Felix Bocchicchio

Jersey Joe Walcott (left) and Felix Bocchicchio in an undated photo.

Born on August 31, 1906, in Pennsylvania, Felix Bocchicchio left a lasting imprint on boxing history as the manager of Jersey Joe Walcott, particularly during his remarkable ascent to becoming the heavyweight champion in the late 1940s and early 1950s. However, Bocchicchio’s life was filled with diverse and often controversial endeavors, both within and outside the boundaries of the law.

In April 1930, Bocchicchio found himself confined in the Northumberland County PA jail when the Federal Census was conducted. Upon his release, he ventured to New Jersey, taking up residence on Clifton Avenue in West Berlin, where he later became a person of interest in the investigation into the murder of Camden police detective William Feitz. Bocchicchio’s involvement in criminal activities was evident, as he faced trial and was acquitted for a tavern robbery in 1935, further solidifying his reputation.

During the summer of 1936, Felix Bocchicchio relocated to Mount Ephraim, NJ, where he continued to make his mark in the local scene. Known by the moniker “Man ‘o War,” a nod to the renowned racehorse, he operated within the realm of gambling, an enterprise that had already drawn significant attention from law enforcement. In August 1936, Officer John V. Wilkie apprehended Bocchicchio in Camden, NJ, in connection with his involvement in pinball machines, which were considered illicit gaming devices at the time. By this juncture, Bocchicchio had already accumulated a lengthy rap sheet, including arrests on charges ranging from suspicion of murder and jailbreak to larceny.

Throughout his eventful life, Felix Bocchicchio left an indelible imprint on the worlds of boxing and criminal activities. His multifaceted journey serves as a reminder of the complexities of human existence, where individuals can be both celebrated and entangled in controversy, leaving a legacy that encompasses both triumphs and transgressions.

Felix Bocchicchio and Jersey Joe Walcott

In the mid-1940s, Jersey Joe Walcott’s boxing career had hit a roadblock. He found himself competing in small-scale matches in the Camden area, struggling to gain recognition. However, it was during this time that Felix Bocchicchio took notice of Walcott’s untapped potential. While many overlooked him, Bocchicchio saw the remarkable attributes of Walcott—a strong jaw and powerful punches. Despite initially lacking expertise in boxing, Bocchicchio immersed himself in the sport, constantly surrounded by promoters, trainers, and fighters, absorbing the intricacies of the fight game.

Impressed by Walcott’s potential, Felix Bocchicchio extended an offer to manage him. Initially, Walcott was hesitant, expressing his desire for a steady job to provide for his family rather than pursuing a boxing career. However, Bocchicchio showed his commitment by providing food for the Walcott family, ensuring their basic needs were met, and facilitating the renewal of Joe’s boxing license. This support motivated Walcott to embark on a comeback journey. In 1945 alone, he fought in nine matches, winning eight of them and notably defeating three Top Ten ranked fighters: Joe Baski, Lee O. Murray, and Curtis Sheppard.

This marked the beginning of a remarkable ascent that culminated in 1951 when Jersey Joe Walcott knocked out Ezzard Charles to claim the heavyweight title. Throughout this period, Walcott trained under the guidance of retired Camden boxer Joey Allen, while Felix Bocchicchio and Walcott’s names became regular features in the sports pages of the nation as the boxer climbed the ranks toward his shot at the title. During this time, Bocchicchio enlisted Angelo Malandra as his and Walcott’s lawyer. Malandra would go on to have a successful career in Camden’s political and legal spheres, serving as a judge and becoming a prominent community leader in the Fairview section of the city.

Jersey Joe Walcott’s reign as the heavyweight champion lasted only fourteen months before he was knocked out by Rocky Marciano. In a January 1953 interview with LOOK magazine, Felix Bocchicchio described Marciano as “made of iron.” Bocchicchio himself experienced a heart attack in New York on January 16, 1953, but managed to recover. Walcott faced Marciano in a rematch on May 15, 1953, only to be knocked out in the first round, after which he retired from boxing. Despite the end of his in-ring career, Walcott and Bocchicchio maintained their business relationship for several years.

Felix Bocchicchio spent his later years residing in Mount Ephraim, NJ, and he passed away on June 17, 1975, leaving behind a legacy intertwined with the rise of Jersey Joe Walcott and their shared journey in the world of boxing.

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