#19 BOBBY CZYZ
Bobby Czyz was “The Matinee Idol” of network television during the early 1980s. Just how popular was Czyz? His 1982 decision loss to Mustafa Hamsho was aired live by NBC during prime time. Czyz “—white, bright, and polite,“ as he described himself—was a punishing action fighter with better skills than he was given credit for during his days as an overhyped prospect. Although Czyz began his career under the Main Event(s) banner, starching lukewarm bodies at Ice World in Totowa, New Jersey, he won his first world title fighting for restaurateur Carlo Dee. Dee, it should be noted, had friends with loopy nicknames like “Big Red,” ”Sam the Plumber,” “Mad Dog,” and “Gyp.”
After losing to Hamsho, Czyz fell on hard times: His father committed suicide, he was blacklisted by the networks, and he was arrested on burglary charges. Although Czyz was ratings dynamite—his win over Robbie Sims set a record for NBC SportsWorld in 1982—he vanished from network television for nearly half a decade because of managerial issues, weight problems, injuries, Ferdie Pacheco—take your pick. Finally, after years in limbo, Czyz won a world title at light heavyweight by stopping Slobodan Kacar in 1986.
I liked Czyz because he sometimes wore American flag trunks, sported crazy sideburns (later exchanged for a Magnum P.I. pornstache), and had a genuine killer instinct in the ring. And, most important of all, Czyz was never, ever boring, which is why people wanted to see him fight. How revolutionary such a simple concept seems today!
Here is Czyz, in 1987, crushing dangerous Willie “Sandman” Edwards in two fierce rounds and showing his nasty temperament by mocking his fallen challenger. Czyz recovered from a first-round knockdown, a small cut, and the legitimate punching power of “The Sandman” to roar back for a devastating kayo, one that had doctors bounding through the ropes before the 10-count could be tolled. Listen to the crowd roar in unison as Czyz—a standout at Lakeland Regional High School, a pre-med student, and a future Mensa member—moves in for the kill.