Johnny Lira and Lenny LaPaglia (R.I.P.)

***** FLASHBACK *****

This article originally appeared on on August 6, 2013

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By Steve Corbo

In December, 2012 I lost a good friend, Johnny Lira, to liver disease. He campaigned as a lightweight back in the late 1970’s and early 80’s. At one time he was the WBA’s #1 rated lightweight in the world. He also won the USBA lightweight title in spectacular fashion when he knocked out the undefeated Andy Ganigan. Nicknamed the “Hawaiian Punch”, Ganigan had a record of 25 – 0, with 23 wins by KO and he was looking to keep busy, while waiting for a shot at then champion, Roberto Duran 익스플로러 동영상 다운로드. Johnny seemed a safe enough tune-up, he was only 14-0-1 with 8 wins by KO. The smart guys figured he’d go a few rounds, give Ganigan a little work and in short order become KO victim number 24. But the smart guys never could get a handle on the tough kid from Grand Avenue on the west side of Chicago.

Lira got his shot at a world championship in front of a home town crowd, when he took on WBA Lightweight Champion Ernesto Espana in 1979. The fight was televised on the old ABC Wide World of Sports with Howard Cosell calling the action. What a fight it was! Cosell called it even after five 배틀 그라운드 무료. Lira knocked down the champ in the seventh and it looked like he was going to put him away. But Espana fought back hard. That’s what champions do! Lira was dropped near the end of the 8th, then suffered a severely lacerated right eye and picked up a broken jaw. The ringside doctor stopped the fight after the ninth round.

There were more ring wars to come. After Espana, Lira’s career included losses to Willie “Fireball” Rodriguez, Howard Davis, Jr. and Alfredo Escalera . There were also wins over rugged Bobby Plegge, Al Ford  and Sammy Matos! Lira finally hung up the gloves in 1984 with a record of 29-6-1 with 15 wins by KO 원랜디 6.1 다운로드.

L to R: John Trombino, Steve Corbo, Lenny LaPaglia, John Nocita

I am now sad to report the loss of another friend and Chicago fighter, Lenny LaPaglia. He passed away at home, on July 06, 2013. Like Lira, Lenny was also a westsider, from Melrose Park. Lenny had a pro career that spanned 15 years. His record stood at 36-9 with 33 wins by KO. He was the Illinois State Light Heavyweight Champion and the first IBO World Champion, when he was crowned IBO Light heavyweight Champ in 1993. He also fought and lost to Tommy Hearns for the WBU Cruiserweight Title

But if you are from Chicago, Lenny will forever be linked with fellow Chicagoan, John Collins and their war for the Illinois State Middleweight Title 매드 파더. This was one of the last great, probably the last great, fights held in Chicago. The bout took place March 20, 1983. Collins was a Southside Irish American, the son of a Chicago Police Lieutenant. He had a record of 26-0 with 24 wins by KO. LaPaglia was a Westside Italian American, with a record of 19-0 with 18 wins by KO. Los Angeles may have had Danny “Little Red” Lopez vs. “School Boy” Bobby Chacon, but Chicago had LaPaglia vs. Collins!

This was a huge event in Chicago. I can’t recall more excitement about any Chicago boxing match since 다운로드! From the time they were in their teens, they were on a collision course and their fight became a main stream media event as big as anything the Bulls, Blackhawks, Bears, Cubs or White Sox were doing at the time.  Both guys grew up in Chicago, went to school in Chicago, and fought amateur in the Chicago Golden Gloves and Park District Tournaments.  Their families, friends and fans were from Chicago. You had the Westside vs. the Southside, the Italians vs. the Irish and two good looking kids, both of whom were undefeated. It was a promoter’s dream match!

The bout was held in front of a standing room only crowd at the University of Illinois (Chicago) Pavilion and televised live, nationally, on “NBC Sportsworld”. When the bell rang ending the 10th and final round, it was Collins who had his hand raised in victory, in a close, but unanimous decision.
Johnny Lira and Lenny LaPaglia are gone now and with them died a little bit of Chicago . These guys transcended boxing here in this town. They were truly a couple of colorful characters. In fact in a 1993 interview Lira opened by saying “Hi, I’m Johnny Lira, man about town… suave, debonair, and character extraordinaire.”

Certainly they were no angels. Lira made no secret of his troubled youth. It was his all too frequent run-ins with the law, and a sympathetic judge, which led him into boxing. Lenny also had his share of demons to deal with. Lenny was known as “The Rage” and it was an appropriate nickname, epitomizing his style in the ring, as well as on the street. But they never held themselves out to be angels and we never expected it of them.

There was something about these guys that, in spite of any flaws in character, you couldn’t help but like . While the word is so often over used, in this case, “charisma” is a perfect fit. They were exciting to watch in the ring. Warriors in the truest sense of the word, they were fighters’ fighters. They always had a great story to tell and, Lira especially, always seemed to have some iron in the fire. Both gave of themselves, working with kids. Trying to get them to benefit, from some of life’s lessons they learned the hard way.

Lira became keenly interested in concussive brain injuries suffered by boxers and other athletes. In a final act of giving, he willed his brain to the Boston University Center for the study of Traumatic Encephalopathy . Along with Lira, boxers Scott Ledoux and Greg Page are part of this study, as are 54 NFL and College Football players, including Dave Duerson, Rob Lytle and Andre Waters. Even in death, Johnny Lira gave his all.

Always the fighter, Lira fought for a pension plan to protect retired professional boxers. He and LaPaglia could have used one. In the end, any of the money they made in the ring was long gone and quite frankly, times were hard.

Along Grand Avenue, the streets seem a little quieter these days, as they also do in Melrose Park. The Rage and Johnny aren’t around anymore.  We’ll tell our stories about them, but their fight is over.

They both died far too young. Johnny Lira was 61 and Lenny LaPaglia was only 53.

Rest in peace guys.

3 thoughts on “Johnny Lira and Lenny LaPaglia (R.I.P.)

  1. Excellent article about two Chicago boxing legends, Steve. I really enjoy your writing. Yes, so sad that they left us all too soon.

  2. Truly exciting fighters. I just watched LaPaglia v Collins recently, and Lira v Ganigan and outstanding Espana are classics. True pros and true class acts. Both are missed.

  3. My name is Tom Giacobbe. I won the Chgo.Golden Gloves Lightheavy weight and Heavyweight Open titles
    in 1971 and 1974, respectively. I fought out of the Mayor Daley’s
    Youth Foundation and was trained by Carlos Sarlo, a former pro boxer, who was 10th ranked in the welterweight division when Carmen Basilio was champ.
    I saw Lenny Lapaglia fight when he won the Chgo.Golden Gloves .
    I knew Paddy LaCasa,
    who trained Lenny after he turned pro. Paddy obviously saw promise in the young fighter and
    he was certainly right.
    Lenny LaPaglia was a tremendous fighter. He could punch with either hand and he could take a hard shot. I never really knew how good he was until I recently watched a YouTube documentary which covered his career.
    It was entitled, “The Rage”. I was very impressed. Yes, like several other pro boxers from that era, Lenny left us too young. He was truly a fighters fighter.
    May you be at peace, Lenny.

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