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Remembering ‘Rocky Estafire,’ One Tough Syrian

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  • Remembering ‘Rocky Estafire,’ One Tough Syrian

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    By Ted Sares

    On Sept. 9, 1978, a Bayonne, New Jersey brawler who was billed as Rocky Estafire when he was first starting out, stopped slick Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts in Jersey City giving notice that he was becoming a force to be reckoned with in the middleweight division. Watts was no slouch having split a pair with Marvelous Marvin Hagler.

    ''Strictly LaMotta style,'' said Paddy Flood of his fighter who would come to be known by his real name, Mustafa Hamsho.

    In 1980, he beat undefeated Wilford Scypion and followed that up with close wins over Curtis Parker and Alan Minter in 1981 leading to his first of two title clashes with Hagler. This bloody encounter, won by Hagler on an 11th-round TKO, left both fighters needing stiches.

    “Throughout Hagler's nonstop, 11th-round barrage, Hamsho kept coming on. He didn't win a round, but he did take the battle of the stitches, 55-5,” wrote Pat Putnam in Sports Illustrated. "I don't know what his corner was waiting for…The meat from his eyes was hanging down. But I can't let that bother me. I just have to think, better him than me," said Hagler

    More from Putnam: “When Hagler had left the hospital, the doctors were still working over Hamsho, who, until his trainer, Al Braverman, jumped into the ring to stop the fight, looked as though he would run out of blood before he ran out of heart. He was badly cut under both brows: Each wound was at least two inches long and half an inch wide. There was another slice under his left eye. He didn't win a round from any of the three officials.”

    Al Braverman, who co-managed Hamsho with the aforementioned Flood, once described the Syrian’s style as follows: “…."He's got no style. He just wades in, throwing punches from any angle." He also possessed great stamina, a granite chin and incredible courage, along with head and shoulder butts, elbows, low blows, shoves, holding, chops behind the head, and whatever he could get away with.

    The Matinee Idol

    Bobby Czyz was 20-0 when he met Hamsho at the Convention Center in Atlantic City on Nov. 20, 1982. The undefeated New Jersey lad with the somewhat strange moniker of “Matinee Idol” and the high IQ had solid wins over Danny Long, Teddy Mann, Oscar Albarado, Elisha Obed, and Robbie Sims. Against Hamsho he was stepping up in class but he was a solid opponent for the Syrian who was 34-2-2 coming in.

    If Bobby won, he would position himself for a shot at Marvelous Marvin, but Hamsho mauled and mugged the future world light heavyweight champion over ten rounds and won a convincing UD. (The rest of the Bobby Czyz story is told in “The Boxer Who Became a Bagger,” a remarkable and poignant article by sports columnist Steve Politi that first appeared in the Newark Star-Ledger.)

    Wilfred Benitez

    HIs UD victory over Wilfred Benitez (45-2-1) in 1883 was pure Hamsho featuring elbows, butts, and low blows. The third round was difficult to watch as the compact Syrian rendered a brutal beating on “El Radar,” using accurate nonstop shots coming from all directions. Between slips and knockdowns, Wilfred hit the deck four times.

    Clearly, Benitez had faded, but Hamsho hastened the process and helped point the legendary Puerto Rican in a downward direction. Wilfred looked sluggish and poorly conditioned; he was not the same Benitez who knocked out Maurice Hope in spectacular fashion or out-boxed Roberto Duran for 15 rounds. Something was wrong.

    But even in top shape, Benitez would have struggled against Hamsho with his mauling, brawling, non-stop pressure. Hamsho could make anyone look bad. (Wilfred Benitez would lose several more outings after the Hamsho beatdown. Matthew Hilton finished the job with a terrifying KO in 1986. Wilfred’s story is a terribly sad one as he now requires constant care.)

    Hamsho would lose another fight with Hagler—this time quickly and badly-- and then go 6-2 before retiring in 1989 with a record of 44-5-2.

    Those who were fortunate enough to see him fight remember a fan-pleasing, all-action combination of Vito Antuofermo, Michael Katsidis, Antonio Margarito, and Gene Fullmer.

    Amir Khan and Prince Naseem Hamed are two very high profile, proud Muslim fighters. Mustafa Hamsho’s name can be added.

    Ted Sares can be reached at

    Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

  • #2
    Nice remembering Hamsho...he was one tough guy.


    • Kid Blast
      Kid Blast commented
      Editing a comment
      Yes he was. Yet very humle. A solid guy.

  • #3
    I always liked Bobby "Chappy" Czyz and his expert commentary for Showtime.
    Thanks, Ted, for the article on some great names from the past.
    --Johnny Tango

    Great article. Hamsho was an unheralded and exceptional fighter from that era with solid wins over all of the fighters that you named
    Dana Rosenblatt


    • Kid Blast
      Kid Blast commented
      Editing a comment
      "I saw him fight back in Sept. of '86 on the undercard of Spinks/Tangstad and Tyson/Ratliff. Chappie won the title that night against Slobadan Kacar. Also, during the Angels playoffs in Anaheim back in 2002, Rex and I ran into him at Fitzgerald's Gentlemen's Club near the stadium. Security was guarding the bathroom so no one else could get in, but I was already inside. At the time, he was about my size at 5'10' and 185 lbs. He was a nice guy -- most are. He had an abusive father." John Howard

  • #4
    Great stuff! Truly LaMotta style/One tough hombre!. I saw him mug Cyz an ugly fight
    You should consider an article on AlBraverman & Patty Flood. The stories on these two would make a three column feature.
    Randy Neumann tells them best.
    I met Braverman on the set of the Mickey Rourke film, Homeboy. They were working for DonKing by then.

    Joe Pasquale


    • Kid Blast
      Kid Blast commented
      Editing a comment
      He was like a 1975 Central Park mugger. His key was tenacity. If I had boxed, he would have been my role model.

  • #5
    Here is a different one ()and probably better) on Mustafa by my good buddy Bob Mladinich written in 2006.


    • #6
      "The real deal. A man’s man. And a loyal friend. Robert Mladnich"


      • #7
        Nice and informative flashback Ted. 👍

        I was never a Hamsho fan, me being from Brockton and all.

        Same holds true for Duran, Hearns etc.


        • Kid Blast
          Kid Blast commented
          Editing a comment
          Thank you KO.

        • Kid Blast
          Kid Blast commented
          Editing a comment

      • #8
        Article by John Howard
        Attached Files


        • #9
          Bobby also loves Trump. 🇺🇸

          Smart guy. 🧠


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