Ask Rocco 11/17/15

Who the hell is Tony Zale anyway?

By Rocco Castellano

Photo: Boxer Tony Zale knocks Rocky Graziano to the ground

Normally I discuss the idiocy of our society’s ignorance of dieting and fitness related matters. Today I’m venturing off into slightly uncharted territory. Well, not really, but it seemed like a good lead in. I’m not sure if many of you know, but I boxed from when I was 10 years old until I was 28… then I moved to the Midwest. When I moved I was very disgruntled with the boxing industry. I believed it was a blood sucking, exploitive, piece of shit industry. Where the pursuit of getting out of the ghetto made the environment ripe for being taken advantage of. Boxing has always been a tainted sport. I remember my gangster uncles talking about who they owned and who would take a dive even in the ’70s. I always wondered what kind of man would take money to taint their reputation. As I grew older I saw it first-hand: people prostituting themselves, hating life just to get a paycheck. I was a kid all brighteyed and bushy tailed not really know how life could grind you down.

As with anything I do, I not only become good at it, I become a student of it. I learn everything I can from the people who were pioneers, who paved the roads less travelled so I could walk in their shadows. So it goes for my boxing career. I was an extremely tough white kid, even though I grew up in a very white, suburban, piss ant town in Bergen County, New Jersey. There were only maybe five really tough kids in the county… and I happened to be one of them. I’m not bragging, just trying to show you how f–king pathetic it was.

I had the opportunity to box in the Golden Gloves, Diamond Gloves and spar some of the top contenders in the country, more notably Bobby Czyz and the “Old” George Foreman. (George wasn’t a top contender but it was still cool to get my head almost knocked off by him.) In this pugilistic attempt at making my bones in this world I had many a chance to meet some pretty interesting people. Many of which always compared me to a fighter from the ’40s named Tony Zale. My father, who had also boxed in the Army, was a huge fan of Rocky Graziano. I think more because they shared the same nickname, “Rocky,” than an actual fan. He would always regale the most famous fight in boxing history… or as he knew it.

He would start out by saying, “It was f–king amazing. I was 15 years old and took the long trip out to f–king New Jersey to watch the last fight of Rocky Graziano and Tony Zale on June 10, 1948. I have to tell you, there was no harder puncher than Tony Zale—none. And how hard you hit, Rock… you kinda remind me of him.”

Trust me, I was and would never even be a glint in the eye of Tony Zale, but it was nice to hear from my dad.

The fight story that my father liked to tell was the last of a trilogy of fights that these two very tough, very qualified fighters had engaged in. All three were bloody, vicious displays of the Queensbury Rules with Zale being the victor in two of the three.

So why am I telling you this story? Years later back in 2003, I had been the personal trainer of record for the Miss Ohio USA and Miss Michigan USA pageants. During my reign, I encountered a beautiful young woman named Haley Zale. Yep—a young relative of the late Tony Zale. She is actually his grand niece. I met Haley’s parents, Ted and Deb Zale and have been friends ever since. Ted, whose real name is Thad, wrote Tony’s biography, “Tony Zale: The Man of Steel.” Ted and Tony were very close and that brought the families together. After Tony Zale died in 1997, Ted became the keeper of Tony’s estate, from pictures, presidential medals, to the two championship belts he won.

In 1991 Tony Zale was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York. After his death six years later, the Zale family thought it would be a good idea to “loan” the IBHOF Tony Zale’s Championship Belts and Hall of Fame ring as part of Tony Zale’s legacy into the annals of boxing history.

Well, now, my friends that legacy has been stolen. Yes, you heard me correctly, stolen right out from under the International Boxing Hall of Fame’s noses. At 3 a.m. on Nov. 5, some a-holes broke in through a window at the IBHOF and stole Tony’s two belts and Carmen Basilio’s (another all-time great boxer) four belts. Basilio hails from Canastota, New York.

This is a huge disgrace for two reasons. 1.) That pieces of shit thought it was a good idea to steal priceless entities that someone not only worked hard for but took actual beatings for. Each one of these belts literally represent the blood and sweat Tony Zale shed to bring them into his possession. 2.) What the hell was the International Boxing Hall of Fame thinking, showing priceless artifacts of a bygone era and not engaging proper security measures. I am astonished and extremely pissed off that one of boxing’s greatest fighters and his family has to deal with a violation of this kind that could have easily been prevented. Shame on you International Boxing Hall of Fame… this is now just another smudge of tarnish in the already tainted history of Boxing.

The views and opinions expressed in Ask Rocco are the views and/or opinions of the author and do not reflect the views and/or opinions of the Dayton City Paper or Dayton City Media and are published strictly for entertainment purposes.

Rocco Castellano is the author of “askROCCO Uncensored v1,” a speaker and a controversial fitness personality who has won an Emmy for his fitness training role in MTV’s Made. For more information, please visit

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Rocco Castellano is the author of “askROCCO Uncensored v1,” a speaker and a controversial fitness personality who has won an Emmy for his fitness training role in MTV’s Made. For more information, please visit

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