- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 22, 2015

GRIFFITH, Ind. (AP) - Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiano is boxing’s fiercest rivalry.

Both sides have been going at each other for some time, back-and-forth, back-and-forth.

Gary native Tony Zale and Brooklyn-bred Rocky Graziano also engaged in a rivalry of their own, except they took care of business more inside the ring.

“Boxing was much different back then,” Ted Zale said of the era when his uncle fought. “When Tony started out, he fought 20 times in six months.”

Even as an undisputed middleweight champion, Zale fought non-title and “overweight” bouts in between title defenses to stay sharp and keep food on the table.

“Many guys today fight only once or twice every two years,” Ted Zale said.

Like his uncle, Ted Zale lost his father at a young age. Tony stepped up to serve as a father figure, and even taught Ted how to box.

“If you were in our family, you learned how to box,” said Ted, an Andrean graduate who now resides in Lansing, Michigan. “He helped train me for the Olympic trials.”

When the United States boycotted the Soviet Union-hosted games in 1980, Ted’s Olympic dreams were KO’d. But while training with his uncle, Ted’s relationship with the World and International Boxing Hall of Famer grew stronger.

One day while having dinner with Tony and his wife Philomena, Ted and his wife, Deb, were issued a challenge by the former two-time champ.

“Tony wanted us to write a book about him,” Deb said. “Of course, neither one of us had written a book before, but he thought we could tell his life story the best.”

The project, which began in 1987 with Ted and Deb gathering photos and taping interviews, got caught on the ropes a few times. Setbacks included Tony’s health and the death of Philomena in 1991 - Tony died six years later. Then more recently Deb got what an unsuspecting messenger thought would be “great news.”

“She said that someone was finally doing a biography on Tony,” said Deb, a region native herself. “I said ‘No! We’re doing a biography on Tony!’”

The man seemingly on verge of beating them to the punch was boxing historian Clay Moyle. Ted and Deb immediately got in touch with Moyle to tell about their “mission” to produce Tony’s biography.

Eventually, they agreed to combine efforts. The result is “Tony Zale: The Man of Steel” a hardback 490 page book with more than 400 photographs.

The book was released last Christmas Eve, 27 years after its inception.

On March 21, Ted, Deb and their son Patrick held a book signing at Bridges’ Scoreboard Restaurant and Lounge. Like at previous signings, the family encountered ardent Tony Zale fans.

“I followed him his whole career,” said one guy who graciously refused to buy the book, “so I know all about him.”

“I can assure there are some things in here you don’t know,” Deb said.

“And many people who’ve seen the movie,” said Ted Zale, in reference to Graziano’s biopic “Somebody Up There Likes Me” with Paul Newman playing the lead, “think there were only two fights with Graziano winning the rematch in a Hollywood ending.”

There were actually four knockouts in the Zale-Graziano saga. Zale, who was originally hired to play himself in the movie, floored Newman in one of the fight scenes.

“Tony warned him after Newman really hit him numerous times and wasn’t taking things seriously,” Deb said.

Zale went on to win the rubber match against Graziano, and Newman - perhaps humbled by a real fighter - kept his day job.


Source: The (Munster) Times, https://bit.ly/1ENkSQH


Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com

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