Born: November 11, 1917
Died; December 10, 1991
Antonio Pilleteri was born November 11, 1917 in Garfield. Short and powerful, he began boxing as a teenager and rode his devastating right hand to amateur glory in the early 1930s. He turned pro in March 1935 as Tippy Larkin, aka The Garfield Gunner. During the Depression, many Italian-American fighters assumed Irish-sounding names to attract larger crowds.
“Tippy” came from his initials TP. He borrowed Larking from his brother, Frank, who fought professionally as Bobby Larkin. He was managed by Angelo Pucci. Tippy fought Ed McGillick in the Paterson Music Hall and lost on points.
Tippy knocked out his next opponent, Johnny Fiore and began fighting better opponents in larger venues. Tippy’s “home” arena for several years was Laurel Garden on Springifeld Ave. in Newark, a boxing and wrestling venue that had hosted the likes of Jimmy Braddock, Luis Firpo, Max Schmeling and Mickey Walker. Fighting as a welterweight, Tippy went on to face seven different world champions and sold out each of his 19 fights across the river in Madison Square Garden.
At age 27, Tippy got his first shot at the welterweight crown, but lost to Beau Jack on points. He had won his 23 previous fights. In 1946 he won a decision over Willie Joyce in Boston Garden to claim the junior welterweight title. Boxing historians consider their meeting one of the best ever—the action was non-stop and nether fighter tried to clinch. Tippy’s fights with Red Cochrane were also the stuff of legend; Tippy beat him every time.
Tippy moved well and was a master at feinting experienced opponents out of position. His weakness was a soft chin; a powerful punch landed squarely tended to put him on he canvas. That being, said, it almost always took a knockout to beat him.
Tippy continued to compete into the 1950s, returning to his old haunt at Laurel Garden for several fights. His final appearance in the ring was a TKO loss to Steve Marcello in Rhode Island. In 151 career matches he lost just 13 times, winning 57 times by knockout and 80 by decision. He was known for fighting til the final bell, and did not lost a fight that went the distance during the 1940s.
Tippy lived in Garfield his entire life. He passed away from kidney failure in 1991 at the age of 74. He was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992.