Q&A with J Russell Peltz – The Philadelphia Promoter
By Ken Hissner (June 30, 2010) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © Phillyboxinghistory.com)  
I once interviewed “Rockin” Rodney Moore of Philadelphia and he wanted to be called “one of the greatest fighters out of Philadelphia”. I told him you are already known as “Mr. Blue Horizon” because you held the record for the most fights there.

J Russell Peltz can be called “the Hall of Fame (IBHOF in 2004) Promoter” but, better yet, he is “the Philadelphia Promoter.” He has earned it by promoting out of the City of Brotherly Love since 1969, starting at the legendary Blue Horizon as a 22-year-old. Previously, he wrote for the Evening Bulletin sports department. He and I have had our differences over the years but one thing you have to say about Peltz is he is a fan’s promoter!

(Photo:  J Russell Peltz and Son)

Everyone has a right-hand man in the promotional business and in his case he has a right-hand woman in Maureen Sacks, his Vice President. Everyone loves Maureen. She can calm a storm with her mannerism and with her professionalism. She seems to never loose her cool.

Peltz has promoted at least a dozen world champions in the forty plus years in the business. He has promoted mostly in Philadelphia while doing his share in Atlantic City where today he is most active. He seems to have found a home at Bally’s.

This year he is promoting his first show in Philadelphia on July thirtieth at the Arena in South Philly. The main event, from the Germantown section of Philadelphia, is Derek “Pooh” Ennis defending his USBA light middleweight title against North Philadelphia’s Gabe “King” Rosado. Though this writer has been a long-time critic of Philly fighters fighting each other it will pack them in.

Peltz started promoting at the then Alhambra Arena in 2004. The first show this writer covered there was a Dee Lee Promotion in August of 2007.

“I hope the Ennis-Rosado fight will help jumpstart other potential matches which can help Philadelphia reclaim its place among the best boxing towns in the country,” said Peltz.

Peltz will be putting on his third show in Atlantic City this year (at Boardwalk Hall) on July ninth when his top star, unbeaten Mike “MJ” Jones, rated number two by the WBA WBO, defends his NABA and NABO welterweight titles. The other of his main-event boxers with drawing power is unbeaten Teon “The Technician” Kennedy, a former National Golden Gloves champion, and current USBA super bantamweight champion.

Another is Rogers “Tiger” Mtagwa, who fought for both the WBO super bantamweight and the WBA featherweight titles in October of 2009 and January of 2010, respectively.

Rosado earns his main-event status locally next month. Peltz’ veteran boxer, welterweight Mike Stewart, is still a draw in his home state of Delaware.

If you go on www.peltzboxing.com you will see a list of his boxers. Unbeaten prospects are super middleweight Dennis Hasson, heavyweight Bryant Jennings, welterweight Ronald Cruz and lightweight Angel Ocasio. Another is once-beaten junior lightweight Anthony Flores. Two boxers who are on the road as much as home are junior middleweight Jamaal “Truth” Davis and cruiserweight Garrett Wilson. Also listed are Peltz’ former champions like Charles “Hatchet” Brewer, Charley “Choo Choo” Brown, Jeff Chandler (IBHOF), Marvin Johnson, Marvin Hagler (IBHOF), Rob “Bam Bam” Hines, Gary Hinton, Dwight Muhammad Qwai (IBHOF), Mike Rossman, Matthew Saad Muhammad (IBHOF), Antonio Tarver and “Prince” Charles Williams.

Others boxers Peltz promoted who were worthy of being champions were Bennie Briscoe, George Benton (IBHOF), Billy “Dynamite Douglas”, Tyrone Everett, Frank Fletcher, Arturo “Thunder” Gatti, Sammy Goss, Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, Stanley “Kitten” Hayward, Richie Kates, Jerry “The Bull” Martin, Willie “The Worm” Monroe, Augie Pantellas, Curtis Parker, Tony “The Punching Postman” Thornton and Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts. Besides these boxers, Peltz promoted many of the “tough” Upper Darby PAL fighters like Richie “The Bandit” Bennett, Kenny Carpenter, Victor Pappas and Mike Picciotti and Delaware’s uncrowned champion Dave “TNT” Tiberi.

