Boxing was a popular form of entertainment in the 1940s but, like most everything else, was interrupted by WWII. Many of the most popular fighters of that time enlisted and served overseas. Familiar names like Joe Louis, Beau Jack, and Bob Montgomery put their athletic careers on hold to answer the call to duty. Some, like Louis, were used in a promotional way to entice Americans to join the war against Germany. Others simply entered the ranks to fight alongside their fellow soldiers.
I had a relative among them. Chester “The Fighting Italian” Rico was an up and coming lightweight from New Jersey with 44 wins already under his belt since he turned pro in 1938. He traded his boxing trunks for an army uniform in 1944 but once being released from his service, he resumed his activities in the ring with a well-publicized bout against Patsy “The Bronx Cyclone” Spataro in Long Island’s Queensboro Arena. He battled, through the rain, to a victorious and unanimous eight round decision.
He continued boxing for another seven years, until retiring in 1952 with a professional record of 65 wins (14 knockouts), 25 losses, and 8 draws. During his career, he went toe-to-toe with some of the best in the business, including future lightweight champions Beau Jack, Bob Montgomery and Tippy Larkin.
Horace (Chester) Rico was the nephew of my wife’s granduncle.
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