BOXING Area fight community mourns 2 local legends
The December deaths of Art Mayorga and Jimmy Cordova were a great loss to local boxing.
By BOB ROTH
YOUNGSTOWN -- The holiday season isn't congruous with the rough and sometimes bad-imaged sport of boxing, but there are those who contribute to it for no financial gain and very little fame.
They do it for the love of boxing and the hope that the young people in the sport that they connect with will give as well.
Five days apart in December, the local boxing community lost two such people in Art Mayorga and Jimmy Cordova.
On Dec. 12, Mayorga, who would have turned 70 on Dec. 26, died after a three-year battle with cancer.
A stroke claimed Cordova, 83, on Dec. 17.
Common roots: Both started out as amateurs fighters; Mayorga turned pro in the '50s.
Both men had Youngstown roots -- Mayorga was a North High graduate and Cordova graduated from East High.
Mayorga was an outstanding two-way tackle at North and received all-county recognition three years. He was recruited by many colleges but chose to attend Youngstown College.
He was only there for the 1951 season before being drafted into the Army. Before Mayorga left for the military, he began to train with Eddie Sullivan.
He boxed while in the service, winning three European heavyweight titles for the 18th Infantry. When Mayorga came out of the army he returned to his training with Sullivan.
Top record: Mayorga won 43 of 46 his amateur fights, winning the Youngstown Golden Gloves titles as a heavyweight in 1955 and 1956.
He won 33 fights by knockout and at one time had 29 consecutive victories with trips to the Cleveland semifinals twice. He was known for a pulverizing left hook and was willing to take shots so he could land a good one.
Mayorga turned pro in 1956, fighting mostly in Ohio and Pennsylvania with trips to California and New York, where he had several supporting card bouts in Madison Square Garden.
He won 26 of his 33 pro fights before retiring, a move many considered premature. But, Mayorga recalled many years later, "It was a jungle that I didn't belong in."
Still, boxing was in his blood and if there were young people who wanted to give to the sport, Mayorga was willing to train them.
Among his fighters were Phil Rogers, Bruce Palmer and Lou Schiavoni, all of whom won Golden Gloves championships.
Mayorga trained John Zele to a victory over Earl Lewis in one of the greatest upsets in local Golden Gloves history. Later, training for Blackie Gennaro, he directed the career of heavyweight Mike Koranicki.
Lightweight: Cordova was a lightweight, winning 31 of 36 bouts as a pre-World War II amateur.
Cordova was a World War II army veteran who began training fighters when he was discharged, having a lengthy association with Joey Carkido and Al Mariotti at an Austintown gym.
He and Carkido, along with Tony DePrim trained fighters for the Eagles A.C. Among the many fighters was Tommy Kristian, who went on to have an outstanding amateur and professional career.
Kristian remembered Cordova well, saying: "He would put you through a tough training grind to make sure you were well-conditioned and if you didn't adhere to that grind, he wouldn't let you go in the ring."
The last two decades Cordova worked with Chuck and Pat Nelson, training fighters for the K.O. Drugs high school tournament. A common sight was Cordova wrapping hands in the back room.
He was inducted Legends of Leather in October. His wife, Ann, recalled that when Cordova learned he was to be inducted "it made Jimmy's life complete."