September 12, 2010

Native boxer starred in 1950s

Boxer Gaspar Indio' Ortega rediscovered

By Jim SheltonRondinone has spent the past few years researching the phenomenon of TV boxing, from its impact on the television industry to its influence in American households. He's in the process of writing a book about it, geared to a mass audience.

"Once upon a time, boxing dominated TV in a way we can't fathom today," he says. "It was regularly watched by 20 percent of Americans. At one point, in the late 1940s, as much as 50 percent of programming was boxing."
And:Ortega, 74, of East Haven was one of the most popular TV boxers in the country. By Rondinone's count, he appeared in roughly 30 televised bouts, primarily in the 1950s.

Born in Mexico, the half-Indian, half-Mexican welterweight accumulated a professional record of 131-39-6, with 69 knockouts. He fought many of the top pugilists of his era (including Tony DeMarco, Kid Gavilan and Emile Griffith) and sometimes wore a Native American headdress into the ring. He is a member of the World Boxing Hall of Fame.
Comment:  For the youngsters out there, this bit about TV boxing is true. Nor was it over by the early 1960s, as Rondinone claims. Seems to me you could watch boxing matches on TV many Saturdays throughout the '60s. Title fights featuring Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, and George Foreman were televised (on free network TV!) into the 1970s.

For more on the previous generation of Native boxers, see Heavyweight Champ to Get Native Name and Hipp in Athletic Hall of Fame.

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