Monday, August 3, 2015


In our game Crime Network, the hitman Lundo Lipioni is based on my grandfather, Orlando Fanti. A few years ago I interviewed him about his before the war as a boxer. I was interested in specific information at the time and trying to preserve an oral record of the period. I didn't ask any direct questions about his combat experience because he was involved in the Battle of the Bulge and from I could tell he didn't like to discuss it. But he was happy to tell me about his boxing days and his time boxing in the service as well. He also talked a little about illegal grudge matches held at private venues. This interview was conducted in 2006, and while his mind was still sharp, he was getting on in years and some of his answers were contradictory. This may simply been a product of the question not being clearly stated or understood or it could have been his memory. In most instances it is easy to figure out what he means. But in one instance he mentions a flyweight champion whose name I haven't been able to find. I suspect it he may be mixing the names up with two fighters, or my investigation into the name simply hasn't been adequate. It is also possible I misheard him and transcribed the name incorrectly. 

Brendan: What years did you box?
Orlando: I started when I was about twelve years old at the boys club. Stopped when I was about twenty two. Probably the thirties until 1942.
Orlando on the cover of Crime Network

Brendan: How did you start?
Orlando: I joined the Park Department and trained under Jake Zirambi.

Brendan: Who was Jake Zirambi?
Orlando:  He was a fighter who fought for the championship of the world, but it was a non-title fight. He beat him, but never got another try.

Brendan: Did you train with anyone else?
Orlando: I had my brother, Patsy, and Nick Caneles my manager.

Brendan: How frequently did you train?
Orlando: Mostly during the winter months we fought, summer months I didn’t fight much because I was small. I trained all winter.

Brendan: What kind of equipment did you use?
Orlando: We used headgear, 10 or 16 ounce gloves, trunks and boxing shoes.

Brendan: Were there a lot of people at the gym training?
Orlando: Well, they had a good group. A lot of fighters out of Lynn trained there. A lot of them fought. They trained different times of the day.

Brendan: How much did it cost to train there?
Orlando:  Oh….about two bucks a week. Not that much.

Brendan: Do you remember what organization was in charge of amateur boxing in the 30s and 40s?
Orlando: The Pioneer A.A. That was in Lynn though. Each town had its own group.

Brendan: Was there a state wide group as well?
An old boxing photo of
Orlando: The one in Boston was the A.A.U.

Brendan: What about professional boxing? Who was in charge of that in Lynn?
Orlando: It wasn’t in Lynn so much as you had to get a state license. There was a boxing commission.

Brendan: Do you know who the promoter Jimmy Mede was?
Orlando: He was a promoter of wrestling at the Lynn Arena. I don’t know if he owned the building or what.

Brendan: Did they box at the Lynn Arena as well?
Orlando: Yes. I boxed in there. 

Brendan: What was the Hearst All American Tournament?
Orlando: That was the Boston Advertiser or Boston Hearst paper. They ran the shows. That’s how they got their champions.

Brendan: How many fights did you have? Both Amateur and Professional.
Orlando: I probably had one hundred fights and I lost five.

Brendan: How did the rankings work?
Orlando: There were no rankings in the amateurs.

Brendan: What about the professionals?
Orlando: I didn’t fight long enough in the professionals.

Brendan: What about wrestling, was that popular at the time?
Orlando: We had wrestling in Lynn too. We had wrestling on the Friday and boxing on the Monday.

Brendan: Was that real wrestling or theatrical wrestling like we have today?
Orlando: It wasn’t as bad as it is now. It wasn’t legit….I always said it was all bagged anyway. They didn’t do like what they do today; bounce off the ropes and do cartwheels.

Brendan: Have you noticed a lot of changes in boxing?
Orlando: Fighters are different today than they were in them days. They were more devoted I think. Of course you get a lot that are devoted today too….but the fighters in them days were good fighters. They knew how to fight. Today a fighter could be forty years old and fighting, which shouldn’t be. By the time he’s thirty he should quit.
Orlando after the war (left)

Brendan: Did you make any money boxing?
Orlando: I made money in the amateurs. It was expense money. When you become a champ, well you had to be a drawing card to make money. 

Brendan: What was the best thing about boxing?
Orlando: The best thing? Winning I guess.

