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It Happened in Jersey: Boxing

 

OH, BROTHER

Jack and Sammy Amato, brothers from Garfield born just over a century ago, both loved to box as boys. In 1926, Jack enlisted in the Navy at age 15, lying about his date of birth. Serving with the Mediterranean Fleet, he fought for the fleet’s welterweight title until he was discharged in 1928, after it was discovered that he was still underage.

By then, Sammy had started his boxing career. Jack accompanied him to an event near their home, at the old Belmont Park. Hanging outside the dressing room prior to Sammy’s bout, Jack overheard the promoter ask if there were any 147-pounders who would like to step in the ring. Jack stepped up and agreed to fight—only to learn his opponent would be his brother.

Jack changed his name on the spot to Jack Larkin and the brothers faced each other in the ring for the first of 22 times! Jack became an influential boxing manager in New Jersey and, as a fighter, was crowned middleweight champion of Bergen County. During the 1940s and 50s, he operated out of Stillman’s Gym in New York. One of his fighters. Tippy Larkin (to whom he gifted his “family name”) became world Junior Welterweight Champion.

Tippy 

UM, FORGET SOMETHING?

Tippy Larkin (born Tony Pilliteri) was known as The Garfield Gunner. He also was known as an intense fighter. His focus and mental preparation in the minutes leading up to a bout was legendary. On January 12, 1942, he was scheduled to meet Tommy Cross in Newark.

The fighters were introduced to the crowd, each taking a few steps toward the center and raising a glove to acknowledge the cheers. When Tippy returned to his corner to await the opening bell, he slipped off his robe to shrieks of laughter.

He had forgotten to pull his trunks on before leaving the locker room and was completely naked save for his socks and shoes.

 

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It Happened in Jersey