The Face of Boxing
Brooklyn in the House
Brooklyn produced a trio of heavyweight titleholders. Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe and Shannon Briggs were born and spent their formative years in the borough. But Brooklyn has given birth to champions in other weight divisions too. The men pictured on these pages are among them.
Mark Breland was one of the most decorated amateurs ever. He won five New York Golden Gloves titles and a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics en route to compiling a 110-1 amateur record. After turning pro, he twice claimed the WBA welterweight crown.
Junior Jones was a two-time New York Golden Gloves champion and moved into the spotlight with five fights on HBO when the network was “the heart and soul of boxing.” Jones decisioned Orlando Canizales. Then he handed Marco Antonio Barrera the Mexican icon’s first defeat to claim the WBO junior featherweight crown. Five months after that, Jones bested Barrera again in a rematch. Losses in thrilling fights against Kennedy McKinney and Erik Morales during the infancy of Boxing After Dark followed.
Danny Jacobs won four New York Golden Gloves championships and claimed 160-pound belts with victories over Jarrod Fletcher (WBA) and Sergiy Derevyanchenko (IBF). But he came up short against Gennadiy Golovkin in 2017 and Canelo Alvarez in 2019 in bids to establish supremacy in the middleweight division. Now Jacobs is campaigning at 168 pounds.
Ironically, these men rarely fought in Brooklyn. Breland traded blows in the borough once in 39 professional bouts. That was near the end of his career against Ricardo Smith at the Schwartz Athletic Center on the Brooklyn campus of Long Island University. Jones, in 56 pro outings, never fought in Brooklyn. Jacobs has had 40 pro fights to date, six of which have been at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
“Brooklyn has a certain pride,” Wojtek Urbanek says. “I feel it, and not just when I’m in the arena. It’s in restaurants, in bars, on the streets. It’s all races and religions and people from different backgrounds coming together.”
That said, the fans at Barclays Center often cheer more enthusiastically for fighters from Poland or Ukraine than for fighters from Brooklyn.
And a note in closing . . . Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe and Shannon Briggs have 167 fights on their collective ring resume. Only one of these bouts was contested in Brooklyn. That was Bowe’s first-round knockout of Anthony Hayes at Gleason’s Arena in Riddick’s seventh pro fight.
Wojtek Urbanek is based in New York and can be reached at [email protected]. Thomas Hauser’s email address is [email protected].