Peltz has a large memorabilia and fight tape collection. He has promoted over 500 fights and was given the James J. Walker Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing by the Boxing Writers Association in 1999. He also served as director of boxing at the Philadelphia Spectrum from 1973-1980.

He once tried stumping me one time at a weigh-in years ago, asking who a particular fighter was standing next to him. Since the bald-headed Doyle Baird, from Akron, OH, had a hat on he figured I would be stumped but that freckled face was a give away.

On his first promotion in 1969, Peltz had Briscoe, Watts and Hart on the card at the Blue Horizon. There had been no boxing for over three years at the Blue Horizon and this initial show broke the attendance record with 1,606 fans. When you hear Peltz talk about his fighters three come to mind. One is Briscoe, another is former (IBHOF) world bantamweight champion Chandler and Hart, who Peltz claimed was “perhaps the best one-punch knockout artist I ever saw in person.”

Peltz has also been inducted into the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Hall of Fames. In 2008 he received the Philly Boxing History Briscoe Award from John DiSanto, founder and owner. Peltz once described the Philly fighter as “inner-city tough, left hook, win or lose makes great fights, and never, ever quits, you have to carry them out.”

A Temple University graduate in Philadelphia, Peltz once stated “Jewish fighters were as tough as they come but they were afraid of their mothers which is why so many changed their names.” To prove his point, one of the best welterweights ever was Ted “Kid” Lewis, whose real name was Gershon Mendeloff.

Peltz once referred to one of Philadelphia’s most popular boxers “Gypsy” Joe Harris by saying “he did things in the ring that had not been done before or since. Gypsy Joe was a magician, very tough to hit. He was a very big attraction in Philadelphia,” said Peltz. Harris, blind in one eye, won a non-title bout over then-welterweight champion Curtis Cokes in Madison Square Garden, but could never get a rematch for the crown.

Peltz agreed to answer some questions with this writer. I remember him allowing me to listen to tapes he has in interviewing Harold Johnson. Johnson was the first of over forty Philadelphia boxers I have written about.

KEN HISSNER: You know I have always admired your writings of your boxing programs. Matter of fact you lent me several when I was doing a story on some Philly boxers. Was journalism your major at Temple?

Glad you asked! I was a journalism major at Temple University I and worked for the daily student newspaper, the Temple News. I became assistant sports editor as a freshman, sports editor as a sophomore, and makeup editor and city editor as a junior. Then I began working the night shift at the Evening Bulletin during my senior year. I worked from 11pm to 7am, doing re-writes, editing stories, writing headlines and doing page layout. I went to school from 9am to 1pm; then I went home to sleep. When I graduated in June, 1968, I received the Sigma Delta Chi award as the Outstanding Male Graduate in Journalism.

KEN HISSNER: Speaking of Temple, I attended a fund-raiser former heavyweight title challenger Randall “Tex” Cobb held there while taking a class. I heard from another Temple grad, Kurt Wolfheimer, of Fight News, you are a basketball season-ticket holder there. Cus D’amato once told me a basketball player could make the transition better than any other athlete. How do you feel about that?

I saw my first Temple basketball game in 1961 at the Palestra in Philadelphia and I have been hooked ever since. I don’t know of any similarities but I am a firm believer in Cus so I’ll go along with him.

KEN HISSNER: Back in November of 1976 I attended your promotion of the WBC Super featherweight bout between the champion Alfredo Escalera and Philly’s Tyrone Everett. Since I had it scored 13-2 in rounds for Everett would you say it was the worst decision you have ever promoted when Escalera retained his title on a split decision?

Not possibly—definitely! It was a disgrace! We knew the judge from Puerto Rico would vote for Escalera if he was still standing at the end of 15 rounds. We figured the Pennsylvania judge would be fair so we spent all our time researching the voting referee from Mexico, who scored it for Everett. Never did we think we were going to get hosed by the Philly guy, who had ties to Puerto Rico and a few unsavory characters as acquaintances. When Ed Derian read the first score from the judge from Philly, I thought he had read the score backwards. It felt like having your pants pulled down in front of 16,000 people in your own town. What a terrible memory! We were so naïve.

