Born: January 9, 1907
Died: October 11, 1974
Steven Vincent Hamas was born January 9, 1907 in Passaic. The son of Austro-Hungarian immigrants who operated a tavern in the city, Steve was a tremendous all-around athlete. As a schoolboy in Passaic, he excelled in football, basketball, soccer, lacrosse and track. Steve continued his stellar sports career at Penn State, where he won 11 varsity letters and earned All-America honorable mention as a running back in 1928.
By then, Steve had already gained fame in the boxing ring. He was the intercollegiate heavyweight champion in 1927 as a sophomore and repeated as champion in his senior year, 1929. Following graduation, Steve played pro football for the Orange (NJ) Tornadoes in their first NFL season, playing beside former collegiate stars Felix McCormick (Bucknell), Paul Longua (Villanova) and George Pease (Columbia). After one season, Steve decided to focus on his pro boxing career. He did so reluctantly, giving up on his dream of medical school.
Clean-cut and well spoken, “Hurricane Steve” was something of an oddity in the pugilistic world. He gained an instant following, however, after knocking out 20 opponents in a row—albeit mostly second- and third-rate fighters. Early in 1932, Steve’s manager, Charlie Harvey, got him a bout in Madison Square Garden against former light heavyweight champion Tommy Loughran. He dispatched Loughran in the second round. Steve lost professionally for the first time in 1932 when he dropped a decision to Lee Ramage in Los Angeles in March.
Steve fought Ramage three more times, winning twice and drawing once. He fought Loughran four times, winning twice and dropping a pair of split decisions. Steve’s big moment cam in 1934, when he defeated former heavyweight champion Max Schmeling (left). Later that year, he beat Art Lasky to become the division’s #1 contender—setting up a showdown with Max Baer for the heavyweight crown in 1935. Prior to the match, however, Harvey withdrew Steve and took a fight in Germany with Schmeling instead. The move was rooted in a personal dispute between Harvey and promoter James Johnstone. “Cinderella Man” Jim Braddock got the fight instead and upset Baer to become heavyweight champion.
Steve injured his elbow in training but fought Schmeling anyway in order to collect his $25,000 guarantee. Schmeling pummeled Steve, finishing him off in the ninth round. He was hospitalized for more than a week and, upon returning to the U.S., announced his retirement after 41 pro fights.
Steve went to work for Anaconda Wire and Cable in the late-1930s and then enlisted in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He served with the 8th Air Force in England and attained the rank of major before receiving a medical discharge in 1945. Steve worked as a salesman for several New Jersey companies in the 1950s and 60s, and for the DMV in the 1970s. He also served one term as Mayor of Wallington. He passed away in 1974 at the Veteran’s Hospital in Northport, Long Island at the age of 67.