In the 1920s, before the Great Depression, Alberto decided to become a boxer. He had been training only a short amount of time before he started taking on fights. He began to be noticed with the small bouts he had around the Imperial Valley region. He was a Featherweight, which tops out at 126 pounds. His frame was always petite.
Being between 17 and18 years-old when he started out must have been difficult. He had to put the time in to work himself up the ranks. To get the “better fights.” The articles that were placed in the scrapbook don’t have specific dates, but they must have been early 1925 before his bigger bouts were documented.
Somewhere before this, Alberto started going by the name of Tony. His official boxing name was Tony Escalante. The promoters seemed to have a hard time finding a perfect nickname for him though.
“Young Escalante, a Mexican lad who appeared in the curtain raisers several times under the name of Young Rivers, brought a roar of applause from the crowd…” “Tony Escalante, the Mexicali sheik, whose schoolboy appearance belies his ability as a fighter, will be seen in the four-round preliminary with Young Richards….” He was also called “the Calexico flash fighter,” “the Mexicali flash,” and “Calexico’s speed ball fighter.” Not bad. The name that did end up sticking was “The Mexicali Kid.”
Editorial Commentary: One thing that did pop out at me during this research were the racial slurs that were printed all throughout the newspapers. While the need to delineate between races must have been very necessary at the time, the reporters do give compliments on the athletic abilities of those fighting. Tony had beaten one Dick Gurtia during a semi-final in August, 1925. Here is an excerpt from the paper: “Despite the Latin name, Dick is Chinese and anyone who thinks that the Chinese cannot fight is crazy. They must be the Irish of the Orient.” This appeared to be a round-about compliment to Mr. Gurtia and Irish boxers.
Here are a few promotional pictures of Tony “The Mexicali Kid” Escalante.
Okay, maybe the man in the middle isn’t an opponent. He looks really tall. This next guy then?
I have been a big fan of search engines in my familial searches. Nothing will ever freak you out more though when you type in: Tony Escalante boxer 1920s, only to have information pop up!
This page has his official career from October, 1925 to June, 1932. It gives his stats, fights, wins, losses. Then I happened to find articles about this boxing matches. Here are some highlighted quotes about him and his boxing:
“Escalante is one of the cleverest little fighters that is being developed today.”
“Anyone who says Tony is not a good fighter is crazy. The boy has never been given any ring instruction, picking up all he knows by watching other fighters. He is a natural-born scrapper and is able to hit from any angle.”
“Near the end of the first round, Tony caught Lee coming in and lifted him off his underpinning with a well-timed left upper cut squarely on the button.”
“Tony keeps on proving each time he appears in the ring that his is a topnotch fighter, and it going to be a mighty good boy that takes his measure.”
Early in his official career, Tony went up against an opponent named Babe Monroy. They fought in El Centro. It made national news.
There was an autopsy ordered. Tony was cleared of murdering Monroy. The night of the fight the press reported “Tony really won the fight in the fourth when he clipped Monroy a terrific wallop in the body that took all the vitality out of him…Monroy was more badly hurt than the crowd believed and he didn’t deserve the booing that he received.”
I’m sure this turn of events influenced Tony deeply. However, he continued to fight. Tony said he was a regional Pacific Coast champion in 1926. I have been unable to find any articles on this information. His career seemed to go well until he did more traveling around the country, starting in 1928. His very publicized bout with Joe Diaz in El Paso, Texas, was his last big win.
elpasoprefightpromotion4181928 – promotional article
Tony won this fight. On a foul. But won nonetheless.
elpasoaftermath4281928 – another pdf.
Once he started to travel to the East (Ohio and Indiana), he started to accumulate more losses. There appeared to be a hole in his career. He fought in San Diego in 1929. He fought again in June of 1932. When I interviewed him in 1981, he told me that he had traveled to Europe, Japan, the Philipines, Australia, Hawaii and Mexico. Maybe he went into the big world during those three missing years. I can find no records of his travels. Anywhere.
His professional career ends in 1932, per http://boxrec.com. However, he does box on the side up into the late 1930s. He claims to have known actor Anthony Quinn when Quinn was a boxer in East Los Angeles. Tony’s home in 1937 is close to where the Anthony Quinn Memorial Library is located. If Tony was still haunting athletic gyms looking for bouts, this is very probable.
Tony told me the only “career” he had was boxing. 10 years of physical and mental training and getting to see the world. Quite amazing.