KEN HISSNER: I did a story “who was Philadelphia’s greatest fighter” using Philly Boxing History’s John DiSanto, historian Chuck Hasson, you and myself rating the fighters. You were the only one not to put yours in order of ability. Do you have someone you would give that title to?

If I had to, I would vote for Tommy Loughran, the light-heavyweight champ from the 1920s who had more than 200 fights, never lost his title, and beat three heavyweight champs—Jack Sharkey, Max Baer, Jimmy Braddock. Loughran was not a big puncher, which makes his record even more impressive since he had to be better than his opponents over the entire course of each fight.

KEN HISSNER: When Bennie Briscoe was inducted into the Pennsylvania Hall of Fame you stated he could have beaten Bernard Hopkins. Do you still hold to that?

Bernard Hopkins is a sure-fire first-ballot Hall-of-Famer and his record speaks for itself. Having said that, if you have the best Bernard Hopkins in one corner, and in the other corner you have the best George Benton or the best Bennie Briscoe or the best Boogaloo Watts or the best Joey Giardello, I could not bet the bank either way.

KEN HISSNER: Not trying to put you on the spot but you seem to talk about Briscoe, Harold Johnson and Jeff Chandler more than most of Philly’s boxer’s . Do you have a favorite boxer?

Bennie Briscoe was my favorite because he was my first and you always fall in love with your first. Jeff Chandler was the most talented fighter I ever had under contract. Harold Johnson never boxed for me—he retired in 1970, less than one year into my career—but he was my boyhood idol when I was a teenager. I saw him fight Von Clay and Doug Jones and Johnny Persol in person and I used to have my hair cut really short in high school—like him—and my friends used to joke that I was wearing my Harold Johnson haircut. In fact, the first story I ever wrote from the Evening Bulletin in 1968 was about Harold. If the judges hadn’t stolen his title in Las Vegas in 1963 against Willie Pastrano, he’d still be champ today.

KEN HISSNER: What is your schedule for Mike “MJ” Jones fighting for the welterweight title?

Whenever he gets the opportunity. Fighters today are in a hurry.

KEN HISSNER: Since Jones fought at 152 in the amateurs do you think he will someday at least fight in the light middleweight division?

Mike has never had a problem making 147 and a few times recently he was around 144 or 145. I don’t see him moving up any time soon.

KEN HISSNER: I am not a fan of MMA, UFC or whatever you want to call it. What are your feelings about it?

I have a real problem with someone on his back on the floor getting punched in the head by a guy sitting on top of him.

KEN HISSNER: We in the fight game have nothing but good things to say about your V.P. How long has Maureen Sacks been working with you and what does she mean to Peltz Boxing?

When I went to work at The Spectrum late in 1972, Maureen was working there as a teenager. That’s when I met her. She was a secretary to the guys who were in charge of all the unions at The Spectrum—electricians, stagehands, carpenters, ushers, security, etc. I left The Spectrum in 1980 and she left sometime in the mid-1980s. She began working with me on a part-time basis around 1984. Then she became full-time. I couldn’t make it without her. She does everything but make matches. She rents the arenas, orders the ushers, security, ambulance, tickets, postcards, postage. She gets the tickets printed and sells them and she writes the checks and she does just about everything. She’s also the pleasant voice on the other end of the phone, unlike me.

KEN HISSNER: You are sixty three now with over forty years in the business. Do you have a future plan to when you will retire if ever?

I would like to retire in my 60s, perhaps become an advisor.

KEN HISSNER: If there is one thing you could change in boxing today what would it be?

I would like to see one universally recognized world champion and one universally recognized set of rankings but it’s a pipe dream because there are too many people in the business who enjoy the status quo.

KEN HISSNER: My final question is did you ever think in a million years you’d have this much fun being interviewed by me?

Teddy Brenner, the greatest matchmaker in boxing history, once told Bruce Trampler: “I don’t mind if you have a grudge against someone, just don’t make it a life-time sentence. There should always be room for parole.”

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