Oct. 4, 1937 – Jan. 29, 2017
Boxer Tony LaBarbara had two shots at fighting for the junior lightweight championship in the 1960s.
His first chance came in April 1962. It was his first big fight, a 10-rounder in Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium, and he battled veteran Ike Chestnut to a draw. As a result, neither of them was offered a match with champ Flash Elorde of the Philippines for the title.
His second opportunity to land a bout with Elorde came 21 months later in New York City. Pitted against highly rated Frankie Narvaez in the old Madison Square Garden, he lost on a technical knockout in the fifth round.
Nevertheless, it was the biggest payday of his career to that point. He collected $3,000.
Mr. LaBarbara, who had a growing family and a job with the City of Buffalo as a truck driver, stepped away from the ring after that match, but not very far. He operated a health club and trained another local boxer, Tony Ventura. He mounted a comeback in April 1968 and during the next two years won four fights and battled to a draw in a fifth match. After winning an eight-round decision over Willie Williams in the Aud in September 1970, he was touted for a high-profile contest against a younger local fighter, Vince Cala, but it never materialized.
Mr. LaBarbara retired with a record of 22 wins, two losses and two draws, including seven knockouts. He died Sunday in Erie County Medical Center after a long illness. He was 79.
Born Antone S. LaBarbara in Buffalo, he was a graduate of Grover Cleveland High School and was encouraged to train as a boxer by his father and veteran fighter Johnny Sacco.
Training daily at Singer’s Gym on Washington Street, he competed for three years as an amateur. He knocked out his opponent in 24 seconds in his first fight and was a runner-up in the 1956 Buffalo Golden Gloves Tournament.
Although he turned pro in 1959, he had to fit training in between two jobs, for the city in the mornings and for The Buffalo Evening News circulation department in the afternoons.
In retirement, he continued to take part in boxing exhibitions until he was 50. He was inducted into the Buffalo Boxing Hall of Fame in 2003.
Mr. LaBarbara was manager of a health club in Garden Village Plaza in Cheektowaga and managed a restaurant, Scotty’s, on Buffalo’s West Side. In 1985, he established a used-car business, LaBarbara Auto Sales on Niagara Street, and continued to operate it until recently. He was considered one of the city’s top handball players. In 1971, his third year as a player, he won the Downtown YMCA Class C singles championship. He also enjoyed fishing.
A Depew resident in recent years, he was a member of St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church.
Survivors include his wife of 27 years, Jacqueline M. Burg Amodeo-LaBarbara; a son, Michael; two daughters, Francine Mango and Deanna Melligan; a stepson, Peter J. Amodeo; a stepdaughter, Denise Schneider; a sister, Patricia Allessandra; and 11 grandchildren.
A memorial Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. today in St. Philip the Apostle Church, 950 Losson Road, Cheektowaga.