a retirement tribute to Bennie Briscoe. Here is Smith's story from that event:
They rang the final bell on Bennie Briscoe's career last night in one of Philadelphia boxing's most decent and dignified hours.
Undisputed world middleweight champion Marvin Hagler, boxing Hall of Fame inductee and five-time world champion Emile Griffith, former light-heavyweight champion Eddie Mustafa Muhammad and a dozen other local and nationally known figures took turns at Palumbo's microphone to recall the wars they fought with Bad Bennie and to wish him the best.
They talked about how hard they had to train to get ready for a night with Bennie during the years when Philadelphia was still a "must" stop on the route to the top of the middleweight rankings and how they tried to build their reputations on Bennie's bald head.
And they told about how a fight with Bennie Briscoe told them more about themselves than it did about him.
"We had two wonderful fights," Griffith said of his decision over Briscoe at the Spectrum in October 1974 and a draw they fought to in Monte Carlo almost two years later. "Bennie made me look good and I made him look good."
Eddie Mustafa Muhammad said he had been in the habit of training very lightly until his turn came to test his mettle against Bennie in an August 1975 battle that ultimately was recorded in Briscoe's win column.
"Any time you talked about middleweights they said, 'Have you fought Bennie yet?' " Muhammad said. " . . . I put all my girlfriends down . . . I told them, 'Y'all ain't got to fight this man.' "
Hagler recalled his August 1978 bout with Bennie that marked a crucial turning point in both men's careers. Hagler won that hard-fought, 10-round decision over Briscoe before the biggest crowd to see a non-title fight in Pennsylvania history.
Hagler then presented Briscoe a plaque he had made up with the inscription, "To one of the baddest of the balds from one of the baddest of the balds."
J Russell Peltz, whose promotional career began with a Briscoe fight, read a poem he wrote that highlighted Briscoe's 96 fights. Then he gave Bennie the portrait commissioned three years ago when Peltz thought he had convinced Briscoe to retire at the age of 37.
He talked about Bennie's nine-year wait for the first of his three unsuccessful title shots and how Bennie was too late to cash in on the boxing boom of the '50s and went out too soon to get much out of the infusion of cable TV money that has made the sport lucrative again.
"In eight months, he KOd five contenders in 16 rounds and made a total of $25,000 for it," Peltz said.
"There was a Bennie Briscoe in every town, someone that nobody wanted to fight. Our Bennie fought them all."
Briscoe stood silent for a long time after he finally was called to the rostrum by a prolonged standing ovation from the 400 guests. He dabbed his eyes and stared down at his feet for a long time.
"If it wasn't for boxing," he said finally, "I'd probably be in jail somewhere . . . I went to a lot of places I wouldn't have gone if it wasn't for boxing. I had dinner in the palace with Princess Grace . . . all that royalty . . . Boxing has been good to me." *