Brendan: What was the worst thing?
Orlando: The money. The money was terrible. I fought in a four rounder and got twenty nine dollars. The guy in the main bout got nineteen dollars. It’s one of those things…the matchmakers were making all the money, the fighters weren’t, they were making peas.

Brendan: Did you like fighting?
Orlando: I liked boxing. I never got hurt. Never got a black eye. But I trained. And if you train, if you train right. I used to train and go to church every day. The night of the fight I would light a candle. Got in the ring and thought that I had the almighty God with me. He was gonna’ help me. He did help me.

Brendan: Did you ever fight outside the ring?
Orlando: We weren’t supposed to fight outside. You could hit a guy, hurt him, get arrested, break your hand. They never wanted you to fight out in the street, that’s taking advantage of the public.

Brendan: Did any of the other fighters do that?
Orlando: That was a no, no. Probably some of them did, but I never heard about it.

Brendan: What did people think about you being a boxer?
Orlando: Well I was winning all the time, so everybody knew me. What can you say when you’re a winner?

Brendan: What about your family?
Orlando: They…my father was kind of against it. Then they ran me a banquet for outstanding Italian Boy of Lynn. At the Hotel Edison. It was nice.

Brendan: Did a lot of people come to watch the boxing matches in Lynn?
Orlando: Oh yeah. Lynn Arena used to be sold out all the time. It didn’t cost much to go.

Brendan: What kind of crowd was there?
Orlando: All of them fighters from around.

Brendan: How did they determine who you fought in the pros?
Orlando: Your manager would go and match you.

Brendan: What was the biggest sport in Lynn at that time?
Orlando: Boxing was pretty good. There was nothing much going on. Money was tight?

Brendan: What were grudge matches?
Orlando: That was private. A couple of guys rented an arena and tried to make a show.

Brendan: Did people pay to see it?
Orlando: Oh, yes but it was against the law.

Brendan: Did you ever see one?
Orlando: Yes.

Brendan: Did most of the fighters get shipped out to WWII?
Orlando: Yes. The ones that couldn’t get drafted stayed. I had about six pro fights and then  I got drafted.

Brendan: How did you do in those fights?
Orlando:  I won ‘em all….then I went into the service and fought in the service.

Brendan: What was fighting in the service like?
Orlando: You didn’t know who you were fighting. In my outfit there was a guy who was world champ, Betty Gans. He was the fly weight champ of the world. I told ‘em see ya’ later. I am not gonna box him. He was good. I wasn’t about to get murdered for him. Be his punching bag.

Brendan: Was it an official thing, or something the guys just did on their own?
Orlando: We had a manager at our camp. They run fights every Friday night. I fought every Friday. The says to me, the Major, “if we can go to London and fight, you’ll never see any action.” The day we were supposed to go to London was the day I got shipped out. Over to France we went.

Brendan: Did you think of starting again when you came back?
Orlando: No, I was not in shape to fight no more. I was teaching boxing at the boys club with Tony Bovoni. He was fighting when I was fighting. He passed away a few years back.

Brendan: Those grudge matches, do you remember the rules?
Orlando: They only had that one fight. They almost shut if down cause it was illegal,  you can’t fight almost barehanded.

Brendan: It was bare fisted?
Orlando: Close to it like they have today with the cage fights. It wasn’t common. It was against the law.

Brendan: Did you see anyone get seriously injured in the amateurs or pros?  
Orlando: I didn’t see anyone get hurt too much….outside getting knocked out.

Brendan: Do you want to say anything more that I have not asked you about?
Orlando: No…just that Lynn had a lot of good fighters. Like Jake Zirambi.

Brendan: How many gyms were around here?
Orlando: One or two at the most. A city would have one gym maybe. There was Johnny Milton’s gym. But I liked it….Joe Lewis was at the gardens when I fought.


  1. Wow, five losses... What a record!
    This reminds me of my own great-grandpa. He wasn't fit for service during WWII. Real bad knee from working on a farm in Iowa, I think... But I wish I asked him more about what it was like living stateside during the war.
    But yeah, you hear some real interesting stories from veterans, and I had no idea there was a boxing scene in the army. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I am pretty sure the five fights he referred to were his amateur record. His pro career was cut short by the war and I don't know much about the details of that. He said he had like 12 fights or so professionally, but he was going by memory at that point, and it has been tough for me to find much hard data there.