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Home Boxing This Postman Always Delivered
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This Postman Always Delivered

fightin_words_medIt was at the Blue Horizon where I first saw the fighter that stuck with me through all the years, “The Punching Postman” Tony Thornton. Thornton, a middleweight contender who had just dropped a 13-round majority decision (yes, 13 rounds...The commission had the fighters fight an extra round to break a draw) to Doug DeWitt for the USBA middleweight championship, was fighting that night against Jerry Holly in the main event. Nothing about this fight was memorable. Thornton stopped Holly in the third round, but it was after the fight that made an impact on me. After changing, Thornton came out and started to walk around, talking to the fans, not only about his fight, but boxing in general. I was able to speak to him for about 10 minutes, finding the reason they called him the “Punching Postman” was because he was indeed a postman; living and working across the Delaware River in Glassboro, New Jersey. The few minutes I spent talking with Thornton made a lasting impression on me. A very humble man outside the ring, but a powerful, vicious, merciless puncher inside the ring.

A few fights later, Thornton fought once more for the USBA middleweight strap, this time taking on Mike Tinley in Atlantic City. This time was better for Thornton; winning a unanimous 12-round decision and the title. He would lose the belt two months later to Kevin Watts and then unsuccessfully try to regain it against Steve Collins. These fights would make Thornton one of the most popular fighters on the USA network’s “Tuesday Night Fights.” After this fight, Thornton would go 10-1 with wins over fighters like Dave Tiberi and Merqui Sosa, setting him up to battle Chris Eubanks for the WBO super middleweight title. Thornton would lose a very close decision but in the eyes of many fans, didn’t lose a thing in losing to such a high-rated fighter. Thornton bounced back with wins over John Scully and Frank Minton, but lost to James Toney for the IBF super middleweight title. In one last hurrah, Thornton again won the USBA super middleweight title, beating Darren Zenner. This set up a showdown in 1995 between “The Punching Postman” and the pound-for-pound best in boxing at the time, Roy Jones Jr. The fight against Jones was probably one of the worst performances that Thornton had given, having been stopped by Jones in the third. This would be Tony Thornton’s last fight.

Although Tony Thornton never won a world championship, he was a fighter that always stuck in my mind. In 1990, I moved from the Philly area to Florida. Thornton was still headlining on “Tuesday Night Fights” when I moved to Florida and when he was featured, I had friends over to watch him. Thornton became a cult hero to my friends and me in Florida. We, including my brother Frankie Carroll, glued ourselves to the TV when Thornton fought. Even if we needed a fresh beer, we would wait until a commercial break and then sprint into the kitchen and back before the next round. On nights he fought, my small house contained the biggest Tony Thornton fan gathering outside of Philadelphia. Throughout the years, post-Thornton’s retirement, I would type in his name to search engines to see what I could find on him. Nothing really popped up...until last Friday morning, the 11th. I checked out a boxing website and there on the front page was the announcement that Thornton had passed away. It was like a slap in the face. The man that was a cult hero to myself, my brother Frankie and my friends had died in a motorcycle accident. On August 30th, Thornton hit a New Jersey Transit bus that pulled in front of him and he was thrown from his bike. Thornton was wearing a helmet, but suffered massive internal injuries and finally passed away on September 10th. In a year that has seen the deaths of fighters like Alexis Arguello, Vernon Forrest, Arturo Gatti and nine others, the loss of Tony Thornton is another that is hard to take. I had hoped that the report was wrong, but shortly after I read it, I verified the truth. “The Punching Postman” was dead at age 49. At that moment, the slap in the face turned into a punch in the stomach, as I felt like a member of my own family had died. Long will I remember the few moments Tony Thornton took with me, even brushing off local Philadelphia Daily News reporters until we was finished speaking with me. That type of fighter, much like Vernon Forrest, will be missed by the entire boxing world.

Tony Thornton was survived by his son, Tony Jr., a daughter, Ashley, his girlfriend, Kim and an ex-wife, Carole. Please remember these individuals in your prayers.

For more on the death of Tony Thornton, tune into Fightin' Words Radio Show every Wednesday night, 8-9 pm EST on www.1490wwpr.com

 

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