J Russell Peltz has literally etched his name in Philadelphia sports history.
The statement figuratively rang true for the past 50 years as the Hall of Fame promoter and matchmaker helped define the Philly fight scene. Included among that run was the eight years he served as Director of Boxing for the famed—and now defunct Spectrum Arena from 1972-1980.
The venue was demolished in 2009, although its famous “S” was salvaged and has since become a personal memoir for all of the great athletes and sports personalities who left their mark in the City of Brotherly Love. Peltz was granted the honor of adding his signature to the iconic symbol on Tuesday, one day after the 50th anniversary of his debut as a boxing promoter.
“Those were some really great years,” Peltz, still going strong at 72, told BoxingScene.com upon reflection. “It was probably the last Golden Age of boxing in Philadelphia.”
Joining Peltz for the signing was his decades long friend Lou Scheinfeld, former president of Spectrum.
Peltz was on the front line for many of Philly’s golden years, beginning with his first show on September 30, 1969 at the renowned Blue Horizon, another piece of the city which no longer exists today.
Headlining the show, Bennie Briscoe scored a 1st round knockout of Tito Marshall, avenging a points loss from four years prior and forming a longstanding relationship with Peltz. Briscoe would become an integral part of the long-celebrated Philly middleweight era, including 18 appearances at The Spectrum during Peltz’s run as director of boxing, which helped position him for three separate cracks at the world middleweight championship.
Briscoe went 0-3, losing on the road to Carlos Monzon—arguably the greatest middleweight in history—and twice to Rodrigo Valdez, both of whom have long been enshrined in Canastota. Still, it was his time spent at The Spectrum which provided Peltz—who promoted more than 70 shows at the venue among nearly 400 events to which his Peltz Boxing company has been attached through 50 years—with one of his earliest fond memories that forever remain with him.
His penchant for aggressive matchmaking—always putting the paying customer ahead of a fighter’s record—helped establish the phrase “Peltz Tough” which still rings true in 2019.
“It’s validation that I can point to two events spanning more than 40 years bookending my time in the sport,” notes Peltz. “Briscoe in 1975 (knocking out Lenny Harden and decisioning future World light championship Eddie Mustafa Muhammad) and Jason Sosa winning the (130-pound) title in 2016 in Beijing.”
His signing of the “S” is part of a festive fight week celebrating one-half century of Peltz’s rich contributions to the sport. It will be capped by a fight card at the 2300 Arena, where he serves as matchmaker while handing over the promotional reins to longtime mentee Michelle ‘Raging Babe’ Rosado, whose Raging Babe Events takes the lead.
“If I’m being honest, she’s kept me in business these past few years,” insists Peltz, who in 50 years has never clamored the spotlight nor has ever shied from doing the necessary grunt work that goes into putting together any successful boxing show. “I’m not up on modern technology, so these events being (promoted) through social media and other ways, that’s really helped.”
With that comes a Friday show, aptly dubbed ‘Blood, Sweat and 50 Years’, headlined by rising super lightweight prospect Victor Padilla (5-0, 5KOs) in a six-round bout versus Romain Tomas. The hard-hitting Puerto Rican southpaw based out of Berlin, New Jersey—who turns just 21 in November—has yet to be extended beyond the first round in any of his pro bouts.
The hope is that Tomas (8-2, 3KOs) will change that, as the Brooklyn-based Frenchman has never been dropped and enters on the heels of his best win to date.
“One thing I’ve always been proud of, and where (Rosado and all involved) have done such a terrific job is making sure the card possesses the possibility of exciting fights,” notes Peltz. “Now, can some end in the first round? Sure. But guys like Victor know that they’ve earned those early knockouts, not that they were fed opponents just to pad their record.
“That was very important to me in doing this show. It’s been nice to read all of the nice things that have been said about me—it means a lot since, at 50 years, the only guy in the sport who’s been doing it longer and still in a meaningful role is (Top Rank founder and chairman) Bob Arum. But I didn’t want us to put on a show where guys are falling down from the first jab they get hit with.”
Peltz Tough until the day he’s finally done with the sport—and well beyond, by the looks of those who prepare to continue his legacy.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox