Saturday 1 August 2015

Real Combat Media Historical Boxing: Whatever Happened To The Jersey Jolter, Frankie De Paula?

Bob Foster (right) with Frankie DePaula

By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent

October 31st 2014

Boxing fans tend to remember the great fighters, great fights and great moments in boxing. The late Hank Kaplan, who wrote Boxing Digest on his own for many years, was a walking encyclopedia of the fighters of his era, with most names long forgotten. As the boxing historian, I often feel a lot like Hank, as I feel very connected to some many people, places and events experienced as the reporter.

So many names have come and gone, some delegated to the obscurity of the subconscious, others are in the hereafter.

One such name is the ‘Jersey Jolter’, the late Italian American light heavyweight Frankie De Paula (1939-1970) of Jersey City, New Jersey. Frankie compiled a successful professional record of 21-7-3 with 16 knockouts, fighting in the shadows during the Cassius Clay-early Muhammad Ali days.

Many fighters never get a title shot or a significant fight. Near the end of his life Frankie DePaula fought two highly significant bouts. One was the bout of the year at Madison Square Garden in October 1968. Ex-WBA and WBC World Light Heavyweight champion Dick Tiger of Nigeria, afterlosing his world titles ot Bob Foster five months earlier, won a hair raising 10 round decision over DePaula at The Garden. Tiger went down twice in the second, DePaula went down twice in the third. Referee Arthur Mercante scored the bout 5-5, but his scorecard went to 7-6 for Tiger with the supplemental scoring method in place in New York at that time.

On the basis of that great performance, Bob Foster, for his first world title defense, gave DePaula a shot at his WBA and WBC world titles at The Garden in January 1969. DePaula was a big draw in his day and his presence sold tickets like wild at Madison Square Garden. It was a shock when DePaula dropped the hard hitting Foster in the first round. Foster beat the count, and came back to drop DePaula three times for an automatic first round TKO at 2:17. DePaula came back twice, scoring knockouts over undistinguished opponents in April 1969 and November of 1969.

An iron worker and 1962 New York Golden Gloves Sub Novice champion. After breaking the jaw of a police officer’s son in a street brawl, DePaula was incarcerated at Rahway State Prison, where he met middleweight Ruben ‘Hurricane’ Carter. A bar bouncer, hard partying womanizer, boozer, and drug user, had the right connections to rise above club fighter status. Unfortunately, DePaula hung out with the wrong crowd.

In May 1969, DePaula was arrested by Federal agents with seven others and charged with conspiracy, theft and possession of stolen copper from the Newark waterfront. His boxing license was suspended and he was later indicted for perjury. He was found innocent of possession and theft, with a hung jury on the conspiracy charge.

He was shot in Jersey City on May 14, 1970, in a mob hit. He was taken to Jersey City Medical Center where he developed paralysis and died four months later.

There were rumors DePaula’s title bout with Bob Foster was fixed by the mob, but it was never proven. Nobody was ever convicted of the DePaula hit. For those interested in learning more about Frankie DePaula’s life, a recent book, entitled ‘Jersey Boy-The Life and Mob Slaying of Frankie DePaula’ by Adeyinka Makinde, tells the DePaula story in great detail.

(c) Real Combat Media 2014

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