Former flyweight fighter given a champion’s legacy
ANSONIA-For nearly 78 years he was the forgotten champion.
Few people in the boxing community or even his next door neighbors on Front Street and later Clark Street knew Pincus “Pinky” Silverberg reigned as the World Flyweight Champion in 1927.
“He never talked about his boxing,” said his son Ron. “You have to understand back in those days from a family standpoint boxing was not a highly regarded occupation.”
So for years Silverberg’s exploits including his bout with Kid Chocolate, considered the fifth greatest featherweight in boxing history were forgotten memories.
Until last year.
That’s when Mayor David Cassetti named his newly created Valley youth boxing program after Silverberg who lived in a three-story building which housed Fama’s Market on what was the intersection of Main and Front Street.
On Thursday Cassetti proclaimed that site now filled by West Springfield Auto Parts as Champion’s Corner. Underneath it is a square sign which reads: “Pinky Silverberg World Flyweight Boxing Champion 1927 Lived On This Corner.”
“I first heard of Pinky Silverberg when I was training back in the early 1970s,” said Cassetti, a former amateur middleweight champ who boxed from 1978-84. “I couldn’t believe Ansonia was home to a boxing champion. To hear that—it inspired me to train harder and want to become a champion.”
But while Cassetti knew of Silverberg few boxing experts did.
That’s what Ron Silverberg discovered while searching his father’s name on the internet during a two-week vacation from his banking job in 2000.
“He was nowhere to be found,” said an incredulous Silverberg. “There was one website that billed itself as listing every champion in every weight division ever and my father’s name was not there.
When Silverberg contacted them he was told “we never heard of your father.”
“So I went to a professional photographer and had him re-photograph my father’s promotional boxing picture as well as his championship belt and sent them,” Silverberg said. “Two weeks later they contacted me and told we found records that your father had 82 bouts. They just fell through the cracks.”
A few years later one of Ron’s daughters she learned that the Jewish Heritage Museum in Philadelphia was building an exhibit on all the Jewish boxing champions. Silverberg called to ask if his father was part of it.
“They told me he wasn’t,” Silverberg recalled. “They told me to contact Mike Silver a boxing historian in New York who was putting the exhibit together.”
And Silverberg when contacted Silver he got the familiar refrain—he, too never heard of Pinky. So Silverberg set about educating the historian with records and photos.
“He called back and apologized saying he was going to make it up to us,” Silverberg recalled.
That came in a three-page article Silver wrote in 2005 for Ring Magazine, which bills itself as “The Bible of Boxing.”
And it came again last year when Silver included Pinky in his “Stars in the Ring: Jewish Champions in the Golden Age of Boxing: A Photographic History.”
And they were not alone. Steve and Victor “Cooky” Parkosewich who grew up in the apartment next door to the Silverbergs were kept in the dark also.
“He never bragged about it,” said Victor.
“We lived five feet away,” said Steve. “Pinky would come out onto the porch and say: “Hi” but nothing about boxing. I did know he traveled a lot.”
Up and down the northeast, to Cuba even Australia, to fight.
“To get to Brisbane he had to take a train to San Francisco and then a steamer to Australia,” recalled Silverberg. “It probably took three to four weeks.”
But it was just blocks away in the Opera House that still stands on Main Street where Silverberg captured his first title—the Connecticut Flyweight championship. On Oct. 17, 1925 he beat Al Beuregard on points.
That propelled him as a potential contender for the vacant National Boxing Association (now known as the World Boxing Association) flyweight title. On Oct. 22, 1927 Silverberg was matched against Ruby “Dark Cloud” Bradley for title at the State Armory in Bridgeport. The battle lasted a brutal seven rounds before Bradley was disqualified for a low blow leaving Silverberg unable to continue. As a result Silverberg was awarded the belt.
On Dec. 3, 1927 the pair met again at the same Bridgeport arena. Only this time Silverberg was unable to make 116 pound weight limit. That led to the match becoming a non-title event which Bradley won in 10 rounds.
Shortly after that fight, Silverberg was stripped of his title because of “an unsatisfactory showing.” But that unsatisfactory showing was due to Pinky breaking a hand in the bout. Despite a doctor’s report the decision stood.
“It is the only time in boxing history that a champion was shorn of a legitimately won championship due to a poor performance in a subsequent non-title match,” Silver wrote in his photographic history released last year.
“The reason for the NBA’s stubborn refusal to restore his title appears to have involved a bureaucratic power struggle within the organization’s hierarchy,” according to Silver.
Silverberg then stepped up to the next weight class-bantam weight—where he fought the next seven years against ranked boxers like Midget Wolgast, Panama Al Brown, a bantamweight world champion, Pete Sanstol, a future Bantamweight world champion and Petey Sarron, a future Featherweight world champion.
And there was the Kid Chocolate fight on Nov. 8, 1928 in New York’s iconic boxing haven—the St. Nicholas Arena. The Kid beat Silverberg on points in a 10-round bout.
“My father lost on points to one of the greatest boxers ever,” said Silverberg.
Pinky Silverberg, whose older brother Herman also boxed professionally, fought his last bout on March 4, 1937 defeating Frankie Reese at the Star Casino in New York. In 82 fights, he won 34 lost 34 and battled to 14 draws. Of those losses only Willie LaMorte knocked Silverberg out. That took place at Footguard Hall in Hartford on April 5, 1926.
After retiring from active fights, Silverberg coached, referred and promoted local fights. In the 1950s, he found work as an aircraft engine inspector at AVCO Lycoming in Stratford.
“My father smoked and fried steaks in Crisco,” his son recalled. “No one gave a second thought to the impact of smoking or high cholesterol.”
On Jan. 16, 1964, Pinky Silverberg died at age 57 after suffering a fatal heart attack in his Clark Street home.
In 2007, he was inducted into the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame.
Yesterday he was given a home forever on Champion’s Corner.